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6 questions ahead of the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Ohio State vs Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Over 300 of this year’s top prospects as well as all 32 NFL teams will descend upon Indianapolis and Lucas Oil Stadium for the 2018 Scouting Combine this week. Prospects will be measured, weighed and tested in various drills as the final stage of the evaluation process begins. While their college careers concluded months ago, in some cases the numbers they post over the next week will have a large impact on their draft stock. Team’s draft boards will become much clearer and questions will be answered for all 32 franchises. Ahead of the Scouting Combine, here are six questions that could concern the Seattle Seahawks, as well as two of the best prospects inside the state of Washington:

How will Jaylen Samuels test?

The N.C. State chess piece was used in a variety of ways during his time with the Wolfpack: as a tight end, a fullback, an H-back and as a traditional running back. At 5-11 and 228 pounds, Samuels is projected as a RB at the next level. He played there during Senior Bowl week and although he’s going to be working with tight ends in Indianapolis, he is a fascinating RB prospect. He has ideal size for the position, and devastated linebackers with speed out of the backfield in college. In the positionless NFL, Samuels has the potential to be the next mid-round selection to contribute in both the running and passing game immediately.

At 5-11 he’s too short to play as a traditional tight end, and too bulky to play as a perimeter wide receiver. Running back is his best position, and if he gets the chance to play there in the pros, he could be a valuable piece in any offense. His draft stock however, hinges on how he tests at the Scouting Combine. As a bigger bodied back with natural receiving ability, those who like Samuels see him as potentially the next David Johnson, another mid-round gem. Johnson tested incredibly well during his pre-draft process, with a 97th-percentile vertical jump, a 93rd-percentile broad jump and an 86th-percentile three-cone. His spider graph makes you wonder how he slipped as far as he did:

Johnson surprised many with his immediate and dynamic contributions, but his athletic profile and versatility should’ve been an indicator. If Samuels can test in the 80th percentile (among RBs), he could find himself rising up boards and selected on the second day of the draft. If his testing fails to impress, he becomes just another guy and one without a position at that.

Has Ronald Jones added weight?

A popular choice for the Seahawks by mock drafters, Ronald Jones is one of the most exciting players to watch in the entire draft class. But listed at 6-0 And 200 pounds by USC, Jones lacks the size to survive as an every-down back in the NFL. Consider this: None of the top-20 running backs in carries this past season are below 205 pounds.

Seattle’s preferred size for their running backs (between 5-10 and 6-1 and 215-230 pounds) isn’t arbitrary. Backs that lack that size are limited in their contributions in the NFL. And so if Jones is going to remain in the discussion with Saquon Barkley and Darrius Guice as potential first-round picks, he will have had to add 10-15 pounds. Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting mentioned on Scanning The Field that he’s heard speculation Jones has in fact put on a good amount of weight. How much weight, and how it affects his dynamic, slashing running style, we’ll find out on Wednesday when RBs weigh-in at the Scouting Combine, and during position drills later in the week. If Jones measures in at 6-0 and 210 pounds, that should be viewed as a massive win for the Trojan, and firmly keep him in the first-round conversation.

Who stands out among the remaining cornerbacks?

A product of the Seahawks’ strict 32-inch arm requirement is that we don’t get a clear picture on who is a legitimate possibility for the team until after measurements are taken in Indianapolis. Through the college All-Star game circuit, we’ve been able to identify 13 players who hit that requirement. But a good portion of those CBs can be excluded for a number of reasons: Static movement in open field (Isaac Yiadom, Boston College), wiry and light frames (Jamarcus King, South Carolina) or simply a lack of ability.

A number of cornerbacks will be added to the pool following measurements, but who will stand out? A couple early favorites include San Diego State’s Kameron Kelly and Texas’s Holton Hill. There are other interesting prospects who fit the bill at the moment but could fall by the wayside following the combine, like Alabama’s Levi Wallace (expected to weigh in around 185) and Virginia Tech’s Brandon Facyson (could test poorly after a college career riddled with injuries). With Richard Sherman recovering from a torn Achilles and entering the final year of his deal, we can expect Seattle to add another CB on day three; by next week, we’ll have a clear idea of who they’ll likely be choosing from.

Is Harold Landry big enough to play the LEO position?

One of the most dynamic players in the entire draft, Boston College’s Harold Landry never quite put it all together during his time as a Screaming Eagle. Even still, Landry belongs in the conversation with Bradley Chubb, Marcus Davenport and Arden Key as one of the draft’s best pass rushers. Defensive end is the Seahawks’ biggest need heading into the offseason, and Landry should still be available when the Seattle is (set to be) on the clock at pick 18. But listed at just 250 pounds, Landry currently lacks the size necessary to survive as the LEO in Pete Carroll’s defense — ideally that figure is closer to 270 pounds.

While it would be wrong to expect Landry to have added all that weight in the couple months since the season ended, even a minor bump could help teams believe he has the body (and work ethic) to add good weight to his frame in an NFL team’s strength program. If Landry’s out-of-this-world flexibility is any indicator, he should test incredibly well in the three-cone and the short shuttle. Flashy testing numbers have caught John Schneider’s attention before — or re-affirmed a previously held notion — and Landry should be no different. With Frank Clark and Michael Bennett almost certainly still on the roster for the 2018 season, a Landry rookie season with the Seahawks could be spent as a situational pass rusher while he bulks up off the field.

What to make of Hercules Mata’afa?

At 6-2 and 252 pounds, Hercules Mata’afa has the body type of a defensive end who would thrive in college. Unfortunately, Mata’afa was used almost exclusively as an undersized defensive tackle during his time at Washington State, lining up outside the tackles a grand total of seven times during the 2017 season. A testament to his ability as a pass rusher and football player, Mata’afa still managed to post 10.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss in his final season as a Cougar. However, the expectation that he slides to the edge in the pros makes Mata’afa a puzzling evaluation. Playing inside has left concerns over his arm length and athletic ability, two important traits for an EDGE in the NFL.

If Mata’afa is going to succeed on the outside, he’ll need functional arm length for a defensive end, and he’ll need to test well in drills testing his change of direction, mainly the short shuttle and three-cone. If he’s average in either of these categories or has deficient arm length, he’ll be cemented as a developmental prospect likely to be selected on the final day of the draft. If he tests more athletic than he played at Washington State, teams can bet on his ability and he becomes an appealing day two selection.

Will Vita Vea’s performance live up to the hype — and should it matter?

Whispers around Vita Vea’s athleticism have escalated as we approach the Scouting Combine, from reports that he’ll run a 4.9 40-yard dash, to a performance in Indianapolis that is expected to be more impressive than John Ross’s. And while a Dontari Poe-esque performance would be impressive, and certainly would grab attention, should it matter? What Vita Vea does — hold up at the point of attack, defend the run and play with incredible power — he does exceptionally well. But he doesn’t offer much in terms of rushing the passer, and that absolutely should be apart of the conversation if a team is planning on selecting Vea with a top-20 selection. Besides gaudy testing numbers, what could Vea offer a team that they couldn’t get out of a day two or three prospect, or even a veteran free agent?

There is only so much value in a run-stopping interior defender in the modern NFL, even one who tests in the 78th-percentile for his position. If there’s a defensive tackle worthy of a first-round selection in this year’s draft, it’s Michigan’s Maurice Hurst, a dynamic interior rusher. Vea’s legend precedes him into Lucas Oil Stadium, but as a one-dimensional player, how much should a dynamic showing at the Scouting Combine matter for a run-stuffing defensive tackle?