The NFL Scouting Combine is in the books, with coaches and scouts leaving Indianapolis with a better feel for the 2014 NFL Draft class following exhaustive interviews and workouts with top prospects. Although the film study remains the most important part of the draft process, the assessment of character, medical history and athleticism is often the deciding factor between similarly rated prospects on draft day. Thus, the draft boards in most war rooms across the league remain a work in progress at this point.
With that in mind, I believe it's still a good time to release my Big Board 2.0 based on the information gathered from talking to scouts and watching workouts over the weekend. As always, feel free to hit me up on Twitter (@BuckyBrooks) with questions and comments.
Without further ado, here are my post-combine rankings:
The freakishly talented pass rusher is an athletic marvel with the potential to wreak havoc on the NFL, as evidenced by his remarkable combine performance. Of course, concerns about Clowney's inconsistent motor and questionable judgment will prompt coaches and scouts to dig into his character, but the talent and potential far outweighs his immaturity at this point.
The Tigers' punishing running game was fueled by the dominance of Robinson on the edge. The 6-foot-5, 332-pounder is an impressive athlete with a nasty disposition. Most importantly, he is technician with the body control and agility to neutralize elite rushers in pass protection.
After experiencing a slight sophomore slump, Watkins bounced back in a major way as a junior. The Tigers' standout was indefensible on the perimeter, displaying exceptional speed, quickness and burst with the ball in his hands. In addition, Watkins displayed improved route-running skills and awareness, making him a legitimate playmaking threat from anywhere on the field.
It's hard to find a better technician than Matthews in the college game. He plays with exceptional balance, body control and patience, while displaying a strong punch and active hands. With Matthews surprising coaches with his athleticism in workouts, it's easy to see why most evaluators expect Matthews to come off the board early on draft day.
Manziel measured in slightly below the six-foot mark, but scouts in his corner won't blink at his diminutive physical dimension due to his remarkable talent. The Texas A&M star is a creative playmaker with an alpha-dog personality that allows him to perform well when the lights are the brightest. With teams growing more comfortable with his character, it's quite possible that he could make a run at the top spot on the draft board in Houston.
Pass rushers with speed, athleticism and high motors are coveted at a premium at the top of the draft. Although he has spent only two seasons on the defensive side of the ball, Barr is one of the most disruptive defenders in the 2014 class.
Talented cover corner/kick returner with size, speed, athleticism and ball skills. Gilbert bounced back from a mediocre junior campaign to re-emerge as the top lock down defender in college football. With teams poised to look for long, rangy athletes on the perimeter following the Seattle Seahawks' blueprint, Gilbert will be a hot commodity in draft rooms around the league.
There is a growing faction of NFL scouts who feel Mack could be a top-5 pick when the process is completed. The Bulls' star is an explosive "plug and play" defender with a knack for creating disruption off the edge.
Once a prized recruit for the Seminoles, Jernigan has blossomed into a versatile interior defender capable of stopping the run or getting after the passer. The 6-2, 299-pounder plays with a relentless motor and shows exceptional body control battling blockers at the point of attack. Although Jernigan has only been a full-time starter for a season, he has shown enough potential to warrant serious consideration at the top of the draft.
Offensive coordinators have made the tight end position the queen on the chessboard in the passing game, with big, athletic pass catchers terrorizing the middle of the field. Ebron is a dynamic athlete with explosive speed and soft hands. Although he remains a work in progress as a route runner, Ebron's natural talents could make him an immediate impact player as a pro.
Donald has been rising up the charts since posting a dominant senior campaign that prompted scouts to compare his game to Pro Bowl DT Geno Atkins. The 6-1, 285-pounder dominated the Senior Bowl drills with his exceptional first-step quickness and burst, yet also displayed impressive strength, power and leverage against the run. The buzz is continuing to grow after scouts witnessed Donald put on an athletic show that suggests he possesses the physical traits needed to shine as a pro.
Big-bodied receivers with size, speed and athleticism are dominating the NFL. Evans could be the next big, athletic playmaker to take the league by storm based on his surprising speed (4.53 at combine) and ball skills.
It's hard to find another defender in the 2014 class capable of matching Shazier's disruptive impact. The 6-1, 237-pound junior notched 15 sacks and 45.5 tackles for loss in three seasons, while serving as a "Jack of all trades" for the Buckeyes. He is a sideline-to-sideline playmaker with the speed, quickness and burst defensive coaches covet at the second level. Size could be an issue based on his slender frame, but production and playmaking ability could outweigh those concerns on draft day.
Martin might've been the most impressive offensive tackle at the Senior Bowl. He showed scouts that he was athletic enough to play left tackle, but some evaluators view him as a potential Pro Bowler at offensive guard. With a strong combine workout showcasing his athleticism and versatility, Martin will be a hot commodity in draft rooms around the league.
The safety position is growing in importance around the NFL, with teams looking for athletic defenders capable of locking down tight ends and punishing running backs in the hole. Clinton-Dix fits the bill as a hard-hitting rover with solid ball skills. He chould be the first safety off the board on draft day.
The momentum is building behind Bortles as a franchise quarterback due to prototypical physical dimensions, arm talent and athleticism. He has checks in all of those boxes, but remains a work in progress as a playmaker in the pocket. Some coaches believe those traits can be developed on the practice field, making Bortles a candidate to go much higher than his film suggests at this time.
Scouts have been lauding Pryor's play and potential since the fall. The Cardinals' star is a punishing tackler with superb anticipation, awareness and timing. Additionally, Pryor displays enough athleticism and range to make plays from the deep middle.
Quarterback issues and nagging injuries marred Lee's play during the 2013 season, but don't expect scouts to hold those issues against him leading up to the draft. The 6-0, 192-pound junior is an electrifying playmaker capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. He excels on "catch-and-run" plays where he can take advantage of his explosive quickness and running skills in the open field. While there are some concerns about his route running and concentration (drops), Lee is such an explosive weapon teams in need of a playmaker will find it hard to bypass him if he is on the board.
Dennard is arguably the most polished and pro-ready cornerback in this class, exhibiting sound technique, ball skills and toughness. He excels at cutting off a receiver's release angles, making it tough for the quarterbacks to squeeze the ball into tight windows. While there are still concerns about Dennard's overall athleticism and top end speed after a so-so combine workout, the fact that he is so solid in his play will prompt defensive coaches to fall in his game.
Scouts on the West Coast have been singing Cooks' praises since the middle of the fall, but now the buzz is in full effect after watching him blow up the combine. The Biletnikoff Award winner is one of the most explosive players in the draft, with a game that is ideally suited for an offense featuring "catch and run" plays.
Scouts across the NFL will have to wage the production vs. potential debate when discussing Hageman. The 6-6, 310-pound defender is an athletic freak with the natural talent to blossom into a Pro Bowler. However, he is maddeningly inconsistent on tape and rarely produces the splash plays expected from a defender with his athletic gifts. Although he seemingly put it together at the Senior Bowl, the fact that he didn't consistently dominate makes it tough to rank him higher at this point.
It's hard to find a more dangerous playmaker in the open field than Beckham. He is a speedster with exceptional quickness and burst, yet he has the body control to run every route in the book. Factor in his skills as a dynamic return man, it's not a surprise that his name is moving up the charts on draft boards across the league.
Scouts have routinely pegged Roby as the most gifted cornerback in the 2014 class, but questions about his urgency and concentration have slowed his rise up the charts. That perception is starting to change after coaches came away impressed with Roby's personality and overall athleticism at the combine.
On the bubble:
» C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
» Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
» Justin Verrett, CB, TCU
» Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA
» Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
» Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn
» Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
» Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
» Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
» Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
» Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
» AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
» Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
» Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
» Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State