There are several prospects that I will be paying close attention to at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, and it starts at quarterback. The following players have everything to gain or lose based on their performances.
Ryan Nassib, quarterback, Syracuse
With his former collegiate head coach now the main man for the Buffalo Bills, a team that just happens to have the eighth pick in the draft and a need at the quarterback position, Nassib's name has been tossed around as a potential first-round pick.
That is a little premature, and his performance during the Senior Bowl week exemplifies why. Nassib could be a late first-round pick if he has strong Scouting Combine and Pro Day workouts, although I will still have a hard time valuing him as anything more than a midrange second-rounder.
Nassib has worked hard this draft season to hone his craft and prepare for his big auditions. He has spent time with former NFL quarterback Ken Anderson and a long-time pro offensive coordinator in Paul Hackett.
Don't discount Buffalo trading back into the late first round to acquire Nassib. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't Doug Marrone's guy, and there is enough tape on Fitz to know what you have in him.
Geno Smith, quarterback, West Virginia
A lot on the line
Smith is considered the No. 1 quarterback in the draft by most pundits, but he still has some notable question marks - several of which I do not think can be answered at the Scouting Combine.
It has been reported that Smith will participate in all of the drills, including passing, which is a rarity in today's world. He can solidify himself as a top-10 selection, but Smith really is showcasing his skills for the Kansas City Chiefs' No. 1 spot.
Lane Johnson, offensive tackle, Oklahoma
For anyone who may be unfamiliar with Johnson's story, he is a former defensive end, quarterback and tight end before settling at offensive tackle. Talk about versatile! A freakish athlete, Johnson is participating for a midrange Round 1 spot.
Some reports suggest he can run as low as the 4.60-4.70 range in the 40-yard dash, and he very well may achieve it, but I say who cares. The offensive tackle position doesn't have to worry about running a 40 in the NFL, so I am much more concerned with his lateral agility and short-area quickness. Watch for a dazzling effort in the three-cone and short shuttle drills.
Denard Robinson, wide receiver, Michigan
Speaking of versatile, a former quarterback, then running back, then wideout, next who knows what, Robinson needs to catch well to have any chance of being drafted as a wide receiver. A fast 40 time, coupled with promising agility drill results, Robinson could find himself drafted as high as the early second day.
My gut feeling on Robinson, speaking as someone who has watched a lot of Michigan football, is that he will be nothing more than a gimmick player in the NFL and have a short career. The best-case for him is a Joshua Cribbs role, which I have written about before, but a GM would be foolish to spend anything higher than a fourth-rounder selection on the former Wolverine.
Ezekiel Ansah, defensive end, Brigham Young
As raw as sushi, this year's football fresh face is Ansah, who has a lot to prove at the Combine. At 6-foot-5, 274 pounds, with nearly 35-inch arms, Ansah is a physical monster. He needs to prove his 10-yard and short shuttle times are through the roof, because his initial burst isn't particularly impressive on film.
Ansah has unlimited upside, although his new team will have to be patient. It is unrealistic to expect him to follow the path of Jason Pierre-Paul, whose second-year ascension was nothing short of remarkable.
I like Ansah to be a first-rounder based on measurable and potential alone, just as long as he does not bomb at the Scouting Combine. Even if he is just average, his stock should already be cemented based on what he could be and the position he plays.