The NFL scouting combine is loaded with secondary storylines involving SEC players.
Why is Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell apparently skipping the 40-yard dash and what time will Alabama's Derrick Henry post if he runs? What will Treadwell's former Rebels teammate Robert Nkemdiche have to say about the bizarre incident in an Atlanta hotel that resulted in his arrest? And how about jumbo offensive linemen like LSU's Vadal Alexander and Arkansas' Sebastian Tretola dropping weight to be at their physical best in Indianapolis?
The main purpose of the 74 SEC players' trip to Indy is to build buzz about their potential as draft prospects. The scouts and general managers have already watched them on tape. Now it's time for the players to show what they can do in measurable drills and position workouts and show off their physical tools.
Here are six SEC players who could help themselves with their performances over the next few days at the combine:
DL Chris Jones, Mississippi State: Scouts seem to view Jones as a raw prospect, but his ceiling could be incredible. He's huge -- Mississippi State listed him at 6-foot-6, 308 pounds last season -- powerful and athletically gifted enough to play every position along the defensive line. Talent evaluators will rave about Jones' versatility and potential, even if they expect it to take time for him to become an NFL standout.
LB Deion Jones, LSU: Former LSU linebacker Kwon Alexander also wore the undersized linebacker label when he arrived at the combine last year. Then he ran a 4.55-second time in the 40-yard dash, which ranked second among linebackers in Indy. Count on Jones (6-1, 219 pounds) to pull off the same trick when he runs for the scouts. The Butkus Award finalist can absolutely fly -- and he also can put that ability to use while covering kicks, which will only add to his NFL value.
OG Connor McGovern, Missouri: He will probably become a mid- to late-round draft pick, but McGovern will turn heads in at least one portion of the workouts. The former Missouri guard/tackle can push weight. He set Missouri's squat record by completing five reps at 690 pounds and tore a pectoral muscle last year while trying to bench press 515 pounds. If he participates in the bench in Indy, he will rank among the strongest players in attendance. That won't push him into the early rounds of the draft, but it could help solidify his status as one of the better guard prospects in the draft.
Nkemdiche: There will be lots of talk between now and the draft about Nkemdiche's off-field exploits and how much he loves the game. What is absolutely not in question is his physical ability. He should ace the on-field portion of this job interview, whether it's in the measurable drills or positional workouts. Remember how he even ran the ball and caught passes last season at Ole Miss? How many defensive linemen can do that? Athletically speaking, there might not be a more gifted prospect in this draft, and Nkemdiche will remind scouts of that ability on the turf in Indy.
WR De'Runnya Wilson, Mississippi State: Another freak. Wilson will probably not set the track on fire when he runs the 40, but he possesses the height (6-5, 215) and wing span to become a legitimate red zone threat in the pros. Although he was still learning how to play the position, the converted basketball player still had 918 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior. Wilson's ability to make tough catches over defenders is evident and his overall athleticism will overshadow any deficiencies in his still-developing game.
DB Jalen Mills, LSU: One of the stars from Senior Bowl week, Mills impressed scouts with his coverage skills and confidence. Although his draft profile lists Mills as a free safety, where he played in LSU's base defense over the last two seasons, it's entirely possible that his pro position will be the nickelback role he also played at LSU. The quick feet and solid footwork that made him a four-year starter will be on display at the combine. Those traits and his solid coverage skills might cause some teams to express more of an interest in Mills as a corner. Luckily, he had multiple years under his belt playing either role in college.
Two more wild cards: Former LSU cornerback Rashard Robinson and former Auburn receiver Duke Williams likely would have been on this list if they had managed to stay on their college teams. They were dismissed from their respective programs after repeated disciplinary issues. They will show off their obvious athletic gifts in Indy, but their interviews will make or break their combine experiences. Robinson and Williams must convince teams that their off-field issues are behind them and they are worth a draft pick or spot in camp.