The 2015 NFL Scouting Combine is set to begin Tuesday. Coming off of their second straight losing season, the New York Giants could be making their first top-10 draft choice since they drafted Philip Rivers in 2004. That means this is a draft the Giants have to get right. While the Combine is just another piece of the puzzle, it is a pretty important one. And for us, it is easily the most visible part of the draft process.
So with that in mind, let's take a quick look at which prospects could need a good showing at the NFL scouting combine.
Potential First Round Targets
Danny Shelton, DT, Washington - It's a bit interesting that Shelton could stand to benefit from a strong combine showing after eye-popping production during the year and a strong week at the Senior Bowl. But in order to keep up his top-10 momentum, the massive tackle is going to need to show that he has beaten the scale. At the Senior Bowl he was excited to weigh in at 342 pounds. That's because he has been working to come down from the 360 he played at in college. If he can meet his goal of 335 pounds, and show the fruits of his labor in the drills, that should cement his draft stock.
Alvin 'Bud' Dupree, DE/OLB, Kentucky - Bud was the premier defender for Kentucky, and is -- somewhat -- quietly rising up draft boards. Dupree is an explosive, powerful athlete who could, even should, work his way into the national eye with a spectacular combine performance. He should be fast, agile, powerful, and jump out of the gym. He's going to need to do well in interviews to show teams that he is more than just another edge rusher.
Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington - Another Husky who could be a top-10 pick. Thompson won the award for the nation's most versatile player last year, and was a major contributor as a linebacker, a running back, and on special teams. His stock is based on his dynamic athleticism, particularly for the linebacker position. Thompson is going to need to show that he has the size to play linebacker at the next level, and can hold it while keeping his wheels.
Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri - Ray doesn't have much to prove. He might be saddled with the "Tweener" tag, but his athleticism lets him get away with it. He can play all over any defense -- at times he would even move inside to 3-technique in Missouri's 4-3 defense --, though his best position might be as a LEO in a 4-3 Under. Ray should put on a show at the combine, and that's enough reason to watch (and wonder why the rest of us can't do that).
DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville - Odell Beckham Jr's supernova of an explosion onto the national stage covers up for the fact that behind him the Giants have nothing but question marks at receiver. Victor Cruz's leg, Rueben Randle's consistency, and then a whole bunch of intriguing but unproven players on the back end of the roster. Parker isn't getting much attention right now, but a strong showing could solidify his stock as a top-10 talent. He will need to show the short area quickness -- both in on field drills and in timed events -- and long speed to compete with Amari Cooper, but his catch radius (wingspan and vertical jump) is sure to raise eyebrows.
Landon Collins, S, Alabama - It doesn't get talked about much, but Landon Collins could be another player without a position. How teams view him as a defensive back might be heavily influenced by how he measures. There simply aren't many 6-0, 225 pound safeties in the NFL. As well, he is going to have to show the fluidity and flexibility to be an NFL safety.
The Offensive Linemen - Brandon Scherff, La'El Collins, Andrus Peat, Ereck Flowers ... These guys will have to separate themselves from one another. Scherff and Collins will need to show the movement skills to make them potential tackles at the next level, while Peat and Flowers will need to show that they are better options than what the Giants have in place on the edges. Also, Flowers will need to pass his medical exams with flying colors after reports that an old knee injury kept him out of games.
Potential Day 2 Prospects
Paul Dawson, LB, TCU - It seems as though Dawson's draft stock could be entirely dependent on his interviews. While nothing concrete has surfaced for those of us on the outside, the linebacker's obvious talent is tempered by whispers of serious character concerns while at TCU. He was accused of being a handful at TCU, with some questioning his commitment to the game. If his interviews come off as anything less than sterling, Dawson will need to put on a show to convince teams -- particularly teams like the Giants -- that he would be worth their trouble.
Denzel Perryman, LB, Miami - Perryman is going to need to show off at the combine to keep his stock afloat. He is already getting dinged for being undersized, but he gets tagged as short and unathletic, his stock could seriously plummet. Perryman will need a respectable 40 time, as well as good times in the short shuttle and 3-cone drills to go with good work on the field drills. He's a player that teams want to like, but he needs to take away as many chances to second guess his selection as possible.
Carl Davis, DT, Iowa - The Giants like their defenders big and long, and Davis is certainly that. But he will need to show that he has the feet and quickness to be able to use his other physical tools at the next level. His on-field drills will be very important to show that he has the agility to rush the passer despite not having much production.
Danielle Hunter, DE/OLB, LSU - Hunter is going to be an interesting prospect to watch. He might find himself in a similar position as former teammate Odell Beckham. Hunter isn't widely considered a top prospect yet, he lacks some of the size teams prefer, and his college production was curiously lacking. But, he has some very intriguing upside. He is tall, long, has vines for arms, flashes jarring power, particularly for a 240 pound defensive end, and shows sudden, fluid athleticism. He is very undersized for a 4-3 DE, but he also carries his 240 pounds at less than 5 percent body fat. He might be able to add mass and retain that athleticism, or he might have to transition to an outside linebacker. If so, the combine is the place to show that he has the movement skills to pull it off. Like Beckham, Hunter is a guy who could see his stock rocket up as the draft approaches.
Cody Prewitt, S, Ole Miss - A captain of Ole Miss' dangerous defense, Prewitt has high character and the mental part of the game down. He'll need to show that he has the athleticism to be a true free safety at the next level, a position of dire need (at the moment) for the Giants.
The Guards - A.J. Cann, Laken Tomlinson, Josue Matais, Tre' Jackson, Jarvis Harrison... These guys could all be in the conversation in the 2nd or 3rd rounds, and they will need to show they have the movement skills to keep teams from scratching them off their boards due to scheme fit.
The Running Backs - This draft class sports an embarrassment of riches at the running back position. The second day of the draft should see several taken with legitimate first round talent. With the glut of talent at the position, guys like Duke Johnson, Ameer Abdullah, Jay Ajayai, Mike Davis, David Cobb, and Tevin Coleman will have to find ways to separate themselves from each other, and the rest of the prospects.
Could one, or more, of these prospects be a future Giants? We'll just have to wait until the draft to find out, but they are about to start the biggest job interview of their lives.
If all goes well, some prospects will -- as Mike Mayock likes to put it -- keep checking boxes. For others, an unexpectedly good or bad showing will force scouts back to the film room to re-evaluate the prospect in question. Good or bad, right or wrong, the Combine always has a big effect on how the draft plays out.