The NFL combine kicks off tomorrow with testing for specialists, offensive linemen and tight ends. The athletes, coaches, scouts and general managers have already descended upon Indianapolis, and measurements are being reported. Six players from LSU will test their hand at this year's underwear olympics, seeking to impress future employees with both their personal traits and athletic skills. The Combine is an oft-maligned event, but very important to the future of these prospects. It can be the difference in millions of dollars, at times. Here are the six LSU players in attendance:
La'El Collins, OT
Terrence Magee, RB
Kenny Hilliard, RB
Kwon Alexander, LB
Jalen Collins, CB
Danielle Hunter, DE
Short of Hilliard and Magee, I think the other four guys all stand a chance to make a positive dent on their draft statuses. Billy, your thoughts?
The Combine is always misunderstood, mostly because the public pays more attention to the workouts than most teams and scouts do. Its mostly about confirming questions teams already had about a prospect really. The physicals and the interview process are far more important.
However, given that LSU's group has their share of questions this year, the workouts will be watched kind of closely. I wonder how many will run the whole gamut so to speak, versus waiting until the more controlled environment of LSU's pro day.
The two Collins have the most to gain here. Most are projecting them as first-rounders or possibly high second-rounders at the moment, which means there's a chance to really cement that status. Jalen Collins already has the size, and he's shown the cover ability teams like, but how he works out will say a lot about what type of scheme he fits versus how he was used here. As for La'el Collins, teams on the fence about whether he's a guard or tackle will be watching his feet in those drills. And whether he's a guard or a tackle will go a long way towards determining his position.
So what do these six stand to gain at the combine? Here's our thoughts on the matter.
Arms: 33 1/4"
Bench Reps: 21
40: 5.13, 5.16
10 yard split: 1.86, 1.81
The quickness and agility drills are going to be big for him. Most teams seem to have him slotted as a guard/tackle tweener, and he'll want to do anything he can to make them think he can play the more premium position. Additionally, his body measurements, like arm length, will be huge. At 6-4, Collins is a little short for a tackle, by NFL standards. But arm length is much more important -- the reason height is such a big deal is because the two typically correlate, although not always. Personally, I think he has much, much greater potential to be a dominant guard in the NFL. He can play tackle in spots I think, especially on the right side, but as a guard I think he could be a long-time All-Pro.
Collins proved to be a dominant LT for us last season, but at 6'4", at 300 pounds and with short arms, odds are he's not long for that spot in the NFL. The 21 bench reps don't bother me. It's a decent enough number, and there hasn't been a ton of positive correlation between that and being a great player. Curious to see how Collins tests the rest of the way, with his foot speed. He could be long for guard in the NFL, but he has potential to be an All-Pro there.
If there's a guy with a lot to gain from the 40-yard dash, it's No. 18. As slightly undersized, he's more of a specialty back for third down, and he definitely has the skillset for that. He catches and blocks very well in the passing game, and has even played a little bit of receiver. But if he runs in the 4.7 range, people are going to worry about his speed and quickness. If he can get in the 4.5s, scouts will have a big thing to like on top of all the little things Magee does well. And his stock will jump big time.
I like Magee quite well as an NFL prospect. He seems like a guy that can stick around a roster for a long time as a ST standout, 3rd down back type. He doesn't have a singular great skill, but he does a little bit of everything well. Like Billy, I'm curious to see both his 40 time and how he performs on the agility drills.
Arms: 31 1/4"
Hands: 9 1/4"
He's kind of in the opposite boat from Magee. Scouts will be watching his 40 time in case he throws up something really bad, like a 4.8 or lower, but overall, nobody's drafting Kenny Hilliard for his speed. He'll be one of the backs that needs to show he can hit the strength benchmarks for the NFL. Bench press, and things like the vertical and broad jumps that can help measure core and leg strength. Likewise, the agility and pass-catching drills will be big. In terms of his actual 40, teams will more likely be watching his 10-yard splits, which can measure quickness. When you're 230-240 pounds at that level, how you move over short distance will likely matter more than how you do over the longer ones. Like his teammate, Hilliard is versatile enough as a blocker and pass-catcher to be a complementary back, or maybe even a fullback.
Weighing in at 226 is really good for Hilliard, considering he's battled the weight gain throughout his time at LSU. That said, I don't anticipate him testing all that well. He's not an overly explosive athlete, and we've seen little of him catching the ball. I see him as a guy that may not put up great numbers at the combine, but will come back at the Pro Day and put up some better looking numbers and eventually get drafted late by a team taking a flyer on a batting-ram type back.
Collins has a shot to cement himself not only as a 1st rounder, but perhaps even the top half. There's not a standout corner in this year's class, like a Peterson or a Haden, but a mish mash of good players that also have flaws. Collins should post elite athletic numbers. I'm anxious to see him in the coverage drills, too. If he blows the doors off the joint and posts numbers near the top in major categories, he could be a top 15 pick.
Seems like the type of setting where he could excel. We've long known he's a chiseled looking guy, and now's the time for him to flash those athletic credentials. How explosive is he? I think scouts will want to know why he never turned into a dominant pass rusher. No one will question his work ethic nor hustle, but it's that sticky lack of production that may cost him.
Kwon's been through a couple of leg injuries now, but I could see him as a guy that rips up a 40. He's always been a speedy, sideline-to-sideline type of LB. His problem as a prospect is that he's probably topped out physically and his discipline seemed to oscillate. Kwon would look like a world beater some weeks and then wholly disappear. The ace in his back pocket is that he's a fluid athlete that should do well in agility drills, and could turn himself into a fine nickel LB.
Combine coverage kicks off today at 8 a.m. sharp with on field testing for specialist, offensive linemen and tight ends. Stick around all weekend and we'll keep you updated with how the guys are performing.