The 2016 NFL Combine is the inflection point of draft season. Some players on an upward trajectory see their stock continue to soar with impressive interviews and workouts. Others see it halted by unfortunate measurements. A player coming in with a poor reputation or a lack of visibility may stand out among his competition, or he may do nothing new to separate him from the pack.
Here are some names to know from this year's Combine - players who improved their stock this week, whether it came in the workouts, the measurements, the on-field drills, or the interviews:
Once a member of a vaunted Georgia running back tandem, an ACL injury and the play of Nick Chubb, Todd Gurley, and Sony Michel reduced Marshall's role to an afterthought. It was encouraging to see Marshall reminding scouts of the lightning in his game when he ran a blazing 4.31-second 40-yard dash.
TCU's receiver dominated every catching category in college football this season (along with Baylor's Corey Coleman) before a wrist injury shut him down in November. At the Combine, he jumped 41 inches in the vertical leap, 10 foot 11 inches in the broad jump, and had impressive numbers in the shuttle drills and three cone. He also demonstrated his outstanding ball skills in receiving drills, which could bump him into first round consideration.
This Stanford receiver wasn't exactly a star in Stanford's offense, ranking fourth on the team in catches, receiving yards, and touchdowns this year. That said, he had a highlight reel catch here and there (like this beauty that sadly went out of bounds against Oregon). Then he went to the Combine and worked out. And he put up a workout worthy of a star receiver. Check out his pro comparisons:
Josh Gordon, Alshon Jeffery, Larry Fitzgerald. Possible first round pick Michael Thomas. Why are they so optimistic? It may have to do with his 6.49 second three cone drill (which suggests outstanding agility for any player, let alone a 6'4", 232-pound player). He also had a 10'3" broad jump and 36 inch vertical leap, which are great numbers for any receiver, not just one with his huge size. Doug Whaley said that he'd like a receiver with outstanding size and speed, if he could find one. While Cajuste ran a pedestrian 4.62-second 40-yard dash, could his short area burst and agility (and familiarity with an offense similar to Greg Roman's) be enticing to the Bills?
The UCLA center ran the fastest three cone drill and short shuttle in this year's class, and both are strong indicators of quality athleticism for an NFL lineman. The measurement comparisons group him with names like Jason Kelce, Nick Mangold, Ryan Kalil and Jonathan Cooper. He has the durability teams look for, with 52 career starts. These numbers (plus a fast 40-yard dash time) will have teams looking to see if he has good technique, because this might be a major sleeper on the offensive line.
Clemson's star defensive end may have done the most work to change his perception of any big name player at the Combine. Lawson is known as an outstanding power end, but teams were skeptical of his short area agility. He finished Saturday with the second fastest short shuttle, the eighth fastest three cone drill, the fifth longest broad jump, and the fourth-fastest 40-yard dash, across all defensive linemen. It was a strong case to suggest that Lawson, not Noah Spence, may be the best edge rusher behind Joey Bosa.
This Alabama cornerback had an superb day in defensive back drills, showing very quick feet and catching the ball smoothly in the gauntlet drill. With a solid, 5'10", 197-pound build, Jones did well to run a 4.49-second 40-yard dash. He may end up as a second-day pick at the end of this process.