The NFL Scouting Combine is a crucial part of the NFL draft evaluation process and the league released the list of the 324 invitees on Wednesday morning. With the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Bowl now in the rearview mirror, the combine qualifies as the next must-watch event in the process.
Every year, players who were not invited to the annual “underwear Olympics” go on to carve out an excellent career for themselves despite their snubs. Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Kevin Byard, and Osi Umenyiora qualify as some all-time snubs that went on to experience great success.
We’ve identified 10 combine snubs who possess the potential to overcome this disappointment and make an impact at the next level.
REED BLANKENSHIP, S, MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE
Reed Blankenship departs Middle Tennessee’s defense for the NFL after accumulating 419 total tackles, 19 passes deflected, and nine interceptions across five productive seasons. Blankenship was the leader of the Blue Raiders’ secondary while serving as a live-action energizer bunny on the field.
Blankenship is a tone-setter who possesses and plays with the type of infectious personality that rubs off on his teammates. Blankenship reads the game at an incredibly high level and can wear multiple hats defensively. He has an excellent chance to make an NFL roster while outperforming his draft slot.
JEQUEZ EZZARD, WR, SAM HOUSTON STATE
Sam Houston State’s Jequez Ezzard earned himself a late call-up to the Senior Bowl and undeniably made the most of his opportunity in Mobile while showcasing a strong ability to defeat opposing defensive backs vertically. Ezzard averaged an impressive 18.6 yards per reception across his final two seasons at Sam Houston State and is a big play waiting to happen on any given snap. He adds extra value via special teams and scored two touchdowns on punt returns for the Bearkats. Ezzard is a dynamic playmaker that should be performing at the combine.
JEAN DELANCE, OT, FLORIDA
Jean Delance started 12 games for the Florida Gators in 2021 while manning the right tackle position. Delance particularly excelled as a run blocker in Florida’s offensive attack. Delance’s efforts earned him an invite to this year’s East-West Shrine Bowl where he showcased improved abilities as a pass protector while highlighting his desired length and lightning-quick feet.
Delance drew plenty of interest and intrigue at the all-star event. He has an excellent chance to be drafted on day three and should be at the combine.
TARIQ CARPENTER, S/LB, GEORGIA TECH
Tariq Carpenter is one of few Senior Bowl participants that didn’t receive an invitation to the combine, a development that qualifies him as a notable omission. Carpenter is a versatile defender that showcased good instincts throughout solid showings in Mobile. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound do-it-all defender experienced an excellent senior campaign in 2021 that was best highlighted by his ability to play various roles for the Yellow Jackets defense. Carpenter possesses the size, speed, and hard-nosed mentality to play on Sundays.
DAREKE YOUNG, WR, LENOIR-RHYNE
Dareke Young was one of the elite standout performers at last week’s East-West Shrine Bowl. Young initially won the weigh-in process by measuring in at an excellent 6-foot-2 and 223 pounds with a wingspan shockingly north of 79 inches. The D-II receiver then strung together several impressive practices as opposing defensive backs struggled to match his speed and route-running ability.
Young showcased soft, natural hands when catching the football and also highlighted his ability to play as a punt returner. Young possesses the raw skill set necessary to warrant a late-day-three draft selection.
GREGORY JUNIOR, CB, OUACHITA BAPTIST
Ouachita Baptist cornerback Gregory Junior certainly qualified as one of the smaller-school prospects in Mobile, but he never looked out of place among power five competition at this year’s Senior Bowl. Junior is a tough-natured press-man cornerback that plays an extremely physical brand of football. Junior prefers to challenge receivers at the line of scrimmage with an iron-like grip in press-man.
Junior strung together several impressive reps against North Dakota State’s Christian Watson at one juncture throughout practice. His absence from this year’s combine will be astounding based on what we witnessed in Mobile.
ALI FAYAD, DE/OLB, WESTERN MICHIGAN
Ali Fayad exploded for the Broncos in 2021 by posting a team-high 12 sacks in 12 appearances. The Dearborn, Michigan native was undeniably one of the better performing defensive players in the MAC throughout the season and now heads for the 2022 NFL Draft after recording an impressive 28.5 sacks across five productive campaigns. His decorated resume should have been eye-popping enough to earn him a much-deserved invite.
STERLING WEATHERFORD, S/LB, MIAMI (OH)
The Redhawks’ versatile defender earned himself a well-deserved invite to last week’s Senior Bowl where he showcased the smooth ability to turn and run with tight ends and running backs in coverage. At the next level, Sterling Weatherford projects as a subpackage linebacker/safety hybrid that could find himself on the field in obvious passing situations.
Weatherford impressed several onlookers in Mobile with his developed ability to match would-be receivers step for step down the field. Weatherford understands coverage at an extremely high level, and that’s valuable in today’s pass-happy game.
CHASE GARBERS, QB, CALIFORNIA
Chase Garbers experienced a strong 2021 campaign by accounting for nearly 3,000 yards of total offense and 20 touchdowns via his ability to hurt opposing defenses with both his arm and his legs. Garbers’ dual-threat skill set was well highlighted at the NFLPA Bowl, where he put forth a strong performance.
Garbers qualifies as a developmental quarterback prospect with athletic ability in bunches. His versatility makes him ideal for a practice squad roster spot where he could work on improving his skills as a pure thrower. Garbers also makes for an ideal scout-team quarterback as teams prepare to face athletic quarterbacks on Sundays.
TAYSIR MACK, WR, PITTSBURGH
Taysir Mack led the Panthers (minimum qualifiers included) by averaging 17.1 yards per reception in 2021 while often serving as Kenny Pickett’s favorite big-play target on the field. A late October upper-arm injury unfortunately cost Mack the remainder of the Panthers’ 2021 season.
Mack struggled with injury throughout his time at Pittsburgh, but the Brooklyn, New York native was routinely productive and efficient when healthy. Mack displayed excellent chemistry alongside Pickett while showcasing strong skills as a route-runner. He qualifies as a legitimate NFL draft sleeper.