The NFL Combine is set to begin on February 26, 2019 and run through March 4, 2019. Prospects from all over the nation will flock to Indianapolis for the biggest job interview of their lives. Although scouts have a general idea of what players they have their eyes on, a strong performance at the combine could propel prospects up the draft boards. The Big Ten currently has 53 players that have been invited to Indianapolis, here are five that will be the most interesting to watch.
Quarterback: Clayton Thorson
The 6-foot-4 quarterback from Northwestern had a rocky senior season, but led his football team to a berth in the Big Ten Championship game. Thorson did have an issue with turnovers in 2018 throwing 15 interceptions. However, he was an effective passer and also a sneaky runner. 2016 was easily his best season and if he can replicate that production in the NFL then he will be a steal at the quarterback position.
When it comes to testing at the combine expect Thorson to impress scouts. He is the type of player that is going to look fantastic in shorts. Thorson is the perfect fit for a team looking to draft a backup quarterback who would be ready to play if needed. With uncertainty at the quarterback position in this draft Thorson has a chance to rise up the draft boards at the combine.
Running Back: Miles Sanders
Miles Sanders could be one of the biggest steals in the entire draft. Rivals, Scout and 247Sports rated Sanders as the No. 1 running back in his recruiting class. The only issue for Sanders was that he was forced to sit behind Penn State legend Saquon Barkely his first two seasons in Happy Valley. In 2018 Sanders had an excellent season as a full-time starter. He ran for 1,274 yards and nine touchdowns.
Scouts will love the fact that he does not have a lot of mileage on him with only 276 career carries. The one detriment to Sanders is the fact that he is not the same type of player Barkely was for Penn State. Sanders is more of a downhill runner that lacks the gaudy explosion that Barkley possessed. However, a strong 40-yard dash and other agility drills at the combine could quickly dispel that premise.
Defensive Lineman: Nick Bosa
Nick Bosa is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft. The former Ohio State defensive end was dominant during his time in Columbus. In 30 games Bosa notched 17 career sacks and won the Smith-Brown Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year Award in 2017. However, he will need to turn in a dominant combine performance in order to cement himself as the top player.
Currently Bosa is recovering from a core muscle injury that prematurely ended his career at Ohio State. It will be interesting to see if Bosa can put this injury behind him and impress scouts. His medical evaluation and on-field workouts will be crucial in cementing his spot as the No. 1 pick.
Defensive Lineman: Rashan Gary
Rashan Gary is a projected top-five pick in the upcoming draft. Coming out of high school Gary was No. 1 overall recruit in his class. Gary had a solid career at Michigan, earning First-team All-Big Ten honors in 2017 and 2018. The only critique of Gary is he needs to improve as a pass rusher as his sack production was low in college.
Gary is seen by some scouts as a “tweener” with no true position on the defensive line. Gary will need to give a strong performance during the position drills portion of the combine to ensure scouts that he will be productive in the NFL.
Defensive Back: Saquan Hampton
Rutgers isn’t known for being an NFL pipeline, but the program has produced it’s fair share of NFL defensive backs. Saquan Hampton could be the next Scarlet Knight to follow in the footsteps of Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon, Devin McCourty and Jason McCourty. Hampton’s play this past season was one of the few bright spots in another dreadful season for the Scarlet Knights.
Although he does not have a big name, Hampton has had excellent production on the field. In 2018 the Rutgers captain notched three interceptions and was tied for the lead in passes defended by a Big Ten safety. During the Senior Bowl Hampton flashed, recording ten combined tackles, earning himself defensive player of the week. Scouts will love the fact that Hampton is a rare safety that has a cornerback background. This allows him to play man coverage. A big day at the combine could propel Hampton into the middle rounds of the draft.