Michael Sam might have the most on the line among defensive players at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine.
Sam has many ways to impress NFL teams this weekend. He’s meeting with the media on Saturday, and he’s likely to draw massive crowds. How he handles tough questions from reporters will be important.
Sam will also meet with teams and do all the normal combine speed and agility drills. NFL teams will also likely be watching how Sam interacts with other draft prospects.
Sam’s undersized for a defensive end, so if there’s any hope that he can transition to linebacker, he’ll need to impress in the 40-yard dash, three-cone drill and 20-yard short shuttle.
Sam’s the most high-profile player at the combine, but he’s not the best. Check out the top defensive players at the combine.
Louis Nix is currently ranked as the consensus No. 1 defensive tackle, but Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman and Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan could pass him before May’s draft. Hageman has the best chance to stand out at the combine. Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald is also expected to shine.
Donald is undersized at 6-foot-1, 290 pounds, but he has Geno Atkins-type upside. He had 11 sacks in his senior season.
C.J. Mosley is the top “off-the-line” linebacker in this class. He’s projected as an inside linebacker, but he could probably play weakside and strongside linebacker, as well. Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier and BYU’s Kyle Van Noy are the No. 2 and 3 linebackers in the 2014 class.
Connecticut’s Yawin Smallwood could be a combine star. He showed great athleticism with the Huskies. He’s currently projected as a second- or third-round pick.
Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard and Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert have both been ranked as the No. 1 cornerbacks in this class. Gilbert is bigger and more athletic, while Dennard had better stretches in college.
Dennard is the cousin of Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. Gilbert is expected to be one of the fastest players at the combine. A solid outing could vault him into the top half of the draft.
Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will look to be the next Crimson Tide first-round defensive back. Safety Mark Barron and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick went in the first round of the 2012 draft; cornerback Dee Milliner was a Jets first-round pick in 2013.
Louisville’s Calvin Pryor is competing for the top safety spot in the draft. He’s a bigger player in the Kam Chancellor mold.