INDIANAPOLIS -- While the athletic drills generate all of the buzz, the most important tests conducted each year at the NFL Scouting Combine are the medical evaluations, including the updates that teams get on players who have already undergone surgery.
That is certainly the case with Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones, a two-time consensus All-American who underwent surgery six weeks ago to repair a Lisfranc injury to his left foot.
Jones, who is walking in a boot, told the media that his expected recovery time is "four months," which should put him in position to potentially be available to return to the field for May mini-camps.
Jones started 49 of 53 games while with the Tide, earning comparisons to Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews by coach Nick Saban for his toughness, versatility and reliability. Jones started 25 games at right guard before switching to left tackle as a junior, earning the Outland Trophy for his stellar play on the blind side. Despite his success outside, Jones was moved inside to center as a senior, where he again performed well and currently ranks as NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated prospect at the position.
Jones gave an example of the mentality that he brings to the field with his answer to a question about which of his many awards he's most proud of.
"The thing I'm most proud of is being named team captain. No offense to you guys, the awards that come from your teammates, that means the most," he said. "That means they voted on it, you earned their respect. I'm not saying I'm not grateful for all the awards I received. I'm just saying it's special to get awards from your teammates."
Teams are well aware of Jones' surgery and expected recovery time and aren't likely to drop his stock, assuming their doctors are satisfied with the progress that he's making. Jones is a classic example of a better football player than athlete. This fact might push him into the second or third round as some teams prioritize upside on draft day, especially if questions remain about his recovery.
However, Jones' track record against elite competition, toughness and versatility certainly bodes well for his future in the NFL regardless of which position his pro team asks him to play.
--Cincinnati senior tight end Travis Kelce will not work out at the combine due to an abdominal tear, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. He suffered the injury last month and was unable to participate in the Senior Bowl.
Considered a possible second-round pick, Kelce is NFLDraftScout.com's No. 3 tight end and top senior at the position. On Thursday, he measured just under 6-feet-5, 255 pounds with 33 3/4-inch arms and 9 5/8-inch hands. Kelce is the younger brother of Jason Kelce, who was a sixth- round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Kelce led the Bearcats in every receiving category in 2012 with 45 catches for 722 yards and eight touchdowns, ranking among the nation's leaders in tight end production. He had just 14 catches on his resume entering the season, but used an All-Conference senior year to propel himself into the top-50 discussion of this year's draft.
Kelce is highly rated because of his all-around ability, competing in the trenches as a physical blocker, but also creating as a receiver at all levels. He was expected to run in the 4.6 range in the 40-yard dash and test well at his Pro Day, scheduled for March 13.
Dane Brugler is an analyst for www.NFLDraftScout.com, published by The Sports Xchange.