2016 NFL Combine Primer

The 2016 NFL Combine Primer- 6 things to look for

The 2016 NFL Combine is set to start on Wednesday, February 24th with on field work-outs starting on Friday, the 26th. Often described as the "Underwear Olympics"  -the Combine is a great measuring tool for teams to test prospects athletic ability as they compete in agility drills. This is also an opportunity for teams to check player's medical tests and interview them. Even though a few in the media like to down play the whole event, it does play a role in evaluating the overall prospect. 

6 things I'll be looking for at the Combine as it relates to the Green Bay Packers. 

1. Tight end separation at the top. It's commonly considered that Hunter Henry from Arkansas is the #1 tight end in the draft, but it's closer than a lot of people believe. Austin Hooper from Stanford and Nick Vannett from Ohio St. are close on his heels. It would go a long way if one of these prospects really separated himself by testing well. Just about every drill for tight ends is important but I'd like to see one of these prospects run the forty yard dash in the 4.6's (even low 4.7's), put up 25+ reps on the bench press, and vertical jump at least 35".  If one of those guys puts up numbers like that, which non are projected to do, it would certainly vault them self or cement their status as the #1 tight end and a 1st round pick. The Packers will also be looking for some late round tight end prospects to show some athleticism as they could really use a boost of it on their roster.

2. Noah Spence interviews. This one is going to be tricky for anyone to get a good feel on except for teams. Media doesn't have the privilege of sitting in on team meetings however there is usually a leak or two about the feel teams are getting from prospects. It'll be important for Spence to explain his past drug use and how he's changed since getting kicked out of Ohio St. If he does extremely well Spence will more than likely go top 10 in the draft but if he bombs interviews it wouldn't be unimaginable for him to slide into day 2. The Packers would love his services on the field and he'd be tough to pass on if he made it to the Packers selection, but Ted Thompson has usually toed the line as far as picking character risk players early in the draft. 

3. Inside linebacker's medicals. This is mainly referring to stud inside linebacker Jaylon Smith from Notre Dame who is coming off a gruesome knee injury in their bowl game, but also Myles Jack from UCLA. Jack is projected to compete in all of the drills since rehabbing from his knee injury early in the year. Jack is a freak athlete and should test well but teams will want to wiggle his knee a bit to get a good feel how the ligament is holding up. Smith won't be able to work out at all but team doctors are going to be digging around to gain as much information as they can to find out what his recovery time table is and how rehab is progressing. Jack will be gone by the time the Packers pick at 27 and Smith will more than likely be off the board as well unless something scary pops up during medical checks, if that happens the Packers would also likely pass.

4. Defensive line stand outs. What is widely regarded as a deep defensive lineman draft, prospects are going to do everything they can to stand out from the rest of the group. There could be as many as 10 defensive lineman considered in the 1st round come May. Teams will be looking for several things, 10 yard split and bench press are two good barometers to show their strength and explosion. The 10 yard split is important as it shows what kind of "get-off" a prospect has, anything in the 1.6's even in the low 1.7’s would be considered very good for a 300+ d-lineman. The broad jump and vertical jump also show what kind of explosion the prospect has. The bench press is important for the obvious reasons, it is a decent representation to show how strong a player is when extending a blocker off his frame. Guys to watch who could be first round targets for the Packers are Andrew Billings from Baylor, who may challenge the bench press record, and Jarran Reed from Alabama. 

5. Robert Nkemdiche interviews. Another highly touted prospect that will need to ace the interviews is Robert Nkemdiche. Nkemdiche was suspended for the Sugar Bowl after jumping out of a double paned glass hotel window 15 feet off the ground after smoking synthetic marijuana. Teams are going to have to figure out what kind of person he is and if he is a habitual drug user. Again, media won't have direct access to how he interviews but we'll likely get word if he's failing them. On the field Nkemdiche is extremely athletic and was the number one high school recruit three years ago. His production hasn't been great but he is a disruptor on the inside and would be an immediate rotational player for the Packers.

6. What edge players are suited for 3-4 OLB. There are quite a few edge players projected in the first few rounds, many of them have the build of a 4-3 defensive end as opposed to a 3-4 outside linebacker. When looking at who could make the best transition to playing standing up the first thing you want to look at is their weight/build. You ideally want your 3-4 outside linebacker to be at least 6'3 and between 240-260lbs. Their arm length is important  as well as  their agility work is crucial. One of the most important agility tests for an outside edge rusher is their 3-cone.  The 3-cone tests the prospects ability to change direction and "bend the edge". Clay Matthew's time of 6.90 at 255lbs was ridiculously fast and really helped give his draft stock a boost to the 1st round.  A few of the edge rushers who have the build of a 4-3 end are the two Clemson teammates, Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd. The Packers and many others will be interested to see their weigh-in as well as how they perform athletically. 

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Comments (13)

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Ibleedgreenmore's picture

February 20, 2016 at 05:06 pm

Nice write up we need several positions either than QB and CB the rest can be filled in with what we have several will be gone but plug and play here we come.

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Rossonero's picture

February 20, 2016 at 05:21 pm

Good article. Insightful and interesting. Now that Heath Miller retired, I could see the Steelers drafting Hunter Henry.

No way will the Packers gamble a 1st round pick on guys like Noah Spence and Robert Nkmediche. Look at Randy Gregory -- not only did he do very little for Dallas, he just got suspended.

Everyone raved about Justin Blackmon, but the Jaguars paid dearly for blowing a top 10 pick on a guy with a well documented drinking problem. Same for Johnny Manziel. These guys need to go to rehab and get clean.

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Nick Perry's picture

February 21, 2016 at 08:15 am

I can see the Steelers doing the same thing, even before the retirement of Miller. I really, really like Hunter but if the Packers could draft a D-Lineman, OLB, or if by some miracle Thompson landed Ragland, then Hooper in the 2nd or by moving up in the 3rd a few spots to make sure you get him, you'd have 2 upgrades over what you had last year and I don't think the drop off between Hooper and Hunter ids that big. Personally I like those "Smart" Stanford or Notre Dame TE's.

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Jersey Al's picture

February 21, 2016 at 08:53 am

Top thing for me - I'm hoping Reggie Ragland doesn't get enough sleep the night before and comes in and bombs. Then he drops to 27 on draft day.

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dobber's picture

February 21, 2016 at 09:54 am

Do you really think Ragland is the answer on the inside? I'm skeptical...

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slit's picture

February 21, 2016 at 09:43 am

You need to mention Tyler Higbee at TE. Go watch his game tape and you'll love the guy.

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dobber's picture

February 21, 2016 at 09:52 am

Needs to add 15 pounds to hold up to playing tight to the line. In the absence of that, he's just another WR.

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dobber's picture

February 21, 2016 at 10:02 am

Now I've seen reports that say different things...one lists him at about 250, others say 230. Which is he?

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Cody Bauer's picture

February 22, 2016 at 09:09 am

I actually really like Tyler Higbee's game. I think he's arguably the best TE after the catch and he's a functional blocker. I anticipate he tests well also. He's a top 4 TE for me in this class and a day 2 pick.

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Pack88's picture

February 22, 2016 at 09:59 am

You forget joe Thomas was a green bay find, and who left after final cutdown in 2015

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dobber's picture

February 22, 2016 at 01:53 pm

...I don't think that will be of any Cow-nsolation, here...

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4thand1's picture

February 21, 2016 at 11:11 am

Maybe Borland will unretire and sign with GB.

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AgrippaLII's picture

February 21, 2016 at 11:49 pm

I agree with Corey's view on the combine. None of the TE's have a first round grade so I doubt Ted goes there with his first pick. He won't take the guys with off field issues or the guys that are injured. Everyone is high on Ragland but will Ted use a first round pick on a two down ILB even if he drops to #27 ?...I don't see it. The way things stand as of now I've got to think it's going to be a pass rusher (DE or OLB) or a DT...or trade the pick and move back. The second round is where a lot of the players who come out of nowhere with good combine grades will end up.

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