There are some who like to downplay the importance of the NFL combine, but look at the top half of the first round of the NFL draft and it's rare to find a player who had a bad combine. Just remember: The combine isn't a replacement for watching tons of tape, but it's a helpful indicator, a check on what we think we know and in many cases a reason to go back to the tape to see if our eyes have been deceiving us. Is he really that fast? Is the scheme he plays in hiding his true ability? It elicits all kinds of questions.
The combine gets going next week, but the studying goes on and you will see changes here week to week. I'm getting through tape and calls on about three to five players a day and will do the same for the next couple of months. There are things that stand out to me, things I've missed due to the pace of the season, and my rankings shift. Yes, I watch a ton during the season, but believe me, you need the extra time.
Remember: Scouting reports remain similar week to week, though you'll see tweaks over the next couple months.
Asterisks denote players who were juniors at the time of their entry into the draft, and two asterisks denote redshirt sophomores. All players are now either officially in or out of the 2014 NFL draft.
Jadeveon Clowney *
I expect Clowney to have an outstanding combine and further cement his standing. Clowney has a special range of traits and talent, with the quickness to beat people at the point of attack, the power to run through blockers and the speed to pursue plays all over the field. He's not just an edge-rusher looking to quickly turn the corner; he doesn't even bend that well. He can win with quickness or power and succeed in any scheme. Need will factor into where he lands in the draft, especially given so much need at quarterback among teams drafting early.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 1 | PLAYER CARD
Greg Robinson **
Robinson is now my best bet to be the first offensive lineman taken, and I think his athleticism will shine in Indy. He is certainly a possibility to go with one of the top two picks, and it mainly would be because his tape from 2013 is exceptional. Brought in as a guard, Robinson started at left tackle in the SEC as a redshirt freshman and held his own. Last season, he was dominant, with increased strength making him closer to that complete package at tackle. He moves well, can get out in the run game and block in space and pass protects well with a wide base and quick feet. He also has long arms and delivers a solid punch. A potential star.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 4 | PLAYER CARD
I expect Mack to put on a show in Indy, with good speed, agility and leaping ability and adequate length. Scouts are getting caught up on his tape, but those who haven't aren't missing constant dominance so much as versatility. You'll see Mack lining up both at the line and on the perimeter. He is versatile and capable of rushing the passer with quickness and power or dropping into coverage with a great ability to shed tackles and make plays in the open field. He uses good leverage to take on blocks and drive people back and uses quickness and strong hands to shed. He plays with a great motor and tackles with form.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 5 | PLAYER CARD