10 most intriguing players to watch at the NFL Combine
5. Mitch Trubisky (quarterback, North Carolina)
If Mitch Trubisky had more years of success under his belt, he’d arguably be the best quarterback entering the NFL Draft. However, that distinction currently, but not unanimously, goes to Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, who comes with some red flags of his own.
Most experts believe Trubisky has the highest potential ceiling of any quarterback slated to attend the NFL Combine, but the question that lingers is how long it will take him before he realizes the full scope of his talent.
Trubisky erupted onto the scene a season ago and even thrust himself into the Heisman Trophy discussion. And while he had some hiccups along the way, he established himself as a potential quarterback of the future for an NFL team in need — the New York Giants immediately come to mind as they’ll begin their search for Eli Manning’s successor.
The NFL Combine will neither break nor make Trubisky, but he could still do himself some favors by putting up good numbers and proving to scouts he’s a bit more athletically polished than some are giving him credit for.
4. Mike Williams (wide receiver, Clemson)
Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis is one of the most intriguing players in the 2017 NFL Draft, but an injury will prevent him from performing in the NFL Combine, which in turn opens up a unique opportunity for Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams.
At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Williams is a legitimate downfield threat who can battle with the most physical cornerbacks in the league. For that reason, several teams are likely already considering him in the first round. But with Davis sidelined, Williams now has the opportunity to go out and make his case for being the No. 1 receiver in the draft.
The one thing that currently holds Williams back from that distinction is his inability to create more substantial separation, something to which Pro Football Focus recently alluded.
Mike Williams was possibly the deciding factor in Clemson claiming revenge against Alabama in a rematch of the 2015 National Championship. He displayed all the qualities that make him such an exciting prospect against NFL-caliber defensive backs. As well as presenting opponents with a matchup problem, Williams also represents a reliable target underneath. He projects as a receiver capable of using his body to move the chains while adding a downfield component to the passing game due to his ability to win at the catch point with strong ball skills.
[However] he may not create enough separation to fit with every quarterback style. Needs aggressive passer to allow him to win at the catch point in contested situations.
Straight-line speed isn’t the be-all, end-all in the NFL, but there is quite a bit of value placed on it. Accordingly, if Williams wants to boost his draft stock and put Davis in his rear-view mirror, he’s going to need to come out guns blazing at the NFL Combine.
3. Jabrill Peppers (defensive back, Michigan)
Jabrill Peppers is a unique and potentially elite talent — that’s something few will deny. So what makes him such an intriguing player to watch at the NFL Combine? Because, well, no one really has a single clue where on defense he’s going to play once he enters the NFL.
During his time at Michigan, Peppers was often referred to as a Swiss Army Knife, at one point playing 10 different positions in a single game. And while that versatility makes him unique, it’s also what may drop him out of the first round.
“I think he is a better offensive player than defensive prospect. I’m concerned about the lack of interceptions and his lack of physicality. He is more of a run-and-chase defender to me. He might have a chance as a 4-3 (weakside) linebacker but I believe he might be better with the ball in his hands,” an AFC college scouting director told Bucky Brooks of NFL.com.
A strong performance at the combine could change Peppers’ fortunes. If he can dazzle with both speed and strength, it will give NFL teams a better feel for where he can be used and where he can’t. So whether he ends up as a safety, linebacker or on offense, Peppers needs to put on a show or risk falling come draft time in April.
2. Dalvin Cook (running back, Florida State)
Dalvin Cook is projected by some to be the best running back the 2017 NFL Draft has to offer, but LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey are hot on his trail. It’s for that reason that Cook is one of the most intriguing players to watch at the NFL Combine.
While the style of Fournette and McCaffrey are clearly defined, there’s a belief that Cook has only just begun to scratch the surface of his potential ceiling. And in order to sell NFL scouts on his ability and future value, he’s going to need to put up impressive numbers at the combine — and not just in the 40.
With the running back position somewhat devalued in today’s NFL, Cook makes things interesting because of his do-it-all ability. However, if he slips up at the combine, he could see himself drop from a top-10 pick to a late first-round pick or potentially even lower. On the contrary, if he puts up impressive all-around numbers and goes on to have a solid Pro Day, he’ll likely be the first running back chosen come April.
1. Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
The Cleveland Browns are very much in need of a franchise quarterback, but with the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, there’s a strong chance they go with edge rusher Myles Garrett out of Texas A&M instead.
Many consider Garrett, who recorded 32 sacks and one interception during his college career, to be a game-changing edge rusher who could play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense or defensive end in a 4-3 defense. Either way, the mere fact that he’s being considered ahead of some of the highly-touted quarterback prospects is enough to warrant him being listed as the most intriguing player entering the NFL Combine.
Whether or not Garrett is ultimately chosen at No. 1 overall remains to be seen, but if he can put up impressive numbers at the combine that parallel the hype he’s received, an already interesting talent will only become that much more interesting.
Adding to Garrett’s intrigue is the potential for a trade at the top of the NFL Draft should the Browns decide to drop a few spots and target a quarterback.