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Feeling left out: No Combine, no worries
By Chad Reuter, NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange

Each year more than three hundred of the top NFL draft prospects are invited to the National Invitation Camp, popularly known as "the Combine", in Indianapolis. This year, 332 players got the call to have themselves poked, prodded, watched and timed by hundreds of NFL personnel from February 18-24. The official list was published at www.nflcombine.net on Super Bowl Sunday.

A selection committee, which includes the heads of both major scouting services (National and BLESTO) and representatives from around eight teams (depending upon the year), votes on which players get the golden invites.

Approximately two-thirds of Combine participants are drafted, which means between 30 and 40 selected players will not have taken part of the festivities in Indianapolis.

This happens partially because the selection committee takes their vote before all-star games and campus workouts, when some players really on the radar of the scouting directors and general managers. And sometimes, teams don't vote for some of their top "sleepers" because they don't want other teams to "discover" them in Indy.

There are no glaring omissions from the invitation list this year, making it less likely that a non-Combine player will get the call on the first day of the draft like second round picks cornerback Shawntae Spencer (San Francisco, 2004) and Matt McCoy (Philadelphia, 2005).

Still, there will be seven or eight players selected from the late third through the fifth rounds. About ten players will be sixth round picks, and the other 15-20 hear their name called during the seventh and final round. These unheralded draftees are generally evenly split between defense and offense, with cornerbacks, offensive linemen and linebackers making up the largest share of the population.

This year's group of players looking in from the outside of the new home of the Combine workouts, the LucasOil Dome, is pretty standard. Below are sixteen of the better players who could be drafted despite the lack of an invite, plus a list of others who should not leave their phones on Sunday afternoon. Even if they're not drafted, multiple teams will be interested in their services this summer.

The top sixteen are ranked in order of their possible draft appearance, while the "others" are listed alphabetically.

"The Best of the Rest"

OG T.J. Lang (Eastern Michigan, 6-4/312/5.12): Played left tackle the past couple of seasons for EMU, but the strength and agility he displayed at left guard (and center) during the Texas vs. the Nation practices could push him into the fourth round a la Josh Sitton (Green Bay Packers, 2008).

ILB Frantz Joseph (Florida Atlantic, 6-2/243/4.73): The Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Challenge MVP is a strong inside presence who was among the nation's leaders in tackles.

OLB Jason Williams (Western Illinois, 6-1/241/4.59): Williams' combination of strength at the point of attack and coverage ability during East-West practices opened some eyes around the league.

OT Sebastian Vollmer (Houston, 6-7/314/5.27): Another East-West riser, Vollmer's continual improvement through practice and strong Shrine Game performance has pushed him up teams' boards.

TE Ryan Purvis (Boston College, 6-4/255/4.83): His production declined as a senior when Matt Ryan went to the NFL, but his play at the Texas vs. Nation practices reminded scouts of why he was highly-rated before the season.

RB Devin Moore (Wyoming, 5-9/191/4.38): It's very odd Moore was not invited to the Combine considering Steve Slaton's success as a rookie, even at 5-9 and less than 200 pounds. He could also play some receiver and return kicks.

DT Nader Abdallah (Ohio State, 6-4/295/5.12): A better technician than athlete, Abdallah's skills inside made him tough to beat at times in Texas vs. Nation practices in El Paso.

QB Willie Tuitama (Arizona, 6-3/224/4.94): Has the size and tools scouts like in a developmental prospect, which he is because of his lack of accuracy.

C Cecil Newton (Tennessee State, 6-2/294/5.19): Some teams won't like him due to his lack of size, but those looking for a very mobile center should snap him up before he becomes a highly sought-after free agent.

TE/HB Travis McCall (Alabama, 6-2/276/4.73): There are plenty of good short-but-stout pound tight ends/H-backs in the NFL (e.g. Chris Cooley, Desmond Clark, Michael Gaines, Brandon Manumaleuna), and McCall's receiving and blocking skills could put him in that category.

DE Phillip Hunt (Houston, 6-1/261/4.68): He's 6-1 but proved to scouts during Shrine week that he can be a terror as a pass rusher. He also uses leverage against taller tackles to make plays against the run on the edge.

SS Keith Fitzhugh (Mississippi State, 5-10/210/4.56): His teammate, Derek Pegues, gets the accolades but Fitzhugh is a solid in-the-box safety with better coverage skills than you'd expect.

RB/KR Aaron Brown (TCU, 6-1/196/4.49): Although he doesn't look like the typical NFL running back, Brown's quick, smooth and shifty. He could also line up in the slot and could contribute as a kick returner.

OLB Corey Smith (Cincinnati, 6-0/224/4.64): One of the leaders of a strong Cincinnati defense, Smith's lack of height should not be an issue with guys like Gerald Hayes and Clint Session in the league.

DE Pierre Walters (Eastern Illinois, 6-4/269/4.78): It's hard to imagine a player with Walters' upside and versatility going undrafted. He plays on either side of the line and is still learning how to use his hands on pass rush moves and to shed.

CB William Middleton (Furman, 5-10/193/4.44): Would make a great zone corner due to his size, closing speed and aggressiveness.

Also watch out for:

SS Al Afalava (Oregon State, 5-11/213/4.58)
RB Curtis Brinkley (Syracuse, 5-9/205/4.52)
TE Kevin Brock (Rutgers, 6-5/255/4.79)
CB Tony Carter (Florida State, 5-9/176/4.49)
FB Conredge Collins (Pittsburgh, 6-0/227/4.67)
DT John Faletoese (California-Davis, 6-2/285/4.98)
OLB Robert Francois (Boston College, 6-3/243/4.73)
CB Londen Fryar (Western Michigan, 5-11/187/4.53)
SS Trimane Goddard (North Carolina, 5-11/195/4.57)
WR JaRon Harris (South Dakota State, 6-1/192/4.49)
TE Branden Ledbetter (Western Michigan, 6-5/236/4.76)
DT Clinton McDonald (Memphis, 6-2/289/4.76)
SS Terence Moore (Troy, 6-2/218/4.65)
DE Jeremy Navarre (Maryland, 6-3/285/4.97)
CB Mark Parson (Ohio, 5-9/188/4.48)
WR Jamarko Simmons (Western Michigan, 6-2/241/4.63)
OLB Johnny Williams (Kentucky, 6-2/242/4.72)


2009 NFL Combine Invites: Please note there will be two or three late ads to take the place of players returning to school for a sixth year.

Since 2004, 176 players were drafted NOT invited to the NFL Combine, a 5 year average of (35). 2008...36 players. 2007...39 players. 2006...34. 2005...34. 2004...33. Of the 35 per year average, only 1 prospect per draft in 2004-2007 has been taken in round 2 or 3, all defensive players. Pittsburgh CB Shawntae Spencer (Round 2-Pick 26-Overall 58) by the 49ers in 2004. San Diego State LB Matt McCoy (2-31-63) by the Eagles in 2005. Stanford LB Jon Alston (3-13-77) by the Rams in 2006. Kent State CB Usama Young (3-2-66) by the Saints in 2007.

Of the 176 players, (43) or 24%, just about 1/4, are from Non-1A schools, or come from smaller conference schools. Colleges with the most non-Combine invites drafted between 2004-2008...Stanford, (5)...Virginia, (4) and Arkansas, (4). Multiple teams with (3).

Non-Combine players drafted, position trend: Improved chances for CB, LB, DE, DT, OT, OG, and WR's
with strong pro days to be drafted. Strong tilt towards defensive players. Cornerback is the position that buzzes most in March.

(Position, number of players drafted: 2004-2008 NFL Drafts combined)

Cornerback: 26
Outside Linebacker: 21
Defensive End: 16
Offensive Tackle: 14
Wide Receiver: 13
Defensive Tackle: 13
Free Safety: 13
Offensive Guard: 11
Tight End: 11
Strong Safety: 8
Inside Linebacker: 6
Quarterback: 6
Center: 5
Runningback: 5
Fullback: 4
Kicker: 3
Punter: 2

Top Fives: Schools with the most NFL Combine invites:

2009: USC (11), (12 if CB/FS Josh Pinkard does not get a sixth season), LSU (10), Penn State (8), Oklahoma (8), Ohio State (8), Georgia (8).

2008: USC (12), Virginia Tech (11), LSU (8), Arkansas (8), Texas (7)

2007: Florida (13), Tennessee (9), Texas (8), Ohio State (8), Notre Dame (8)

2006: USC (14), Ohio State (12), Miami (11), Virginia Tech (9), Florida State (9)

2005: Oklahoma (12), Florida State (11), Wisconsin (9), Michigan (7), West Virginia (6)

Modern day school single draft best: 2000-2009 NFL Draft: Tie. Ohio State (14) in 2004 and Southern Cal (14) in 2006.

Modern day school total: 2000-2009 NFL Draft: Tennessee, (76)...Ohio State, (75)...Florida State, (75)...Southern Cal, (72)...Miami, (72)...Florida, (65)...Georgia, (63)...Oklahoma, (63)...Virginia Tech, (61)...LSU, (59). Trend: Tennessee & Miami were strong in the early 2000's...USC, Ohio State & Florida have made a major push in recent years. USC and Ohio State remain strong every draft. Florida and Oklahoma look to make strong runs in the near future. SEC/ACC conference teams and talent in the state of Florida remain strong.

The top 10 prospects per position NOT invited to the NFL Combine are listed under each position and ratings will change over time to reflect those 30-40 with the best shot to be drafted based off their own Combine in March, (Pro-day).

Link: 2009 NFL Combine Invites

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