This draft class lacks an Andrew Luck or a Robert Griffin III. In fact, the top-four rated prospects last year — Luck, Griffin, Trent Richardson and Matt Kalil — likely would be the top-four rated prospects this year.
But don’t sleep on the 335 prospects invited to Indianapolis this week for the NFL Scouting Combine, including a combine-record 67 underclassmen.
Offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, an Arlington High and Texas A&M product, could come out of the combine rated as the No. 1 overall prospect.
“I think there’s excellent depth in this class, especially at certain positions — running back, wide receiver, tight end,” said Dane Brugler, a draft analyst for NFL Draft Scout.com and CBSsports.com. “It just doesn’t have that top-heavy feel. The elite talent isn’t there. It’s not a great year to be picking in the top five, because the 15th pick is similar to the fifth pick. But I think the second through fourth rounds will produce some good players.”
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The biggest question going into the combine is whether Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o addresses the media. If so, NFL.com’s Gil Brandt expects Te’o’s appearance Saturday to draw the biggest media gathering in combine history.
“We don’t know [whether he will talk],” said Brandt, the Dallas Cowboys former player personnel director. “If he does, he’ll be bigger than [Tim] Tebow or [Cam] Newton.”
Here are six prospects to watch this week:
Dion Jordan, DE/LB, Oregon: Jordan, a two-time, all-Pac-12 honoree, is 6-foot-7 and played last season at 243. But scouts are interested in his weight with Jordan having had a nagging shoulder injury. He needs to be in the 240-250 range to justify a top-15 ranking.
Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina: The medical evaluation will be huge for Lattimore, who still is rehabbing after tearing multiple ligaments and dislocating his right knee Oct. 27. Lattimore, who had 2,677 yards and 38 touchdowns the past three seasons, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee his sophomore season.
Denard Robinson, WR, Michigan: Robinson is making the move from quarterback because of his size (5-11) and his inaccuracy (a career 57.2 percent passer). He has been compared to Antwaan Randle El, another former Big Ten Ten quarterback who made the move to receiver in the pros.
John Simon, DE, Ohio State: Simon started 37 games as a defensive end in his four seasons and made 154 tackles and 20.5 sacks. He was the Big Ten’s defensive player of the year and defensive lineman of the year in 2012. But Simon looked like a “fish out of water” at linebacker at the Senior Bowl, according to Brugler.
Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Smith, who goes into the combine as the top-rated quarterback, skipped the Senior Bowl. He says he will do everything in Indianapolis, including throw. But is he worth the No. 1 pick? The Kansas City Chiefs, who need a quarterback, have a decision to make.
Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame: Scouts will grill him about the “catfish” scandal, but they want to see how he performs on the field, too. Though he won every major defensive award, including the Butkus and the Lombardi, Te’o didn’t show up for the BCS title game.
Here are six prospects the Cowboys will be watching this week:
Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri: The top-two ranked defensive tackles, Star Lotulelei and Sharrif Floyd , likely will go in the top 10. Richardson is close to being a top-10 pick after making 112 tackles, six sacks and four forced fumbles the past two seasons.
Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford: The Mansfield product rushed for 4,300 yards and 40 touchdowns in his four seasons, including three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. But he is not expected to run a fast 40 and could be a possible third- or fourth-round target for the Cowboys.
Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky: The third-team All-American, who played 47 games with 37 consecutive starts, is projected as a second-round pick. But a good showing in Indy might get him drafted before the Cowboys select in the second round.
Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama: One of the top guards to come out in recent seasons. The 6-3, 320-pounder is a physical specimen. But he needs to impress during interviews and on the Wonderlic test.
Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina: He could be a second-round option. Williams played two seasons at UNC, starting all 25 games, after two seasons at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College. He made 42 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and six sacks.
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU: Ansah, a native of Accra, Ghana, has played football only since 2010. A freak athlete who turned to football after trying basketball and track, Ansah is raw with only one season as a full-time starter. He had 62 tackles, 13 for loss, with 4.5 sacks, a forced fumble and an interception in 2012.