What’s at stake for the SEC in the NFL Combine

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The NFL Combine kicks off this week in Indianapolis, and it all begins with dreaded player interviews. On-field workouts begin Saturday with the offensive linemen, tight ends and specialists. So, let’s see what’s at stake this week for the SEC, as we look at the main storylines heading into Indy:

Record bustin’ son: There have been numerous projections that the SEC will in fact break the draft record for the most first-rounders selected. The record is held by the ACC with 12 in 2006. As many as 16 SEC first-rounders have been projected, which would shatter the record. Likewise, the SEC saturated the combine invitees with 79 total. Go ahead and add the two “comparable” conferences together in the Pac-12 and the Big 12, and you get 68 invitees. And while you’re at it, go ahead and laugh at the Big Ten’s 32 invitees.

College football’s strongest man: Alabama nose tackle Jesse Williams will attempt to break the NFL Combine’s record for bench press. The record is still held my Justin Ernest from Eastern Kentucky in 1999, posting 51 reps of 225 pounds. Williams’ max is 600 pounds, and he has his sights firmly set on the record. He has been projected to knock out 55 to 60 reps. What a man beast!

And with the first pick: Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel has been projected to be the first pick by several to the Chiefs, but WVU quarterback Geno Smith’s hype is picking up. Joeckel has a chance to impress the suits for the Chiefs this week in Indy and cement himself as the top pick, depending on how Smith handles the combine experience.

Getting a DUI: Georgia uber-talented linebacker Alec Ogletree is a major storyline this week. After getting a DUI in the past week, and after a couple of different character concern incidents at Georgia, Ogletree must dominate drills. Likewise, he must impress GMs and scouts during interviews to prove he’s a low-risk player. He’s a surefire first-round pick, but he could really bolster his stock with an all-star performance. Let’s get right down to it: Would you draft a future star who has some character concerns (Ogletree), or would you draft a guy with a fake girlfriend who proved he couldn’t play with the big boys (Te’o)? Exactly.

The man with the most to prove: Marcus Lattimore has been said to be having a miraculous and stunning recovery. He even built muscle mass during his rehab, which is nearly impossible. Now with two knee injuries to two different knees, can the one-time first-round projection prove he’s worthy of a major risk as an upper-round pick? It will have to be during interviews with GMs, scouts and doctors, because he won’t participate in any drills. Is he the next Adrian Peterson, who shows no signs of slowing down despite knee injuries and reconstructive surgery? Or is he the next Willis McGahee after he brutally blew up his knee and was selected 23rd overall?

Who will win the combine? I’ve thrown my prediction out there: Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson will win the combine, meaning his stock will soar after NFL scouts and GMs put their eyes on this 6-3, 210-pound future star. However, a couple of other guys to keep an eye on here are former Florida tackle Sharrif Floyd, Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson, LSU’s Barkevious Mingo and Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore. All are first-round projections already, but with a big-time performance this week – and all five are purely capable – one could become the biggest winner.

Who will fail the Wonderlic? The Wonderlic is a highly criticized test administered at the combine that has nothing to do with football. Former LSU star corner Morris Claiborne was brutally hammered for his low score last year, and that made such a massive impact on his draft status that the Cowboys traded up to get him at No. 6. The media and coaches’ love affair with the Wonderlic continues to amaze me, as it has absolutely no bearing on anything football related.

Photo Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

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