Are you an NFL prospect looking to put to bed doubts about your football future or answer lingering questions about your potential at the next level? Well, the Lucas Oil Stadium turf is a great place to start.
Yes, it is incumbent on all participants of the NFL Scouting Combine to perform well, but some young players are facing higher stakes than others. Some have a great deal to prove when they show their stuff in front of scouts and coaches in Indianapolis.
Below, see my list of 10 prospects with something to prove at the combine, arranged according to how much they have to prove.
1) Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
As a quarterback who played his college ball at the FCS level, the athletic-looking Wentz is almost too good to be true, and thus will be the most dissected player at the combine. Everyone will be looking at his accuracy and his arm strength, and how he compares with the other quarterbacks in Indy. I'm waiting to see what he runs in the 40-yard dash (I'm thinking he'll do it in the 4.7-second range). Basically, everyone will be looking to identify his flaws -- and if they can be corrected.
2) Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
Everyone's looking for a quarterback, whether to start immediately or -- like the Cowboys -- train for the future. Prescott played in a system at Mississippi State that was not NFL-oriented, but he looks like someone who can start eventually. He's a smart, hard-working guy, and I like him a lot, because he's a winner. He didn't throw downfield a lot in school, so I'll be looking at his arm strength and accuracy -- the latter of which is the most important thing for a passer. His performance could determine whether he's a second- or third-round pick.
3) Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
The Heisman Trophy winner has size, a history of production and intelligence going for him. But a lot of his runs at Alabama were straight-line explosion runs, with the running back using his superior heft and speed to outrun his college-level competition. Like everyone else, I'm looking to see if Henry is more than just a straight-line guy, or if he has enough trout in him to avoid the first tackler. If Henry shows he can make some moves, he could lift himself from the top of the second round to the bottom of the first.
4) Jihad Ward, DE, Illinois
This is an interesting player. As someone who switched from receiver/safety to the line in junior college, Ward has a limited background at his position. I'll be looking to see what kind of recognition ability he displays in the drills and how fast he runs, and what kind of pass-rush ability he has.
5) Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama
Ragland is a very good football player who can prove himself to be a Sean Lee- or Luke Kuechly-type linebacker if he can run the 40 in less than 4.7 seconds and show he can drop into space and change directions. Lee and Kuechly can make interceptions and stay in the game on all three downs, and Ragland can vault himself into that neighborhood with the right performance in Indy.
It's hard to take a defensive back with a top-10 pick unless you're convinced he's going to be a shutdown corner, and while I think Ramsey is a really good player, I'm not sure corner is his best position; with his range and athletic ability, he might be better-suited as a safety. So I'll be looking to see, in his positional drills, if Ramsey can indeed play man coverage as a cornerback, if he can function in press and off coverage.
7) Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
Lawson is a year older than most other three-year college players, given that he spent a year at Hargrave Military Academy after high school, and he only became a full-time starter in 2015. I think he has the intangibles to be good, but the lack of starts is reason to pay extra attention to him. I'll be looking for speed off the edge. Can he put his hand on the ground and rush the passer? Can he drop into space and be that Von Miller-type outside linebacker? Because of the need for pass rushers, Lawson has a chance to solidify himself as a first-round pick.
8) Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State
The former Ohio State quarterback switched to receiver for 2015, contributing 24 catches for 329 yards and three touchdowns (as well as 42 rushes for 260 yards and an additional score). At the combine, he'll get a chance to show how he's progressed as a pass catcher. Does he snatch the ball with his hands? Is he a good route runner, or will his new team have to work with him on that? Does he have lateral speed? That is to say, beyond running a good deep route, can he also get open?
9) Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
Doctson really finds the ball, and when he finds it, he catches it -- you won't see many drops. I'm not sure how fast he is, and I'd like to see a little more of his speed and quickness. Doctson missed the last two games of the regular season with a wrist injury. He has the distinction of being the only player in the draft to have scored a touchdown both for his team and against his team -- playing for Wyoming in 2011, he hauled in a 7-yard scoring toss against the school he would eventually transfer to.
10) Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
I think Conklin projects more as a guard in the NFL. It'd be a position change, of course, but I think he could be one of the best guard prospects in the draft. I want to see him in pass protection and how he moves at the guard position; can he pull? What kind of an athlete is he? I have him graded as a mid-to-late first-round pick. How he does in the short shuttle and the three-cone, and what his 10-yard split in the 40 looks like, will be key.