One of the biggest job auditions will take place inside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Friday, Feb. 26, as millions of aspiring NFL players will get their chance at impressing their possible future coaches and team executives.
The NFL Scouting Combine will bring out the best from college football this past year and place them on a stage where they have to run 40-yard dash times, receiving routes, cone drills or show how they hustle to the football. Some prospects out west are helping headline this year’s festivities, with some needing an astonishing performance to elevate their status as a legit draft pick. Here’s who to watch from that region:
DeForest Buckner, defensive end, Oregon
Buckner looks like a left tackle at 6-foot-7, 300-pounds, but he’s known for destroying tackles who try to block him and simply disrupts plays.
His strength, versatility and movement off the ball has gotten NFL.com’s resident draft expert Mike Mayock comparing Buckner to the legendary Reggie White.
Jared Goff, quarterback, Cal
Apparently, Goff has small hands, and that has gotten some people to lose their grip on their thought of him becoming the first quarterback taken in the draft. New Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson told the media via Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday that “It matters because we play in a division where all of a sudden there’s rain and snow, and it’s different. Guys with bigger hands can grip the ball better in those environmental situations. We’re looking for a guy who fits what we’re looking for at quarterback, and so hand size is important.”
Well, Goff’s diminutive hands still got him to produce record-breaking numbers at Cal. His pocket awareness and ability to quickly locate an open receiver are major strengths. Small hands, big hands, one team could be in good hands with Goff come draft day.
Myles Jack, outside linebacker, UCLA
A lot of eyes – from writers to NFL executives – will be scrutinizing Jack closely between now and draft day.
It’s not because of his uncanny athleticism and versatility, but if he’s fully recovered from the knee injury that took him away from his junior year in Westwood. Jack reportedly is close to being fully recovered from his torn lateral meniscus injury and plans to just compete in the bench press event at the combine. ESPN New Orleans Saints reporter Mike Triplett reported that Jack will likely save his leg workouts for UCLA’s pro day. When healthy, Jack has first round talent. But if he’s fully healed is the main question.
Su’a Cravens, linebacker/safety, USC
He emerged as the Trojans’ latest decorated linebacker, and he began his career as a hard-hitting safety who drew comparisons to another USC legend: Troy Polamalu.
So where will Cravens get drafted as? A linebacker or safety? He’s become this year’s Shaq Thompson with his uncanny versatility and speed. He’ll likely have up to 20 NFL teams fixated on him when he hits the field drills.
Kyle Fackrell, outside linebacker, Utah State
Here’s a mid-major talent to watch. Fackrell not only comes with the attributes that can suit a team’s 3-4 scheme, he hails from the same university that produced Seattle Seahawks star linebacker Bobby Wagner.
Fackrell happens to also be 24, making him one of the older competitors at the combine. And, like Jack, is coming off of his own knee ailment as he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2014. Yet his ability to work in space and chase down the quarterback could make him a possible steal.
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