Players with something to prove at the 2014 NFL combine in Indianapolis
Ever since the 2013 NFL draft concluded, players like Teddy Bridgewater and Jadeveon Clowney have lingered at or near the top of the 2014 prospects list. Very few others have been so fortunate.
Be it due to poor performances this past season, injuries, suspensions or any other number of circumstances, many of the more than 300 players participating in this week's combine have slipped from the conversation a bit. The days ahead provide a top-notch chance to reverse that reality.
With the combine getting underway Wednesday, here's a look at a few players who might be able to steal some attention back before NFL scouts and coaches vacate Indianapolis.
Stephen Morris, QB, Miami: There was a time, back before the 2013 season actually kicked off, that Morris was considered a borderline first-round prospect and not all that far behind the Teddy Bridgewaters of the world. He's a long, long way from that scouting report these days.
Morris was inconsistent at best -- and downright awful at worst -- during Miami's 9-4 year, then struggled again during the Senior Bowl. Entering the combine, he appears headed for nothing better than a Day 3 selection (if that), so consider this a critical week for the former Hurricane. It's his arm strength that tantalized NFL scouts during his college career, but is there anything more to his game?
Silas Redd, RB, USC: Redd rushed for 1,241 yards in 2011 and another 905 in '12. He accomplished the former at Penn State and the latter at USC, part of a whirlwind collegiate stay that culminated with an injury-plagued senior season. Redd sat out seven regular-season games plus the Trojans' bowl win over Fresno State on account of a knee injury he could not shake -- Redd even visited the famed Dr. James Andrews prior to USC's opener.
In a deep class for running backs, Redd is barely registering as a blip on the radar. Flashing some of that old ability while in Indianapolis could pave his way onto an NFL roster.
Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU and Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss: Two players who were expected to be among the best at their position this past season, yet never met those high expectations -- neither reached 60 catches or 1,000 yards receiving. The output was particularly disappointing for Hoffman, who flirted with turning pro after a 100-reception 2012 season. He had to fight through a hamstring injury, plus missed a game due to a team-imposed suspension.
The upside is still there for both guys. Hoffman stands 6-foot-4 and hauled in 33 touchdowns during his BYU career; Moncrief could post a 40 time of 4.4 or lower, which would put him on the Day 2 radar.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington: There has been a lot of buzz about North Carolina's Eric Ebron and Texas Tech's Jace Amaro, and growing support for Notre Dame's Troy Niklas. Along the way, it feels as if folks have forgotten almost entirely about Seferian-Jenkins, who entered 2013 as the projected top tight end in this class and still might be a first-rounder. The extended silence is mostly of Seferian-Jenkins' own doing. He was suspended for his team's opener, then caught just 36 passes -- 33 less than he did in 2012. Still, he is a better blocker than either Ebron and Amaro and could push for a high selection.
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Dominique Easley, DT, Florida: Easley is now five months removed from tearing his ACL. And though he won't be able to participate fully at this week's combine, he's certainly a player of interest for any team hoping to upgrade along its defensive line. Which might be all of them.
The 6-2, 280-pound Easley flashed a knack for disrupting offenses during an injury-shortened stay with the Gators. He also appears to be a fit for just about any defensive front, with the versatility to line up over center or shift out a little wider on a team that already has that nose tackle anchor. Provided his rehab stays on pace, Easley might still be able to leap into the first round come May.
Adrian Hubbard, LB, Alabama: For someone with Hubbard's physical gifts (6-5ish and 250 pounds), it was fair to ask for more than he delivered in that Alabama defense. His numbers slipped in 2013, too, from 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks to 5.5 and three, respectively. Meanwhile, his teammate C.J. Mosley has hammered out a spot in the top-15 discussion. Hubbard is the type of player who could shine at the combine ... and he needs to do so.
Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has held firm atop the safety position for some time now, with Louisville's Calvin Pryor slowly closing the gap over the past couple of months. So what to make of Reynolds? Stanford's safety picked off six passes (and scored three defensive touchdowns) during his redshirt sophomore season of 2012 but followed that showing up with just one pick last year.
Is he as instinctive as Clinton-Dix? As physical as Pryor? Probably not. What he might be, however, is the third-best player at a position of great need in the NFL.
Loucheiz Purifoy, Jaylen Watkins and Marcus Roberson, CBs, Florida: Perhaps no player in this entire draft class has slipped under the radar as much as Roberson, a possible first-round pick whose 2013 season was disrupted by injury and suspension. When he's healthy, Roberson is a dynamic cover man with a seemingly bright future at least as a slot corner in the NFL.
His former complements in the secondary, Purifoy and Watkins, could soar in Indianapolis. Watkins predicted that he'll run a "4.4 or lower" in the 40-yard dash, while Purifoy put enough on display for his Florida coaches to try him on offense during preseason workouts. Each guy has a chance to climb into that "Combine superstar" category in the coming days.
(Note: The initial version of this post listed Cameron Erving, who announced in January he was staying at Florida State. I meant to include Miami's Seantrel Henderson but took a left turn to Crazytown instead. No other explanation, just a total gaffe on my part. Apologies.)