Kevin Byard has to be wondering why he didn't receive an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine.
Byard finished his career at Middle Tennessee with the school's most interceptions (19) and interception return yards (377). The safety started all four years of his career, 36 games in total. He participated in this year's Senior Bowl, and had a solid showing.
He even stood out in Middle Tennessee's biggest game of the year against Alabama last season. The Blue Raiders may have lost 37-10 against the Crimson Tide, but Byard showed he could hang with the eventual national champs. Despite being ejected four minutes into the second half because of a targeting foul, he still led the team with eight tackles along with a tackle for loss and an interception.
The credentials for Byard were all there, but he'll have to wait until his pro day at the end of March to impress NFL personnel members. Byard may be the best draft prospect to not receive a combine invite, but that doesn't mean his draft status is doomed. Sixteen percent of the players drafted last year – 41 in all – were not summoned to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Byard, who should be picked on Day 3 of the draft, is the highest-profile snub, but here are a few more who should have gotten invited to the combine:
Jatavis Brown, LB, Akron
Brown was one of the stars of the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January and really wowed teams with his athleticism. He's small at 5'10 3/4, but the outside linebacker moves around the field effortlessly and aggressively. At the worst, Brown has a future as a special teams ace. The NFL invited four Mid- this year. It's hard to see how Brown isn't better than most of them. Conference players
Brown will still get a chance to stand out in front of personnel members on Saturday when he'll participate in the NFL Regional Combine in Houston.
Jake Coker, QB, Alabama
Coker may be a fringe draftable player, but it's always a surprise when a Senior Bowl quarterback doesn't get the combine invite. Instead of Coker, 18 quarterbacks will be in Indianapolis. That includes TCU's Trevone Boykin, who might face a position change in the NFL. Without the invitation -- and the chance to throw in front of scouts -- Coker's chances of getting drafted take quite a hit.
Henry Krieger Coble, TE, Iowa
Krieger Coble likely didn't receive an invitation because he is a one-year starter known for his blocking skills more than his receiving. But in this year's draft class, he has few peers as a blocker. Maybe the combine process, which awards more athletic players, would have been unkind to Krieger Coble. But his blocking skill is a legit NFL trait teams will covet.
Cre'Von LeBlanc, CB, Florida Atlantic
LeBlanc can take solace in the fact that cornerbacks like Chris Harris of the Denver Broncos and Sam Shields of the Green Bay Packers weren't invited to the combine in their draft years. LeBlanc's NFL future is probably working inside in the slot because he's not the biggest cornerback. Regardless, LeBlanc is an intriguing prospect. In 2014 LeBlanc saw less passes in his direction than former teammate D'Joun Smith, a third-round pick in last year's draft. LeBlanc is a dependable tackler, can get in the backfield on blitzes and can play man and zone.