The Pac-12 has been a major player when the NFL Draft has rolled around and that should continue to be the case in 2017 with a solid 46 players from the conference heading to Indianapolis. Historical powerhouses like USC and Washington have plenty of potential first-rounders again this year but there’s a deep and intriguing group of prospects from around the league set to strut their stuff this week (Feb. 28-Marcah 6) for scouts and coaches.
Who’s under the most pressure and who’s destined to be a future star on Sundays? Here’s a look at 10 Pac-12 players to keep an eye on when the Combine gets under way and what they can do to solidify their status.
1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder so it will be fascinating to see how McCaffrey is really received by NFL folks at the Combine. Is he an every-down back or more of a slot receiver at the next level who can return kicks? Teams are probably going to be split on their opinion of the uber-productive tailback but he could make a strong impression with big numbers at the Combine and a showcase during the skills portion.
2. Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
While there may be more name recognition when it comes to his teammate on offense, Thomas figures to be the first Cardinal player drafted this year. He had an incredible performance in the team’s bowl game and has been one of the best college defensive linemen in the country during his time on the Farm. His size makes him a bit of a tweener when it comes to position though and seeing how he measures and runs at the Combine could play a role in terms of how high teams pick him.
3. Garett Bolles, OL, Utah
Bolles is no household name for those outside of the state of Utah but he certainly is on draft boards and in NFL personnel rooms. He might be the most athletic offensive lineman to go to the Combine since Lane Johnson a few years ago and he should run laps around a few of the players in his group. With just one year of FBS football though, he’ll be a bit of a projection for some teams who will use the event to really see if he’s a potential Pro Bowler or just another player who needs to be developed further.
4. Sidney Jones, DB, Washington
Defensive backs from the South get a ton of attention at the Combine but Jones should be right there with all of the other big names. A potential first-rounder, he should test well and go the earliest of any of the Huskies headed to the draft this year. His biggest knock is that he’s not as big as others so hitting certain marks when getting measured will be key for Jones, who will get compared a ton to ex-teammate Marcus Peters (on the field, at least).
5. Takkarist McKinley, DL, UCLA
It seems like every year the Bruins are sending an athletic freak to the league and this year it’s McKinley’s turn to carry the banner. UCLA’s terrible season overshadowed just how great a year that he had in the interior of the line and there’s even more room for him to grow as a pass rusher. He’ll test off the charts at the Combine and it will shock nobody if he emerges from Indianapolis with plenty of first-round buzz.
6. John Ross, WR, Washington
If you’re going to tune into the Combine for just one thing, it might be to see what kind of time Ross puts down in the 40-yard dash. One of the most electrifying college players to come out of the West Coast, few people in the sport have the kind of speed that the Huskies receiver does. His smaller size probably hamper his draft stock a bit but if he tests as well as everybody thinks (and his knees get the OK from doctors), there’s no question he could sneak into the first round.
7. Adoree’ Jackson, DB, USC
USC has had a ton of great players to come through the program the past few decades but former No. 2 overall pick Reggie Bush might be the only other Trojan who is in the same league as Jackson is as an athlete. He can do just about everything on the football field and the Combine will allow him to turn heads during testing and when going through drills. His size may mean he isn’t a first-round cornerback but his versatility could make him a very productive player at the next level.
8. Davis Webb, QB, Cal
The Pac-12 has produced an impressive number of quarterbacks over the years but the 2017 crop has questions all over. That makes the Combine a big stage for somebody like Webb to answer questions about transitioning to a pro-style offense. He has the arm talent and is one of the top seniors at the position in the draft but will need a strong spring to show scouts that he’s more than just an Air Raid signal-caller.
9. Eddie Vanderdoes, DL, UCLA
Vanderdoes figures to be a polarizing prospect given that he looked like a future first-rounder early on in Westwood but saw injuries limit him the past two years for the Bruins. He’s got great size and impressive quickness but the Combine will be a place for him to prove he’s fully healthy and that he’s more than what he flashed recently.
10. Budda Baker, DB, Washington
Baker was a star from the moment he arrived in Montlake and has been terrific as the defensive leader for the Huskies the past few seasons. He’s got plenty of speed and quickness for days but don’t sleep on his ability to run up and smack a ball carrier around. His smaller size will make him an interesting projection at the next level as some teams may view him as better suited to be a slot corner, but there’s little doubt that he’s one to watch given how productive he’s been.
Don’t sleep on: JuJu Smith-Shuster (WR, USC), Chidobe Awuzie (DB, Colorado), Chad Hansen (WR, Cal), Kevin King (DB, Washington), Gabe Marks (WR, Washington State), Zach Banner (OL, USC), Pharaoh Brown (TE, Oregon), Sefo Liufau (QB, Colorado), Elijah Qualls (DL, Washington), Stevie Tu’ikolovatu (DL, USC), J.J. Dielman (OL, Utah), Joe Williams (RB, Utah)
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.