There is no question Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman is the most athletic interior defensive lineman available in the draft, and he should put on quite a show at the NFL Scouting Combine.
But there are questions about his consistency, intensity and upside, and those are concerns he will be trying to alleviate in the team interviews he will participate in at the combine.
Hageman measured 6-foot-6 and 318 pounds at the weigh-in at the Reese's Senior Bowl, but despite that size, Minnesota defensive line coach Jeff Phelps told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that Hageman can do a 360-dunk. He also said Hageman's vertical jump has been measured at 36 inches. That's a lot of bulk to be able to get three feet off the ground.
"He's really a freak of nature," Phelps said, adding that Hageman "can run like a deer. He does some things that are unbelievable, and I think he'll really wow some people at the combine."
Hageman was a national recruit as a tight end out of high school in Minneapolis, and after switching to the defensive line while redshirting as a freshman in 2009, he made noticeable progress each season. He has added almost 60 pounds while at Minnesota; Hageman is stout against the run and also possesses some pass-rushing skills.
While Hageman mostly played defensive tackle for the Gophers, who run a 4-3 set, he occasionally saw time at end, and there are analysts who feel that he could be an end in a 3-4 scheme in the NFL.
Still, there is work to be done. Hageman remains relatively inexperienced as a defensive lineman, and NFL Media draft analyst Bucky Brooks has said that Hageman "will need to work on his leverage, pad level and hand quickness to succeed against interior blockers at the next level."
Minnesota has had just four players drafted since 2006; coincidentally, that's the last time the Golden Gophers had a first-round pick (running back Laurence Maroney). Hageman has a legit chance to go that early, and his combine performance could go a long way toward cementing him as a first-rounder.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.