The 10 NFL draft prospects with most to prove at 2024 scouting combine

As hundreds of 2024 NFL draft prospects descend on Indianapolis for this week's scouting combine, there's a little more at stake for some players than others.

A few of the top prospects are already dropping out of drills and testing, preferring instead to wait for the friendlier confines of their pro days. But many more will spend the coming days trying to make the strongest case for themselves to teams, whether that's via their on-field work at Lucas Oil Stadium or in interviews with coaches and personnel decision-makers. And while the combine is just one piece of a much larger draft evaluation picture, for some players, there are lingering questions that need to be answered.

Here are 10 NFL draft prospects with the most to prove at this year's scouting combine:

Spencer Rattler, QB, South Carolina

South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) celebrates after the game with Clemson at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022.
South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) celebrates after the game with Clemson at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022.

The former five-star recruit was once a staple of way-too-early mock drafts after a 2020 redshirt freshman season at Oklahoma in which he flashed his promise as a dynamic playmaker who readily attacks defenses downfield. The following fall, however, he lost his starting role for good after being benched for Caleb Williams midway through the Sooners' game against Texas. He transferred to South Carolina after the season and has shown glimpses of his potential, particularly with his crisp release and nice touch. But NFL coaching staffs might grill him in interviews about his inconsistency and suspect decision-making. The on-field session, however, should be a good platform for him to showcase his abilities as he tries to convince teams he can be a potential starter rather than a mere developmental option.

Braelon Allen, RB, Wisconsin

Allen took the Big Ten by storm as a 17-year-old in 2021 after graduating a year early from high school, joining Ron Dayne, James White and Jonathan Taylor as the only true freshmen in Wisconsin history to run for more than 1,000 yards. But the arrival of Luke Fickell and the Air Raid offense made for a rocky transition for the running back last season, as he had career lows in carries (181) and rushing yards (984) while not meaningfully expanding his skill set as a receiver. At 6-2 and 245 pounds, his size will be a talking point this week, especially if he can't demonstrate improved agility to make defenders miss or the initial burst to shoot through holes. If he ends up being pigeonholed as a battering ram, his draft outlook could take a significant hit.

Blake Corum, RB, Michigan

What made Corum a special runner for the Wolverines can't easily be put on display at the combine. The 5-8, 213-pound back had a way of subtly shifting around oncoming defenders, piling up 45 rushing touchdowns in the last two years. But his goal-line and short-yardage opportunities will likely be severely curtailed at the next level given his subpar size and power, and he doesn't offer much as a breakaway threat. Corum still could end up a highly productive ball carrier thanks to his instincts as a runner, but a solid testing profile could help assuage concerns about how his game translates to the NFL.

Devontez Walker, WR, North Carolina

On downfield routes, Walker has little trouble racing past overmatched cornerbacks to break open for long gains, as evidenced by his 17.0 yards per catch average last season. But the Kent State transfer is overly reliant on that linear explosiveness, as he has struggled with getting in and out of his breaks as well as being sufficiently physical in multiple phases of the game. Keep a close eye on how he fares in the three-cone drill. Presenting a more polished product will also be an important step of the pre-draft process after some sloppy play throughout his Senior Bowl work.

Johnny Wilson, WR, Florida State

Can Wilson convince teams his outlier build is an asset rather than a detriment? His overall athleticism isn't in question, as the 6-7, 237-pound target should wow with his massive frame, build-up speed and leaping ability. But his singular size also has its drawbacks, as he is limited in many of his movements and might have a hard time finding consistent opportunities outside of downfield throws. With his workout, Wilson will have to sell teams on the notion that separation won't be a consistent problem and that he can regularly create mismatches rather than be stuck as a tweener.

Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas

Worthy's combine likely will be shaped by the moment he steps on the scale, as teams will want to see if the 6-1 speedster has bulked up from his rail-thin, 172-pound frame. Play strength is a serious problem, with defensive backs too often outmuscling him at the line of scrimmage or on contested catches. If he can beat press coverage, however, Worthy can be a major weapon as a deep threat who also is capable of taking quick hits for long gains. Teams also will want to see how he handles drills after drops and inconsistent effort hampered his production at Texas.

Kingsley Suamataia, OT, BYU

In a loaded offensive tackle class that could feature at least seven players at the position taken in the first round, Suamataia still has the chance to stand out in Indianapolis thanks to his rare athletic traits. The Oregon transfer will face unfair comparisons to his cousin, All-Pro right tackle Penei Sewell of the Detroit Lions, but he has a chance to set himself apart from some of his plodding peers in movement drills. The on-field work will be an important reminder of his ceiling, as Suamataia still lacks polish and was far from a consistently dominant blocker at BYU.

Bralen Trice, DE, Washington

No offensive tackle is likely to be eager to block Trice, a burly edge threat who seems to take joy in knocking back his opponents. With his relentless rushes and array of moves, he can consistently blow plays up – he was credited for an astonishing 14 pressures against Stanford, according to Pro Football Focus. But as he prepares to face a more athletic and refined set of linemen, Trice might have a hard time racking up sacks or finding a finishing touch given he'll seldom win on the outside with his limited bend. Showing even a little bit of improvement in his flexibility might go a long way toward helping his stock.

Maason Smith, DT, LSU

A freshman All-American in 2021, Smith saw his development thrown off by a torn ACL that knocked him out for almost all of his follow-up campaign. In declaring for the draft after a relatively ho-hum season, however, he has posed a dilemma for teams. Do they bet on the upside of a 6-6, 315-pound defensive tackle with the rapid burst to be a disruptive force? Or is it too much of a risk to use an early draft pick on a player whose inexperience and inconsistency make him somewhat of an unknown? Smith should be one of the top testers in his group, and that performance might be a vital reminder of his untapped potential.

Kalen King, CB, Penn State

Last season was a significant letdown for King, a preseason All-American who never fully recaptured his previous year's form in coverage. While Marvin Harrison Jr. has made plenty of cornerbacks look overmatched during his run at Ohio State, the wide receiver's dominant display against King – 11 catches for 162 yards and a touchdown – ignited concerns that the 5-11, 190-pound cornerback might be ill-suited to handle the NFL given the rash of bigger, more athletic opponents awaiting him. If he is to make it into Day 2 of the draft, King likely has to show he has the makeup to stick with receivers downfield in man coverage – and that likely starts with answering any questions about his speed.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2024 NFL draft prospects with most to prove at combine