The first group of pro hopefuls touched down in Indianapolis Tuesday to kick off the events of the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. This week, five Oregon alumni are among more than 300 prospects who will make their way to Lucas Oil Stadium to participate in on-field workouts, drills, physical exams, psychological tests and interviews as NFL personnel work through the pre-draft evaluation process.
Former Ducks OT Tyler Johnstone, WRs Bralon Addison and Byron Marshall, QB Vernon Adams, and DE DeForest Buckner accepted invitations to participate in the annual event.
Every year, critics of the combine argue that it’s unfair for each player’s workout — good or bad — to weigh too heavily on his overall evaluation. Great players have performed poorly in combine drills. Some underrated players don’t receive combine invitations. Much like senior showcase games, a player’s standout performance may not definitively indicate his potential as a professional.
Of course not. But in most cases, the event provides the first opportunity for team execs, scouts and decision-makers to meet and observe the next generation of NFL players in person. Workouts do matter, though many variables play into the scouting process.
For these athletes, though, the combine facilitates taking early steps into their professional careers — and a chance to mingle with their future colleagues and competitors. It’s the beginning of a transition from student-athlete to member of the NFL community. Two months stand between them and the draft. How exciting for these young men!
Since 1955, Oregon has produced 16 first-round draft picks. Most recently, QB Marcus Mariota and DE Arik Armstead made Duck fans proud in 2015 when they were taken off the board with the No. 2 and No. 17 overall picks by Tennessee and San Francisco, respectively. Oregon is likely to produce another first-round pick this year in defensive end Buckner. He shared the field with Armstead during his time in Eugene – and several draft analysts even consider him the better pro prospect of the two.
“Buckner will go high, no matter what,” NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said during a conference call Monday. “He is a rare talent for his size and he fits the 3-4 ideally. He’s a guaranteed top-five or -six pick. He’s way up there in the stratosphere.”
Johnstone and Addison were both sidelined with injuries during the 2014 season, but finished their college careers in 2015 with a bang. Versatile left tackle Johnstone started all 13 games last season and contributed greatly to an Oregon team that ranked fifth in the country in total offense, rushing and scoring. Addison proved to be a staple for the Ducks as both a receiver and punt returner. He announced his plans to forego his final season of eligibility in favor of entering the draft last month.
“I came here as a kid who wanted nothing more than to play football at a high level,” Addison wrote in a statement announcing his decision. “In the process, so much more has happened. This is a decision I have prayed about, and I feel as though God has given me the understanding, confidence and assurance to move forward.”
RB-turned-WR Marshall’s college career was cut short after only four games in 2015, but you wouldn’t know it just by looking at his stats. In 2014 Marshall became the first player in the Pac-12 to ever rush for 1,000 yards (2013) and accumulate 1,000 receiving yards for a season, in his collegiate career. He is small but dynamic and could be a mid-to-late-round pick, according to Kiper.
Despite the graduate transfer QB’s production throughout his college career at both Eastern Washington and Oregon, Adams isn’t sitting atop anyone’s draft board. It’s difficult to predict his NFL future, but his combine performance should be every bit as impressive as his East-West Shrine Game performance, in which he completed 6-of-9 passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. Position groups are organized alphabetically, so keep an eye out for QB No. 1 this weekend.
The remaining schedule of combine events is as follows:
Thursday, Feb. 25: Media interviews for quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends
Friday, Feb. 26: Media interviews for defensive linemen and linebackers and on-field workouts for running backs, offensive linemen and special teamers
Saturday, Feb. 27: Media interviews for defensive backs and on-field workouts for quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends
Sunday, Feb. 28: On-field workouts for defensive linemen and linebackers
Monday, Feb. 29: On-field workouts for defensive backs
For anyone missing football or interested in honing your scouting skills, the NFL Network will broadcast the on-field action beginning at 9 a.m. EST (6 a.m. PST) Friday. Also, check back this weekend and early next week for a short FishDuck.com update on each Duck prospect’s performance, notes on his position group, quotes and reactions from draft analysts.
Top Photo by Gary Breedlove