A week and a day earlier than usual, the 2015 NFL Combine kicks off in just four days with the offensive linemen taking to the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium. So what’s the latest word on the blockers as the football world descends upon Indianapolis? Here are five stories to keep an eye on.
Which offensive lineman will leave the Indianapolis with significantly improved draft grades? I’d gamble on D.J. Humphries of Florida. I presently grade Humphries as a 3rd rounder, earlier than most, but the feeling is he could move even higher with a good combine performance. Scouts believe Humphries is one of the most athletic tackles in this years class and holds as much upside as any of the top rated blockers. Playing the year at 280-pounds, he presently tips the scales at just over 300-pounds and is being tutored by former New York Giant offensive lineman William Roberts. Expect not only good testing marks from Humphries but a solid performance in position drills as his ability to effortlessly move about the field and change direction will surely impress.
Another junior offensive lineman I expect to leave the combine with a buzz is Utah junior Jeremiah Poutasi. The Utes starting left tackle the past two seasons after manning the right side as a freshman, most teams grade Poutasi at guard with some now referring to him as Mike Iupati Jr. I graded Poutase as an early third round pick and have been told scouts rate him much higher than those on the outside (media).
Many grade T.J. Clemmings as a mid-first round choice but it’s an opinion those affiliated with the league never shared. Sources told me the early first round grades placed on Clemmings were unwarranted and set up unreasonable expectations at the Senior Bowl. Most now believe Clemmings needs a strong combine performance and pro-day to stay in the first round. And though the short term picture may not be as rosy as some predict, league insiders all feel Clemmings best football lay ahead as he’s still learning to play on the offensive line. There’s also a belief Clemmings could start his pro-career at guard, something I’ve said all along, before being kicked outside to tackle.
Another top rated blocker who needs to turn in a good combine performance is Tyler Sambrailo. The Colorado State tackle struggled at times during the Senior Bowl and teams came away questioning his functional football strength. On the other hand his athleticism is not a concern (still remember watching as Sambrailo caught a touchdown pass last season). Sambrailo may not have the fastest forty time on Friday but check and see how his shuttle and 3-cone times stack up against the rest of the offensive linemen. There’s still a chance Sambrailo slides into the late part of round one. I previously posted on the Seattle Seahawks admiration for Sambrailo and now hear the Green Bay Packers are in the mix. The team could lose Bryan Bulaga via free agency in the coming weeks and the feeling is Sambrailo’s athleticism and ability to easily move around the field makes him a perfect fit for the Aaron Rodgers led Packers.
After his sensational performance at the Senior Bowl a lot of eyes will be on Ali Marpet in Indianapolis. The Hobart product has been working with former All Pro Bob Whitfield, who’s taken to the small school lineman. I’m told teams are struggling how to grade Marpet and at what position. Most teams have listed him at guard or center, with a few slotting Marpet at the right tackle spot. Almost no one has listed him as a left tackle as arm length is a concern (calling Jeff Backus!). Expect Marpet to put up solid not sensational numbers this week (5-second forty, 30-reps on the bench). I’m told Hobart will try and hold their pro-day on March 26th, the same day Syracuse is hosting NFL teams. The plan is for Marpet to workout early in the morning before scouts make the one hour drive to Syracuse, who has denied Marpet the opportunity to participate in their pro-day.