Every year when the list of NFL Scouting Combine invitees is released, there’s always one conference atop the standings and it’s seemingly always the SEC. This year is no exception with a whopping 66 players from the league invited to the event. Pro factories at Alabama and LSU are sending 10 players a piece to Indianapolis, which combined is one more than an entire Power Five league (the Big 12).
Who’s under the most pressure this week (Feb. 28-March 6) and who’s destined to be a future star on Sundays? Here’s a look at 10 SEC players to keep an eye on when the Combine gets under way and what they can do to solidify their status.
1. Myles Garrett, DL, Texas A&M
It’s hard to have anybody other than the potential No. 1 overall pick in the draft slotted in this spot. Garrett was a monster on the field for the Aggies and will give the Cleveland Browns plenty to think about with that first pick given his blend of size, speed and ability to track down the quarterback. It’s rare you’re able to find a complete package like Garrett at the top of the draft so it’ll be fun to watch him go through the ringer in Indy. Don’t discount how important the medical side will be for the prospect either given how banged up he was last year.
2. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Pretty much since he was in high school, Fournette has been labeled the best running back since Adrian Peterson. While the numbers didn’t quite catch up to that hype in Baton Rouge, he was nevertheless a dominant runner at times in college and has just about everything teams are looking for in the first tailback off the board. How high he goes in the first round could be determined by how well he tests and if there are any red flags on the medical side of the Combine.
3. Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
Allen stayed in school another season and that bet on himself has paid off in a big way as he could be a potential top-five selection this year. Perhaps the most technically sound player on defense in the draft, there’s very few things that he cannot do on the football field. Perhaps not the most explosive athlete available, he is still a top-tier pass rusher — to say nothing of his ability to stop the run. In terms of a safe pick, there’s nobody safer than Allen and he can solidify that in Indianapolis.
4. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
The race to be the first tight end taken in the draft should be a fascinating one and Howard might be the odds-on favorite in the first round. There are simply few better athletes than he is at the position and the Combine is a perfect place to showcase those skills. NFL evaluators have been anxious to get a shot at drafting this kind of player, who just about everybody believes could have a much, much more productive career at the next level compared to Alabama.
5. Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
There’s been plenty of buzz about the Fournettes and Dalvin Cooks of the draft but Kamara could join those two in the first round if he continues to ascend up draft boards. He should burn up the turf with a fast 40 in the Combine and impress with his change of direction during drills. Key to a strong showing for scouts will be convincing them he’s perfectly suited to stay on the field for every down and checking out on the medical side.
6. Derek Barnett, DL, Tennessee
Vols fans have been pretty vocal on Barnett not getting the proper respect when it comes to the star pass rusher but the Combine should put those issues in proper perspective with a good effort. He probably won’t test the best out of the defensive ends but he has flashed plenty of Pro Bowl potential in the right system and his past production speaks for itself. If he can show added quickness during drills, expect Barnett’s name to come up even more than it does now.
7. Jamal Adams, DB, LSU
Go down the list and chances are high that Adams has a checkmark next to his name. Rangy safety? Check. Hard hitter? Check. Ball hawk? Check. There have been some terrific defensive backs to come out of LSU but in terms of being an all-around safety and quality leader, few come as highly recommended as Adams does. If he can run well and show fluid hips at the Combine, it wouldn’t be that surprising to see him go in the top 10.
8. Marlon Humphrey, DB, Alabama
Humphrey is no stranger to an event like the Combine considering his father was a former Pro Bowl running back. The testing phase should present plenty of opportunities for the track star to excel and his quickness will be on full display to wow scouts in just about every event. He could be yet another first-round selection for Alabama out of the secondary and getting a team to become enamored with his skills at the Combine is the first step in that.
9. Quincy Wilson, DB, Florida
The Gators have been churning out defensive talent and Wilson is the latest in a long line of stars to enter the league out of the secondary. Teammate Teez Tabor got a little more press in college but the Combine should offer a chance for Wilson to hog the spotlight as many in the NFL believe he’s one of the best players in the back end. A bigger question that he could answer when going through the paces at Lucas Oil Stadium is if he’s better suited to be a corner or a safety at the next level.
10. Carl Lawson, DL, Auburn
Lawson will be a fascinating case to follow to the draft and that starts at the Combine where he could put up some seriously impressive numbers in testing. He’s fast, looks the part and has displayed some impressive moves on tape. However, there are some questions about his actual size and whether he will be quick enough to be a starting edge player in the pro. Don’t discount how important the medical checks will be at the Combine for Lawson either given his injury history.
Don’t sleep on: Tre’Davious White (DB, LSU), Teez Tabor (DB, Florida), Tim Williams (LB, Alabama), Cam Robinson (OL, Alabama), Charles Harris (DL, Missouri), Avery Gennesy (OL, Texas A&M), Evan Engram (TE, Ole Miss), Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida), Montravius Adams (DL, Auburn), Kendell Beckwith (LB, LSU), Daeshon Hall (DL, Texas A&M), Malachi Dupre (WR, LSU), ArDarius Stewart (WR, Alabama), Speedy Noil (WR, Texas A&M), Josh Reynolds (WR, Texas A&M), Caleb Brantley (DL, Florida), Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt), Joshua Dobbs (QB, Tennessee)
— 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.