Draft Class Heroes: NFL Combine Preview

Photo: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Draft Class Heroes is live! Every Tuesday we talk 2019 NFL Draft prospects, including addressing major narratives, offering a few sleepers and listing my quick scouting observations over the past week.

Except this week! This week we change it up a bit, as I offer my Pre-Combine Superlatives at each position group, including who has the most prove and a sleeper to watch at each spot.


Quarterback

Most To Prove: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

Most to gain, most to prove...however you want to say it, Murray has in many ways become the face of the 2019 Scouting Combine. We know he's a great athlete, but the throwing drills could be a big boost for him, especially if his mechanics outshine Haskins'. Interviews will be huge though.

Sleeper: Jordan Ta'amu, QB, Ole Miss

I'll keep pounding the table for Ta'amu as my day 3 quarterback of choice in the 2019 NFL Draft. He has enough physical tools to suggest upside, his mechanics and ball placement are two of his biggest strengths which will help him in throwing drills and he should test as one of the top athletes at the position in Indy.

Running Backs

Most To Prove: David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State

Montgomery clearly has some important strengths for a running back on tape, but his athleticism has been called into question by many evaluators over the past year. If he can put those concerns to bed, he's likely to be one of the top backs off the board.

Sleeper: James Williams, RB, Washington State

I don't know that many of the sleeper running backs will test well, but Williams should hold his own in all the workouts, while also catching the ball at an elite level compared to the rest of the running backs in positional drills. No back in college football has had the receiving impact that Williams has the past few seasons.

Wide Receiver

Most To Prove: A.J. Brown, Ole Miss

Since Brad recently wrote about N'Keal Harry's pending Combine, I'll opt to choose Brown for this category. Does he have the athleticism, both speed and leaping ability, to win on the outside as a receiver? Can he elevate and win at the catch point? Does he have the speed to run by cornerback in a vertical-based offense? Or will he always be resigned to the big slot, short-intermediate, volume receiver?

Sleeper: Gary Jennings, WVU

Jennings can RUN, and has the size and build the NFL really covets at the position. There's some Sammie Coates to his game at times with dropped passes and tracking struggles, but when he's on, Jennings can make impact plays with size and athleticism that will attract NFL teams on day three.

Tight End

Most To Prove: Dawson Knox, Ole Miss

After being targeted 22 times last season and catching just 39 balls during his entire college tenure, Knox's entire draft stock revolves around one thing: being an elite athlete at the position. He sure looks like he can move on tape, but if he doesn't kill the Combine, he'll slide a bit in a strong tight end class (I think he'll kill the Combine).

Sleeper: Dax Raymond, TE, Utah State

Raymond might not be a sleeper anymore, but I'm not sure the consensus is recognizing him as a top 100 talent either. That's in the card for Raymond however, as his tape is very impressive despite a small sample size of targets last season. I'm predicting a nice Combine for the big pass-catcher.

Offensive Line

Most To Prove: Cody Ford, Oklahoma

Is he a tackle or a guard? I don't think the Combine will answer that question, but NFL teams will value the athletic results of Ford's workout. Some have raised questions about his movement skills, which I think are elite on tape for any offensive lineman, let alone a 330-pounder. Big week coming for Ford, who I think will impress.

Sleeper: Oli Udoh, Elon

I don't know that Udoh will test at an elite level or anything, but once teams see his frame, they are going to want to see if they can get the most out of him at the NFL level. Don't be surprised if he's big riser coming out of the week.

Interior Defensive Line

Most To Prove: Gerald Willis, Miami

After some buzz in-season elevated his stock momentarily, Willis didn't finish the season as strong as he started it, and has plummeted back down to the middle rounds as a result. We know he can fire gaps, but functional strength, overall athleticism and flexibility are big question marks for a guy who needs to sell his developmental upside.

Sleeper: Kingsley Keke, Texas A&M

I think Keke will have the best 3-cone of any interior defensive lineman based on the bend he shows on tape, my question is how explosive he'll be in the jumps/10-yard split. He moves pretty fluidly on tape, but the suddenness will be what teams want to see.

Edge Defender

Most To Prove: Montez Sweat, Mississippi State

Sweat has received a lot of top ten buzz over the past month, but that should go away fast if he doesn't test on the level of the other top edges in Indy. Sweat is a solid athlete, but does he have the bend and flexibility on the level of most first round edge defender. His agility results will be something to watch.

Sleeper: Darryl Johnson, North Carolina A&T

An early declaree for the draft, Johnson has some impressive flexibility on tape, as well as the length teams love at 6-foot-5 with vines for arms. I need to get more of his tape, but he might end up as my favorite sleeper edge in the class.

Linebacker

Most To Prove: Te'Von Coney, Notre Dame

Coney has good production at Notre Dame, but his tape is very underwhelming and I struggle to see his athleticism translating to the NFL. He needs a dominant Combine to be a top 100 pick in this year's draft.

Sleeper: Bryson Allen-Williams, South Carolina

I did not expect Allen-Williams to be invited to Indy, but because he was, I'm assuming NFL teams are interested in his athleticism. I have some concerns with his game, but I do think he'll test well based on what I've seen watching him live.

Cornerback

Most To Prove: Deandre Baker, Georgia

Everyone loves Baker's tape in coverage from this past season, but the question is how will his trait translate to the NFL? Baker isn't particularly big, long or fast, which could inhibit how high he's drafted if the Combine doesn't go in his favor.

Sleeper: Justin Layne, Michigan State

Long corners who run well are risers. Long corners who run well in bad cornerback classes are BIG risers. I'm expecting the unexpected in this cornerback draft, and if Layne runs as well as I think he will, I'd expect a considerable boost up the board.

Safety

Most To Prove: Deionte Thompson, Alabama

There is a long list of safety prospects I could put in this spot, but Thompson's stock has slid in the media after a few poor plays to end his 2018 season. Does the NFL feel the same way? They definitely will if he runs a 4.6 in Indy.

Sleeper: Marquise Blair, Utah

It feel like no one is talking about Blair, but I think he's the type of player the NFL will consider in the 60-100 range of the draft. His athleticism needs to check out however, which I would expect given his explosiveness and apparent long speed on tape. Maybe some buzz on Blair gets going after Indy.

Written By:

Jon Ledyard

Former Senior NFL Draft Analyst

Connect: