NFL Combine snubs: 10 SEC standouts who weren't invited but will still make the NFL
The SEC has a long list of graduates and underclassmen hoping to get drafted, but not everyone will be going to the NFL Combine. The list for the “underwear olympics” in Indianapolis was released, and there are some noticeable missing names from the SEC, including players who were among the conference’s best at their position.
Not getting an invite to the combine isn’t the end of the world. Former Florida DB Brain Poole was starting in the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, and former Texas A&M CB Brandon Williams made 13 starts for the Arizona Cardinals this past season, and neither took part in last year’s combine.
Here are 10 SEC alumni who did not get an invite to the combine, but we expect to see make it to the NFL:
1. Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly: Let’s start with the obvious one. Kelly’s big arm and monster of a 2015 season (298-of-458, 4,042 yards, 31 TD, 13 INT; 107 rushes, 500 yards, 10 TD) both demonstrated he has a future in the NFL before his shortened 2016 season. He’s reportedly not invited to the combine for his off-the-field behavior. Kelly has had his share of off-the-field incidents, but for the most part has stayed out of serious trouble in Oxford, and most NFL staffs are likely willing to take the risk (if he proves he’s healthy).
2. Ole Miss WR Damore’ea Stringfellow: This was the first SEC non-combine invite to leak out early. Stringfellow will not be taking part in the NFL Combine because of his 2015 disorderly conduct arrest. While a previous assault charge from 2014 while at Washington and missing this year’s combine will hurt his draft stock, there should still be a team willing to use a pick on the 6-2, 219-pound wideout. In 2016, Stringfellow 46 passes for 716 yards and 6 touchdowns.
3. LSU TE Colin Jeter: Jeter doesn’t have much on his resume as a pass-catcher, but a 6-7, 254-pound pass blocker at tight end will appeal to some team. The former Tiger’s absence can likely be attributed to the size of this year’s tight end class with players who can both catch and block. He’s a worthwhile later round pickup for somebody.
4. Tennessee DE Corey Vereen: Few people outside of Big Orange Country might realize that the Volunteers have two defensive ends in this draft. While all eyes are on Derek Barnett, Vereen’s 7 sacks in 2016 should get him a shot as an NFL pass-rusher. He’s not the most athletic defensive end, and the combine would have likely reminded teams of that, but he was strong enough to get by SEC offensive linemen.
5. Florida NT Joey Ivie: Ivie was somewhat quietly a multi-year starter on one of the SEC’s better defenses year in, year out. He’s not the biggest or most athletic defensive lineman, but played a key part in slowing down SEC offenses to get the Gators to Atlanta in back-to-back seasons. For teams seeking fundamentally sound depth on the inside of the defensive line, Ivie is a solid option.
6. Missouri CB Aarion Penton: How the SEC’s 2016 leader in passes defended (17) gets left off the combine list is a real head-scratcher. Penton has demonstrated he cover SEC receivers, and that will get him a shot in the NFL, despite a lack of combine numbers.
7. Mississippi State LB Richie Brown: Brown recorded 109 and 102 tackles in his final two seasons, both times finishing fifth in the SEC. For NFL defenses looking for a guy who can wrap up, Brown is worth a late pick or free agency opportunity.
8. Auburn OG Alex Kozan: It’s pretty surprising to see a member of the All-SEC team not make the combine list, but Kozan, voted by the coaches to the second team, is noticeably absent. His draft stock is obviously impacted by his injury history, but if healthy, he could be a steal of a late pick for a team looking for an interior lineman.
9. South Carolina OT Mason Zandi: There’s no way that 32 coaching staffs will all pass over a 6-9, 315-pound offensive lineman. For a team that can allot a roster spot to a project, and work on developing Zandi into a reliable blocker, he’s worth using a later pick.
10. Florida QB Austin Appleby: Appleby’s stats aren’t the most impressive for his career (395-of-694, 4,224 yards, 29 TD, 26 INT) or his one season at Florida (127-of-209, 1,447 yards, 10 TD, 7 INT), but there will likely be a coaching staff that thinks it can mold him into a backup quarterback. Appleby has the size (6-4, 240 pounds), arm strength and mobility of a serviceable NFL backup, but his decision-making skills have always been suspect. At least one staff will likely be convinced that they can teach him how to make better decisions in case he needs to take occasional snaps as a stopgap backup.