10 players to watch at the NFL combine
On-field drills at the NFL Scouting Combine will begin Thursday. It's arguably the most important scouting portion ahead of the draft, as a number of prospects will see their stocks rise or plummet in an instant.
With that in mind, here are 10 players to watch in Indianapolis as they attempt to wow NFL decision-makers.
Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
Have your popcorn ready when Ruggs takes the field at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The talented wideout is an absolute burner and will surely wow every onlooker this week. He's the top candidate to break John Ross' 40-yard dash record of 4.22 seconds and will still run a sub-4.3 time even if he doesn't.
Ruggs is more than just a deep threat, though, and other elements of his game will be on display. Don't be surprised if the former Crimson Tide star closes the gap on CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy in the race to be the first receiver drafted in April. Every team is looking for its own version of Tyreek Hill.
Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Even in a room full of high-level athletes, Becton is a giant among men. The Louisville product was listed at over 6-foot-7 and a monstrous 364 pounds during weigh-ins. But don't let his size fool you - Becton is also an athletic freak.
The towering lineman is battling with Tristan Wirfs, Jedrick Wills Jr., and Andrew Thomas to be the first offensive tackle selected, and an impressive performance could set him apart. On tape, Becton has already shown rare movement skills for a player his size, so he has every chance to shock the football world this week.
Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
With the kind of versatility that coaches can typically only dream about - possessing the ability to get to quarterbacks, cover the slot, and even line up deep as a safety - Simmons might be the perfect linebacker for today's NFL. He's already received top-10 hype, and his stock should continue to rise after he puts his speed and explosiveness on display in Indianapolis. Demonstrating an elite athletic profile, which we can reasonably expect based on his work at Clemson, could lock Simmons into top-five territory.
Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Combine drills aren't nearly as important for quarterbacks, but Love will still be a name to monitor. The first-round hopeful has a big arm and above-average athleticism, while his off-field impressions will be just as crucial. If Love aces his meetings with NFL clubs, he could potentially leapfrog Justin Herbert as the third passer selected in April. A top-10 slot isn't out of the question.
Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Fulton has more riding on the combine than most players do. Though the former Tiger displayed impressive ball skills and was sticky in coverage last season, there are questions surrounding his speed and overall athleticism. Fulton has first-round tape but a poor showing at Lucas Oil Stadium would hurt his draft stock. Exceeding expectations, however, would lock him into Round 1.
Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame
Claypool has the size and physicality to overwhelm and dominate defensive backs at the catch point - that much we know. But that alone is rarely enough for consistent success at the NFL level, so the Notre Dame product will have to show teams that he possesses the movement ability to at least occasionally gain separation from coverage.
The pass-catcher was listed at 229 pounds in college but weighed in nearly 10 pounds heavier this week. He may be auditioning for a move to tight end as an offensive mismatch, and a strong showing during athletic testing could make him an early Day 2 pick.
A.J. Epenesa, Edge, Iowa
In a class featuring Chase Young and K'Lavon Chaisson, the less flashy Epenesa is often overlooked. The former Hawkeye offers advanced technique and strong hands as a prospect, but he hasn't displayed elite burst off the line. Epenesa still plays a premium position and is very talented, so a number of teams in need of a pass-rush boost will be watching him closely. He's one of the prospects with the most to gain (or lose) at the combine.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU
Edwards-Helaire is a blast to watch - he's a polished receiver out of the backfield, has the ability to cut on a dime, and is very difficult to bring down in the open field. The first-team All-SEC selection has plenty of initial burst when he hits the hole, but he doesn't necessarily appear to be a true home run threat. Edwards-Helaire will have a chance to quiet those concerns in Indy with a good 40-yard dash time and emerge as the draft's top running back prospect. He's going to excel in position drills, too.
Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne
Hailing from a Division II program, Dugger certainly isn't a household name. That could change if he meets expectations in Indianapolis. The versatile defender breaks on the ball like a cornerback and tackles like a linebacker. He's one of the more explosive players in this class and appears set to place himself firmly in the early Day 2 conversation. A number of evaluators will see Dugger up close for the first time at the combine, and they're unlikely to be disappointed.
Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma
If you enjoy watching big men move like much lighter players, Gallimore is your man. Listed at 6-foot-2, 304 pounds, the interior rusher is "going to jump out of the gym," according to NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah. Currently a fringe first-round prospect, Gallimore is an explosive athlete who also possesses rare change-of-direction skills for his size. If he does indeed jump out of the gym, he could hear his name called on Day 1.