As we rapidly approach this week’s scouting combine, the top prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft have to prepare themselves to get scrutinized about everything. Some players will have size concerns. Some will be less athletic than preferred. Others will have to answer questions about their past.
In this week’s mock draft, we look at what teams will be figuring out about players before they pick them in the first round.
1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
While in Indianapolis, Garrett will get asked extensively about an ankle injury that appeared to hamper him for much of the season. If the Browns determine his lackluster play at times in 2016 was an effort issue, and not due to injury, it could create the slightest opportunity for someone like Alabama’s Jonathan Allen to jump into the pick.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
Every team that needs a quarterback this year will likely be talking with Trubisky. The first thing each will probably ask is why he didn’t start until his junior season. How Trubisky answers will be scrutinized heavily.
3. Chicago Bears: DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
If Trubisky is getting asked why he only started one season, Kizer will get asked why he was benched during part of 2016. It’s easy to blame Irish head coach Brian Kelly, but how Kizer explains his side will be critical.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
Teams trying to find flaws in Adams will be left grasping for non-truths. Perhaps if his timing and measurements aren’t what teams expect there will be some concern about his skills translating fully to the NFL.
5. Tennessee Titans (via Los Angeles Rams): Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
Hooker only started one season at Ohio State and won’t participate at the combine following surgeries for a torn labrum and a hernia. That combination could lead teams to wonder if Hooker will be a factor at all in 2017. It’s up to him to prove otherwise.
6. New York Jets: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
The most important aspect of the combine for Watson will be done in private meetings. In those sessions, teams will be able to determine how much Watson is a product of the Clemson system, and if he knows how to work reads.
7. Los Angeles Chargers: Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
Like many Alabama players, teams will have to figure out if Allen’s potential has already maxed out. Crimson Tide players get coached up so well that sometimes there isn’t room for improvement in the NFL. Is that the case for Allen, a rare top-10 senior?
8. Carolina Panthers: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
If you question the injuries and effort of Garrett, the same will be asked of Fournette. When he’s on, he’s great, but he wasn’t as good in 2016 as he was in 2015.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Reuben Foster, MLB, Alabama
Is he really as athletic and rangy as some suggest, or will his timing numbers tell a different story?
10. Buffalo Bills: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Get your stopwatches ready for Williams. Laquon Treadwell fell in the draft last year in part because he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.64 seconds. Will the same happen to Williams if he posts a similar time?
11. New Orleans Saints: Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
Is he too bulky for a 4-3 end and too small for an interior player? Teams will press to figure out Thomas’ best NFL role. Some may see him as versatile, while some may see him as a man without a position.
12. Cleveland Browns (via Philadelphia Eagles): Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
The original purpose of the combine is to get medical checks on players, so Lattimore has to hope his hamstrings are fine. He missed one full season, and parts of another, at Ohio State following hamstring surgery.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
The huge stats are there for Davis, but he had drop issues at times. Teams will be closely watching his gauntlet drill and counting catches.
14. Indianapolis Colts: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Teams will want to get to know Cook on a personal level more than most prospects because of his past. Cook was found not guilty of misdemeanor battery in 2015.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via Minnesota Vikings): Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
Alabama secondary players have struggled at times with the transition to the NFL. Is Humphrey the norm or the exception?
16. Baltimore Ravens: Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama
Williams played a limited amount of snaps at Alabama, and there will have to be a determination if he’s simply just a pass rushing specialist moving forward. If he is, is he really worth a top 20 pick?
17. Washington: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Is he a one-year wonder? It’s a simple question, but could be a complex answer for teams.
18. Tennessee Titans: Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
Agility drills in Indianapolis could prove if Wilson is a cornerback or a safety going forward. If it’s the latter, he may drop a little in the first round.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: John Ross, WR, Washington
Will a torn labrum in his shoulder – which Ross will have surgery for after the combine – make 2017 a lost season for Ross?
20. Denver Broncos: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
Teams will have to get comfortable with Ramczyk’s health after he had hip surgery following Wisconsin’s bowl game. If there are long-term doubts about his health he could get vaulted by another offensive tackle.
21. Detroit Lions: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
The production was there for Barnett at Tennessee, but does he have the athleticism that will allow his game to translate to the NFL?
22. Miami Dolphins: Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
In the NFL, is he an inside player, or an outside player? Does he have the size to get off blocks in the NFL? Those should be questions No. 1 and 2 that teams will have for Cunningham.
23. New York Giants: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
It’s been mentioned plenty, but Howard’s usage at Alabama was inconsistent. How Howard explains his usage will be interesting. His timing numbers will be as well, because we know Miami’s athletic tight end David Njoku will right on Howard’s tail.
24. Oakland Raiders: Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
Is he an end, outside linebacker or inside linebacker? The Raiders will be hoping he can be an inside player. If he’s not, they could push him down the draft board after the combine.
25. Houston Texans: Garrett Bolles, OT, Utah
Bolles played just one season of FBS football, so teams will have to figure him out as a player with a relatively limited amount of tape. Some may perceive him as being a project.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
On the surface, Robinson is a former blue chip recruit who started three years for Alabama. So why isn’t he considered a top 10 pick? Right now it’s Robinson’s deficiencies as a pass blocker. Is that acceptable for a tackle prospect?
27. Kansas City Chiefs: Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
This is another player teams will have to get comfortable with on a personal level after he was suspended one game last season following an altercation with a teammate.
28. Dallas Cowboys: Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri
Harris is another player who was better in 2015 than 2016, and a team like the Cowboys will have to figure out if that’s due to how he was used or not. They’ll also have to figure out if he’s big enough to handle the rigors of being a 4-3 end.
29. Green Bay Packers: Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
The cornerback class is deep, but is it so deep that a team can take the fifth one off the board in a round and find value?
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA
McKinley is another player where health concerns factor into when he gets drafted. He’ll also have shoulder surgery after the combine, which could scare some teams off.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Malik McDowell, DE/DT, Michigan State
The talent and skill with McDowell is obvious, so why wasn’t he more productive in 2016 when he had just seven tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks?
32. New England Patriots: David Njoku, TE, Miami
Njoku registered just nine starts at Miami and could be perceived as being more of an athlete than football player. He’ll do well in Indianapolis during testing drills, but teams will be more interested in figuring out who he is as a player.