5 SEC players with a ton to gain at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine
I know what you’re thinking after reading that headline.
“Doesn’t everyone have a ton to gain from the Combine?”
Yes and no. Obviously it’s a pre-draft evaluation training tool dissected like nothing else. Everyone has a prime opportunity to showcase their athletic ability and ultimately show why they’re worth a multi-million dollar investment.
But for some players, the hay is in the barn. Testing well will simply meet expectations (Mecole Hardman). Opinions about them won’t radically change if they run a little faster or jump a little higher than expected.
For others, this week could make a massive difference where they end up. Let’s talk about those guys:
1. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn QB
Stidham sort of bucks the trend for what I usually look for in this category. Typically, these spots are reserved for guys who come from lesser-known teams who were maybe overlooked by the masses. Stidham, however, had preseason Heisman Trophy odds going into his 2 seasons as a starter at Auburn, where his career was a well-documented roller-coaster.
I outlined why despite all the film in Stidham, he’s the SEC’s most intriguing draft prospect. The struggles of trying to fit into Gus Malzahn’s system will be at the forefront of any conversation Stidham has during this process, especially when he meets with teams this weekend.
If Stidham balls out at the Combine like he did during Senior Bowl practices, he has the ability to make someone fall in love with him in the second round. That, I believe. If someone buys into the belief that Malzahn’s system was the only thing holding Stidham back, the combine can be an extremely lucrative time.
2. Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt QB
Shurmur’s development didn’t get talked about much nationally because, well, Vandy. Fair or not, you need to put up some ridiculous numbers to get national attention at a program that’s been historically bad. But Shurmur can definitely be someone who goes from Round 7 flyer to mid-round riser in a hurry.
There’s a lot working in Shurmur’s favor. Besides having the NFL background with his dad, he became the focal point of the offense in 2 of his last 3 years as a starter. That’s another plus. There aren’t a ton of 3-year starters with NFL size like Shurmur, who is 6-4, 225.
Add in the fact that he put up pretty solid numbers the past couple years without a ton of talent to throw to, and it’s fair to wonder what Shurmur could do in the right situation. Don’t be surprised when Shurmur looks the part in Indianapolis and suddenly scouts are erasing their Round 7 grade.
3. Emanuel Hall, Mizzou WR
I picture this scenario with Hall when his agent walks into any room with an NFL team. Without saying a word, the agent posts on a white board a graphic of Mizzou’s offense with Hall and Mizzou’s offense without Hall.
#Mizzou since Kentucky 2017–
With Emanuel Hall: 12-3
Without him: 1-4
Drew Lock with Emanuel Hall: 56 TD's
Without him: 6 TD's
— Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) November 23, 2018
That pretty much says it all.
The problem is that only says it all from a production standpoint. Hall stretched the field for Drew Lock like nobody else … when healthy. His release is as good as anyone’s in the Combine, which is why he’s projected as a mid-to-late round deep threat. He’s viewed as a bit 1-dimensional. The hands are in question after he struggled with drops, as well.
The goal for Hall will be not only to impress with his 40-time, but to impress with his route-running. That’s the way he sheds the notion that he’s a 1-trick pony.
4. Hjalte Froholdt, Arkansas OL
When I close my eyes, I envision a world in which the Danish offensive lineman is a 10-year starter in the NFL. I don’t know what position or how high he’ll go in the NFL Draft, but Froholdt has the makings of someone who will play an interior offensive line spot for a very long time.
One of the last solid offensive line forces of the Bret Bielema era, Froholdt played several positions for Arkansas. He actually started as a defensive lineman from IMG Academy after he made his way over to the U.S. But Froholdt is by no means a project. He’s a top-notch, pass-blocking interior lineman who can play immediately.
Froholdt seems like the type of guy who was bypassed a lot in the pre-draft process because he obviously didn’t play for a very good team or in a very good offense, and he isn’t a coveted tackle. Still, he’s plenty athletic and plenty capable of getting scouts to envision the same world that I envision.
5. Dawson Knox, Ole Miss TE
Listen. I know there’s an obvious knock on Knox (sorry about that). The guy never caught a touchdown pass in college. This just in: touchdowns are cool, and pretty important. So why draft a tight end who had as many touchdown catches as I did?
Besides the fact that he played with an absolutely loaded group of receivers, Knox can do this:
Dawson Knox crossing the nickel’s face and then straight up running away from him. Big time vertical threat tight end pic.twitter.com/Y4DjXxgg87
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) September 23, 2018
That totally should have been his first career touchdown.
Knox has some freakish athletic talents, and he’s a major downfield weapon. A former high school quarterback who can jump out of the gym, he might be viewed as a bit raw when it comes to blocking and route-running in the red zone. Those are obviously important things for tight ends.
But I have a feeling that Knox is going to ball out in Indianapolis. In a draft that has some highly-touted tight ends, it could be Knox who ends up looking like the best next-level athlete.
There could be comparisons to George Kittle, who was overlooked in his offense at Iowa and then impressed at the Combine only to still wind up getting drafted way too late. Maybe Knox’s skill set will make scouts wonder if he’s the next diamond-in-the-rough tight end.
You know. As long as teams are willing to look past the whole “no touchdowns” thing.