James Washington will have a chance in Indianapolis to establish himself as one of the top wide receivers in this year's draft class
Super Bowl LII has been in the books for several weeks and everybody from the reigning champion Philadelphia Eagles to the previously winless Cleveland Browns are moving on to the 2018 NFL season and the pursuit of the next Lombardi Trophy. The first big step in that process comes in Indianapolis where more than 300 future NFL players will be poked, prodded, questioned, tested and analyzed by every team at the Scouting Combine.
After proving to be one of the most competitive leagues in college football last season, the Big 12 is sending 29 players to the marquee event at Lucas Oil Stadium and there are a ton of big names among the list looking to showcase their skills in front of scouts, coaches and front office executives. Oklahoma and the Heisman Trophy winner carry the banner for the conference but schools around the Big 12 will be under the microscope.
Who’s under the most pressure to test well and ace their interviews? Here are 10 Big 12 players to keep an eye on at the Combine:
1. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
It seems like there’s been a traveling circus around the Heisman winner for several years now and we saw the NFL’s first exposure to that down at the Senior Bowl. The Combine should be 100 times crazier and on top of it, Mayfield (above, right) will be run around like few prospects before him. It should make for a great show on NFL Network and play a big role for teams in the evaluation process.
2. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
The Biletnikoff Award winner will go to Indy as the best receiver in college football but with a host of questions. The biggest is if he can prove to scouts that he’s more than just a deep threat and can be a complete receiver at the next level. All eyes will be on him running the 40-yard dash but his agility drills and going through other aspects like the gauntlet will be closely tracked as well. Showing off a variety of routes at his pro day will be a bigger boost toward his stock but the drive starts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
3. Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
A former all-world recruit, Jefferson (right) was a bit up-and-down during his time with the Longhorns. He ticks all the boxes you’re looking for when it comes to height/weight/speed and he should test extremely well in most of the drills. He’ll need to be sharp during meetings and has the potential to gather some draft momentum if he performs like most expect him to on the field.
4. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
A foot injury kept him out of the Senior Bowl so the Combine represents a really big first impression for the strong-armed signal-caller. He has a chance to start winning over teams during meetings and everybody knows how he can launch it downfield, which should make him an interesting player to track if he decides to throw at the event. While the testing for quarterbacks isn’t a huge part in the evaluation process, showing off some better-than-expected athleticism will help.
5. Marcell Ateman, WR, Oklahoma State
The Cowboys have a ton of intriguing prospects and Ateman is going to be on a lot of teams’ radar just for his impressive size. He’s a great red-zone target already but the Combine will offer the first chance to prove he’s more well-rounded than what the vertical-oriented OSU offense provides. Lots of folks will be keeping a tab on how fast he runs but a good effort in every other area could help his stock soar.
6. Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
Andrews is listed as a tight end but is more suited to being flexed out than handling blocking duties. He’ll have to prove those scouts who doubt he can do the latter wrong and that can start at the Combine. Because of that, he’ll need to surprise on some of the strength tests on top of acing the agility and pass-catching drills.
7. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State
If you’re looking for a guy who could get a lot of scouts talking about him, Lazard (right) could be one with a good showing at Lucas Oil Stadium. He’s certainly got the size to be a big factor at the next level but the one knock on him might be his speed and ability to create separation. He could surprise if he runs a quicker than expected 40-yard dash and may talk to some teams about bulking up to be more of a tight end in the NFL as well.
8. Obo Okoronkwo, LB, Oklahoma
The Sooners’ star pass rusher will be heading to the next level looking to convince teams to overlook his height and focus more on his production when it comes to getting to the quarterback. He’s certainly strong enough to tussle with opposing tackles and has plenty of quickness to get around folks. Coverage skills during drills will be something a lot of teams will look at closely to see if he can really fit in as an outside linebacker in the NFL.
9. Connor Williams, OT, Texas
Williams is one of several tackles who will be vying to be the first off the board at the position. Teams will be very interested in making sure there’s nothing lingering from his knee injury, which cost him most of the past season and seemed to hamper what he put on tape. He should be able to win a few folks over during early interviews but also will need to turn in favorable measurements and times.
10. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
Just about every team needing offensive line help will be doing a full write-up on Brown, who is one of the leading candidates for player you’d most like to get off the bus first at 6-foot-8 and over 350 pounds. He does have an NFL pedigree from his late father that will make him one of the best stories of the Combine but he’ll also need to bring it during drills to convince those who think he’s a little stiff. He’s probably locked into the first round but how high remains up for debate and he can really help his case in Indianapolis.
Don’t sleep on: Dorance Armstrong Jr. (DE, Kansas); Keke Coutee (WR, Texas Tech); Justin Crawford (RB, West Virginia); Michael Dickson (P, Texas); DeShon Elliott (S, Texas); Dimitri Flowers (RB, Oklahoma); Tre Flowers (S, Oklahoma State); Poona Ford (DT, Texas); Kyle Hicks (RB, TCU); Holton Hill (CB, Texas); Ka’raun White (WR, West Virginia); Kyzir White (DB, West Virginia)
— 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.