The NFL Combine in Indianapolis is underway this week in Indianapolis. As hopeful prospects undergo testing and interviews, the week will see the rise and fall of multiple prospects. Essentially, it means the entire landscape of what we think could happen will be changing. But for some of those draft hopefuls, this week is more important to them than other prospects. The consensus best player in the draft, Chase Young, has already decided to sit out of drills. But for some, that is just not possible with the implications it has for them. Here are 5 of those guys that could sink or swim by the end of this week.
LSU TE THADDEUS MOSS
Thaddeus Moss came on strong late in the season with two strong games against Oklahoma and Clemson. It surged enough to gain buzz and bolted for the NFL after the Tigers’ National Championship victory. For Steelers fans, he has long been at the forefront of the tight end discussion. Views on his draft stock have gone all the way from the middle of the second-round to the middle of day three. Right now, no one really knows where he is going to fall on that spectrum.
However, it was clear that Moss was lacking a little bit of juice on tape. His testing is going to be big to really get a gauge on how athletic he really is. The 40 yard dash, broad jump, and vertical are all going to be big to get a sense of his long speed and explosiveness. He will need to test well in order to creep up into the discussion for a day two draft pick. His weigh-in already showed that he was only 6-foot-1, so if he also bombs testing, Moss could experience a free fall in his draft stock. In addition to that, he has to pass medicals for the troubling foot injury that he suffered last year. This week is incredibly important for him.
MINNESOTA S ANTOINE WINFIELD JR.
Antoine Winfield Jr has been nothing but a playmaker over this past year. Seven
Seven interceptions is a number that will catch the eye of anyone. At Minnesota, he was a huge part of a season that saw the Golden Gophers surge to an unexpectedly Top-25 finish. He was the crux of the defense and moved around the entire field. They would use him as a slot defender, down near the line, and play him deep in a free safety role. So, the question, with his great year, would be why is his stock not even higher?
The answer lies in the questions about his athleticism. See, Winfield Jr. is clearly a playmaker and has the wherewithal for the football, but it is anything but certain that he has legitimate NFL range and athleticism. There were times on tape where Winfield Jr. seemed a step slow behind everyone. Too often his speed just was not enough to make the splash play. Those athleticism questions are going to be answered this week. But even more so, he has to answer for multiple injuries he has suffered in college, too. The testing and medicals will be indicative of if Winfield is in the second-round wheelhouse or more of an early day three guy.
FLORIDA STATE RB CAM AKERS
The Steelers are fighting a little bit of a battle with the running back position here. Do they really need one or do they not? If they choose to be on the side of drafting one, they have a ton of running backs that fit their standard. Florida State running back Cam Akers is just one of those guys that fits what they would look for in a running back. After a down Sophomore season, Akers came back for a rebound Junior campaign that saw his draft stock bounce right back up into the day two discussion.
Akers will likely test well, but in such a tight-knit class with Clyde Edwards-Helaire, D’Andre Swift, JK Dobbins, and Jonathan Taylor in it, Akers will need to steal the show to be the talk of the week and swing his stock up. So, for him, it is more of an issue of how impressive can his numbers really be. Any 40-yard dash that hits the 4.4s is a big win for him. In interviews, he will also need to answer the questions about why his production dipped suddenly last year. Those two aspects are going to determine if Akers rises to join the upper echelon of the class or if he is just a big fish in a small pond in the second tier.
BOISE STATE EDGE CURTIS WEAVER
Another guy for Steelers fans to watch closely in case Bud Dupree walks in Curtis Weaver. If Dupree walks, Weaver will be smack dab in the middle of mock drafts and buzz in Pittsburgh as a potential replacement. However, he has significant questions athletically and with his flexibility. All of this week for Weaver is going to determine if he is actually going to be there when the Steelers pick. With a good week, he probably is a fringe first-rounder, but with a bad week, he is a mid-second round pick.
The new figure-eight drill that was added to test flexibility for pass rushers will be key for him. He looked stiff in his ankles and hips and lacked bend. If he can show off some bend and fluidity, it would be incredibly encouraging. And as for his athleticism, he at times was just unimpressive. His explosiveness was okay, but nothing great, and his movement skills in space were nothing to write home about. Weaver needs to show he can be an explosive and fluid athlete in order to be crowned as one of the winners of the combine.