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CU corner Chidobe Awuzie; Photo courtesy of CU Athletics

How Will Local Players Fare at the NFL Combine?

Four days in Indianapolis will help decide the futures of these eight players with Colorado ties.

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At the annual NFL Scouting Combine, draft prospects undergo intense physical, physiological, and skills testing. Eight players with local connections—including Valor Christian-turned-Stanford University star Christian McCaffrey—are set to participate at the event, which takes place in Indianapolis, February 28 through March 6. Curious on how they got to this point, and where they might go from here? Read on.

Stanford Running Back Christian McCaffrey (Valor Christian High School)

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McCaffrey led Valor Christian to four straight state championships and was a Heisman Trophy finalist as a sophomore at Stanford University when he broke Barry Sanders’ NCAA record for all-purpose yards. The second-oldest son of former Broncos wideout Ed McCaffrey is projected to go in the first or second round to fill a team’s needs at running back, slot receiver, and/or returner. The 6-foot, 201-pound McCaffrey is clearly the best Colorado-grown prospect in the draft this year, but only time will tell if he’ll be able to shed doubts about his size (and, thus, durability) to become a star in the NFL.

Air Force Academy: Wide Receiver Jalen Robinette

The Blexley, Ohio, native is the Air Force Academy’s all-time leader in receiving yards and is gunning to be the first Falcon drafted since 1999. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound wideout has a reputation for solid footwork and tough blocking to complement the hops and hands that enabled him to post an absurd 27.4 yards per catch this past fall, tops in the nation.

Robinette’s NFL future is also buoyed by last July’s U.S. Department of Defense ruling that allows service academy athletes to fulfill their military obligation in the reserves, not active duty, if they sign a contract with a professional team out of college. Whether Robinette will get the opportunity to take advantage of that loophole will largely depend upon his 40-yard time at the combine, which he’ll likely need to run under a 4.5 in order to merit serious draft day consideration.

University of Colorado: Quarterback Sefo Liufau; Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon; Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie; Safety Tedric Thompson

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The Buffaloes’ quartet was instrumental in Colorado’s worst-to-first turnaround in the Pac-12 South this fall. There’s no question Sefo Liufau (6-foot-4, 230, Tacoma, Washington) is a tough leader, but poor decision-making in the pocket—as well as questions about his durability—make him a late third-day pick, if he’s selected at all.

Meanwhile, cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon (6-foot-3, 195, Sacramento, California) and Chidobe Awuzie (6-foot, 205, San Jose, California) anchored one of the best secondaries in the country last year, as the Buffs finished tied for first in the NCAA by yielding just 5.4 yards per pass attempt. Thompson (6-foot, 205, Valencia, California) was a crucial part of that secondary too, intercepting seven passes and allowing just one touchdown reception. Awuzie and Thompson are both projected to be second or third-round selections, while Witherspoon, whose height matches up well with taller NFL pass-catchers, might go in the later rounds.

Colorado State University Linebacker Kevin Davis and Punter Hayden Hunt

Davis was CSU’s leading tackler during each of the past two seasons and in 2016 was one of only three Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) players to register at least 100 tackles, three sacks, and an interception. The Fountain-Fort Carson High School graduate also had a banner day with five tackles in January’s East-West Shrine game, an annual all-star game for college players. That, along with a solid performance in Indianapolis, gives him a chance of being drafted in April.

Hunt, a former walk-on, was a 2015 All-American as well as a two-time semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award, awarded each year to college football’s best punter. As one of the best players available at his position, Hunt might sign with a franchise after the draft—but NFL teams don’t often pick punters.

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