Tennessee will be well-represented at the NFL Scouting Combine that begins later this month, but the six invited Vols – Joshua Dobbs, Josh Malone, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Cam Sutton, Alvin Kamara and Derek Barnett – will also have plenty of questions to answer.
Here are some of the things NFL teams will be looking for and asking about UT’s contingent in Indianapolis:
1. How healthy is Jalen Reeves-Maybin’s shoulder?
Reeves-Maybin could be a steal in the draft. A productive outside linebacker and special teams ace in college, he’s the type of player who could stick around in the league for years. But is his shoulder going to hold up? After dealing with multiple surgeries in his career, it’s a fair question to ask. It’s unclear at this point how much he’ll be able to do physically in Indianapolis, but perhaps more important than any run, jump or drill will be his medical examination. If teams have concerns about the shoulder, he could fall down – or even off – some draft boards.
2. Is Joshua Dobbs accurate enough to play in the NFL?
I’m of the belief that Dobbs will be drafted, and possibly higher than some are expecting. But his accuracy, which was spotty at times during his career at Tennessee, will be under the microscope in Indy. He’ll crush the interviews. He might ace the Wonderlic test. He’ll run and test well across the board. But if he chooses to throw, scouts will have a close eye on his accuracy on every pass that he attempts. That could be the difference in him jumping up into the top few rounds or falling closer to the bottom.
3. How will Derek Barnett test?
Going just on productivity, Barnett should be in the discussion to be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. But scouts and analysts are concerned that Barnett might not run, lift and jump at an elite level during the testing. That’s a big reason why Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, who wasn’t as productive as Barnett in college, is getting the nod as the likely top defensive end in the 2017 draft. That should put a chip on Barnett’s shoulder for the tests – regardless of if he opts to do them at the combine or wait until his pro day in Knoxville. If he puts up better numbers than expected, he might be a top-10 pick after all.
4. Is Cam Sutton a No. 1 CB?
At times during his UT career, the answer was yes. But after an injury slowed him in 2016, Sutton struggled at times during his final few games and might’ve seen his draft stock take a hit in the process. The good news for him is that his versatility brings value. He can play outside corner, nickel or possibly even safety, based on his performance during the Senior Bowl earlier this year. He’s a great option at punt returner as well. But how well he measures and moves at the combine might be the difference in teams viewing him as a potential top CB or just a versatile player who can help out some in the secondary.
5. Is Alvin Kamara a first-round talent?
Kamara’s been a hot name so far this offseason. Numerous analysts have singled him out as a player on the rise, and he’s beginning to show up in the first round of several prominent mock drafts Experts are banking on him testing well since he didn’t get as many touches as some of the other top running back prospects, so there will be a lot of pressure on him to run one of the best times at the combine. If he can light up the stop watch and then show his hands in pass-catching drills as well, the first-round projections very well could be accurate for him.