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Four Washington State players invited to NFL Scouting Combine; Cody O’Connell not among them

UPDATED: Tue., Feb. 6, 2018, 6:22 p.m.

Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk (4) throws against UW during the second half of the 2017 Apple Cup on Thursday, November 23, 2017, at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk (4) throws against UW during the second half of the 2017 Apple Cup on Thursday, November 23, 2017, at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

PULLMAN – Four Washington State players have been invited to participate in the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, Feb. 27-March 5 in Indianapolis.

Quarterback Luke Falk, offensive lineman Cole Madison, defensive tackle Hercules Mata’afa and wide receiver Tavares Martin Jr. all got invites. Surprisingly, two-time All-American offensive lineman Cody O’Connell did not.

Falk and Madison, the two senior invitees, both graded out well during their week at the Reese’s Senior Bowl. The WSU quarterback didn’t partake in the game, choosing instead to return to California for the funeral of teammate and fellow quarterback Tyler Hilinski.

But during his short time in Mobile, Alabama, Falk demonstrated grace and maturity during interviews in which he was frequently asked about Hilinski’s death. Falk’s passing also stood out among a group of elite quarterbacks that included Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield.

Per NFL.com, Falk is expected to be drafted in the third or fourth round.

Madison, a four-year ironman at right tackle for the Cougars, is listed as an offensive tackle on the combine roster, but the Burien, Washington, native spent much of Senior Bowl week experimenting inside at guard and center. NFL.com projects him to be picked up in either the fifth or sixth round of the NFL Draft.

The combine roster lists Mata’afa, a collegiate defensive tackle, at outside linebacker. Mata’afa is coming off a season that saw him collect consensus All-American honors and opted to forgo his final year of eligibility to pursue an NFL career. It’s expected he’ll have to move back to linebacker at the next level, or slide into a hybrid Rush linebacker role.

Martin Jr., who contemplated a transfer after being dismissed from the Cougars in December for a violation of team rules, wound up declaring for the draft. He’s relatively undersized at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds but could wow pro scouts with his agility and ball skills.

O’Connell’s omission is somewhat of a surprise considering the 6-7 guard appeared on most All-American lists his junior and senior seasons. A video of the Wenatchee native performing at an East-West Shrine combine showed O’Connell struggling to get through an obstacle course and some wonder if he possesses the speed and mobility to compete at the next level.

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