The NFL Scouting Combine is one of the more prestigious events of any NFL offseason. In any given year at the Combine, NFL Draft hopefuls begin their week by participating in weigh-ins and measurements as well as being poked and prodded in interviews and medical testing. The prospects will end their week by taking to the field for tests in speed, agility, explosion, and power. This is an opportunity for the NFL hopefuls to get their feet wet in the process of raising their stock before draft day arrives. Others may be about to embark on a tumultuous week that could plummet their draft stock (See: Jachai Polite). These five prospects have the most to prove over the course of NFL Combine week.
Kyle Dugger, S (Lenoir-Rhyne)
Dugger has the most to prove, mainly because of where he went to school. Dugger was a Division II star. However, a Division II player is a rarity within the combine participant ranks. Dugger is known as a fantastic athlete with a mean streak. His position slot is generally unknown at the next level to this point. It remains to be seen whether he slots in as a sub-package linebacker or an every-down safety. At this point, Dugger needs all of the positive weigh-ins, interviews, medical, and athletic testing he can get. A good showing could really go a long way for him to prove any doubters wrong that DII players in the modern era are most definitely worthy of being a day two or even first-round pick in the NFL Draft.
Tee Higgins, WR (Clemson)
Higgins has been on the NFL’s radar since his freshman season with the Tigers. He impressed there as a gargantuan freshman catching balls from newly minted starting quarterback Kelly Bryant. Higgins aced the weigh-in already on Monday with an impressive size of 6’3” and 216 lbs and an 81” wingspan. Higgins’s figure is enough to make NFL executives drool and there are no bad interview questions in sight and no known injury red flags. His questions will come in the on-field drills on Thursday. Higgins needs to run a good time and ace the agility drills to prove his worth after the NFL Draft rumor mill has labeled him as less of an athlete than some other wide receivers in this year’s loaded crop. If Higgins wants to solidify himself as a first-round pick, he needs the on-field workouts to spark his rise and stake his claim to be a team’s first selection.
Laviska Shenault Jr., WR (Colorado)
Shenault is one of the most dynamic players with the ball in their hands in this class. His dynamic playmaking and bell-cow load as wide receiver at Colorado has landed him in the first round in many mock drafts in the process. But now, injury concerns are rising to the surface for Shenault. Cover 1 recently did a fantastic article about his concerns here. The concerns are real and medicals at the combine can protect no one. His laundry list includes a severe turf toe injury and a fairly unknown core muscle injury. Shenault is not expected to have issues in on-field work or interviews after weighing in at over 6’ and 227 lbs. Be wary of some leaks and rumors later this week on red flags or a healthy checkup for Shenault at the combine.
Mekhi Becton, OT (Louisville)
Becton is a one-of-a-kind specimen for any human. The fact that he is being considered a left offensive tackle prospect is simply a marvel. The film shows that Becton moves well for his massive size (6’7” 369 lbs). However, Orlando Brown Jr. (a similarly sized prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft class) weighed in at 6’8” and 345 lbs at the 2018 combine. His testing results were horrific. Of course that is to be expected for a man of his size. The problem was that it dropped him from a potential first-round pick to a third-round pick largely because of his combine performance that included a forgettable 5.85 40-yard dash and a 19.5” vertical leap; it was a day to forget for Brown. If Becton mirrors this same performance by Brown, he will likely have a similar fall as Brown did in 2018. All eyes will be on Becton to see if he has the goods to perform at left tackle as he makes his trek into the NFL. We will find out his official measurables later in the week.
Justin Herbert, QB (Oregon)
Herbert is easily one of the most polarizing prospects in this class. Weighing in at 6’6” and 237 lbs with 10” hands, Herbert has the quality weigh-in that scouts and general managers were already well aware of before combine week. They will likely get to see his extremely live arm in this setting as well that will make him look head and shoulders above many of the top quarterbacks in this year’s class. Herbert has the most to prove because of his character concerns. A 2019 article by Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller revealed reported that Herbert was labeled as “soft” a lot by reliable sources being scouts or those in Oregon’s program. He will have to prove what his mental toughness consists of at the combine this year to match his rocket arm and dreamy measurables. If Herbert proves to pass these mental tests, he could be staring directly into the eyes of a top-ten selection in this year’s draft.