Oklahoma Players Can Help Themselves At Combine
OKLAHOMA CITY - The NFL Scouting combine starts Thursday, giving NFL hopefuls a chance to show both their athleticism and skills for all 32 NFL teams in one fell swoop. Thirteen Oklahomans have been invited to the four-day event, but, unlike recent history, just one is projected to be a top pick.
Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon is locked up to be a top pick, and could be selected as high No. 2, but there are a few players that could benefit greatly from a big performance in Indianapolis as part of the scouting combine.
Ronnell Lewis, DE/OLB Oklahoma:
The talented defensive end has been taking hits as of late after academics cost him a chance to play in the Insight Bowl, with scouts either questioning motivation or mental capabilities. There are two major parts of the combine that aren't televised, but could make a major difference in where he's taken: the Wonderlic Test and individual interviews. The Wonderlic Test, for those who haven't heard of it, is a 50-question, timed test given to every player at the combine since 1975, used as a barometer for a player's problem-solving abilities. However, even if Lewis doesn't score well on the test, let's face it some people are bad test-takers, an individual team will have a chance to sit down with Lewis, questioning him and hashing out these questions. If he wows the right team, he could see his stock improve from his already high, second-round projections.
Brandon Weeden, QB Oklahoma State:
Everyone knows the common knock on Brandon Weeden: he's 28-years-old, two months older than reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, who has been in the league since 2005. At some point, people need to look past that, and the combine is the perfect place for Weeden to help the scouts move on. He has a great skillset for an NFL quarterback and if he comes out in the position drills and performs to the best of his ability, scouts will see have no choice but to take note. No scout wants to be the guy that passed on a talented passer and leader simply because of his age, especially at a time when elite quarterbacks are at a premium in the NFL. Weeden isn't going to test as a physical freak like fellow Big 12 quarterback Robert Griffin, III, but if he can come out and make every throw and every read in the position drills, it will be harder for an NFL team to take a pass on him.
Travis Lewis, OLB Oklahoma:
It's hard to say there are questions about a four-year starter who was as productive at a big-time school like Travis Lewis was at Oklahoma, but there are a few. After missing two games for the Sooners in 2011 and not playing at 100 percent for the majority of the snaps he was on the field for, the foot injury could be a red flag for some teams. Clearing the physical is the obvious answer here, but even if his foot is physically fine, he has to show he can still move on the field, specifically in the three-cone drill and the short shuttle (5-10-5 as it is sometimes called). Both of those drills will test a player's short-yardage burst and acceleration. The three-cone will also show scouts how well a player can change directions while accelerating, while the short shuttle tests a player's ability to plant and reverse field, both critical when playing outside linebacker.
Markelle Martin, Safety Oklahoma State:
Another long-time starter that has some questions surrounding him, but his seem to be where Markelle Martin will be drafted. Projections have been anywhere from second round to sixth round, the only consistent thing among scouts is their analysis of Martin, physically gifted but will sometimes miss on plays when going for the big hit. A solid overall outing at the combine could help him solidify his draft status as a top-half type player. Martin is easily one of the top safeties in the draft class, and a strong performance in both the workouts and position drills will do nothing but help his status. From his dealings with the media, it's clear Martin will have no problems in the off-the-field portion of the combine as well, intelligent and poised, personality traits NFL teams love in players. If his performance between the white lines in Indianapolis matches his production while in orange and white, NFL teams would be smart to select Martin in the first three rounds of the upcoming draft.
Players begin reporting for the NFL Combine Wed. Feb. 22, with drills beginning Saturday. The drills can be viewed on NFL Network or at nfl.com/combine