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Eight Combine examinations that will shape the 2017 NFL Draft big board

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Oct 8, 2016; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Tim Williams (56) returns a fumble by Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback Austin Allen (not pictured) for a touchdown as defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) trails the play during the secon
Tim Williams (56) and Jonathan Allen (93)
Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

The importance of the scouting combine is often overvalued. Physical measurements, raw athleticism and test results are definitely an important part of player projection. Competitiveness, intelligence, work ethic and ability when facing adversity are also important factors in evaluating the likelihood of success for NFL prospects.

The Baltimore Ravens in particular rarely draft workout warriors. A flawed player is not worthy of an early draft selection based strictly on their showing without pads and opposition at the combine.

However, the combine can be helpful when a particular potential issue is identified by the scouts when studying game tape. Here are eight examinations that could dramatically alter the 2017 draft board:

  • Jonathan Allen’s explosiveness

A highly productive, technically sound defensive lineman who many consider a top-3 overall lock. But it is difficult to fairly evaluate a player when they are surrounded by elite talent in college. If he does not show the explosiveness to be a pass rushing force at the next level, he could tumble to the middle of the first round. The 20-yard shuttle and 3-cone drill will be important for Allen.

  • Soloman Thomas’s weigh-in

Thomas is flying up consensus draft boards, but he comes with some serious questions. He was better against the run than pass, but his build suggests it should have been the other way around. If his arms are deemed long enough to keep blocker off him and he shows he can carry enough weigh to play inside, he could be chosen in the top-5.

  • Leonard Fournette’s speed

Fournette is a polarizing prospect, some have compared him to former Ravens back Jamal Lewis. But Lewis combined prototypical size and strength with great acceleration and speed. In today’s NFL, running backs need to be able to make plays without great blocking in front of them to be worth early selections. If Fournette runs a blazing split in the 40-yard dash, he should come off the board in the top-10. If not, he could fall precipitously.

  • Quincy Wilson’s agility

This huge corner has been sliding a bit lately. Some analysts believe he is a press-man only corner or even NFL safety. His tape shows some tightness in his hips and heavy feet. Impressing in the positional drills with better change-of-direction and agility could cement Wilson’s spot inside the top-15. On the other hand, showing too much stiffness could drop him to the second round.

  • Derek Barnett’s vertical

An enigma with excellent collegiate production along with concerns about his athleticism. The vertical jump is not a particularly relevant skill to have for edge rushers, but it is the purest test of raw athleticism and twitch. With a decent jump, Barnett would encourage teams who value his strong hands and intelligence to draft him closer to the middle of the first round than the end.

  • Takkarist McKinley’s strength

A raw pass rusher with a strong motor and game changing athleticism. McKinley is on the short side for the NFL, and needs to develop his repertoire beyond speed moves. With an estimated draft range of 15th to 35th overall, an above average performance on the bench press would prove that he has all the skills required to develop into a complete player.

  • Teez Tabor’s deep speed

Hopefully the combine will provide some clarity to the murky cornerback rankings. Tabor has the measurements, quickness and ball skills to matchup with every type of receiver. However, there are whispers that he lacks long speed, evidenced by how deep he played in off-coverage. The 40-yard dash does translate well to what receivers and corners are asked to do in real game situations. His sprint time could be the difference between a Thursday or Friday selection.

  • Tim Williams’s maturity

Williams has tremendous ability but serious character concerns. He was arrested for carrying a pistol without a permit in September and reportedly failed several drug tests at Alabama. Some players with questionable character, such as Randy Gregory, fail. Others like Jimmy Smith do succeed in the NFL. The one-on-one team interviews are an underrated aspect of the combine and will be paramount for Williams.