In Indianapolis this week, players can use the Scouting Combine to vault their stock in the 2017 NFL Draft. While some players like Myles Garrett of Texas A&M or Jonathan Allen of Alabama should be secure with their draft position, these five players could help themselves the most.
DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
Since the college football season has ended, much of the buzz for top quarterbacks has centered on Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina and Deshaun Watson of Clemson. Because Notre Dame finished with a 4-8, Kizer has been out of the spotlight since November. When he did play, he completed less than 60 percent of his passes, and 50.7 in his last two games against Southern California and Virginia Tech. At one point he was even benched last season. To call Kizer inconsistent is an understatement. Some do like him lot, though. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network rates him as the top quarterback and he’s not the only one:
@MockingTheDraft I knew I'd have him as QB1, but I was stunned to see DJ and Mayock with him as QB1 as well. Really surprising.— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) February 24, 2017
Kizer, who stands 6’4 and 229 pounds, has the physical skills to stand out at the combine. He’ll have to show it to make sure there isn’t a gap between he and Trubisky and Watson.
Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU
Dupre has first-round talent, but in 2016 he had mid-round production. Until pulling in seven catches for 139 yards, he had just 34 receptions for 454 yards and three touchdowns on the season. It wasn’t much fault of his own, however. As a team last season LSU threw less than 300 passes on the season, and the team’s quarterback play was often spotty. At the combine, Dupre will need a good week showing off his measurables and ability to catch the ball.
Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami
Going into the season, Kaaya carried some buzz as a potential first-round pick. Statistically, Kaaya had a nice season, completing 62 percent of his passes and throwing 27 touchdowns to only seven interceptions. Digging deeper, there are some concerns. When pressured, Kaaya’s footwork falls apart, and his accuracy goes down. Since he’s not much of a mover in the pocket, that can be a problem. Kaaya is also a slender figure in the pocket, and if teams were concerned about Teddy Bridgewater’s build, they’ll be similarly concerned about Kaaya. At the combine, Kaaya needs to show off a stronger arm than he did at Miami, look fluid moving around to drop the pocket statue critique, and carry a little more bulk than teams are used to seeing.
Juju Smith-Schuster, WR, Southern California
The 40-yard dash is an overblown endeavor, but if there is a player who needs a good one, it is Smith-Schuster. At 6’2 and 220 pounds, Smith-Schuster is obviously a well-built wide receiver. One of his flaws, however, is his speed. He can help himself if he can break into the range of 4.5 seconds. Teams will closely be watching the junior’s footwork as well because he tends to be a little awkward at the top of his routes.
Takkarist McKinley, DE/OLB, UCLA,
Going into the combine, a few big-name players have injuries that need addressed. That includes Ohio State safety Malik Hooker, who had surgery for a torn labrum and a hernia, and Washington wide receiver John Ross, who will have shoulder surgery after the combine. The latest injury news regards McKinley, the ace pass rusher from UCLA.
DE/OLB Takkarist McKinley said he'll have shoulder surgery (torn labrum, broken glenoid) after full NFL combine workout. 5-6 month recovery.— Jason Cole (@JasonColeBR) February 23, 2017
For a pass rusher like McKinley, a shoulder injury pretty serious because he uses his arm length just as much as a quick burst to beat blockers. Considering the recovery is at least five months, that takes McKinley well past rookie training camp, which begins in July. Teams will want to get a good gauge on the severity of McKinley’s injury to determine if he can be a factor in 2017 at all.