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5 Players Who Need to Impress at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine

Author:
Leonard Fournette

Leonard Fournette

Game film and stats rarely lie. That said, when you are talking about college film and stats translating to NFL production, it's not exactly science. Speed, size, experience and maturity all come into play when it comes to elite college football players making the transition to the next level.

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There are certain collegiate stars that enter the NFL Draft with high hopes of being taken early, resulting in bigger pay days thanks to the league's rookie pay scale. The first step in the transition from college to the NFL and toward that aforementioned pay day is the Scouting Combine. As a result, it is often the case that a bad Combine performance can cost a player millions of dollars.

Related: 5 Players Who Could Impress During the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine

We've highlighted some players who will be at the NFL Scouting Combine this week who must put up solid, if not-impressive performances in both workouts and interviews.

Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina

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Trubisky may not be a household name, but he's projected as the first or second quarterback off the board in pretty much every mock draft you'll find. Scouts like his size and arm strength, but questions surround his body of work. The 2016 campaign was his only full season as a college starter. He looked the part for the majority of the season, but outings like the one he had against Virginia Tech leave doubts. He needs to erase those doubts during the passing drills and the interviews in order to solidify his projected position at the top of the 2017 NFL Draft.

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John Ross, WR, Washington

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Ross was quite simply one of the most dynamic and productive receivers in all of college football this season. It's tough to really tell how much of his success was due to the offensive scheme or the quarterback, but the eye test tells us the kid can play. The big issue is his size. At 5-foot-11 he needs to show scouts at the Combine with his hands, speed and vertical that he is a different specimen — along the lines of Antonio Brown or Julian Edelman — in order to convince teams that he is the clear-cut No. 3 wide receiver in this draft.

T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin

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Watt had one of the better seasons of any pass rusher in the country in 2016. He was a huge part of the Badger defense that allowed Wisconsin to hang around the top 10 of the major polls for most of the season. He made what some might call a questionable decision to leave school early. Watt is talented, but one must wonder how much his last name has to do with his current draft stock value. He'll need to make a name for himself — particularly in the shuttle and on the bench — to legitimize himself as a first or early second-round prospect.

Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan

Few corners in college football were as productive as Lewis was during the last couple of seasons in terms of preventing passes from landing in the hands of targeted receivers. That said, his interception total does not exactly jump off the page. That's one of the questions he'll likely have to answer in Indianapolis. Did his size and strength have anything to do with that. At 5-foot-11 and barely 190 pounds, his does not have the ideal frame when it comes to today's defensive backs in the NFL. He'll need to prove himself in the 40 and in the vertical leap to justify some projections that have him as a top-five prospect at his position.

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Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

College Football Top 25: LSU

Fournette is a household name and has been so for the better part of two seasons. He's drawn comparisons to the likes of Adrian Peterson and Hershel Walker during his collegiate career. Sure, he's built like a linebacker and probably could have played every position but quarterback, receiver and corner, but there are still some questions in regard to how he'll fare at the next level. He's not the most consistent pass catcher, which is a big deal in today's pass-heavy offensive schemes. His top speed is sufficient, but his questionable agility and ability to change direction and improvise when compared to NFL players are the reasons he's not the top prospect available at his position. He needs to catch nearly every pass thrown to him and impress in all agility drills to justify most current projections that have him going in the top half of the first round.

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.