Justin Blackmonís speed, top DT prospect are among questions going into NFL combine

By Dan Pompei
The National Football Post
Feb 20, 12:04 pm EST

Much will be learned when league officials convene in Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine this week. I asked several front office men what particular issues they are hoping to sort out. Here are the issues that are foremost on their minds.

Who is the top defensive tackle? There is no consensus on this yet. One personnel director said any one of the five top DTs could be the first off the board, depending in part on what happens at the combine. Devon Still of Penn State has been in the poll position all year, but underclassman Michael Brockers of Louisiana State now is running neck and neck. Others within a nose are Michigan Stateís Jerel Worthy, Mississippi Stateís Fletcher Cox and Connecticutís Kendall Reyes. The combine should help teams separate the DTs, but all are potential first-round picks.

How fast is Justin Blackmon? It has been widely accepted that the Oklahoma State receiver will be a top five pick. But heís not a burner. If Blackmon runs a 4.6 40, itís unlikely a team will be able to justify using a top five pick on him. There are a few other receivers who may be speed deficient who need to run well as well. Among them are Notre Dameís Michael Floyd, Wisconsinís Nick Toon, South Carolinaís Ashlon Jeffery and Rutgersí Mohamed Sanu.

Should Matt Kalil be the top offensive tackle? He is No. 1 on most boards, but not every talent evaluator is crazy about the Southern Cal blocker. One told me he wants to see how Jonathan Martin of Stanford, Riley Reiff of Iowa, Mike Adams of Ohio State and Cordy Glenn of Georgia stack up athletically. It is possible one or more of them could pass Kalil.

Who is the third quarterback? After Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, nothing is set in stone. If either Ryan Tannenhill of Texas A&M, Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State or Brock Osweiler of Arizona State can make a great impression in Indy, they can lay claim to that third QB spot. Thatís significant because the third quarterback chosen very well could be the last quarterback taken in the first round.

Who is the second running back? This could end up being a beauty is in the eye of the beholder thing. And itís possible there will be a very long wait between when Trent Richardson is chosen and when the second running back is chosen. But the combine will present an opportunity for Virginia Techís David Wilson, Boise Stateís Doug Martin, Cincinnatiís Isaiah Pead, Oregonís LeMichael James and Miamiís Lamar Miller.

How will the two cornerback transfers stack up to the competition? Specifically, should NFL teams view Janoris Jenkins and Janzen Jackson like the All-SEC players they were two years ago, or should they view them as flawed prospects who were forced to transfer from Florida and Tennessee, respectively? Interviews will be key for both players. This is a chance for Jenkins and Jackson to show they are willing, compliant and respectful Ė all of which are questions going in.

Which of the smaller pass rushers can play outside linebacker in a three-man front? Teams that operate a 3-4 are hopeful a number of college defensive ends will be willing to partake in outside linebacker drills. Among the players who will be watched closely include Alabamaís Courtney Upshaw, Illinoisí Whitney Mercilus, South Carolinaís Melvin Ingram, West Virginiaís Bruce Irvin, Marshallís Vinny Curry and Boise Stateís Shea McClellin.