By Paul Wanecski
All the national draft gurus get to have all the fun talking about top 10 picks in the upcoming NFL draft. I wanted to give you a look into some players who will be at the combine, a brief look at them, along with which drills are going to most impact their draft stock. This is focusing only on players from the SEC, all from a variety of positions and schools. We have broken down the areas if focus into several categories: Speed, Agility, Strength, Skill, and Interviews. Some players want to silence their critics. Others will use the combine as an opportunity to speak about a checkered past. Regardless of the reason, the combine is among one of the most volatile events in all of sports for amateur athletes.
Christian Kirk – WR Texas A&M
He has the speed to impress in the 40 yard dash and his stats in the return game can’t be questioned. He also caught for over 900 yards in each of the last three seasons, so enough is there to say he can contribute in the NFL. Watch the 10 yard split. With his size, he will need excellent acceleration to get the separation at the next level.
Carlton Davis – CB Auburn
Carlton Davis brings nice length and strength to the position, not afraid to jam at the line and play physical downfield. He is going to check in at 6’1” but his mean streak says he can battle against the bigger wideouts at the next level. The issue for him is the deep ball. Watch his hips through agility drills as he can lose a step when a wideout tries to double move him, but, if he puts up a 4.60 in the 40 yard dash, he will fall outside of the bottom of the first round.
Shaun Dion Hamilton – LB Alabama
A broken knee cap in 2017, a torn ACL in 2016, team doctors will be spending a lot of time reviewing his medical reports. The most important thing for him to show is explosion in the broad jump and quick lateral movement in the short shuttle and 4 bag agility drill.
John Kelly – RB Tennessee
Should show great speed numbers and looks like all the tools but limited in touches in college. Lost one game to due to suspension for marijuana. At 5’9”, most teams will not see him as someone who can handle a heavy workload. Most players at the combine want to show off in a skill set where evaluators say they have a weakness. The biggest knock against Kelly is his size and since he won’t be getting any taller, he will need to show off his ability to catch the ball, but more importantly, he will need to shine during the agility drills to really highlight his strength.
Lorenzo Carter – OLB Georgia
He has the size of Leonard Floyd, former first rounder in 2016. Carter will impress you with his speed numbers but what most will want to know is how powerful he can be. Since most of the Linebacker drills are more about movement than strength, watch the bench press, vertical and broad jump. His tape is really hot and cold but crushing these drills will have folks going back to the watch his game film.
Martinas Rankin – OT Mississippi State
The biggest complaint you can have about Martinas Rankin is his strength. Watching him against speed rushers, he is fluid, fast, and controls the edge as well as the top tackle in this class (whom I assume to be Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey). Unfortunately he looks like a totally different player against a power rusher. With added strength, he could be a steal on the 2nd day of the draft. Obviously, pay attention to the bench press and broad jump.(Update: Skipped the Bench Press. Big red flag)
Bradley Chubb – RB Georgia
After losing his Sophomore season to knee injury, Chubb came back strong and hard, behind only Herschel Walker in SEC History in rushing yards. The issue is exactly that; volume. He also rarely caught the ball out of the backfield. He could be slipping down draft boards but making sure he is snatching that ball away from him body comfortably will go a long way to stop that fall.
Taven Bryan – DT Florida
Don’t let the comparisons to JJ Watt fool you, he doesn’t have the production to back that up. He will be a workout warrior. He should be able to put up solid numbers across the board but his strength drills are what I am most curious to see. His bench press numbers will need to be in the top 5 and I am looking to see how he performs in the punch, hand, shiver drill, which should show if he can move with both power and fluidity.
Arden Key – DE/OLB LSU
Key has the physical tools to play either outside linebacker in a 3-4 or drop to the line as defensive end in a 4-3, but after shoulder surgery and leaving LSU for personal reasons, the medical reports and interviews will tell teams more than what he will do on the floor during drills.
Antonio Callaway – WR Florida
You might watch him and be impressed. You should be, he is an excellent athlete…except for the fact that he was suspended for credit card fraud his Junior season…and was a headache his first two years before that suspension. Might show out but don’t let that fool you. He is floating in undraftable territory even though, based on pure talent, he might be one of the top 3 wide receivers in this class. He reminds me of Da’Rick Rogers, who had incredible talent but was simply a mess off the field.