Combine Winners & Losers  

 

La'el Collins, Maxx Williams among early stars of NFL combine

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Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks is spotlighting the prospects who make a mark -- for better or worse -- at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine. On Friday, the offensive linemen and tight ends took the field. Here are Bucky's impressions from Indianapolis:

Buzzworthy

La'el Collins, OL, LSU: It's hard to find a big, athletic blocker with a nasty temperament and polished game, but Collins checks all the boxes. He showed exceptional agility, athleticism and explosiveness during the "Olympic drills" on Friday. Collins clocked 5.12 in the 40-yard dash, which is certainly impressive for a 6-foot-4, 305-pounder with a chiseled frame. In positional drills, Collins flashed exceptional balance, body control and agility. He is surprisingly light on his feet, yet powerful when making contact with defenders at the point of attack. Collins routinely jolted foes with his short punches in blocking drills. Although practice drills aren't a true simulation of game action, the fact that Collins displayed the strength, power and agility of a blue-chip prospect could make him one of the first offensive linemen to come off the board on draft day.

Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford: After flying under the radar early in the pre-draft process, Peat is squarely in the conversation as one of the top offensive tackles in the 2015 class. The former Cardinal standout displayed a combination of athleticism and technical skill that should help him blossom into a franchise-caliber left tackle in the NFL. From his performance in athletic drills to his solid positional workout, Peat showcased exceptional balance, body control and agility. In addition, he surprised evaluators with his lateral quickness and movement skills, given his bulky lower body. With the lack of polished edge blockers in the 2015 class, Peat's performance could shoot him to the top of the charts.

Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota: The numbers don't jump off the page when looking back at Williams' workout, but that won't stop scouts from buzzing about his prospects as a TE1 at the next level following a strong showing on Friday. Williams was the most natural pass catcher among the tight ends, exhibiting strong hands and impressive ball skills while snatching passes from every angle. Additionally, Williams looked like a refined route runner getting in and out of cuts, validating comparisons to Kyle Rudolph and Jason Witten as a potential playmaker at the next level. Although his athletic profile falls below blue-chip standards, the fact that he posted a solid 4.37 short-shuttle time suggests he can win consistently at the next level with quickness and burst.

Jesse James, TE, Penn State: The buzz has been quietly building around James' potential since scouts started digging into his tape and discovered he has the potential to be a lethal red-zone threat with his length and range. The momentum is certain to continue with James putting on an impressive showing during the positional workout. The 6-7, 261-pound tight end posted solid numbers in the vertical jump (37 1/2 inches), broad jump (10-foot-1), bench press (26 reps of 225 pounds) and 20-yard shuttle (4.50), while effortlessly catching the ball in drills. James' strong hands and natural ball skills stood out; he has all of the tools to be a tough matchup as a post-up playmaker near the goal line. Although his 4.83 40-yard dash doesn't pop off the page, the fact that he is a huge target with better-than-anticipated athleticism and hands will make him a late riser in meeting rooms.

Buzzkill

Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa: Despite posting a better-than-anticipated time in the 40-yard dash (5.05), Scherff couldn't capitalize on the buzz building around his talent and potential due to a hamstring injury early in drills. Although the muscle strain is considered a minor setback, Scherff didn't have an opportunity to answer the concerns about his agility, athleticism, balance and body control during the positional workout. Most importantly, he didn't get a chance to show evaluators that he could pull or trap from an interior blocker position, which is critical to his chances of being drafted early in Round 1 as a guard prospect.

Clive Walford, TE, Miami: After being hailed as one of the most explosive tight ends in the draft, Walford didn't wow scouts with his workout performance on Friday. The 6-4, 251-pound pass catcher clocked a rather pedestrian 4.79 40 time and failed to look dynamic or sudden in drills. Although Walford's numbers in the vertical jump (35 inches) and broad jump (10 feet even) suggest that he is a capable athlete, I didn't see a prospect with the kind of quick-twitch traits to create matchup problems on the perimeter.

Saturday's biggest subplot

The quarterbacks take the stage on Saturday, with all eyes on Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. Scouts will take an extended look at the past two Heisman Trophy winners to determine if they possess the arm talent and mechanics to develop into elite playmakers at the position. Most importantly, evaluators will observe how well each player relates to the rest of the quarterbacks and receivers to see if they possess the "it" factor needed to lead a franchise.

Beyond Winston and Mariota, the focus will be on Brett Hundley and Bryce Petty. Which spread quarterback is more capable of transitioning quickly to the pro game? Both possess unique athletic qualities, but scouts will scrutinize their mechanics and arm talent as they try to determine who is the third-best QB prospect in the class.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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