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3 Offensive Players To Watch At The Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 20, 2013 – 2:11 pm

The Senior Bowl opened my eyes to this draft class’ crop of pass catchers. I arrived in Mobile, Alabama for the week excited to see Marshall WR Aaron Dobson, but I came away as impressed with Elon’s Aaron Mellette. Baylor’s Terrence Williams struck me as the most NFL-ready, but I was surprised with Texas’ Marquise Goodwin and blown away by Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton. And I’d be remiss to leave out Arkansas’ Cobi Hamilton and Kansas State’s Chris Harper because they both had solid weeks.

But the good news is that was just the beginning of our assessment of this year’s entire class of receivers. The individuals mentioned in the above paragraph were just a few of the top senior WRs in this class. There are other seniors and a bunch of underclassmen who are jumping to the NFL in 2013.

Here we’ll look at 3 offensive players to watch during the Combine this week. They all play the same position – WR. I’m not saying WR is the most important position to watch this year, rather, I feel this is a deep and talented position AND I feel the Combine can reveal the kind of information that will enable us to distinguish these receivers from each other more than it can reveal similar information that will allow us to distinguish players at other positions from each other. Also, this list focuses on players who were not at the Senior Bowl, since we’ve already gotten a good luck and have had plenty of conversation about them.

Anyway, let’s just get to the list…

WR DeAndre Hopkins (Clemson)
This is a guy who is growing on me more and more as I continue to talk about him and watch him. He had 82 receptions for 1,405 yards and 18 TDs last year as a junior for Clemson – impressive numbers. Depending on where you look, Hopkins is listed at anywhere from a half-inch over 6-0 to as high as 6-2, and usually always around 200-205 pounds. We’ll get an official measurement when he arrives at the Combine. Regardless, I actually think he plays bigger than even a 6-2 receiver. I say that because he does a great job of shielding defenders from a pass and making sure he puts himself between the defender and the QB. Also, he high-points the football with consistency and tenacity. NFL.com’s Josh Norris compares him to Roddy White, but I actually see more Anquan Boldin. I know scouts typically despise comparisons like that, but comparisons help fans develop a mind’s eye picture of a player.

On top of playing like a big receiver, Hopkins is also an explosive athlete. I’m not sure he has the explosive skills of a Quinton Patton and surely not of a Tavon Austin or Marquise Goodwin, but the explosion he has is good enough that, when put in combination with his size and catching ability, makes me excited about his NFL future. Besides, that’s one function of the Combine – analyzing measured speed/quickness of a player. If Hopkins times well in the 40-yard dash, he will definitely move up in my WR rankings.

This guy is definitely one to watch.

WR Kenny Stills (Oklahoma)
It’s a good idea to take a close look at mid-round prospects as well as 1st-round prospects, and that’s one of the reasons I’m including Stills on this list. He’s consistently listed at 6-1, 190 pounds. I don’t think he has elite speed or suddenness. And he doesn’t have a 1,000-yard receiving season to his credit at Oklahoma. Those are all pretty good reasons as to why he’s not considered a top-end WR prospect at the moment.

But for what he lacks in elite measurable qualities I think he makes up for in toughness, intangibles and competitiveness. Just take a look at the block he makes at the 2:02 mark of this clip. And then watch the rest of the highlight clip to see the kind of physical ability he brings to the table.

WR Robert Woods (USC)
Last year at this time, Woods was one of my favorite prospects. The trouble was, I didn’t realize until I arrived at the Combine that Woods had one more year left at USC. Fast-forward a year later, and I still like Woods. He’s listed at 6-1, 190, which won’t strike you as a prototypical height-weight combo for an NFL WR, but that shouldn’t turn you off from Woods.

As a sophomore in 2011, he had 111 receptions for 1,292 yards and 15 TDs. Those are incredible numbers and you can see why I was so high on him last year. His numbers were not as good this past season – 76-846-11 – but he’s hardly to blame for that. USC’s passing offense went primarily through another talented WR – Marquis Lee – and Woods production fell off as a result. But he still had 11 TDs, and he’d already proven he could produce at an elite level for an elite program.

I believe he’ll be able to produce at the NFL level, too, if he lands in the right situation. Is that right situation in Minnesota? I don’t know, that’s a question that will be answered much higher than my pay grade or knowledge level. But I’m excited to see him this week at the Combine because I think he’ll be a good player in the NFL.


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New Combine Test Set To Debut This Year

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 20, 2013 – 10:59 am

Part of the reason the NFL continues to reign king of the America sports landscape is its ability and willingness to adapt and evolve. More than many other sports leagues, the NFL adjusts and tweaks its rules to accomplish two primary objectives: enhance player safety and improve the overall product and fan experience.

This year at the Scouting Combine, the NFL is showing that the ability and willingness to adapt transcends what happens between the white lines and extends into the offseason as well. As NFL Network’s Albert Breer reported earlier this week, the NFL will implement a new, expanded player-assessment test designed to provide a comprehensive look at a player’s non-physical capabilities, aptitudes and strengths. This may sound like a test that already exists at the Combine – the Wonderlic. But this new test will not replace the Wonderlic, rather, it will supplement it.

The new test will be implemented for the first time at this year’s Combine and it will be administered similarly to the Wonderlic, according to Breer. In his report, Breer cited a memo that was sent to all 32 clubs. The final paragraph of that memo, which was displayed on NFL.com, reads as follows:

“This is an exciting innovation that brings updated best practices from corporate America to the NFL football operations. By giving clubs new and more relevant information, it offers additional information to supplement your decision-making in the draft. One of the most interesting aspects is that new information on player learning styles can potentially help our coaches’ work more effectively with young players.”

This new test seems like a win-win. It provides teams with more information as they attempt to select players who best fit their organization. And it also sheds more light on how players are wired so that teams are better-equipped to help college players transition to the professional world, where their responsibilities expand to more than just Xs and Os.


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A Glimpse At The Who, What, Where, When Of The Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 20, 2013 – 8:52 am

It takes a player four days to complete his Combine experience. But the Combine is a seven-day (February 20-26) event on the NFL calendar. What’s with the discrepancy, you ask? There are typically over 300 athletes invited to the Combine (333 this year), and getting that many athletes through the process requires a staggered schedule over the course of a week.

Not all the players are here in Indianapolis at the same time. For example, Wednesday is the day kickers, special teams players and offensive linemen arrive. But defensive backs, on the other hand, don’t arrive until Saturday. All other positions arrive, go through the process and depart on the days in between.

The players are broken up into positions and then into groups (there are 11 groups this year). Then those groups go through the various stages of the Combine on a staggered schedule until the event concludes on Tuesday when the defensive backs and personnel from all 32 of the NFL’s franchises depart.

Here’s a breakdown of the four-day schedule…

Day 1: Travel to Indianapolis, Registration, Orientation, Exams, etc.
Day 2: Measurements, (more) Exams, Media Availability, Interviews
Day 3: NFLPA meeting, Testing, Bench Press, Interviews
Day 4: On-Field Workout, Departure from Indianapolis

Also, here’s how each group is scheduled to advance through the Combine process…

Day 1 Arrivals: Group 1 (PK, ST, OL), Group 2 (OL), Group 3 (TE)
Day 2 Arrivals:  Group 4 (QB, WR), Group 5 (QB, WR), Group 6 (RB)
Day 3 Arrivals: Group 7 (DL), Group 8 (DL), Group 9 (LB)
Day 4 Arrivals: Group 10 (DB), Group 11 (DB)


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Catch Our Coverage Of The 2013 NFL Scouting Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 20, 2013 – 6:15 am

For the 6th consecutive year, the Vikings Entertainment Network (VEN) will have a presence at the annual NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and we encourage you to check out all the different ways we’ll be bringing you the action.

I’ll be handling the writing portion of our coverage as usual, but we’ll also have cameras at the event, so be sure to check out all the cool video coverage provided by our VEN experts.

The 2013 NFL Scouting Combine will be held from February 20 to February 26, and VEN will be in Indianapolis from Wednesday (today) through Monday. But our coverage of the Combine will not end when we leave on Monday – it will continue through the conclusion of the event.

Be sure to follow the Vikings (@VikingsFootball) and me (@wobby) on Twitter for even more coverage of the high-profile event.

A few pieces of content you can expect to catch this week include: Rick Spielman’s press conference on Thursday, Leslie Frazier’s press conference on Friday, on-camera interviews with both Frazier and Spielman, interviews of college players, interviews of local and national media members and potentially other NFL personalities that are typically found roaming near and around the event. Also, Voice of the Vikings Radio Network Paul Allen will host his daily 9-noon (CT) radio show from the Combine on Thursday and Friday, where he’ll be joined by Paul Charchian. When possible, we’ll stream those interviews on the website and perhaps even put them in on-demand form eventually.

All of that is a lot to remember, but don’t worry because you can always visit our convenient NFL Draft Central page to stay up-to-date on the latest coverage. This page is your one-stop shop for the latest interviews, videos, blog entries and stories from the Combine in Indianapolis all the way through the 2013 NFL Draft.

We’re looking forward to another exciting NFL Scouting Combine and our best coverage of the event ever. Be sure to catch it all right here on vikings.com and the vikings.com Blog.


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