Biggest Risers at the NFL Combine

With the NFL combine officially in the books, it is time to look back on the players who made the biggest impact in Indianapolis.

Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State
Projected: Top 15
Lee came into the weekend as a likely first round pick, with mock drafts pegging him anywhere from 11 to 31. I think Lee’s performance this weekend solidified him as a top 15 pick. He was outstanding in terms of measurables. He posted the fastest time of any linebacker in the 40-yard dash and the 20-yard shuttle. He also lead the way for the broad jump. What will get the most attention is his 4.47 time in the 40. That is tied for the sixth-fastest time by a linebacker in the last decade. With his size, teams might be picking Lee understanding that he could be moved around the field similar to Deone Bucannon in Arizona. Lee could be an athletic piece a coordinator can move around a defense.

Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
Projected: Early Second Round
Spriggs burst onto the scene this weekend. His performance at the combine should boost him into the early second round conversation. He was the top performer for the 40-yard dash and the broad jump. He also logged 31 reps at the bench press, which is a good thing for a prospect whose biggest question marks have been about his strength. Spriggs finished second in the 20-yard shuttle as well. His athleticism was clearly on display and while his performance on the bench won’t completely dismiss any concerns about his power, it will certainly quiet them.

Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Projected: Late First Round
Ladies and gentlemen, Derrick Henry means business. In addition to already being 6’3″ and 247 pounds, Henry ran an impressive 4.54 in the 40-yard dash. He tacked on the second-furthest broad jump. Henry’s three cone drill and 20-second shuttle left a little to be desired, but he ran a solid time in the 60-yard shuttle. Henry showed that even though he might take a little bit to get going, he can fly in the open field. He has more athleticism than a lot of people expected. He reminds me of a more athletic Brandon Jacobs and that could be scary for teams trying to tackle him.

Miles Killebrew, S, Southern Utah
Projected: Late Second Round or Early Third Round
Not many people had heard of this kid from Southern Utah heading into the weekend, myself included. Killebrew has great size, measuring in this weekend at 6’2″ and 217 pounds. He ran fast enough in the 40-yard dash (4.65), but he really showed up his athleticism. Killebrew posted a 38-inch vertical, which was second among safeties. He also showed good agility as he finished second in both the 60-yard shuttle and three cone drill. His broad jump ranked third as well. This kid is raw and will not be a starter from day one, but there is a lot of potential to be worked with. He has the tools and intangibles to develop into an NFL starter.

Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma
Projected: Early to mid Second Round
Don’t let his height fool you, because Shepard does not play like a small receiver. He measured in at 5’10” this weekend but he also lead all receivers with 20 reps on the bench press. His 41-inch vertical will also get scouts’ attention. Shepard ran a sub-4.5 40 as well showing that he has the speed to compete. He is an accomplished route runner as well. If he continues to show his toughness at the next level, I could see him being a Wes Welker or Julian Edelman type receiver in the right system. He will never be a number one receiver but he would be a good offensive weapon for a lot of teams. This kid is definitely good enough to be an impact player in the NFL.



Potential landing spots for Alex Mack

Every year, there is a premier talent that hits the open market in the NFL. Turns out that the hottest commodity is one we did not expect.

Alex Mack
Mack started every game in six out of his seven seasons with Cleveland.

Alex Mack announced at Pro Bowl practice that he would like to opt out of his current deal with the Cleveland Browns. Mack is a three-time Pro Bowler and a former All-Pro. He is widely regarded as a top five player at his position.

Mack is set to make $8 million with his current deal, but he and his agent believe that he is worth a lot more than that and that he can get a lot more than that. With few other centers expected to be available in free agency, we could see that boost Mack’s value even more.

While this does not mean that Mack is definitely leaving the Browns, the possibility now exists. So I figured it was time to find a couple of good fits for when he hits the free agent market. Something to note is that Mack definitely fits better as a pass blocker than a run blocker, so that needs to be considered.

Hue Jackson
Jackson should make retaining Mack a priority in his first days as coach.

Cleveland Browns
Obviously, Mack would have just opted out of his Browns deal, but it seems more monetary than distain for Cleveland. With the Browns under a new direction with Hue Jackson at head coach, Mack might be enticed into hanging around. The Browns would need him too. The closest thing to a backup center is either long-snapper Charley Hughlett or rookie right guard Cameron Erving, who played center at Florida State. Mack would be a center piece on a developing offense that needs a huge makeover already.

Wilson suffered the most sacks of his career this season.

Seattle Seahawks
This past offseason, Seattle outsmarted itself in trading for Jimmy Graham. It was assumed that the former All-Pro tight end would push the Seahawks of the brink and turn them into a true powerhouse. However, the lack of a steady offensive line proved to be the constant issue for the offense all year. Part of the deal to acquire Graham involved sending Pro Bowl center Max Unger to New Orleans. Bringing in Mack would truly make Seattle’s offense scary. If they cut down on the 46 sacks allowed this past season and give Russell Wilson more time to pick apart offenses, look out.

Blake Bortles
Bortles was sacked 106 timesĀ over the last two seasons.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Even though spending big every season in free agency hasn’t seemed to work, adding Mack could be a savvy move for this young Jaguars squad. Blake Bortles is clearly coming into his own and the skill positions for Jacksonville look to be improving. Solidifying the offensive line by signing a proven veteran like Mack would make a major impact. Jacksonville allowed the fourth most sacks in the league this season and failed to impress in the running game. Mack would immediately remedy both of those issues, along with replace soon-to-be free agent Stefan Wisniewski. In the end, Jacksonville should push very hard to sign Mack.

NFL: Preseason-Minnesota Vikings at Tennessee Titans
Mariota only managed to start 12 games in his rookie season.

Tennessee Titans
Another AFC South team could use some help on the offensive line, especially when you consider the circumstances. Tennessee has a young quarterback in Marcus Mariota who got banged around this season and missed some time with various injuries. The Titans also match up twice a year with the Houston Texans, which means a nice dosage of J.J. Watt. The Titans allowed the most sacks by any NFL team this season and had a ground game that was average at best. Plugging in Mack and then drafting Laremy Tunsil first overall makes this group look like one of the better ones in the league. Mack’s presence could make a huge difference in whether the Titans continue to falter near the bottom or start showing signs that the rebuild has worked.

Free agency is still a long way off but Mack seems intent on exploring his options. If Mack does leave Cleveland, I think his first choice would be to play in Seattle, but I would not be surprised to see him land in Jacksonville either.