QB Luke Falk, OL Cole Madison, WR Tavares Martin Jr. and DL Hercules Mata'afa will strut their stuff at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week.
Four Washington State players will be at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis that begins on Wednesday.
Here’s a look at how Luke Falk, Cole Madison, Tavares Martin Jr. and Hercules Mata’afa stack up among their peers, and what they each have to do to improve their draft stock this week.
QB Luke Falk
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What he needs to show: That he can transcend the label of “system quarterback” that so many Air Raid quarterbacks automatically get tagged with. That he has adequate arm strength to make all the requisite NFL throws.
When do the QBs work out: Saturday.
The Scouting Report:
Per his agent, Chase Callahan, Luke Falk will throw and do some of the tests at the NFL Scouting Combine this week. Falk will attend WSU’s Pro Day on March 8, but will not throw in Pullman. Instead, he will throw at Utah State’s Pro Day in his hometown of Logan, Utah on March 28.
Pro Football Focus ranks Falk as the No. 7 quarterback prospect in its 2018 draft guide. Among Falk’s strengths, per Pro Football Focus’ draft guide, are his “efficient, quick release” and his ability to get through his reads and throw efficiently in the short game. They note that he’s a “touch thrower.”
Falk is also expected to excel in interviews with NFL teams at the combine and impress with his maturity and football acumen much like he did at the Senior Bowl.
Ultimately, however, Pro Football Focus notes, “even at his best, his arm strength is a question mark as he struggles to consistently drive the ball outside the numbers on out-breaking routes.”
“He has good touch and feel in the short game, but arm strength and athleticism issues raise enough questions (on whether) he can create enough big plays at the next level,” the Pro Football Focus draft guide notes.
NFL.com compares Falk to Chicago Bears quarterback Mike Glennon and predicts that he’ll go in the third or fourth round range.
NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein calls Falk a “tall, rhythm passer with good natural accuracy and years of quality production who is much more comfortable working the perimeter and against man coverage.”
This week, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock also pointed to Falk as one of the mid-round quarterbacks that the New England Patriots could be interested in drafting to back up Tom Brady.
OL Cole Madison
What he needs to show: That he can work in pro sets and has the strength and athleticism to hold up against top level competition.
When do the OLs work out: Friday
The Scouting Report:
Cole Madison never quite got the press that his linemate, Cody O’Connell did while they played together at WSU, but Madison has become the more highly regarded of the two linemen in the NFL’s pre-draft process.
Madison showed his versatility at the Senior Bowl, taking reps at tackle, guard and even center. Even though he played right tackle at WSU, he’s regarded as a better NFL guard prospect. Madison was invited to the NFL Combine; O’Connell was not.
Pro Football Focus ranks Madison No. 10 among all draft eligible offensive guards, with O’Connell ranked at No. 11.
The Pro Football Focus 2018 NFL Draft guide notes that Madison had “one of the best track records in pass protection of any tackle in the class, grade-wise” but will be challenged at the next level because “the pass sets at Washington State aren’t the same as he’ll be taking in the NFL.”
Pro Football Focus notes that Madison has “good feet and mirror” and that he “rarely got himself into bad situations.”
On the flip side, Pro Football Focus will have to overcome the following: “Athleticism overall is poor. Showed up a lot in the screen game when he struggled to locate. Plays high far too often and can get bowled over because of it. Very susceptible to the bull rush.”
Per PFF metrics, Madison gave up 12 sacks and 11 QB hits in three years as WSU’s starting right tackle.
NFL.com’s Zierlein projects that Madison is a fifth-to-sixth round draft prospect. Zierlein calls Madison a “good athlete who excels as move blocker” but notes he lacks experience firing off the ball and “his lack of anchor in pass protection will likely be targeted by pass rushers looking for holes to exploit.”
WR Tavares Martin Jr.
What he needs to show: That he can ace the interview portion of the combine and demonstrate to teams that he has the maturity, presence and mindset to overcome the “locker room cancer” label. That he has enough speed to work at the NFL level.
When do the WRs work out: Saturday.
The Scouting Report:
Tavares Martin Jr. led WSU in most receiving categories in 2017, but his tenure was marred by a controversial exit — Martin Jr. claimed he was cut from the team because he asked Mike Leach to grant him his release and allow him to transfer closer to his home state of Florida. Leach, however, says Martin Jr. was cut for repeatedly missing team activities.
Martin Jr. subsequently opted to forgo his final season of collegiate eligibility and declare for the NFL Draft. Whether that will prove to be a good decision remains to be seen. Martin Jr. was one of the 44 receivers invited to the NFL combine, but Pro Football Focus’ 2018 draft guide has Martin Jr. ranked 27th on its list of 28 top draft-eligible receivers.
NFL.com’s Zierlein rates Martin Jr. as a seventh round pick or undrafted free agent. While Martin Jr. has long arms and big hands and “can play taller than his size” and “possesses good ball skills,” Zierlein also notes that he’s a “disruptive locker room presence” and is an “average athlete” with “average speed.”
EDGE Hercules Mata’afa
What he needs to show: That he can make a successful transition to edge rusher, and that his off-the-charts athleticism is every bit as impressive in person as it is on film.
When do the EDGE defenders work out: Sunday.
The Scouting Report:
Hercules Mata’afa, WSU’s 6-foot-1, 252-pound All-American defensive tackle, is considered one of the most intriguing, but risky, players available in the draft.
Mata’afa is undersized for the defensive tackle position in the NFL, and he projects better as a standup 3-4 linebacker or edge rusher. But the trick, of course, is that he’s never played linebacker in college and will have to convince NFL teams to take a chance on him.
Pro Football Focus rates Mata’afa as the sixth-best available edge defender and notes that he “played out of position all season long” as an interior defensive lineman and only took seven snaps outside the tackles last season.
Mata’afa’s strengths, per the Pro Football Focus draft guide, include:
- “Fantastic athlete who often times had to do little more than slant across an offensive lineman’s face at the snap to win.”
- “Comfortable fighting through traffic with terrific bend. Go-to move as a rip on the interior was usually all he needed.”
- “Great balance as a pass rusher or run defender. Had to face double teams that came on the inside and held up well.
- “Didn’t play in space often, but when he did, his closing ability was special.”
However, there are also some arguments against Mata’afa. PFF notes that he “doesn’t have a refined pass-rushing skillset” and that he “really only used his hands when he had already beaten an offensive lineman, to get himself clean.”
“It’s impossible to know what Mata’afa will look like facing offensive tackles snap after snap because he’s never done it,” PFF notes. “All the traits are there, but he’ll need good coaching and patience at the next level.”
NFL.com’s Zierlein projects that Mata’afa will be drafted in the fourth or fifth round, and points out that he “has the size of a 3-4 outside linebacker but may lack the athletic traits and skill level as a rusher to fit right in.”
“His motor and desire give him a chance to become a high-end special teams star and teams might be wise to utilize Mata’afa as an interior rusher in sub-packages,” Zierlein writes.