NFL Draft: Five players to watch at combine

Feb 20, 2013, 4:07 PM | Updated: 4:08 pm

Wednesday stamps the beginning of the annual NFL meat market, better known as the NFL Scouting Combine. While most, if not all of the scouting reports are filed on these players already, this is a chance to meet face-to-face with the prospects.

While the Arizona Cardinals should have the opportunity to take a very good player at the seventh overall spot, that doesn’t alleviate the stress for fans.

Where do they take a quarterback? How many offensive linemen should they take? Is adding a running back and a deep threat at wide receiver a priority? What about the defense?

Well, there are too many players to list to watch, but here are five players I am keeping my eye on in Indianapolis.

Lane Johnson, OT Oklahoma – 6-6, 300 lbs

His athleticism is undeniable, his potential is unreal, but is he really worth the seventh overall pick if fellow tackles Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher are gone?

That’s the question that the Cardinals will need to ask themselves, but at the Combine I want to see that it isn’t just athleticism for Johnson.

Does he have the strength? How does he move laterally? What does his technique in shorts look like?

Johnson has flown up draft boards because of other players going back to school and an impressive Senior Bowl. If he drops a sub-4.8 forty and shows that his smallish frame has some strength, I may be able to start getting on board with him at seven.

Tyler Bray, QB Tennessee – 6-6, 215 lbs

It’s odd that a quarterback that has some upside like Bray would volunteer to throw at the Combine — and yes, I am aware that Geno Smith has decided to throw, but I don’t see Smith falling to seven.

Bray has an arm that’s been touched by the football gods, but his mechanics and footwork lead to accuracy issues — something I’ve seen more than enough of in my time as a Cardinals fan.

I am anxious to see Bray work with receivers he isn’t comfortable with on throws, which while predetermined, will give us an idea of where his accuracy is. Let’s face it — if Bray isn’t accurate in shorts versus air, there likely is no hope for him to ever get to where he needs to be.

Kiko Alonso, LB Oregon – 6-3, 242 lbs

When the weekend is done in Indianapolis, Alonso may have cemented himself as a round two pick, because he should put on a show.

My questions won’t be regarding what Alonso does on the field. I want to make sure he checks out medically — he had a torn ACL in 2010 and nagging wrist injuries in 2012. But I also want to see what comes of his team interviews and what he has to say about two arrests — one in 2010 and one in 2011.

The play has always been there, but that isn’t what you have to worry about with Alonso.

Le’Veon Bell, RB Michigan St 6-2 244lbs

What does Bell weigh, and what does he run?

I know, that’s simple, but it is reality, he was heavy during the year, took a beating in the B1G and now has to show scouts that he is leaner, meaner and ready to run.

If Bell doesn’t burn a 4.7 forty it won’t be that big of a deal, but what are his ten-yard splits? What does he look like in the short area quickness and burst?

Bell seemed to meander towards holes as Michigan State’s season wound down, and I want to see that explosiveness again.

Michael Mauti, LB Penn St – 6-2, 235 lbs

Mauti was working his way up draft boards, showing the explosiveness and vision that linebackers from Penn State have been known for, while still regaining his form after having both knees surgically repaired from torn ACLs.

Unfortunately for Mauti, he was derailed by yet another knee injury. Though this time he chose not disclose it and has instead returned home to Louisiana to train for the NFL Scouting Combine.

Maui isn’t participating in any on-field drills, but I wonder what the reaction from medical staffs and scouts from around the league will be.

Will they give this guy a chance, or is three knee injuries too many?

I want to see if he starts to generate that buzz again after the combine and if he checks out medically.

Those are five players that I am excited to see on the field or get the medical reports about during the Combine. All five fit into needs for the Cardinals and may be fits into the scheme Arizona looks to employ.

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