Roundtable: Post-Combine Prospect Evaluations

1. Now that the Combine is over, who is your pick for Atlanta at No. 17?

Jay Adams: I'm going with an unpopular answer this week and I'm going to say the best player available at the time. There's so much that can happen before the Falcons go on the clock. But if I'm tied to a guess, if the NFL Draft was today, I'd go with Ohio State LB Darron Lee. He absolutely dominated the Combine, but what really matters here is how he did in the speed drills. Just phenomenal speed on him, but he needs to put on weight, which is why I think he might be around when the Falcons pick. He looks like he'd be a great option on the weakside.

Kelsey Conway: Reggie Ragland. I had a chance to talk to the Alabama product at the Combine and his confidence blew me away. We all know how talented he is, but the way he spoke and carried himself was admirable. He's the type of player who could come in and play right away in the NFL.

Andrew Hirsh: My pick is Shaq Lawson. His numbers and tape look good, and by proving his athleticism at the combine, he appears to be worthy of the 17th overall selection. Put him on the opposite side of Vic Beasley, Jr., and the Falcons should have two formidable pass-rushers under contract for a long time. 

2. Based off the various drills and media sessions, familiarity with prospects is clearer than ever. Who was the biggest surprise to you at the NFL Combine?

JA: What surprised me most was how much I fell in love with Alabama DT A'Shawn Robinson. What a beast this kid is. He's 20 years old and he looks like he could have had a driver's license at 7. He has such a great attitude about getting to the quarterback and, what's really great — he has the skill set to do it and often. Whoever drafts the big fella looks like they'll not only get a force up front, but a solid and mature leader down the line.

KC: Darron Lee from Ohio State. He completely dominated at the Combine and he as well as Ragland left me impressed with how they addressed the media. From listening to Lee talk at the podium, I was pleased to see how quick he was to compliment his teammates and the other linebackers at the Combine. He seems like a selfless player who just wants to win and that's what it's all about. He also said he's the type of guy who plays with passion and energy first before anything else, and I could see him being successful in the NFL because of his attitude.

AH: How about Emmanuel Ogbah? Viewed by many as a second-rounder, the 6-foot-4, 273-pounder may have moved into the top 31 picks in Indianapolis. Although he didn't "win" any events, he fared well across the board and showed talent evaluators he's an extremely athletic and has the tools needed to be productive in the NFL. His 40-yard dash time (4.63 seconds) and vertical jump (35.5 inches) were good for second among defensive ends, while his broad jump (121 inches) was good for third at his position. Couple those numbers with his senior year stats—13 sacks, 17.5 tackles for loss, 19 QB hurries—and you have a prospect who looks ready to make the jump. 

3. Who was the biggest disappointment?

JA: In watching media sessions at the Combine during the past six years, I've learned that there are one or two that will determine where a player will go in the draft. The press conferences I'm referring to usually feature a big-name player with a big-time troublesome past. When the press conference is finished, you get a sense of whether or not the player is where he should be in the maturity category. I saw Cam Newton show confidence in the face of scrutiny, and I saw Ryan Mallett visibly frustrated by off-field questions. Look where the two are now. This year, Ole Miss' Robert Nkemdiche and Eastern Kentucky's Noah Spence would be the two standing at the hot podium and I don't think either one helped themselves much. Nkemdiche fumbled with questions about an incident in Atlanta recently that ended with him receiving drug charges while Spence unconvincingly said his partying days are behind him. I have no reason to not take Spence at his word, but his body language during the press conference was much like that of Mallett's. We'll see how things pan out for those two prospects.

KC: I agree with Jay on this one, Robert Nkemdiche was a disappointment at the Combine for sure. He knew going into this event he would be asked questions regarding his off-the-field behavior and I don't think he left the impression to anyone that it's something they shouldn't be concerned over. In fact, the only time I saw Nkemdiche smile and answer a question assertively was when I asked him what it would be like to play for his hometown team the Atlanta Falcons. Other than that, I didn't see a guy who was ready to attack the questions and get his message heard loud and clear. And that to me is a shame because he had the biggest platform to do it in Indianapolis with all of the media present.

AH: Robert Nkemdiche, once viewed as a potential No. 1 overall pick, could experience a big slide following the combine. The defensive tackle's off-field concerns are going to steer some teams away; his showing in Indianapolis, while impressive, didn't make up for his questionable press conference. Honesty should be commended, of course, but when a player admits that his stats weren't great because he was lazy at times, it's hard to justify investing a high draft pick on him.

4. What's the one position group you feel like you're unsure of at this point? For example, the WR's times were a lot slower than people expected, so now questions regarding the talent of this group are swirling.

JA: I think I'm going to definitely say wide receivers here, and only because of the 40 times and how obsessed people will be over how slow they were until the draft. The group will have pro days coming up where they'll be able to improve upon them, but there definitely seems to be some talent in the pool there. The late time there was some uncertainty about the wideouts was in 2008, when not a single one was drafted in the first round. Donnie Avery ended up being the first off the board to the St. Louis Rams at No. 33 overall and that opened the flood gates as nine were selected in the second round. The best grab of that crop? Green Bay took Jordy Nelson… two picks after Washington took Devin Thomas. Oof.

KC: The wide receivers. I say this because I could name you the top players from the Combine in every other position group, but the receivers didn't show well, and now I am uncertain. I am going to say Will Fuller would be my top pick at wide receiver, purely based off the way he tested out, but you still have to consider the talent of Laquan Treadwell and if they both are even first round type of players. The slow times the group put up didn't help the argument of this specific group's talent.

AH: It has to be WR. Based purely on college performance, this year's group fails to match up with those of recent years. And with a lot of poor 40-yard dash times—only two wideouts broke 4.4 seconds—it's hard to deny that the 2016 draft has a clear dearth of quality receivers.

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