Every year, die-hard football fans and self-admitted NFL Draft geeks tune in to watch the Scouting Combine to get a glimpse of the stars of tomorrow. And every year — like clockwork — a couple of Combine participants come out of nowhere and wow us. They grab the headlines coming out of Indianapolis and shuffle mock drafts all over the web. They go from virtual unknowns to players you are dying for your team to draft — all based on how they work out in spandex shorts.
Here are five players who could impress during the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine.
Jon Toth, C, Kentucky
Toth was a four-year starter at center, first cracking the lineup as a tackle during his freshman season. He's a smart player with a ton of experience playing against some of the best defensive players in college football. He has some agility concerns, which is why some project him as a right tackle. Be that as it may, his experience and knowledge could make him stand out amongst his peers in Indy. If he can show better agility in drills than what most scouts are expecting and nail the interviews, you'll see him climb mock drafts quickly.
Amba Etta-Tawo, WR, Syracuse
The Maryland transfer came into his own in 2016. Etta-Tawo was Syracuse's go-to receiver and delivered sufficient production in that role. He has the ability to develop into a scary deep threat at the next level. Even scarier, many believe he has barely scratched the surface of his full potential. He has good size and runs clean routes. The only concerns are inconsistent hands — which is obviously a big deal at the position. If he can have a clean Combine and minimize drops, he'll catch the attention of teams looking for another pass-catching weapon.
Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA
Vanderdoes came out of high school as a 5-star recruit. He got lost in the mix at times, largely because he is more of a run-stopper than a pass rusher. He missed most of the 2015 season with an ACL injury, but recovered to have a solid, productive '16 campaign. He's a better athlete than some scouts are giving him credit for, and I expect him to show that at the Combine. Once he does, his stock will improve and he'll have a chance of getting picked up in the first half of the draft. I see him finally reaching that 5-star potential once he became a pro, much like New England's Vincent Valentine did in 2016.
Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova
Kpassagnon is a physical freak (6-7, 280) who won't be hard to miss. His strength and speed are what you'd expect from that frame and what you desire at his position. His biggest questions center around his explosiveness at the snap and his technique. Those two things did not hurt him at the FCS level, but he'll need to show progress in both if he wants to succeed on Sundays. Keep an eye on him during the shuttles. That's where his burst — or lack thereof — will truly be judged. My prediction is that he'll be the talk of the Combine, alleviate all concerns and emerge as a solid first-round prospect.
Mike Tyson, FS, Cincinnati
There will probably be a Rich Eisen boxing joke or two during the NFL Network's coverage every time Tyson is on screen. Make no mistake, this kid is capable of making a name for himself. He's an intelligent safety, rarely out of position and always close to the ball. He's as seasoned as any safety in the draft, as he started accruing snaps early as a freshman. Athletically, look for him to hang with the top prospects in his position group, while his knowledge of the game and maturity set him apart during the interview process. He has all of the makings of a solid, long-term starter at the next level.
— 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.