After being held out of the Senior Bowl, Brandon Aiyuk needs a strong showing in Indianapolis
The NFL Scouting Combine is one of the great events for draftniks to look forward to after the Super Bowl, and the league has made it even easier to watch lately by moving key practices and drills into prime time.
There will be plenty of interesting players on display once again during this year's Scouting Combine (runs Feb. 23-March 2) at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, including a deeper than normal quarterback class and a bevy of skill position players.
While teams have had years to track top prospects during live games, the combine gives them a chance to get more rigorous testing done on both their health and athleticism. Top overall prospect Chase Young may not be taking part, but here are 10 players to keep an eye on at the event, listed in alphabetical order:
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
Aiyuk has gotten plenty of first-round buzz after a great season with the Sun Devils in which he replaced N'Keal Harry, who was selected No. 32 overall by New England last season. Teams were excited to see Aiyuk in the Senior Bowl, but he ultimately was held out when he failed a physical due to a minor hip issue. That shouldn't have long-lasting effects on him, but he can ill afford to do poorly in drills with such a deep class of receivers.
Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
The top of the offensive line class this season has been fairly fluid with Becton in the conversation for a top-10 pick along with Andrew Thomas, Tristan Wirfs, and Jedrick Wills Jr. Becton stands out for his massive size (6-7, 369) and could blow away the field with a display of strength. He didn't have the strongest competition in the ACC, so teams may have him under a microscope in Indy.
K'Lavon Chaisson, LB, LSU
Chaisson burst onto the scene last season with LSU when he led the team in sacks (6.5) and TFLs (13.5) while finishing fifth in tackles (60). However, he only had 3 sacks, 5.5 TFLs, and 32 tackles in the two previous seasons. Without that track record of success, teams may be looking for him to stand out during drills to make sure he's worth the first-round grade many give him. Most see him as an edge rusher, but he could possibly also be a fit as a 3-4 inside linebacker or 4-3 outside linebacker depending on the team's defensive approach.
Grant Delpit, S, LSU
Delpit was once considered the top defensive back in the draft and now isn't even regarded as the top safety or a first-round pick by some experts. He has the credentials as a two-time All-American and 2019 Jim Thorpe Award winner, but questions have arisen about his tackling ability and zone spacing. A well-rounded Combine performance could lay those concerns to rest.
Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne
There are plenty of interesting players from non-Power 5 schools, but few notable players come from Division II programs. Dugger is regarded as one of the best athletes in the class, and if he can keep up with players from major conferences, he could make his way up draft boards. There are some questions of whether he'll be a better fit at strong safety or linebacker, but he has the versatility to help in a myriad of ways, including in the return game.
Jacob Eason, QB, Washington
Three quarterbacks are likely to go in the first six picks depending on whose mock you believe, but the field is fairly open after that. Eason will be competing with the likes of Jordan Love and (to a lesser extent) Jake Fromm to be the fourth quarterback off the board, and he may earn an edge when he shows off his massive arm at the Combine. Eason has prototypical size (6-6) and the pedigree to give teams confidence as the No. 5 overall recruit in the 2016 class.
A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa
Epenesa dominated the Big Ten and has the frame (6-6, 280) to dominate in the NFL as well. But he'll want to show off to teams that he has the burst and athleticism to keep up with offensive linemen at the next level. Epenesa has a chance to be the second defensive end off the board, and how he performs in the three-cone drill could go a long way to keeping his draft stock afloat.
Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M
Madubuike arrived in College Station as a defensive end and still has many of those traits even though he lined up defensive tackle last season. He has rare explosiveness and agility for a 300-pounder and should be able to show off that athleticism during drills. His strength is more of a concern than for other tackles like Javon Kinlaw, but he could allay those concerns with a strong showing.
Malcolm Perry, WR, Navy
Perry starred as a triple-option quarterback with the Midshipmen, but his path to the pros will be as a wide receiver. At best he's expected to be a late-round draft pick, but he has explosive athleticism that will make him a dangerous offensive weapon if he puts it all together. Perry showed off his soft hands at the Senior Bowl, but the more exposure, the better for him, as past quarterbacks who made the transition to wide receiver have had mixed results.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
Taylor ended his storied three-year career at Wisconsin as the NCAA's sixth-leading all-time rusher, but questions remain about his pro future. He ran behind immensely talented offensive lines and likely won't have the same advantage in the NFL. Scouts currently have him behind D'Andre Swift and J.K. Dobbins, but he could rise on teams' boards if he shows any ability in the receiving game after totaling just 42 receptions over three years in Madison. Will teams see his mileage as a major negative?