Recapping the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The 2015 NFL Scouting Combine officially concluded Monday in Indianapolis and offered numerous takeaways from the annual pre-draft evaluation process.

The Chiefs will apply the information gained from the Combine to numerous Pro Day workouts, and bring in additional prospects for visits before finalizing a plan for the NFL Draft.

Feb 23, 2015; Indianapolis; Defensive backs get instructions during the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 23, 2015; Indianapolis; Defensive backs get instructions during the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, the Chiefs won’t lose focus on free agency, which kicks off March 10, signaling a busy time of the year between now and the draft.

But before those events, here is a snapshot of what we learned of the Chiefs in the past week:

POSITIONS OF NEED

The Chiefs tend to rely on a Jason Bourne-like Level 5 top secret clearance on player interviews – either formal or informal – throughout the Combine.

So, maintaining diligence during the four days spent in Indianapolis for open media sessions with draft prospects is critical to get past the Chiefs’ safeguards. Any information obtained from players offers a view of what a team could have in mind.

And it certainly doesn’t hurt to have an understanding of what the Chiefs prefer at certain positions before seeking out players to interview at the Combine.

The first day brought in offensive linemen, tight ends and specialists.

A picture emerged from making the rounds the Chiefs spoke to quite a few offensive linemen, specifically versatile offensive linemen with the ability to play more than one position.

Arizona State’s Jamil Douglas, Utah’s Jeremiah Poutasi and Texas A&M’s Cedric Ogbuehi, all of whom can play tackle and guard, are among prospects as confirmed to talk to the Chiefs.

Offensive line doesn’t surprise given the Chiefs’ struggles along the front five in 2014, especially at the left guard position.

Day Two of the Combine brought in the wide receivers, an area producing angst the past season where no Chiefs wideout topped 800 yards receiving or recorded a receiving touchdown.

Of the receivers known to talk to the Chiefs, size apparently matters. Missouri’s Dorial Green-Beckham, UNLV’s Devante Davis and Michigan’s Devin Funchess are 6-3 or taller.

This year’s draft class at wide receiver is widely regarded as being as deep as the 2014 class, so the Chiefs should have plenty of options to consider.

“A lot of wideouts this year, man, just like last year,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said on the final day of media availability. “The thing about this draft is I don’t know where Funchess is going or what he’s going to be. I don’t know where DGB, Green-Beckham, is going or Breshad Perriman, who didn’t work out today because of injury. He’s another guy that if he tests well, he can make a conversation about him in the first round. And then you start talking about your guy, Devin Smith, or Phillip Dorsett or those kinds of guys and it’s exciting how deep you can get in this wide receiver class again with quality players.”

The final two days of the Combine brought in the defense, and Georgia inside linebacker Ramik Wilson said he was scheduled for a formal interview with the Chiefs.

Feb 20, 2015; Indianapolis; Georgia linebacker Ramik Wilson talks to the media at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Teope

Feb 20, 2015; Indianapolis; Georgia linebacker Ramik Wilson talks to the media at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Teope

That the Chiefs talked to an inside linebacker also makes sense considering the position needs an infusion of youth (Derrick Johnson turns 33 in November; Joe Mays turns 30 in July).

The Chiefs also spent time with defensive backs, which isn’t a bad idea with starting cornerback Sean Smith and free safety Husain Abdullah entering the final year or their respective contracts.

TCU free safety Chris Hackett and Utah cornerback Eric Rowe are among a group of defensive backs offering options during the draft.

In the meantime, formal interviews shouldn’t be viewed as the final word of the direction the Chiefs are leaning.

But the process is important.

For examples from 2014, the Chiefs quietly conducted formal interviews at the Combine with outside linebacker Dee Ford and cornerback Phillip Gaines, the team’s first two selections of last year’s draft.

While those sessions weren’t discovered at the 2014 Combine during media availability, Ford and Gaines revealed the interviews during their respective postdraft conference call with Chiefs beat writers.

Of note, ArrowheadPride.com has a running list of players reported by various media outlets as being linked to the Chiefs at the Combine.

WHAT WILL THE CHIEFS DO IN THE DRAFT?

That is the million-dollar question, but the answer always remains to be seen.

It is important to keep in mind the Combine is one part of the draft process. Additionally, what happens during free agency will go a long way in determining the roster holes still requiring attention.

Still, the Chiefs will have opportunities with a possible 11 total draft picks based on compensatory picks.

The glaring needs are wide receiver, offensive line and inside linebacker. The Chiefs could also benefit by bolstering depth in the defensive secondary and at the running back position with Jamaal Charles turning 29 in late December.

FREE-AGENT TALKS

Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said during his Day Two media session one of the good things about the Combine is having agents present. The close proximity of team decision makers and player representatives allows an opportunity to conduct business surrounding pending free agents.

And the Chiefs have plenty to discuss with the likes of outside linebacker Justin Houston, center Rodney Hudson, safety Ron Parker and linebacker Josh Mauga, among others, scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on March 10.

The Chiefs were scheduled to meet with Houston’s agent, but it has been quiet as to the results of the negotiations. The Chiefs are expected to utilize the franchise designation on Houston in the absence of a long-term deal before the March 2 deadline.

Meanwhile, sources confirmed with ChiefsDigest.com talks between the Chiefs and the agents of Parker and Mauga occurred at the Combine.

INTRIGUING PLAYER UNDER THE RADAR

Georgia cornerback Damian Swann measured 6-0, 189 pounds and posted a respectable 4.5 40-yard dash time, which tied for the ninth-best time among the 40-plus cornerbacks to run.

What piqued interest surrounded what Swann told ChiefsDigest.com on the feedback he received from team interviews during his Day Four media availability.

“Getting a lot being able to play a lot of different spots,” Swann said. “Playing in the nickel, playing on the corner, playing a little safety. I think that’s really what’s going to help me throughout this whole process is being able to play those different spots and get on the field.”

Swann played in a 3-4 base defense at Georgia and said he was comfortable in a press-man scheme. At the time of his media availability, Swann said the Chiefs weren’t among the teams he previously spoke to.

But that changed after his media session.

The Chiefs held an informal interview with Swann before the end of the Combine, a source familiar with the situation confirmed Monday night with ChiefsDigest.com.

One of the biggest difference between a formal and interview surrounds the time constraints.

Teams are allocated a 15-minute segment with a maximum of 60 players during a formal process. But an informal discussion allows more time with available players in an unstructured setting.

Other players confirmed by ChiefsDigest.com to have informal interviews with the Chiefs at the Combine are Florida State cornerback Ronald Darby and Louisville free safety Gerod Holliman.

Feb 20, 2015; Indianapolis; Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney talks to the media at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Teope

Feb 20, 2015; Indianapolis; Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney talks to the media at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Teope

LOCAL FEEL

Three of the local schools to Kansas City were represented at the Combine.

Kansas sent inside linebacker Ben Heeney, cornerback JaCorey Shepherd and punter Trevor Pardula.

And the presence of three Jayhawks after the school didn’t send a player to the 2014 Combine proved a source of pride to Pardula.

“It shows that we have the talent there, that we have the potential,” Pardula said. “And so it’s a good thing showing that Kansas is a place where talent can come from.”

Kansas State was represented by center B.J. Finney and wide receiver Tyler Lockett.

The Wildcats have had a steady flow of players at the Combine in recent years, and previous K-State players took care of their own with preparation.

“(Green Bay Packer wide receiver) Jordy (Nelson) has been huge for me in this process just saying enjoy it, don’t get overwhelmed,” Finney said. “Don’t make it a bigger  deal than what it is. Just relax and be yourself. He and Nick Leckey and Ryan Lilja, the older guys, they told me I have four years of film, so the film is going to speak for itself. There’s really not a whole lot I can say or do to move myself up a round. They’re going to slot you where they slot you.”

Missouri had the largest group with five: Defensive end Marcus Golden, wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, offensive lineman Mitch Morse, running back Marcus Murphy and defensive end Shane Ray.

The Tigers have emerged to produce numerous professional players, especially on defense, and Morse said the experience of practicing against NFL-caliber players in college proved invaluable.

“It’s been a privilege my whole Mizzou career to go against guys who have played in the NFL, who are going to play in the NFL and guys who in a few years will play in the NFL,” Morse said. “You can’t put a value on that. I’ve just been fortunate to have teammates like that. We’re able to push each other in practice and it shows and it correlates to on the field.”

Of the local players present in Indianapolis, Shepherd, Lockett and Murphy did not make it through the media room for unknown reasons.

The players will now focus on Pro Day workouts:

• Kansas State, March 10
• Missouri, March 19
• Kansas, TBA

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