While football season officially ended on Feb. 3 when the New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams for another Super Bowl title, anyone who follows the NFL can tell you the league never sleeps.
At the end of the season, teams immediately look to add players, coaches and staff that will improve the franchise’s chance of winning the next year. Most of these additions will come from the annual NFL Draft on April 25-27 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Before that, more than 300 players will try to catch the eyes of scouts and media in the NFL Scouting Combine, which is held Feb. 26-March 4 in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. In the next week, players will be interviewed, measured and tested in on-field drills as NFL teams contemplate who to select.
Nine former Ole Miss players were invited to attend the scouting combine, the fourth-most from any college program in the nation. A.J. Brown, Dawson Knox, Greg Little, DaMarkus Lodge, Javon Patterson, Jordan Ta’amu, Ken Webster, D.K. Metcalf and Zedrick Woods will showcase their talent in front of all 32 franchises looking for their perfect fit.
There’s no doubt that the strongest position group coming out of Oxford is the wide receivers. The combination of D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown and DaMarkus Lodge terrorized defensive backfields during their time on the “Nasty Wide Outs” at Ole Miss. The highest-rated wideout of the three is Metcalf, who was recently moved up to No. 14 on Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board of prospects this week.
“He has all the physical traits you want, terrific athleticism, elite long speed and the ability to catch outside his frame at a high level,” said Jon Ledyard, senior Draft analyst for The Draft Network. “Although Metcalf’s routes and hands need work, his releases are polished, and he reportedly has elite work ethic to accompany his love for the game. Little bit of a risky prospect, but he’s the type of player you bet on.”
There is some reluctance from teams, considering he suffered a scary neck injury during the 2018 season, but recent photos posted on his Twitter suggest he’s in the best shape of his life. Teams will be closely watching his medical check.
Brown and Lodge are certainly no slouches. Brown finish seventh in the FBS in receiving yards with 1,320 off of 85 catches in 12 games in 2018. He’ll be a target for teams looking for a player who can play in the slot and is not afraid to go up the middle and catch contested throws. Lodge had 877 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2018 and boasts elite speed and ball skills.
The man who delivered the ball to the talented receivers will also be in Indianapolis. Jordan Ta’amu is a sleeper in this year’s quarterback class, but he impressed in the East-West Shrine game earlier in the offseason. The quarterback racked up 5,600 yards, 30 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions in 19 games at Ole Miss.
Greg Little will also be in attendance. He’s sure to impress scouts with his massive frame and exceptional athleticism, two things any NFL team could use. His fellow lineman Javon Patterson struggled at the Senior Bowl but still has a chance to be called during the second day of the Draft.
One of the most interesting players to watch is tight end Dawson Knox. Knox is the player with the most to gain from the scouting combine. Knox saw a decrease in his already minimal targets last year, but he flashed special physical skills when he was used.
The Ole Miss defensive backfield will have two representatives at the combine in Ken Webster and Zedrick Woods. Webster suffered a serious knee injury back in the 2016 season-opener against Florida State. Woods had 79 tackles for the Rebels in 2018. The defensive backs had two interceptions each last season.
Little and Patterson will take the field first on Friday to perform drills, while Metcalf, Brown, Lodge, Ta’amu and Knox will work out on Saturday. Webster and Woods will finish the weekend on Monday.
The entire combine will be broadcast on NFL Network.