Five local college football players take their big shot at NFL Combine
March 1, 2017 Updated Wed., March 1, 2017 at 9:46 p.m.
The NFL Combine kicked off on Wednesday and will run through Monday, making these next few days important to the five players from Inland Northwest colleges who received an invite.
The annual event consists of physical and psychological testing of the 330 players NFL teams most expect to select during the draft on April 27-29. It is also a chance for players to meet with teams, who will use those meetings make sure there are no character or fit issues.
Idaho punter Austin Rehkow has already had his weigh-in and medical examinations and will work out Thursday and Friday. Eastern Washington wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Kendrick Bourne, along with Washington State wide receiver Gabe Marks, will follow the same schedule but delayed by one day.
WSU safety Shalom Luani will do his medical examination on Saturday, then work out on Sunday and Monday.
The NFL Scouting Combine is the best chance remaining for these players to significantly improve their draft position. Some players will show themselves much faster than scouts originally thought, or show that a few months of dedicated heavy lifting have turned them into much stronger players.
Former WSU safety Deone Bucannon, for example, was selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft thanks in large part his 4.49-second 40-yard-dash time and 19 bench press repetitions, along with a 36 1/2-inch vertical jump that was among the best of all the defensive backs tested.
Others will see their draft stock plummet when they show up out of shape or if chronic injuries are revealed during the medical examinations. Consider University of Washington running back Chris Polk, who many believed would be selected in the early rounds of the 2012 NFL draft but went undrafted when a potentially degenerative shoulder condition was discovered.
We will discover a lot about the five Inland Northest players over the coming days. Here’s what we know now, and what we are hoping to find out.
Measurements: 6-foot-3, 214 pounds
Analysis: Rehkow was one of the best punters in the country all four years he was in college, and the last couple of years he was a pretty darn good place-kicker, too. Whether or not he is able to kick consistently in the pros remains to be seen, but his ability to at least handle spot duties in a pinch will significantly increase his value to NFL teams. As a punter Rehkow has good hang time and great distance on his punts, while as a kicker he was accurate (16 for 20 in kicks of 40-plus yards).
Most important event: Kickoff drills
NFL comparison: Craig Hentrich
WR, Eastern Washington
Expected measurements: 6-2, 205 pounds
Analysis: Kupp is the all-time Division I career leader in catches, yards and touchdowns. He has great hands and speed and tracks the ball in the air extremely well. He also is difficult to tackle after the catch. However, NFL scouts need to see more evidence that he can gain separation at the top of his routes.
Most important event: 5-10-5 shuttle run
NFL comparison: Michael Crabtree
Sources say: NFL.com quotes an AFC scout: “If he gets to a team with a good quarterback, watch out. In 2014, he punked both Marcus Peters and Sidney Jones when he took on Washington. Two first-round talents. You tell me if he’s going to be a starter.”
WR, Washington State
Expected measurements: 6-0, 195 pounds
Analysis: Marks is good at using his body and route to set-up defenders and is aggressive when attacking the ball in the air. His mission at the combine will be to show teams he has the speed to succeed at the NFL level. Teams will feel a lot more comfortable drafting Marks if he can show them he’s fast enough to play in the slot.
Most important event: 40-yard dash
NFL comparison: Steve Smith (Baltimore)
WR, Eastern Washington
Expected measurements: 6-3, 190 pounds
Analysis: Bourne is a tall, productive receiver who plays physically and is quicker than you expect. He tracks the ball well in the air, and at 6-3 can win fights with bigger defensive backs. But he’s not fast. As NFL.com wrote, Bourne will need to run better than a 4.6 40-yard dash to ease those concerns. Also, he never redshirted at Eastern, so he arrives at the combine at the young age of 21. And at 190 pounds, Bourne is on the lean side.
Most important event: 40-yard dash
NFL comparison: Alshon Jeffery
S, Washington State
Expected measurements: 6-0, 205 pounds
Analysis: Luani is not a player who will wow you when he gets off the bus, and honestly, he probably won’t wow you at the combine, either. But what Luani will do is make plays, however he can and however he’s needed. He played multiple positions during his two years at WSU and that versatility will add value. Luani always seemed to make the big play when the Cougars needed it, be it an interception or a jarring hit. He is quick and his good instincts but occasional struggles wrapping up led to missed tackles.
Most important event: 5-10-5 shuttle
NFL Comparison: Patrick Chung
Jim Allen contributed to this story.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.