5 Under the Radar Combine Prospects to Watch During the Combine | Washington Commanders
Updated: Mar 2
By Adam Aniba
This year's NFL Combine takes place at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, but that could change next year. Attendees will arrive February 27th and the event runs through March 5th.
Many notable prospects will be in attendance from the SEC, Big 12, ACC, PAC-12, but a few under the radar prospects from lesser known divisions will also be participating and could be steals on Day 2-3 of the NFL Draft.
6'5" 255 lbs | TE | SDU
Draft Proj 3rd Rd
Career (32 Games)- 99 rec for 1,211 yds and 9 TDs (12.2 yds per rec)
'22 Stats (9 Games)- 27 rec for 348 yds and 3 TDs (12.9 yds per rec)
2021 was a breakout season for the S.Dakota tight end, who participated in all 15 games. Kraft finished second on the team with 65 receptions and 780 receiving yards for 6 TDs, catching at least two passes in every game. He proved to be a decent blocker, only allowing 3 pressures with no sacks on the year.
Awards & Accolades
Athlon Sports FCS All-America Team (2021)
HERO Sports FCS All-America First Team (2021)
Stats Perform FCS All-America First Team (2021)
Associated Press FCS All-America Second Team (2021)
HERO Sports Sophomore All-America Team (2021)
All-Missouri Valley Football Conference First Team (2021)
MVFC Honor Roll (2021)
Although 2022 was a statistically down year for Kraft, he still had an impressive QB rating of 134.7 when targeted. Kraft is a reliable safety blanket for his QB and rarely went down after initial contact, often requiring multiple defenders to bring him down.
The Commander's tight end group was a mixed bag in '22. Although they drafted tight ends in back-back years with John Bates and Cole Turner, more production is needed. Veteran tight end Logan Thomas could be a cap causality after a down year, in which he was coming off '21 knee surgery.
Kraft might not run the fastest time of his group during the combine, but possesses the intangibles to have early success on the next level.
5'9" 204 lbs | RB | TUL
Draft Proj 4th Rd
Career (33 Games)- 427 rush att for 2,910 yds & 31 TDs (6.8 yds per rec)
*Receiving- 48 rec for 564 yds 3 TDs (11.8 per carry)
'22 Stats (14 Games)- 229 rush att for 1,581 yds & 19 TDs (6.9 yds per rec)
*Receiving- 22 rec for 256 yds 2 TDs (11.6 per carry)
Spears tore his ACL early in '20, but rebounded over the next two seasons averaging over 6.0 yards a carry and displayed his ability as a reliable pass catcher.
Spears had an excellent '22 season in which he had 1,837 all purpose yards with 21 total TDs and only 1 fumble lost. The Tulane back is extremely shifty and displays the ball security coveted by NFL teams. Although Spears only had 2 kick returns during his time at Tulane, he profiles as a legit option to immediately contribute on special teams in the NFL.
It's clear that Commander's RB Brian Robinson Jr. is the bellcow back for new OC ERic Bieniemy, but this picture is murky after that. Antonio Gibson is on the last year of his rookie deal and J.D. McKissic could be on the chopping block, after back-to-back seasons on IR due to neck injuries. Investing on a mid-round back would be a wise move for Washington's new look offense.
6'7" 340 lbs | OG | Tenn-Chat
Draft Proj 5th Rd
Offensive lineman Curtis McClendon spent six years at Tenn. Chattanooga and was active in 49 career games with 38 starts. The versatile lineman had 30 starts at right guard, 7 starts at LT and 1 start at left guard. Although taller than the average NFL interior lineman, guard seems to be the best spot for the small schooler.
During the Senior Bowl, scouts and team officials walked away impressed with McClendon and many agreed that his draft stock is on the rise.
Awards & Accolades
2022 Jacobs Blocking Award
2022 1st team All-America
2021 & 2022 Doris Robinson Award finalist
2022 Senior Bowl
2022 Team Captain
During the combine teams will be looking for improvement with the lineman's technique, most notably his bend. The knock on McClendon is his shortcomings in pass pro, but evaluators love his ceiling in the run game. Top shelf coaching is what can help McClendon bring it all together, during his maturation process on the next level.
Washington's offensive line is in serious need of a makeover. We all know how much Rivera covets position flexibility, in addition to prospects who played 4-5 years of college ball. McClendon could see his draft stock improve with a good showing at the combine, The interior lineman is a prospect to keep an eye on for the Commanders, come Day 3 of the draft.
Darrell Luter Jr.
5'11" 191 lbs | CB | S.ALA
Draft Proj 4th Rd
Career (31 Games)- 91 TAK (57 solo), 2.5 TAK for a Loss, 5 INTS, 18 PD & 1 FF
'22 Stats (13 Games)- 42 TAK (29 solo), 0.5 TAK for a Loss, 1 INT & 7 PD
Luter Jr. isn't among the tallest corners in this year's CB class, but as JIm Nagy mentioned during the Senior Bowl, his arm length certainly stood out. The S.Alabama cornerback thrived in zone coverage, recording 5 interceptions over the last two seasons. He also had success in man coverage, displaying the ability to utilize his arm length to jam receivers and thrive in 50/50 ball situations.
Although not the fastest CB in the class, many expect he'll run in the 4.45-4.44 second range during the forty yard dash. He displays the ability to be effective against the run as a willing tackler, but the jump in competition will come with growing pains.
Jack Del Rio's defense had an up and down season, but adding at least 2 cornerbacks has to be a point of emphasis during free agency and the draft. Luter Jr. could see his stock rise, if he performs well in drills and runs faster than expected. The HBCU star has a bright future on the next level.
6'2" 213 lbs | QB | Shepherd
Draft Proj 6th Rd
Career (53 Games)- 1400/2040 17,034 yds for 159 TDs & 48 ints
*Rushing-179 yds 12 TDs
'22 Stats (15 Games)- 400/572 4,580 yards for 41 TDs & 8 ints
*Rushing-71 yds 5 TDs
Bagent threw for over 17K yards in his career, but also displayed the ability to buy time in the pocket with his legs. Check out more on the DII quarterback in our recent scouting report. (FULL Scouting Report)
In all likelihood second year signal caller Sam Howell will get the keys to the offense for the upcoming season. As for Carson Wentz, it's believed he'll be the first name to be on the chopping block with a zero dead cap hit and savings of $26.1M. As for free agent Taylor Heinicke, it's very possible he won't be back as well.
Free agency will be the place Ron Rivera adds a vet backup signal caller, but drafting a young QB to develop is something Washington has neglected to during the Snyder era.
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