10 prospects with something to prove at 2017 NFL Scouting Combine

10 prospects with something to prove at 2017 NFL Scouting Combine

INDIANAPOLIS -- There are exactly 330 players invited to the NFL combine this year and a lot will ride on their performances. 

In addition to the on-field tests, teams will spend hours and hours interviewing and meeting with the prospects from various schools across the country. 

There's plenty on the line this week. Here are 10 players with something to prove: 

WR Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington
Kupp is the wideout who recently worked out with Carson Wentz. The two share agents, which is why Kupp was spotted wearing one of Wentz's AO1 shirts at the Senior Bowl weigh-ins last month. Kupp, at that point, hadn't yet met Wentz, but he was looking forward to meeting him. Kupp had a great college career, but his athleticism can be questioned. Last month, he said he was hoping to run a 4.4 in the 40 at the combine. We'll see if he can do it. 

WR Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky
Taylor was probably the biggest standout during Senior Bowl week, but he's from a small school and might not be very well known yet. A favorite of NBC Sports' Josh Norris, Taylor has a chance to impress this week. Under 6-foot and under 200 pounds, Taylor will still probably test very well this week. 

WR/RB Curtis Samuel, Ohio State
Like a few guys on this list, Samuel is stuck between positions. He'll work out with receivers this week, but he's more of a running back/receiver hybrid. (Josh Huff ring any bells?) But if a player has two positions, do they really have one? That's the problem Samuel might face. He'll get a chance to show his stuff and hopefully he'll end up on a team that can utilize his talents. We'll just call him an offensive weapon for now. 

CB Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado
An injury kept Awuzie out of the Senior Bowl. That was a shame because a lot of people wanted to see him. It's a super crowded field at the corner position this year, but Awuzie could end up being great value around the third round if he lasts that long. This will be his chance to show that he belongs with the top CBs on the board. 

CB Teez Tabor, Florida
Some think Tabor is the top cornerback in the draft, while others aren't so sure he's the top cornerback coming out of Florida. So, yeah, Tabor has plenty to prove. He’s an intriguing guy with the Eagles in mind because of his aggressive nature, but NFL.com's Lance Zierlein brings up a possibility that Tabor "fears deep speed." We'll need to pay attention to his 40. 

DE Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova
So far, so good for the 6-foot-7, 280-pound specimen, whom Eagles personnel head Joe Douglas called "as body beautiful as it gets." There's no question Kpassagnon is a physical freak, and he looked good against high-quality competition in the Senior Bowl. But he's still pretty raw and a good showing this week could ease the fears of some front office executives. 

LB Haason Reddick, Temple 
The Temple defensive player is switching positions but has looked fine in the process. In fact, many have him ranked as the second-best linebacker in the draft, after Alabama's Reuben Foster. But any time a player switches positions, teams are going to want to see as much on-field work as possible. This week could help Reddick become a first-round pick. 

OL Dion Dawkins, Temple
Dawkins played tackle in college but was a guard last month at the Senior Bowl and likely projects there as a pro. He was open to the switch, saying he'll play wherever teams want him to. Because of the switch from tackle to guard, there's a good chance he'll test very well this week. As an athletic interior lineman, he could help his status a lot. 

S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
The Michigan standout might be the most interesting player in Indy because he was so good in college, but no one really knows how to project him to the NFL. It's clear he's a first-round talent, but is he a linebacker? A safety? He's somewhat of a tweener, but if he has a good week, he should still be a first-round pick. Like Samuel above, it's all about making sure he goes to the right team.

RB Jamaal Williams, BYU
While we'll be watching several 40 times closely, perhaps this is the one we should all care about the most. At 6-0/211, Williams has the size to be a workhorse back, but does he have the speed to separate from NFL players? We'll find out. 

Seumalo, Vaitai comfortable heading into Year 2 after busy rookie seasons

Seumalo, Vaitai comfortable heading into Year 2 after busy rookie seasons

Had everything gone to plan in 2016, Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai would have spent their rookie seasons watching from the sideline. 

Everything didn't go to plan. 

Allen Barbre had a hamstring injury, Lane Johnson was suspended for 10 games and Brandon Brooks lost two games as he dealt with anxiety issues. 

As a result, Seumalo and Vaitai, third- and fifth-round draft picks, respectively, aren't just one year into their NFL careers. They've also played significant NFL snaps. 

And this year, they'll arrive at training camp as seasoned veterans, not green rookies. So which has had the greater impact: the year or playing time? 

"It’s both," head coach Doug Pederson said. "It's a combination of both. But the biggest thing is the actual playing time last year has really put them in good position this year."

Vaitai ended up playing in seven games with six starts. He played a total of 423 snaps as a rookie and filled in for Johnson until he went down with a knee injury. After a rough start — really rough — Vaitai settled in and showed signs that he could possibly be the Eagles' right tackle of the future. 

When asked about the difference in Vaitai from last year to this year, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland laughed before answering. 

"Night and day, apples and oranges," Stoutland said. "Just his understanding of the position, his balance, his body control, the way he uses his hands. This is a lot faster game than college."

Vaitai found out about the speed of the game first-hand in Week 6 last year. Thanks to Johnson's suspension, Vaitai started at right tackle and didn't have a bad game. He had a horrible game. 

He didn't need to think very long when he was asked what his "welcome to the NFL" moment was. 

"It was that game," he said. "Because in camp I'm going with the threes and twos. I was still a rookie, but when I got thrown into the fire, I learned real quick that if you're not doing great, then you're out. I didn't want to be a disappointment to my family and be that guy who gets drafted and then is out the next year."

Seumalo ended up playing in nine games with four starts and a total of 335 snaps. He played four positions along the offensive line; the only one he didn't play was his most natural spot at center. 

"It's not just the year, it's the playing experience," Stoutland said. "He's played in nine games I think he started four of those games. ... He played a lot of football in his first year. Just that experience in playing those positions and understanding the angles we need to take. He's a very intelligent player. I love coaching players of his magnitude. They have talent, they're smart. Really all you do is coach him one time on something and he pretty much has it."

Seumalo didn't get to play at center last year because veteran Jason Kelce didn't miss any of the 1,133 snaps in 2016. Kelce is still on the team, but it seems like the Eagles are grooming Seumalo to eventually take over. Even this spring, the second-year lineman has been taking some first-team reps at center. 

That's actually how Seumalo thinks he got better. By learning the center position, he gained a better grasp of the offense. That, combined with a year under his belt and significant playing time, have him feeling much more confident heading into Year 2.

"Training camp was tough and a grind and the season is just long," Seumalo said. "Now, I know what to expect a little bit more."

NFL Notes: Raiders reward Derek Carr with record $125 million deal

NFL Notes: Raiders reward Derek Carr with record $125 million deal

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Derek Carr and general manager Reggie McKenzie never doubted the two sides could reach a long-term contract agreement to keep the quarterback with the Raiders before Carr's self-imposed training camp deadline.

Carr was open about how much he wanted to spend his entire career with the organization and after a decade searching for a franchise quarterback the Raiders weren't about to let a player they drafted and developed leave just as he was becoming a star.

So the two sides were able to agree on a five-year, $125 million extension that makes Carr the NFL's richest player, at least temporarily, and won't hinder the team's ability to give its other young stars like AP Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, receiver Amari Cooper and guard Gabe Jackson new contracts before they hit free agency.

"I think that both sides wanted it to get done," Carr said Friday. "It was two family members just figuring out how to get along, and we did. We figured out a way to do it so that we have the opportunity to sign the other guys that I think are important to this organization. That was really important to me, not just to take every single dime that we could."

Carr will still get plenty. The $25 million per year in new money is the richest contract ever in the NFL, beating out the $24.8 million a year Andrew Luck got from Indianapolis. That could be surpassed with Detroit's Matthew Stafford and Washington's Kirk Cousins in line for new deals soon.

But Carr is not worried about that and the Raiders are pleased to have the face of their franchise under contract through 2022 as they prepare to move to Las Vegas in 2020.

"From the outset, both sides wanted the deal done, and I felt our guys did a great job getting together and hammering it out," McKenzie said. "We both wanted the same thing. That part was easy. We could tell that Derek wanted to be here. And we let him know, without a doubt, that we wanted him here" (see full story).

NFL: Prosecutors appeal Hernandez's voided murder conviction
BOSTON -- Massachusetts prosecutors on Friday appealed a court ruling that erased former NFL star Aaron Hernandez's murder conviction in the 2013 killing of a semi-professional football player.

Hernandez's conviction in the fatal shooting of Odin Lloyd was voided after the former New England Patriots player killed himself in prison. Under a long-held Massachusetts legal principle, courts typically erase the convictions of defendants who die before their direct appeals can be heard.

Bristol District Attorney Thomas Quinn III filed an appeal with a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court on Friday. He called the rule "archaic" and said it "does not serve the public interest."

"A defendant who commits suicide should not be able to manipulate the outcome of his post-conviction proceedings to achieve in death what he would not be able to achieve in life," Quinn said.

Hernandez's appellate attorneys, John Thompson and Linda Thompson, could not immediately be reached for comment. A message was left at their office in Springfield.

Hernandez took his own life in April days after he was acquitted in a separate, 2012 double slaying in Boston.

The legal principle known as abatement ab initio, or "from the beginning," holds that a conviction should not be considered final until an appeal in the criminal case can determine whether mistakes were made that deprived the defendant of a fair trial.

In their appeal Friday, prosecutors argue that some states have moved away from automatically erasing convictions when defendants die before appeals can be heard. More than a dozen states allow appeals to continue even after death and only dismiss convictions when the appellate court finds that a new trial would have been warranted.

Prosecutors said courts should strike a balance between the rights of defendants and the rights of victims. Lloyd's mother fought back tears after a judge voided Hernandez's conviction in her son's killing.