Combine Dish: Prospects need to ace specific tests to boost their stock

Let the testing begin. The Scouting Combine kicked off Wednesday with interviews of offensive linemen, tight ends, kickers and punters. Russ Lande and his team of former NFL scouts examine players who need to step up in a specific area to help their stock in Indianapolis.

Arm strength

Colt McCoy, QB, Texas. During the season, McCoy’s arm strength was a question mark. Now, after injuring his right shoulder in the national championship game, he must prove he has enough of an arm to be more than a backup.

Sean Canfield, QB, Oregon State. On film, he showed a strong enough arm. But at the Senior Bowl, his release was slow and his passes lacked zip. He must reverse that perception in Indianapolis or he could end up falling to the sixth or seventh round.

The scouts at this week's Combine will have one question in mind for Terrence Cody: Can he keep his weight under control?
The scouts at this week’s Combine will have one question in mind for Terrence Cody: Can he keep his weight under control?

Interviews

Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame. Clausen needs to prove he is a mature kid who can handle the pressure of being a team leader in the NFL and deal with the adversity that comes with being a high draft pick.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Oregon. Blount must make teams believe he is not a bad kid but rather an immature one who made a few mistakes in college.

Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida. He has to answer two questions: Does he have his off-field behavior under control? Why does his effort and intensity vary so much during games?

Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama. Cody must convince teams he will be able to control his weight once he gets money in his pocket. He didn’t allay those fears at the Senior Bowl.

Junior Galette, DE, Stillman. Gallette showed at the Texas vs. the Nation game that he has big-time athleticism and pass-rush skills. Now, he must convince teams that his off-field behavior is not going to be a consistent problem.

Perrish Cox, CB, Oklahoma State. Cox is a very gifted cornerback with the size, strength, athleticism and instincts to be a late first-round or high second-round pick. But if he can’t convince teams that his off-field issues are a thing of the past, he will be a mid-round pick at best.

Mike Williams, WR, Syracuse. After flashing big-play ability and putting up good numbers in the first half of the 2009 season, Williams left the team. He must convince teams he is not going to be a distraction.

Physicals

Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma. Few question Bradford’s ability as a passer, but if his shoulder does not check out he is not going to be a top-10 pick.

Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame. Clausen’s toe/foot injury needs to check out completely for him to realistically challenge Bradford for the top QB spot in the draft.

Jahvid Best, RB, Cal. Best needs to get a clean bill of health. Otherwise, teams will be nervous about drafting a smaller back who has had concussion issues.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona. Gronkowski is a big, physical prospect who, in our view, is clearly the top tight end in the draft. After missing his junior season with a back injury, however, he must check out physically to prove his back will not be a long-term issue.

A quick 40 could boost Damian Williams' draft stock.
A quick 40 could boost Damian Williams’ draft stock.

Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma. He is another highly-regarded prospect who missed the 2009 season due to injury. He needs his knee to pass inspection to merit late first-round, early second-round consideration.

40 times

Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford. Gerhart is a very good prospect, but there are concerns he lacks the explosiveness and speed to be a consistently effective outside runner and take runs the distance. A great 40 could vault Gerhart from second- and third-round consideration into the late first round.

Charles Scott, RB, LSU. He is a big, physical back whose strength is breaking tackles to gain yards after contact. However, there are concerns about his ability to make the quick cut and explode through the hole. Scott needs a strong 40 time and to do well in the vertical jump to ease those concerns.

Montario Hardesty, RB, Tennessee. Hardesty is a highly competitive runner who runs strong and aggressively. But he has not shown quickness and burst through the hole or the speed to take plays the distance, which causes running backs to fall down draft boards. He needs a good 40 to ease concerns.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Oregon. Not only does Blount need to shine in interviews, but he needs to prove he has the quickness, burst and acceleration that he flashed at the Senior Bowl.

Damian Williams, WR, USC. Williams is a very quick, smooth and sharp receiver who was much better than expected when we evaluated his play on film. He consistently showed the ability to make big plays despite not showing top-level explosiveness or speed. With a good 40 and vertical jump, he can convince teams he has legitimate big-play ability.

Brandon LaFell, WR, LSU. LaFell struggled through a tough 2009 season in which he failed to cement himself as a first-round pick. If he does not run under a 4.60 40, his draft stock could slide into the third or fourth round.

Dezmon Briscoe, WR, Kansas. Briscoe was a highly productive receiver at Kansas and consistently made many big plays, but he has not shown explosiveness and top-end speed. Many scouts feel his big plays were more the result of Kansas’ wide open passing attack, so Briscoe must show he can run.

Mike Williams, WR, Syracuse. It’s important for him to show he can run for a big receiver, though it’s not as important as his interview.

Anthony McCoy, TE, USC. McCoy displayed smooth, fluid athleticism and very good hands at the Senior Bowl. But he did not show elite speed, so he needs to put up a good 40 to convince teams he can be a productive receiving tight end.

Jason Pierre-Paul needs to concentrate on a solid overall workout in order to convince teams he can play at the next level.
Jason Pierre-Paul needs to concentrate on a solid overall workout in order to convince teams he can play at the next level.

Workouts

Jimmy Graham, TE, Miami. In 2009, Graham played football for the first time since ninth grade and is one of the most talked about prospects right now. But he must prove he has elite athleticism to sustain his ascent and challenge for a spot in the second or third round.

Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers. He is a thickly built and strong tackle prospect, and teams want to get a close look at him to determine whether he has the athleticism to play left tackle in the NFL or if he is merely a right tackle.

Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland. Campbell is a highly regarded tackle prospect who flashes big-time athleticism but does not show it consistently. During his workout, he needs to prove he has elite athletic ability if he hopes to challenge Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung and Oklahoma’s Trent Williams as the top tackle.

Mitch Petrus, G, Arkansas. Petrus has shown good athletic ability on film but did not display it consistently at the Senior Bowl. He needs to prove he has it in his workout if he wants to be drafted as early as the third round.

Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida. He is getting raves about his rare explosiveness and athleticism, which could allow him to develop into a very dangerous pass rusher. But he must prove it in his workout to maintain his draft status because his on-field play is still raw and lacks consistency.

Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida. No one doubts Dunlap’s combination of size, long arms, quickness and speed, but his tendency to play upright and straight-legged and his inability to consistently change directions quickly have led some to think he is a straight-line athlete who lacks good all-around athleticism. He must shine in his workout to make sure he is considered an elite athlete who just lacks consistency.

Jerry Hughes, DE/OLB, TCU. Hughes is an undersized end who lacks great explosiveness off the ball, so he needs a big workout to convince teams he has the athleticism to stand up and play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Otherwise, he will likely be classified only as a 4-3 end, which could really hurt his draft status.

Lamarr Houston, DT, Texas. In each game last season, Houston’s play improved and he showed the quickness, agility and athleticism to defeat blocks and make plays. But at the Senior Bowl, he looked ordinary as an athlete. To be drafted higher than the fourth round, he must prove he is the athlete he showed on film.

Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama. Because he is very smart and instinctive, McClain is able to consistently play quicker and faster than his timed speed. Still, he needs to run well and work out well to prove to teams he has the athleticism to be productive outside of the hash marks and in coverage.

Brandon Spikes, ILB, Florida. Spikes is a similar player to McClain and needs to work out well to show he can play sideline-to-sideline and cover well.

Former NFL scout Russ Lande evaluates college players for Sporting News’ Pro Football War Room and GM Jr. Scouting LLC.

Let the testing begin. The Scouting Combine kicked off Wednesday with interviews of offensive linemen, tight ends, kickers and punters. Russ Lande and his team of former NFL scouts examine players who need to step up in a specific area to help their stock in Indianapolis.

Arm strength

Colt McCoy, QB, Texas. During the season, McCoy’s arm strength was a question mark. Now, after injuring his right shoulder in the national championship game, he must prove he has enough of an arm to be more than a backup.

Sean Canfield, QB, Oregon State. On film, he showed a strong enough arm. But at the Senior Bowl, his release was slow and his passes lacked zip. He must reverse that perception in Indianapolis or he could end up falling to the sixth or seventh round.

The scouts at this week's Combine will have one question in mind for Terrence Cody: Can he keep his weight under control?
The scouts at this week’s Combine will have one question in mind for Terrence Cody: Can he keep his weight under control?

Interviews

Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame. Clausen needs to prove he is a mature kid who can handle the pressure of being a team leader in the NFL and deal with the adversity that comes with being a high draft pick.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Oregon. Blount must make teams believe he is not a bad kid but rather an immature one who made a few mistakes in college.

Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida. He has to answer two questions: Does he have his off-field behavior under control? Why does his effort and intensity vary so much during games?

Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama. Cody must convince teams he will be able to control his weight once he gets money in his pocket. He didn’t allay those fears at the Senior Bowl.

Junior Galette, DE, Stillman. Gallette showed at the Texas vs. the Nation game that he has big-time athleticism and pass-rush skills. Now, he must convince teams that his off-field behavior is not going to be a consistent problem.

Perrish Cox, CB, Oklahoma State. Cox is a very gifted cornerback with the size, strength, athleticism and instincts to be a late first-round or high second-round pick. But if he can’t convince teams that his off-field issues are a thing of the past, he will be a mid-round pick at best.

Mike Williams, WR, Syracuse. After flashing big-play ability and putting up good numbers in the first half of the 2009 season, Williams left the team. He must convince teams he is not going to be a distraction.

Physicals

Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma. Few question Bradford’s ability as a passer, but if his shoulder does not check out he is not going to be a top-10 pick.

Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame. Clausen’s toe/foot injury needs to check out completely for him to realistically challenge Bradford for the top QB spot in the draft.

Jahvid Best, RB, Cal. Best needs to get a clean bill of health. Otherwise, teams will be nervous about drafting a smaller back who has had concussion issues.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona. Gronkowski is a big, physical prospect who, in our view, is clearly the top tight end in the draft. After missing his junior season with a back injury, however, he must check out physically to prove his back will not be a long-term issue.

A quick 40 could boost Damian Williams' draft stock.
A quick 40 could boost Damian Williams’ draft stock.

Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma. He is another highly-regarded prospect who missed the 2009 season due to injury. He needs his knee to pass inspection to merit late first-round, early second-round consideration.

40 times

Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford. Gerhart is a very good prospect, but there are concerns he lacks the explosiveness and speed to be a consistently effective outside runner and take runs the distance. A great 40 could vault Gerhart from second- and third-round consideration into the late first round.

Charles Scott, RB, LSU. He is a big, physical back whose strength is breaking tackles to gain yards after contact. However, there are concerns about his ability to make the quick cut and explode through the hole. Scott needs a strong 40 time and to do well in the vertical jump to ease those concerns.

Montario Hardesty, RB, Tennessee. Hardesty is a highly competitive runner who runs strong and aggressively. But he has not shown quickness and burst through the hole or the speed to take plays the distance, which causes running backs to fall down draft boards. He needs a good 40 to ease concerns.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Oregon. Not only does Blount need to shine in interviews, but he needs to prove he has the quickness, burst and acceleration that he flashed at the Senior Bowl.

Damian Williams, WR, USC. Williams is a very quick, smooth and sharp receiver who was much better than expected when we evaluated his play on film. He consistently showed the ability to make big plays despite not showing top-level explosiveness or speed. With a good 40 and vertical jump, he can convince teams he has legitimate big-play ability.

Brandon LaFell, WR, LSU. LaFell struggled through a tough 2009 season in which he failed to cement himself as a first-round pick. If he does not run under a 4.60 40, his draft stock could slide into the third or fourth round.

Dezmon Briscoe, WR, Kansas. Briscoe was a highly productive receiver at Kansas and consistently made many big plays, but he has not shown explosiveness and top-end speed. Many scouts feel his big plays were more the result of Kansas’ wide open passing attack, so Briscoe must show he can run.

Mike Williams, WR, Syracuse. It’s important for him to show he can run for a big receiver, though it’s not as important as his interview.

Anthony McCoy, TE, USC. McCoy displayed smooth, fluid athleticism and very good hands at the Senior Bowl. But he did not show elite speed, so he needs to put up a good 40 to convince teams he can be a productive receiving tight end.

Jason Pierre-Paul needs to concentrate on a solid overall workout in order to convince teams he can play at the next level.
Jason Pierre-Paul needs to concentrate on a solid overall workout in order to convince teams he can play at the next level.

Workouts

Jimmy Graham, TE, Miami. In 2009, Graham played football for the first time since ninth grade and is one of the most talked about prospects right now. But he must prove he has elite athleticism to sustain his ascent and challenge for a spot in the second or third round.

Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers. He is a thickly built and strong tackle prospect, and teams want to get a close look at him to determine whether he has the athleticism to play left tackle in the NFL or if he is merely a right tackle.

Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland. Campbell is a highly regarded tackle prospect who flashes big-time athleticism but does not show it consistently. During his workout, he needs to prove he has elite athletic ability if he hopes to challenge Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung and Oklahoma’s Trent Williams as the top tackle.

Mitch Petrus, G, Arkansas. Petrus has shown good athletic ability on film but did not display it consistently at the Senior Bowl. He needs to prove he has it in his workout if he wants to be drafted as early as the third round.

Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida. He is getting raves about his rare explosiveness and athleticism, which could allow him to develop into a very dangerous pass rusher. But he must prove it in his workout to maintain his draft status because his on-field play is still raw and lacks consistency.

Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida. No one doubts Dunlap’s combination of size, long arms, quickness and speed, but his tendency to play upright and straight-legged and his inability to consistently change directions quickly have led some to think he is a straight-line athlete who lacks good all-around athleticism. He must shine in his workout to make sure he is considered an elite athlete who just lacks consistency.

Jerry Hughes, DE/OLB, TCU. Hughes is an undersized end who lacks great explosiveness off the ball, so he needs a big workout to convince teams he has the athleticism to stand up and play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Otherwise, he will likely be classified only as a 4-3 end, which could really hurt his draft status.

Lamarr Houston, DT, Texas. In each game last season, Houston’s play improved and he showed the quickness, agility and athleticism to defeat blocks and make plays. But at the Senior Bowl, he looked ordinary as an athlete. To be drafted higher than the fourth round, he must prove he is the athlete he showed on film.

Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama. Because he is very smart and instinctive, McClain is able to consistently play quicker and faster than his timed speed. Still, he needs to run well and work out well to prove to teams he has the athleticism to be productive outside of the hash marks and in coverage.

Brandon Spikes, ILB, Florida. Spikes is a similar player to McClain and needs to work out well to show he can play sideline-to-sideline and cover well.

Former NFL scout Russ Lande evaluates college players for Sporting News’ Pro Football War Room and GM Jr. Scouting LLC.

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