Posted by Walter
It's no secret that the NFL Combine is the make or break event for most collegiate prospects. But with the workouts mere days away, which players have the most to prove?
Dwayne Jarrett, WR USC
Calvin Johnson is everybody's number 1. Most pundits had Tedd Ginn ahead of Jarrett at season's end. Dwayne Bowe lit up the Senior Bowl and pulled ahead of Jarrett. And with Robert Meachem and Anthony Gonzalez set to run sub 4.4's this weekend, Jarrett needs a drop dead performance just to avoid falling out of the first round. Look, we here at the323 have been in Jarrett's corner from day 1, but if he runs a 4.6 or worse at the combine the whispers about how he won't be able to separate from NFL corners, and his similarities to former Trojan BUST Mike Williams will become a lot louder.
Gaines Adams, DE/OLB Clemson
At season's end Adams was clearly the best Senior defensive line prospect in this draft. However, once Arkansas' Jamaal Anderson jumped the battle to be the first end off the board officialy began. Anderson is more raw, but he is also a more complete player, eliciting comparisons to the great Richard Seymour. While Adams did nothing to hurt his stock at the Senior Bowl, another DE, Nebraska's Adam Carriker, made a lot of noise and may have made this a three horse race. Even a sub 4.6 40 may not be enough to wrestle the top spot from Anderson and Carriker, but if Adams runs well and performs well in OLB drills he could lock up a top 5 grade.
Trent Edwards, QB Stanford
Edwards is an interesting player. With such a dropoff at QB after Jamarcus Russell and Brady Quinn, the third spot is there for Edwards' taking. However, he really needs a drop dead combine to climb that high. Stanford was so terrible under Edwards' watch that scouts aren't going to be impressed at all with his tape and numbers. Thus, if Edwards wants to climb into the first two rounds of the draft he is basically going to have to build his entire resume this weekend. Luckily for Edwards he has the size, arm strength, and athleticism to impress at the combine, but he'd better do just that or else he risks falling all the way to the middle rounds.
Mike Bush, RB Louisville
Bush has a unique skill set and anyone who reads his scouting report will immediately think Jamal Lewis. However, as talented as Bush may be he has major durability concerns which cost him all but one half of football during his senior season. Bush's uiniqueness and value as a prospect was derived from his unparalleled size-speed combination. If he can't run as fast and fluid as he did prior to the injury, he's just another guy. Despite his size, Bush is not a particularly powerful runner. He is very tall (6'3'') and he runs upright. If he's lost his speed then he is just an oversized back and an injury waiting to happen.
Brian Leonard, RB Rutgers
Leonard took a huge risk by dropping weight for the Senior Bowl and trying to establish himself as an NFL running back, as opposed to the versatile fullback position he played so well in college. As a 240 lbs. back, Leonard was a huge weapon as a powerful inside runner with deceptive speed. Many of his shortcomings were overlooked because of how fast and how well he caught the ball for a man his size. If he dropped 20 lbs. and failed to get substantially faster, he has really hurt his draft stock. Leonard really needs to run a sub 4.5 40, because at 220 lbs. he is no longer looked at as a true fullback.
Brandon Merriweather, S Miami
Merriweather's talent is absolutely undeniable. However, so too are his character and off field problems. Merriweather is an oustanding playmaker at free safety, and is really the equal of potential top 15 pick Reggie Nelson in terms of coverage ability. I have no doubt that Merriweather will continue to make plays and run fast (as he did at the Senior Bowl), but unlike the other players on this list the most important part of the combine for Merriweather will be meeting with teams and proving that his troubled past is well behind him. If Merriweather can prove to just one team that he has matured and will no longer be a problem child, he could find himself sneaking into the back end of the first round.
Brady Quinn, QB Notre Dame
Earlier today, Quinn actually pulled out of the combine, instead choosing to focus on Notre Dame's upcoming pro day. This was a huge mistake for Quinn and now he is really behind the 8 ball. Quinn is already behind Jamarcus Russell and he is falling fast. Russell badly outplayed Quinn the last time they were on the field together, and by pulling out of the combine Quinn is foregoing his opportunity to even the score. This shows a lack of confidence, and a lack of competitiveness on Quinn's part. Quinn's best chance of passing Russell (and avoiding sliding all the way out of the top 5) was to outperform him head to head at the combine. Now that he won't have that opportunity, he will need a once-in-a-lifetime drop dead performance at the ND pro day to turn some heads.