The 2018 NFL Combine will begin when the first three groups of NFL prospects arrive in Indianapolis on Tuesday, February 27 for exams and interviews. The following day, they will begin measuring.
The first groups consist of specialists, offensive linemen, and running backs, and you can pretty much guarantee the Detroit Lions are going to be drafting at least one player from each of the offensive line and running back groups regardless of the outcome of free agency.
Every day of the combine is going to be important and essential to NFL clubs, but Lions fans will be paying special attention to the first few days with so many draft targets performing and showing off their athleticism. We’re going to spotlight some of the players to keep an eye on from Wednesday to Friday among the linemen.
Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
We’ve already spotlighted Hernandez as a player we think might under-perform somewhat based on expectations, but with his draft range varying between the Lions’ first and second-round picks, he is someone to keep an eye on. As one of the largest offensive linemen in attendance, his movement ability and burst are going to be key to assessing his value in a zone-based system.
Braden Smith, OG, Auburn
Tall and lean for a guard, Smith has been projected anywhere from the late first to the fourth round. Considered a power player more than a prime athlete, measurements are going to be very important for Smith if he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as a scheme-specific player. As a Lions target, you’re probably looking at a mid-round pick, but he could help that by showing out at the combine.
Alex Cappa, OT, Humboldt State
This season’s small school prize on the line, Cappa has been billed as an elite level athlete with prototypical NFL size and build despite playing at little Humboldt State. A mid-to-late round pick with a lot of developing to do, Cappa may push his draft stock up if he lives up to the hype and shows out. The Lions don’t have an immediate need at tackle, but 2017 showed just how badly depth matters and having a succession plan on either side wouldn’t be bad long-term planning.
Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
Hey, maybe he has an off day? Spits in the face of an interviewer? I don’t know, something crazy might happen and he falls to 20, who knows? More likely we end up watching him crush the combine and with it any hope of seeing him in Honolulu Blue.
Billy Price, OC, Ohio State
Though it’s very likely the Lions prefer Graham Glasgow at center, Billy Price isn’t being hyped as worthy of a first round selection because he’s a slouch. He looks like a good athlete on tape, but whether he shows that at the combine or not, he’s likely going to be cementing his draft status during interviews, where I suspect he excels.
Frank Ragnow, OC, Arkansas
Arkansas has a reputation of developing large, powerful, but lead-footed offensive linemen, and Frank Ragnow looks like he fits that same mold. Though he’s currently projected mid Day 2, I expect Ragnow to drop a bit further if he doesn’t measure well unless some man-blocking team falls in love with him. On the other hand, if he shows those concerns to be unfounded, he could find himself pushing back into Round 1 consideration (though he’ll fall short of that).
James Daniels, OG/OC, Iowa
Hailing from the offensive line factory that is Iowa, Daniels is expected to bulk up a bit before measuring at the combine. Will it be enough to keep him in that late first round, early second round range that he’s being hyped at right now? Daniels plays a position that doesn’t get much hype athletically, but he’s one of the few guys who may measure at a historical level, if projections hold true.
Brian Allen, OC, Michigan State
Allen carries the same athleticism concerns his brother Jack had coming out of college, and I’m not confident he measures much better. Allen will probably end up either undrafted or picked up as a flyer late, but if he puts some of the athleticism concerns to rest he might find himself being picked up as high as the fifth round by a team that primarily runs a gap scheme.
Mason Cole, OG/OC, Michigan
Cole started an insane 104 games in college, and at various positions, but he’ll land on the interior for an NFL club. With an odd frame, Cole may try to bulk up for the combine to show that he can hold healthy weight and still maintain his relative athleticism, which appeared to be fairly good at Michigan. Cole’s draft value is all over the place, so he’s probably an early Day 3 selection, but a strong showing at the combine both in measurements and interviews might push him into late Day 2.
Isaiah Wynn, OG Georgia
Wynn played tackle for the Bulldogs, but coming in under 6-foot-3 (and potentially even less than that) puts him firmly on the interior. He looks like a very talented athlete on tape and can go from first-round sleeper to first-round lock with a strong showing at the combine. Unlike James Daniels, Wynn doesn’t over-rely on his athleticism, and if he can show during drills how far ahead he is compared to most of the other prospects in Indianapolis, he could end up inside the top 20.