‘Canes to the Combine
~ The following article was contributed by beloved Eye of the Hurricane blogger, Esteban ~
Eight Canes recently received invites to the NFL combine. Last year, DeMarcus Van Dyke (DVD) showed that your previous four years can become blurry if you impress in front of the crowd which just happens to include every head coach and GM in the NFL. For some Canes that’s exactly what they want. For others, like Lamar Miller, it will hopefully be where he goes from top notch prospect to elite prospect a la Edgerrin James back in 1999. But you know me, I like to Break It Down. So let’s break down each invitee and discuss what they need to do to impress the top NFL decision makers from around the league.
In alphabetical order:
1. WR/KR/PR – Travis Benjamin. Like DVD, everyone already knows Benjamin is fast. But if he can run a 4.3 (or below like he supposedly can), that will have teams buzzing. He also needs to show up looking muscular. He won’t weigh much, but if he looks strong that should at least alleviate some of those fears. Also, he needs to be sharp in the route running drills where he’s seen as unpolished. Finally, like every WR, it doesn’t hurt to keep drops to a minimum in drills.
2. DT – Marcus Forston. For #99 its 80% medical report. He’s been hurt most of his career and that’s the top question mark for him. If he passes his physical then it’s going to be about his agility. This is a draft weak in penetrating DTs so that’s where he needs to shine. He needs to run well (ten yard time especially) and just show good explosiveness all around.
3. QB – Jacory Harris. Jacory won’t gain 15 lbs of muscle in 2 weeks so that’s out. Still he needs to be at least 200. The #1 thing he needs to do is wow the coaches and GMs in the interviews. During the NFLPA Bowl Corey Chavous mentioned how impressed he was while watching Shaun King talking Xs and Os with Jacory. He needs to make that same impression on the coaches. He’s a fringe prospect who will get drafted because some team thinks he can develop or at least be a good clipboard holder for them and not need many reps to learn the offense. Now of course showing enough arm strength during drills where the QBs are asked to throw deep outs will only help things.
4. RB – Lamar Miller. Miller is a fringe 1st round prospect at this point. Teams know he’s fast, but don’t know just how fast. If he can run in the 4.3s that will have some teams thinking he can bring a Chris Johnson-like home run hitting ability to their offense. One area I think he can really set himself apart is in the pass catching drills. He displayed great hands at times this year (especially the acrobatic TD catch against VT). If he can show teams that he can potentially create mismatches in the passing game he could see himself jumping up into being a guaranteed top 20 pick. Finally, his physical will also be important. He can’t have any red flags arise concerning the health of his shoulders.
5. LB – Sean Spence. Spence can look at the example Jon Beason made a few years back when he went into the combine as a 2nd tier LB prospect and came out a 1st round prospect. Beason showed explosiveness and fluidity in the drills. He showed a confidence in what he was doing. And he aced the interview process. One thing he didn’t do was run a knock out 40 time. Spence won’t either. Like Beason he just has to run a 40 that shows he’s not slow at all. There was talk of Spence showing his leadership qualities at the Senior Bowl and he’s going to have those qualities shining in the interviews. He’ll show up in the 230 range most like since he showed up at the Senior Bowl weigh in at 228 and was said to look rock solid. One thing that could be a difference maker for Spence is that he has very good hands. If he displays those at the combine that can only help his stock, especially considering most LBs usually showcase their rock-like mits.
6. WR – Tommy Streeter. Streeter surprised some by coming out for the draft. I thought it was something he definitely should explore – especially in this WR class. There are a number of big WRs coming out this year, but most lack speed and explosiveness. This is where Streeter needs to show his uniqueness. He’s another that reportedly has run a sub 4.4 time. If he can run sub 4.4 at the combine, or at least run as fast as the 4.43 time Leonard Hankerson put up last year, then he should see his stock climb quickly. The two other areas he really needs to alleviate any fears in are his hands and his ability to break down quickly in his routes. If he plucks things like he was this year then that’s one less chink in the armor. Getting in and out of his cuts will determine whether he’s seen as strictly a one-dimensional route runner or if he could potentially develop into a top notch #2 or even possibly a #1 WR in time.
7. DE/OLB – Olivier Vernon. If people were surprised by Streeter they were shocked by Vernon declaring his intentions to go pro. Again, I thought he should think about it considering the defense that was played this past season, but that’s a topic for a different day. Vernon is looked at as an athletic, but raw, prospect. He’s been listed as anything from a mid round guy to a premium FA. It’s a given he’s going to show up looking like an Adonis. From day 1 people have talked about his physique. That’s always a plus. NFL guys want their DE/OLB prospects to look the part ideally. He does. Next, he needs to test out toward the top end of the hybrid group of guys invited. Meaning he needs to run at least 4.7 flat, with a time in the 4.6s or better being ideal. Also means he needs to show his agility so that teams can feel comfortable that he can make a smooth conversion to OLB if that’s the type of defense they run. Basically, Vernon needs to put his work out warrior hat on and just wow coaches, scouts and GMs. Finally, he needs to interview well and show he’s not someone with character issues. Like it or not that’s a knock now on him after he missed half of last year due to his suspension stemming from the Nevin Shapiro scandal.
8. OG/OT Brandon Washington. Washington earned some points at the NFLPA Bowl by showing well in practice while being shuffled between LT/RT/LG and RG. The position coach apparently came away impressed with his versatility and his ability to handle the changes on the fly. How he does when it comes to his footwork will be huge for Washington. Teams want to see if he’s someone who could play both OT and OG for them and if he’s not restricted to only playing one side or the other. These things will just enhance his value. Currently he’s rated by most as the #3 OG in the draft, but if a certain team thinks he can play RT potentially for them that will only help his stock and potentially help him find his way into the final part of the 1st round. Finally, he needs to come in to the weigh in looking solid. He’s an OL prospect so some cleavage is allowed, but he can’t look like Meatloaf in Fight Club.