The 2011 NFL Combine begins this Thursday and DeMarco Murray, Quinton Carter and Jeremy Beal are looking to become the next crop of Sooners bound for NFL stardom. While each of their respective college careers standout they still must prove to NFL execs they're worth spending a draft pick on. Exactly what they have to prove differs with each player but the one common theme is speed.
Jeremy Beal left Oklahoma with 229 career tackles and 29 sacks but the knock against him is that he lacks the size for an NFL caliber defensive end. This means a shift in position to play linebacker at the next level and speed will be a key to making that a successful transition. Currently he's projected to be a third round pick but can improve his stock by showing a few things.
He needs to prove that he has the speed and agility to consistently get to the point of attack. The three cone drill and the shuttle run will be a key to proving this. He needs to prove that he has the strength to shed blockers. A solid performance in the bench press is what Beal will be looking for here. He needs to prove that he has can make a tackle in space. Again the bench press comes into play.
Quinton Carter already has the knockout power of an NFL safety and certainly isn't afraid to make the big hit. During his All American career at Oklahoma he recorded 221 passes, 8 interceptions and broke up 13 passes. He's currently projected as a second or third round draft pick but again there's room to improve his status.
He needs to prove his size. He's listed at 6-1/200 which is great size for an NFL safety. He needs to show football intellect. The Wonderlic Test is one thing (which I'm sure Cater will do well) but he needs to show that he understands schemes and assignments. Speed! He needs to show that he not only has NFL power but also NFL speed. His 40 time may be his most scrutinized stat of the combine.
DeMarco Murray racked up 5,256 all-purpose yards at Oklahoma. He enters the combine as one of the most versatile backs going into the draft. His 3,685 yards on the ground prove his ability to run the ball but his 1,571 receiving yards may be his most valuable asset as all-purpose backs are becoming more popular in the NFL. He's currently listed as a second or third round draft pick but could easily see his stock improve to first round status with a good showing at the combine.
Murray must prove that he's currently healthy. He will be poked and prodded by every team doctor in the facility. Must prove he can change his running style. If you're Adrian Peterson then an upright running position will work in the NFL. If you're DeMarco Murray then you must change the way you run. Has to prove he's fast. Murray is a glider when he runs. His explosiveness may be questioned a bit but his top end speed is legit. His 40 time will make a huge difference in where he shows up on draft boards.
Oklahoma doesn't have the star power going into this year's draft that they did in 2010 but then again that was a special class. This group has a chance to give OU another solid representation in the NFL draft for two consecutive years. It all starts this weekend though with their combine performances. We'll be back next week to evaluate their performances.
Watch NFL Scouting Combine Feb 24 - Mar 1st on the NFL Network.