IMAGE ACADEMY: In the last month, we've practically forgotten Manti Te'o plays football (pretty well, too). Now, at the combine, is his time to remind us of that. Photo courtesy J. Meric/Getty Images

IMAGE ACADEMY: In the last month, we’ve practically forgotten Manti Te’o plays football (pretty well, too). Now, at the combine, is his time to remind us of that. Photo courtesy J. Meric/Getty Images

The annual cattle call that is the NFL combine gets underway today. However, despite the monotonous workout wear that seems hell-bent on robbing prospects of their individuality, not every potential draftee is in Indianapolis for the same reasons.

The big names — the guys that are virtual locks for the first round no matter what they do — are almost there as a formality while the little guys — the kind that put up great numbers at colleges you’ve never heard of — are just hoping to make a lasting impression.

Then there are the guys in between. They are players you know but whose draft stock is very much in limbo. And for these next few days in February, THEY will be the most watched players among prospective draftees.

Here are the five biggest names with work to do at this year’s combine:

DOG HOUSE: A rash of criminal run-ins may have NFL teams rethinking taking a chance on Ogletree. Photo courtesy C. B. Schmelter

DOG HOUSE: A rash of criminal run-ins may have NFL teams rethinking taking a chance on Ogletree. Photo courtesy C. B. Schmelter

5. Manti Te’o/Notre Dame/LB: In just a matter of weeks, Te’o went from Heisman runner-up to the butt of every joke (see: SNL). The Lennay Kekua fiasco took the Te’o draft conversation on a detrimental tangent and now is Manti’s time to change the narrative. Whether war rooms hold the ‘catfish’ incident against him as some sort of character concern is probably out of his hands (save for some real explanations come interview time) so all Te’o can do now is remind scouts that he is still that Top 5 talent they spent the vast majority of last season drooling over.

4. Alec Ogletree/Georgia/LB: This year’s draft is going to be heavy with defensive talent, no one is denying that. And when you’re in an oversaturated market, every weakness about the product your trying to sell becomes all the more highlighted. With so many options, scouts will have the luxury of nitpicking, and the nitpickers will have a field day with Ogletree’s off-the-field issues. Drug tests, a DUI, and petty larceny, the Athens product hit the trifecta when it comes to turning away NFL teams. This week, he’ll get an opportunity to sit down with many of those teams. In those conversations, he needs to do everything humanly possible to convince him that the “old Ogletree” is long gone while, at the same time, still wowing them on the field.

3. Geno Smith/West Virginia/QB: After last year’s stellar quarterback class, 2013 was virtually guaranteed to be a bit of a downer, but the fall off of the most talked about college quarterbacks in the second half of the season only further cemented that reality. Enter Geno Smith, who at one point last season had 24 touchdowns with no picks. We were ready to hail him as the next number one overall pick when the wheels fell off the Mountaineer bus. The fact that West Virginia couldn’t stop Stephen Hawking from scoring a touchdown wasn’t Smith’s problem, but it seemed to take the spotlight off him all the same. Indianapolis will be his opportunity to put the spotlight BACK on him and leave it there for good.

HAIL MARY: Denard Robinson is trying to reinvent his game for the NFL. The combine will be the first chance we see at how successful it will be. Photo courtesy Leon Halip/Getty Images

HAIL MARY: Denard Robinson is trying to reinvent his game for the NFL. The combine will be the first chance we see at how successful it will be. Photo courtesy Leon Halip/Getty Images

2. Denard Robinson/Michigan/WR-RB-KR: Robinson became a Heisman contender as a quarterback for the Wolverines, but he and everyone else knows there’s no future for him there in the NFL. Instead, Robinson hopes to make a pro career at a different position, probably wide receiver. His terrific speed and knack for the big play gives him Percy Harvin-esque upside, but for all the years he spent throwing passes, now he has to prove he can catch them. When he runs those drills, he will become the most scrutinized player in Indianapolis this week.

1. Tyrann Mathieu/LSU/CB-KR: The year before last, Mathieu, a.k.a. the “honey badger”, was one of the biggest names in college football. What happened next? One of the most epic falls from grace anyone has ever seen. A drug test got him kicked off the Tigers football team then, after an SI article documenting his redemption story, he and other ex-LSU players were picked up as part of a drug bust in an apartment. So Mathieu’s character concerns are through the roof and the only way he can change war rooms’ minds is by showing he is just too much of a talent to pass up. Mathieu is lightning quick which is only makes his hard hits more devastating, but he’s small for his position and many feel he can never be a pure cover corner at the next level.

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