Earlier this week, we touched on how nearly a quarter of the 300-plus NFL scouting combine invitees hail from the SEC.
Receiving a combine invitation is a huge step toward getting drafted, but a prospect’s pro chances have not necessarily taken a knockout blow if they don’t participate in the event that starts next week in Indianapolis.
Ask former Auburn standout Jay Ratliff. He didn’t attend the combine, was drafted midway through the final round, and yet still managed to make four Pro Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys. In fact, an NFL.com story a few years back reported that 15 percent of drafted players over the previous decade had not been invited to the combine.
That said, here are five notable players from the SEC who did not receive combine invitations, but who could still wind up on an NFL roster this fall:
David Andrews, Georgia: This feels like an absence based solely on size. At 6-foot-3 and 294 pounds, Andrews does not have the prototypical build for an offensive lineman, but he’s a scrapper. He started at center for the Bulldogs for the last three seasons and was named the team MVP and overall team captain after his senior year. He needs to find the right offense to fit his skillset, but Andrews will make an NFL squad.
Kaleb Eulls, Mississippi State: A four-year starter along the defensive line, Eulls might be the most surprising member of this group. He has the build (6-3, 305) that pro clubs want from a defensive tackle, was solid against the run and was a good teammate at Mississippi State. He was not much of a pass-rusher in college, which could be part of the reason that he won’t be in Indianapolis. Still, he’s certainly good enough to be drafted.
Connor Neighbors, LSU: He’s not particularly big (5-11) and he plays a position that is disappearing in the pro game, but the former LSU fullback is a solid player. He was one of only two LSU prospects invited to the Senior Bowl, and ESPN Scouts Inc. lists him as the No. 2 fullback available in the draft. Only three fullbacks were drafted last year -- all in either Round 6 or 7 -- so Neighbors may or may not get drafted. But between his blocking skills and his versatility on special teams, he still has a great chance to make a roster.
Bud Sasser, Missouri: He isn’t cut from the physical cloth as the 6-5 monsters that Missouri trotted out at receiver in 2013, but Sasser put up similar numbers as a senior. He led the Tigers with 77 catches for 1,003 yards and 12 touchdowns -- impressive totals that seem like enough to get a look from some NFL club. He’s not particularly big (6-2) or fast, but Sasser is a polished wideout who is productive enough to land a roster spot -- even if he has to go the undrafted free agent route to get there.
C.J. Uzomah, Auburn: This feels like a guy who could be more productive in the pros than he was in college. Auburn doesn’t pass to its tight ends often -- Uzomah had just 27 receptions in four years -- but that doesn’t mean he can’t develop into a weapon in the pros. He probably needs to land with a team that utilizes the tight end more as a receiver -- a philosophy that seems to be growing in popularity in the NFL with guys like Jimmy Graham posting huge numbers. Uzomah fits more in that mold as an athletic, 6-foot-5 target who is not as useful in the traditional tight end role.