An onslaught of humanity will descend on Indianapolis this week for the start of the 2018 Scouting Combine. Players, media, staff and teams will arrive this weekend to put a new slate of future NFL players through a grueling slate of interviews, media sessions, on field work and persistent poking and prodding. As such, it's a tremendous weekend for stories to emerge and be told to the NFL fans everywhere. So, here are five stories/players to follow throughout the week.
- Auburn offensive lineman Braden Smith is an NFL starter in the making and has a long NFL future in front of him (health permitting, of course). He will be bench pressing for those that won't/don't have that luxury. Tugging at my heartstrings for certain, Smith will be "repping" for Autism Speaks. For every rep of 225 he does on the bench press at the Combine, he will pledge a donation to Autism Speaks. I've seen a few others that are making pledges as well in other events at the Combine, which is a fantastic way to give back to about others while making a name for yourself. I hope Smith does 50 or more (his goal is 35).
- LSU cornerback Donte Jackson is one of the fastest, if not THE fastest, players in Indianapolis. He has a track background and ran the 100-meter dash in 10.22 in 2017 running track for LSU. Can he break John Ross's record set just last year of 4.22? Jackson is the definitive favorite to do so.
- UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen has an advanced skill set as a quarterback but his interview sessions (of which we'll never know for the most part how they go) will be an interesting fulcrum point. One analyst stated just this week that Rosen believes that he's the smartest guy in any room, no matter the audience. Former Elite 11 leader Trent Dilfer had that same feeling when Rosen worked out with Dilfer and company before his senior year of high school. Rosen eventually hit it off with his college coach Jim Mora Jr., so we'll see how accurate that analyst was, given the buzz that Rosen generates after his interview sessions and Combine work.
- UCF outside linebacker Shaquem Griffin was THE story at the Senior Bowl, given his accomplishments without a left hand. You will hear his story throughout next week as the majority of mainstream NFL media types finally get to meet him and tell his story to the NFL audiences. For me, I'm curious how he will test on the field in the 40 and the quickness drills. He has been a blur on the field rushing the passer and making plays. So, if he can put some significant numbers behind his productive body of work, he'll be an intriguing name to watch come Draft weekend.
- Last year, Michigan led the way with 14 Combine attendees. This year, it's the defending champions, Alabama sending 14 to the Combine. Of those ten are defensive players and were part of a defense that Deshaun Watson shredded twice in national championship games. As a side note, the two Alabama defenses that Watson faced consisted of the following draft picks in the first three rounds (when it's all said and done after the 2018 draft)
1st round - Reuben Foster (49ers), Marlon Humphrey (Ravens), Jonathan Allen (Redskins), Minkah Fitzpatrick (2018 projected), DaRon Payne (2018 projected), Rashaan Evans (2018 projected)
2nd rounders - A'Shawn Robinson (Lions), Jarran Reed (Seahawks), Cyrus Jones (Patriots), Ryan Anderson (Redskins), Dalvin Tomlinson (Giants), Reggie Ragland (Bills), Ronnie Harrison (2018 projected), Da'Shawn Hand (2018 projected)
3rd round - Eddie Jackson (Bears), Tim Williams (3rd round), Anthony Averett (2018 projected)
Take a look at Clemson's offensive draft history in the first three rounds over the same time frame.
1st round - Mike Williams (Chargers), Deshaun Watson (Texans)
2nd round - Deon Cain (2018 projected)
I'd say Watson was a big reason why Clemson took down the giant.
Can't wait for the trip to Indianapolis. We'll have it all covered starting Tuesday of next week. See ya then, everyone.