The NFL Scouting Combine will showcase some of the biggest names from college football — Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Alabama’s Jonathan Allen.
But while 330 players will run and jump and bench press, interview with teams, go through football drills and undergo medical testing this week, the players making the most news are those staying home.
The NFL sent a memo to its teams in January outlining a new combine policy that prohibits prospects “if a background check reveals a conviction of a felony or misdemeanor involving violence or use of a weapon, domestic violence, sexual offense and/or sexual assault.”
Thus, Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, Baylor receiver Ishmael Zamora and Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly are among those prohibited from showing up in Indianapolis. The policy is controversial.
I think an unintended consequence to banning Joe Mixon is it gives this kid an advantage as far as all the athletic drills are concerned.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock
“I’d like to proactively get after the situation, get in front of the situation and sit these kids down at the combine, these troubled players, and give them a level of expectations if they want to play in the NFL — what the infrastructure’s going to look like when they get there,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said Monday. “Let’s ... try to make them good citizens along with good football players.
“I think an unintended consequence to banning Joe Mixon is it gives this kid an advantage as far as all the athletic drills are concerned. He’s asleep in his own bed while getting ready for his Pro Day instead of being poked and prodded for four consecutive days.
“In addition to that, I think he and his agent can control the message to the media. So I think it was unintentional, and I really do believe the NFL was trying to do the right thing, but I think if we really think it through, I think there are better ways to deal with it.”
Still, plenty of players have much to gain — or lose — by what happens at the combine.
Here are some players CBSsports.com draft analyst Dane Brugler thinks have the most to prove in Indianapolis:
DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame: Scouts have plenty of questions for Kizer after he went only 4-8 last season. Teams will grill Kizer on his losing record, his inconsistency, his midseason benching and his relationship with coach Brian Kelly.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech: Scouts and coaches want to “pop the hood” on Mahomes, testing him mentally. Mahomes looks the part, and he passed for 11,252 yards and 93 touchdowns in three seasons. But is he a system quarterback, a product of the Air Raid? “We know he can throw the ball, but mentally how developed is he in reading defenses, digesting a playbook, communicating at the line of scrimmage and making adjustments based off his reads?” Brugler said.
Takkarist McKinley, DE/OLB, UCLA: He stands 6-foot-2, weighs 250 pounds and should run a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash. But McKinley, who had 14.5 sacks the past two seasons, will undergo shoulder surgery after the combine to repair a torn labrum and broken glenoid.
Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland (Ohio): Shaheen dominated at the Division II level, making 127 catches for 1,670 yards and 26 touchdowns the past two seasons. “This guy has ‘wow’ tape,” Brugler said. “He’s dominant as a blocker and a receiver, but he’s going up against future accountants and dentists. He looks fast on tape at 275 pounds. He looks like a legitimate 4.7 athlete, but it’s tough to measure against the competition.”
Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin: He started 14 games in 2016 but underwent hip surgery on Jan. 5, keeping him out of drills in Indianapolis. Doctors will closely examine Ramczyk’s hip.
John Ross, WR, Washington: Ross enters the combine rated the third-best receiver behind only Clemson’s Mike Williams and Western Michigan’s Corey Davis. He is a candidate to run the fastest 40 time. However, Ross has had major injuries to both knees and now needs shoulder surgery the day after the combine to repair a torn labrum. Thus, the medical evaluation will play a big part in how high Ross goes on draft day.
Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma: He earned a trip to New York for the Heisman ceremony after making 80 receptions for 1,524 yards and 17 touchdowns. But Westbrook has several red flags, including two arrests on domestic violence complaints by the mother of his two children, according to the Tulsa World. The interviews will help determine how high Westbrook hears his name on draft day.
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson: He and Davis are considered the top receivers in the draft, but Davis recently underwent ankle surgery. So Williams has a chance to establish himself as the top player at the position by running a fast 40 and excelling in the agility drills.
2017 NFL Draft
The NFL Draft will be in Philadelphia on April 27-29. The first round is April 27, second and third rounds on April 28 and rounds 4-7 on April 29. Here’s the first-round order:
2. San Francisco
5. Tennessee (from L.A. Rams)
6. New York Jets
7. San Diego Chargers
11. New Orleans
12. Cleveland (from Philadelphia)
15.* Philadelphia (from Minnesota)
19. Tampa Bay
23. New York Giants
27. Kansas City
29. Green Bay
32. New England
*—14th and 15th positions will be determined by a coin flip.