2013 NFL Combine Snubs
By Justin Higdon
Later this month, the center of the NFL universe will move to Indianapolis for the long weekend of weigh-ins, workouts, medical checks and interviews commonly known as the scouting combine. And while over 300 prospects annually receive an invitation, there are always plenty of worthy names left off the list. Here is a look at ten prospects, who despite being given the cold shoulder and denied a late winter trip to the Midwest, should still hear their names called at some point on Draft Weekend.
Dennis Johnson RB Arkansas – The versatile running back is coming off a season in which he led the Razorbacks with 757 rushing yards and ten touchdowns, and finished second on the team with 25 receptions. In his career at Arkansas he averaged nearly six yards per carry and even added three kickoff return touchdowns. Johnson runs with a low center of gravity, and shows good balance, vision and leg drive. He has good form in pass protection, and shows potential as an every down running back. The biggest knock on Johnson is the occasional lack of ball security, but many experts consider fumbling issues to be a correctable problem. Being left out of the combine certainly suggests that the draft community thinks more highly of Johnson than most NFL teams, but his all around skills make him an attractive Day Three value.
Emory Blake WR Auburn – Blake, the son of former NFL quarterback Jeff Blake, was unable to parlay his invite to the East-West Shrine Game into a trip to the combine. With nearly 40 receivers on the list, Blake’s exclusion was a bit of a surprise. He led the Tigers in receptions with 50 – 32 more than anyone else on the team – and averaged almost 16 yards per catch in his career. Blake is a smooth route runner, but isn’t particularly elusive and doesn’t offer much in terms of yards after the catch. He also has been known to make a difficult catch, and drop an easy one. Blake has a thin build, and will need to add strength so that he can get off the line of scrimmage against physical cornerbacks. If teams are convinced that he can do that, Blake has a chance to follow in his father’s footsteps and sneak into the late rounds of the draft.
Ray Ray Armstrong FS Faulkner via Miami (FL) – Armstrong was a highly touted recruit out of high school, and seemed poised to be the next in a long line of talented safeties out of Miami. However, after multiple indiscretions he was ultimately dismissed from The U just prior to his senior season. Armstrong sought refuge at NAIA Faulkner, but was ultimately declared ineligible for the 2012 season. The combine would have been an excellent opportunity for Armstrong to clear things up and prove that he is ready to put his past behind him and work hard in the NFL. Instead he’ll be left hoping that at least a few teams still have interest in him. With a year away from the game, he’ll need to overcome long odds just to get drafted.
Vince Williams ILB Florida State – Williams took advantage of a late invite to the Senior Bowl and put together a solid week of practices, making his combine snub even more surprising. But even though he did a good job diagnosing run plays and making big hits in Mobile, Williams struggled at times covering running backs and tight ends. He’s largely viewed as a run stopping, two down, inside linebacker, diminishing his value to NFL teams. Still, his efforts in run defense and his potential special teams value make him a draftable prospect, and he should come off the board sometime late on Day Three of the draft.
Kyle Juszczyk FB Harvard – Ivy League athletes like Juszczyk often have to combat stereotypical views that they aren’t fully committed to football – that they have a higher calling than mere athletic endeavors. But Juszczyk seemed serious enough about a future in football when he put together a strong week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl; and he’s coming off a senior season in which he caught 52 passes and scored eight touchdowns. He often lined up as a tight end for the Crimson, but at just over 6’1” his NFL future appears to be as a fullback or H-back. Juszczyk’s versatility is a plus. He’s an adept pass catcher and showed in Mobile that he is effective blocking against a higher caliber of defender than he saw in the Ivy League. Juszczyk won’t appeal to every team, but his skill set is sure to be valued by a number of organizations. Despite the snub, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him come off the board some time in the fourth or fifth round.
Kenny Tate OLB Maryland – Tate has been around forever it seems. After playing receiver in high school, he saw playing time as a safety and on special teams as a freshman in 2008. By 2010 he was starting at free safety for the Terrapins, and ended the season with 8.5 tackles for loss (3.5 of which were sacks), four forced fumbles, and three interceptions. In 2011, Tate was slated to play a hybrid safety/outside linebacker position; but four games into his senior season, he suffered a season ending knee injury that required surgery. He was granted a medical redshirt, but still missed the first three games of the 2012 season. Tate finished the year with four sacks and four pass break-ups in just nine games, and earned All-ACC Honorable Mention. Despite being left out of the major All-Star games, it is somewhat surprising that more NFL teams were not intrigued enough by Tate’s talent to want to examine his medical history in Indianapolis. He will set out to prove his value to the teams that attend Maryland’s Pro Day in mid March, and attempt to work his way into the latter part of Day Three of the draft.
Chad Bumphis WR Mississippi State – Bumphis overcame uneven quarterback play at Mississippi State to finish his senior season with a career high 922 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. He earned a trip to the East-West Shrine Game where he measured in at 5’10” and a solid 202 pounds. Bumphis is a strong receiver with excellent run after the catch ability. After a solid showing in St. Petersburg, it seemed he had earned a spot in Indy. Instead, his next chance to impress will come at State’s Pro Day, scheduled for early March.
Jasper Collins WR Mount Union – Mount Union, in Alliance, Ohio, has already produced NFL wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Cecil Shorts in recent years. Collins appears to be the next in line for the perennial Division III powerhouse. He landed an invite to St. Pete for the Shrine Game, and his performances on the practice field drew praise from many of those in attendance. Collins has a small frame, and may be limited to a slot role in the NFL. Still, his exclusion from the combine invite list was a bit of a surprise. Making the leap from D-III to the NFL is already a daunting task, and now Collins will have to accomplish the feat without another chance to go head to head with FBS athletes.
Tremayne Scott OLB Ohio – After missing much of the season with a foot injury, Scott returned for the Bobcats’ bowl game and registered two sacks in the win over Louisiana-Monroe. His talent helped earn him a spot in the Texas vs. The Nation All-Star game where he measured in at 6’3” 259 pounds with nearly 35 inch arms. If Scott can remain healthy he offers promising pass rush potential in any scheme, making it even more surprising that he wasn’t brought in to the Combine for the medical checks. His next chance to impress scouts will come at Ohio’s Pro Day in late March.
Mike Catapano DE Princeton – Like Juszczyk, Catapano will have to overcome antiquated Ivy League stereotypes. He made the most of his invitation to the East-West Shrine Game, generally impressing those in attendance at the practices. Catapano is a smart, disciplined player. He has excellent strength and a decent array of pass rush moves. He is a solid fit as a five-technique in a three-man front, or a rotational lineman in a 4-3 set. Despite being left out of the combine, Catapano’s ability to fit in with just about any team should help him find a landing spot sometime in the middle of Day Three of the draft.
Other Snubs: Cooper Taylor SS Richmond, Travis Johnson DE San Jose State, Terrence Brown* CB Stanford, Uzoma Nwachukwu WR TAMU, Zach Rogers WR Tennessee, Dexter McCoil SS Tulsa, Branden Smith CB Georgia, Steve Greer ILB Virgina, Jack Doyle TE Western Kentucky, Anthony McCloud DT FSU, Omoregie Uzzi G GT, William Campbell DT Michigan, Tobias Palmer WR NC State, Zach Sudfeld TE Nevada, Lucas Reed TE New Mexico