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Blog Entry

Under radar underclassmen set to light up combine

Posted on: February 22, 2012 11:19 am
Edited on: February 22, 2012 11:34 am
 
With the NFL Scouting Combine kicking off Wednesday, nearly every where you look you'll find another analyst with a list of athletes who could put up astonishing workout numbers. 

Dane Brugler and I collaborated on a that identified ten players with questions to answer in Indianapolis. Our colleague, Bruce Feldman, identified ten "athletic freaks" who should put forth some of the best numbers of any players invited to the combine this year.    

The simple reality of the combine season is that only occasionally are scouts surprised by the athleticism shown by prospects. At least among the senior prospects, scouts have been looking at them all year long and know what to expect. Prospects who don't perform well despite having a month (or more) typically to prepare for the very specific drills tested serve as more of a red flag to most talent evaluators than a surprisingly strong workout usually helps a prospect. 

The story is very different for underclassmen, however. 

Teams haven't had nearly as much time to prepare for these athletes and considering that the 2012 draft will feature a record 65 underclassmen, no year in history has as much potential for under the radar underclassmen to emphatically put their names on the map than this one. 

Rather than wait to see which underclassmen will surprise, I thought I'd take a chance at predicting five I believe could light up the combine and see a significant boost to their draft stock, as a result. 

CB Cliff Harris, Oregon: Harris has been a bit of a forgotten man since multiple run-ins with authorities led to his ultimately being kicked off the team by head coach Chip Kelly. While he'll certainly need to answer scouts' questions, once Harris is allowed to show off his athletic gifts, I believe he'll quickly force NFL teams to recognize his upside. After playing at less than 170 pounds throughout much of his career with the Ducks, scouts will be just as interested in how Harris physically measures up as well as how fast he runs, etc.

WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech: Hill reminds me a lot of former Georgia Tech standout Demaryius Thomas for his size, straight-line speed and big play ability. NFLDraftScout.com is currently estimating Hill as being able to run the 40-yard dash in 4.57 seconds. I think he'll shave a tenth off that time, as well as impress in leaping drills. He's undeniably raw but don't be surprised if a strong showing in Indianapolis pushes Hill into the second round.

OT Bobby Massie, Mississippi:
Massie signed with Ole Miss as one of the elite prep talents in the country but partially due to the anonymous nature of the right tackle position and to Ole Miss' relative struggles, Massie isn't getting much attention in the mainstream media. I wouldn't be surprised, however, if he shows very impressive athleticism, balance and power in drills based on his tape. The "big three" junior tackles -- USC's Matt Kalil, Iowa's Riley Reiff and Stanford's Jonathan Martin -- get the bulk of the attention but with the position essentially wide open after them, don't be surprised if Massie gives Ohio State's Mike Adams a run for his money as the 4th tackle off the board.

QB Brock Osweiler, Arizona State: Osweiler is currently NFLDraftScout.com's No. 4-rated quarterback and No. 45-rated prospect, overall, so he hardly qualifies as under the radar. However, considering the amount of hype being generated around Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and even Ryan Tannehill, the lanky Osweiler hasn't received the national attention his talent warrants. If Osweiler can calm concerns about his mobility at a estimated 6-7, 240 pounds, scouts won't be able to resist admiring his strong, accurate arm.

CB Josh Robinson, Central Florida: Robinson is one of three relatively "unknown" cornerbacks that I am significantly higher on than most (the other two are seniors Ryan Steed from Furman and Trumaine Johnson from Montana). Robinson's speed, agility and leaping ability jump off tape. If he works out as well as I think he will based on the athleticism I've seen on the field, scouts may have a hard time justifying Robinson not winding up a top 100 pick.        
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