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These five players have a lot riding on the NFL Combine

Andrew Mason Avatar
February 23, 2020

DENVER — The on-field workouts seize the TV spotlight. The bench-press repetitions create some viral video. The interviews allow teams to learn more about their draft-picks-to-be. The late-night conversations over cocktails lead to scoops and speculation galore.

But since time immemorial, the single most important aspect of the Combine is the medical examinations.

They can be as exhausting mentally as the on-field work is physically, with some players examined by almost every team’s medical personnel.

These five players at positions of need for the Broncos will be under heavy scrutiny this week, and the list starts with a player that the team should know quite well:

WR LAVISKA SHENAULT JR., COLORADO

The best prospect this year from Colorado also has one of the lengthiest injury histories. The most recent is osteitis pubis, an inflammation of the pubic bone. It sounds awful, but it does not necessitate surgery.

Shenault’s questions do not revolve around his production, his hands, his football I.Q., his skill set, his size, power, agility or his versatility. He checks all the on-field boxes, and with a creative offensive play caller and play designer, he could become one of the NFL’s most unique weapons.

But if the medical examinations reveal that his injury is worse than it seems — or that injuries that cost him five games over the last two seasons reveal chronic problems — he could get lost in the shuffle in what appears to be an even deeper draft class at wide receiver than the celebrated 2014 crop.

WR BRYAN EDWARDS, SOUTH CAROLINA

An injury scratch from the Senior Bowl last month because of a knee problem, Edwards revealed on Twitter last Friday that he broke his foot while training for the Combine. The timeline for his recovery — which he estimated to be “a few months” — wipes out his availability for Pro Day and individual workouts as well, and is likely to leave him limited through OTAs.

Since Edwards’ foot injury is so recent, an equal focus of medical examinations will be on his past injuries — which include a knee problem that sidelined him for two games last year.

LB MARKUS BAILEY, PURDUE

When Bailey is healthy, he looks like an ideal linebacker for the modern NFL — instinctive with sideline-to-sideline range and coverage ability. The 6-foot-1, 240-pounder not only averaged 7.7 tackles per game from 2016 through last year, but he also posted 13.5 sacks, 28 tackles for loss and broke up 13 passes, intercepting six. He was all over the field, and the numbers back that up. He was also at his best in some of the biggest moments, and his work in Purdue’s 2018 upset of Ohio State reveals his all-around potential.

Bailey could have petitioned the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility, but chose to enter the draft process instead.

An Academic All-Big Ten selection who earned his bachelor’s degree in 2018 and served as a team co-captain, Bailey checks off the leadership and experience boxes that most Broncos draft picks have filled in recent years. If his medicals check out, the risk-reward ratio for Bailey is right in the third or fourth round.

CB BRYCE HALL, VIRGINIA

Hall was a preseason All-American by some outlets heading into last year, and while Virginia soared to a division title and an Orange Bowl berth, Hall was lost to a dislocated ankle after six games.

Even before the injury, Hall’s play as a senior didn’t meet the standard of his work the previous season, when his aggression bore itself out in 1.9 pass breakups per game and 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles in 2018.

Tackling is a “non-negotiable” for Broncos coach Vic Fangio, and in 2017 and 2018, Hall was physical and as involved in defending the run as he was in coverage. If he has recovered and the 2018 version of Hall is what comes to the NFL, he’ll be an outstanding Day 2 choice.

WR BRANDON AIYUK, ARIZONA STATE

Senior Bowl week saw pundits raving about the play of the wide-receiver corps, especially Liberty’s Antonio Gandy-Golden, Baylor’s Denzel Mims and Ohio State’s K.J. Hill. Aiyuk could have been in that conversation, but he sat out the week because of a groin injury.

If Aiyuk is healthy enough to run at the Combine, he should post good straight-line speed numbers, which would mesh well with the 18.3-yards-per-catch average he posted at ASU last year, placing him 11th among 50 FBS wide receivers with at least 1,000 receiving yards.

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