Posted: Feb 20, 2014 6:00 PM by Thomas Bradbury, KOMU 8 Sports Digital Producer
Updated: Feb 21, 2014 9:52 AM
COLUMBIA - The Missouri Tigers football team will be well represented at the NFL Scouting Combine. Seven players from Missouri's Cotton Bowl squad will make the trip to Indianapolis this weekend.
Gaining an invite to the so called "Underwear Olympics" is an important step onto the path toward playing on Sundays. Often, how athletes perform at the combine is considered by some NFL general managers to be close to, if not, just as important when grading these athletes.
A comparison to the importance of the combine is like attempting to get accepted into college. Depending on the school, they will either value your grades and achievements over the four years, or your test score higher. The combine is the NFL's equivalent to the ACTs.
Here's a look at the Tigers who are scheduled to be in attendance and when their position groups will take the field for workouts in Indianapolis.
Saturday Feb. 22: Tight ends, offensive line, special teams
Justin Britt will be the first of the seven Tigers to compete at the combine. Britt started all 14 games for Missouri this season at left tackle, and played in all but three games over his four years with the Tigers. Britt has the size, at 6 feet 6 inches and 320 pounds, to compete at the NFL level. An impressive display at the combine may be in store for the former high-school Missouri state wrestling champion. Britt is currently projected as a 6-7th round pick by NFL.com.
Sunday Feb. 23: Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers
Missouri has three players working out at the combine on Sunday. The trio, includes two of the most productive players on Missouri's offense this season, Henry Josey, L'Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas.
Josey was very productive this season for Missouri. He scored 16 touchdowns and rushed for more than one thousand yards. Josey is leaving Missouri a season early. His past knee injuries played "a big role" in his decision to leave for the draft. Concerns about his durability along with his small, 5 feet 9 inch, frame are reasons why he's projected by NFL.com to be a 7th round pick. A 4.4 second 40 yard dash time, like what he ran last spring, would help allow Josey to move up draft boards.
Washington was a big-play-maker at wide receiver for Missouri this season. He had ten touchdowns and averaged 17.9 yards per catch. Scouts love his length at 6 feet 4 inches and his huge wingspan. If he can have a fast forty-yard dash time, expect him to be drafted much earlier than his current 5-6th round projection from NFL.com.
Lucas was only Missouri's third most productive receiver this past season. He played alongside Dorial Green-Beckham and L'Damian Washington. In spite of the competition for receptions, Lucas still had 58 catches and finished just eight yards shy of 700 receiving yards. Lucas has outstanding size at 6 feet 5 inches and weighing in at 220 pounds. His size helps him look favorable to teams looking for a player that can make the tough catches across the middle of the field. Despite his impressive size, his lack of acceleration keeps him projected by NFL.com as a 7th round pick or possibly undrafted.
Monday Feb. 24: Defensive linemen, linebackers
Monday is the day that will likely be highly watched by Tiger fans as Kony Ealy and Michael Sam perform drills.
With exception to possibly Johnny Manziel, there hasn't been a player with more attention on them heading into this draft than Michael Sam. Sam, the SEC defensive player of the year, publicly came out as gay last week and received support from teammates, students, and even President Obama. Sam, who lettered in power-lifting and track on top of football in high school should impress in workouts. He's currently projected to be a 4-5th round pick by NFL.com. Scouts have questions about his size. At 6 feet 2 inches and 260 pounds, Sam is considered too small to play defensive end and not athletic enough to play outside linebacker at the NFL level. If he's able to show athleticism in workouts, his draft stock may improve greatly.
At 6 feet 5 inches and 275 pounds Kony Ealy has the prototypical size of a 4-3 scheme defensive end. Despite being frequently double-teamed blocked, Ealy was very productive. He finished his season with nine sacks. Ealy has been projected as high as sixth and as low as 40th overall in a variety of mock drafts. Ealy has a chance to be picked in the top-ten of the draft if he performs well at the combine.
Tuesday Feb. 25: Defensive backs
The final Tiger to go through workouts will be E.J. Gaines. Gaines started three seasons for Missouri and was a consistent contributor to Missouri's defense. Gaines had one of his best games this past season when he held Texas A&M's Mike Evans to four catches and just eight yards, thwarting the Johnny Football led A&M team and limiting its offense to just 21 points. Gaines is projected by NFL.com to be a 3-4th round pick. Considered by scouts to be a very solid corner back.
Notable snubs from the NFL Combine are quarterback James Franklin and linebacker Andrew Wilson.
The NFL Combine workouts begin on Saturday Feb. 22 and will continue through Feb. 25.