A relatively highly-regarded prospect unexpectedly not receiving an invitation to the NFL’s Scouting Combine is hardly a new phenomenon. Lately there seems to be more misses than usual though, perhaps at least partially due to underclassmen continuing to come out in record-breaking numbers.
The good news is the players who were snubbed have plenty of role models to look up to with a lengthily list of predecessors who enjoyed fantastic, and in some cases Hall of Fame, pro careers. Including Julian Edelman, Antonio Gates, Chris Harris, James Harrison, Robert Mathis, Osi Umenyiora, John Randle, Adam Thielen and Wes Welker, just to name a handful.
New England Patriots OG Shaq Mason and Tennessee Titans S Kevin Byard are more recent examples. Mason didn’t get an invite to Indy yet was still a 4th Round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Mason has since gone on to start 55 of 60 games, win two Super Bowls and sign a five-year, $50 million contract extension. Byard was inexplicably spurned in 2016 but was still the first pick of the 3rd Round. All he’s done is lead the league in interceptions while garnering Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. Even in the past couple years Grambling St. WR Chad Williams was a third rounder of the Arizona Cardinals and Southern Miss RB Ito Smith was a fourth rounder of the Atlanta Falcons.
If trends continue somewhere between 10% and 15% of the players selected in the 2019 NFL Draft will be “Scouting Combine Snubs”. Odds are at least one of them will be chosen in the middle rounds and maybe even as early as Day 2. This is my list of the most likely candidates.
1) Jimmy Moreland, CB, James Madison
There are understandable reservations about Moreland’s size, with the small school cover guy measuring in at 5-9 3/4 and 179 pounds at the Senior Bowl. On the other hand, just last year Pittsburgh CB Avonte Maddox was selected in 4th Round by the Philadelphia Eagles with a similar physical profile. Moreland may struggle to match the 4.39 forty time that Maddox posted, but not if you ask him.
Moreland is a ballhawk who finished his college career with 45 pass breakups and 18 interceptions, 6 of which were returned for touchdowns. Any concerns about the FCS level of competition should’ve been alleviated by his impressive performances at both the East / West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl. Moreland is more quick than fast but very aggressive with the burst to close in a hurry. The feisty Moreland also plays bigger than his dimensions would lead one to believe and is a willing, semi-effective tackler. I currently have a mid-round grade on Moreland and wouldn’t be completely shocked if snuck into the back end of the Top 100. For that to happen Moreland will need to run well at the Dukes Pro Day on March 28th.
I reached out to Jimmy for his thoughts on being snubbed:
“I don’t worry about it, really. I’ve shown my talents and now I’m just focused on my Pro Day and having fun throughout this process.” – Jimmy Moreland on 2/14/19
2) Ed Alexander, DT, L.S.U.
When it comes to producing NFL defensive linemen few do it better than the Bayou Bengals. Their resume is both deep and star-studded, so they obviously know what they’re doing at the position. Yet despite that pipeline Alexander was snubbed, with an injury-riddled season the most likely explanation. When healthy the 331 pound Alexander is a force against the run, clogging up lanes and controlling the middle. Alexander doesn’t offer a whole lot from a pass rush standpoint but isn’t a complete liability in that aspect of the game either.
There have been times when Alexander has flashed early round talent, but coming out early after after battling some health issues is not a great recipe. Even so considering Alexander’s size, pedigree and potential a spot in the mid-rounds wouldn’t appear to be beyond the realm of possibility. At the very least it seems like it would’ve been worthwhile to bring Alexander to Indy for information gathering purposes, particularly the medical checks.
3) Landis Durham, DE, Texas A&M
Durham is a former linebacker who averaged 11 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks the past two seasons. And that’s for a talented defensive line against high-quality SEC competition. Durham also participated in the East / West Shrine Game, so it’s not like he’s flying under the radar.
Durham lacks ideal length but is athletic with good movement skills and range. There are issues against the run, at point of attack and getting off blocks so Durham may only profile as a situational pass rusher in the pros. Anyone who can get after the quarterback in any capacity is still a commodity in the draft though. Due to Durham’s shortcomings a move back to outside linebacker might be the best course of action. The Scouting Combine would’ve provided a perfect opportunity for scouts to evaluate the specific traits required for that position. Fortunately Durham will still have that opportunity, albeit on a considerably smaller stage, at the Aggies Pro Day.
4) Wes Hills, RB, Slippery Rock
After a solid but unspectacular career at Delaware, Hills transferred down to D2 Slippery Rock for his final season of eligibility and enjoyed a breakout campaign. To the tune of 1,714 yards with a 7.0 average and 17 touchdowns. Hills then made the most out of an invitation to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, earning MVP honors and a call-up to the Senior Bowl the following week. Hills wrapped up his time in Mobile by scoring a touchdown on game day.
I can personally attest to how impressive Hills is on the hoof, having been at the Senior Bowl weigh-in. This is a guy who looks the part, with a chiseled 6-0 5/8 and 209 pound frame. Hills is a physical runner with surprisingly nimble feet and while not a blazer shows good acceleration and burst. Hills is also a former team captain who’s lauded for his leadership ability and character. The main questions with Hills are durability and whether he can be more than just an early down runner in the pros. After seemingly playing his way into the draft on the all-star circuit it would’ve been nice to see if Hills could continue to build on that positive momentum.
5) Devine Ozigbo, RB, Nebraska
As a senior Ozigbo ran for almost as many yards as the three previous seasons combined while averaging nearly 7 yards per carry. Ozigbo runs hard and is a load to bring down due to a stout, powerful frame and a low center of gravity plus excellent balance. While not overly elusive Ozigbo shows a bit of wiggle in tight areas, is light on his feet for a big guy and appears to have gotten faster and quicker after losing some extra weight. Ozigbo is also sure-handed, a capable pass catcher out of the backfield and a willing blocker.
Suspect conditioning contributed to Ozigbo underachieving early in his career with the Cornhuskers so weight is something that will have to be carefully monitored. With that said Ozigbo offers a well-rounded skill set and could wind up being a better pro than college player if the light truly has come on. Look for Ozigbo to come off the board at some point on Day 3, perhaps as early as the middle rounds.
* Drew Lewis, ILB, Colorado
– Toolsy ‘backer with multiple NFL branches on his family tree who should test extremely well.
* Chidi Okeke, OT, Tennessee St.
– A big-framed LSU transfer who was born in Nigeria and only started playing football in 2013.
* Penny Hart, WR, Georgia St.
– Productive wideout is diminutive but quick and profiles as an ideal weapon out of the slot.
* Jamell Garcia-Williams, DE, U.A.B.
– Former JUCO transfer is 6’7″ with 35 inch arms and notched 15.5 TFL and 9.5 Sacks in ’18.
* Darwin Thompson, RB, Utah St.
– One-year wonder is explosively fast and a threat as a runner, pass catcher or return man.