Whether it's fair or not, a huge part of the draft process is the NFL scouting combine. While teams certainly take body of work and game performance into account, how prospects perform while wearing skin-tight shirts and shorts seem to be nearly as important at times.
There is certainly some merit in the combine, though, as it often allows lesser-known players to get in the spotlight, and it allows top prospects to solidify themselves.
It's pretty safe to say that speed kills at the combine, since the 40-yard dash is usually the most anticipated drill.
Others, such as the bench press and vertical leap, have importance depending upon the player's position, but speed is the name of the game.
Here are three players who will use their immense speed to impress at the combine and move up the draft board.
1. Indianapolis Colts (2-14): Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
There's a sticky situation in Indy with Peyton Manning's health still in question. Regardless of what happens, though, the Colts can't pass up a generational talent like Luck.
2. St. Louis Rams (2-14): Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Rams have a ton of holes to fill, but quarterback Sam Bradford needs to be protected first and foremost. Kalil has the potential to do just that for a decade or more.
3. Minnesota Vikings (3-13): Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Minnesota really struggled to defend the pass this season, and much of that has to do with a secondary that is aging and short on talent. Claiborne could step in and make an immediate difference.
4. Cleveland Browns (4-12): Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
The Browns seem like they're willing to let running back Peyton Hillis walk, so a replacement is needed. Richardson offers everything Hillis does and a whole lot more.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12): Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Ronde Barber is on his last legs, and you never know when Aqib Talib is going to screw up next, so the Bucs need a cornerback. Kirkpatrick is right behind Morris Claiborne in terms of value.
6. Washington Redskins (5-11): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III was the most explosive quarterback in college football this past season, and because of that he was honored with the Heisman Trophy.
Winning the Heisman certainly isn't a ticket to success in the NFL, but it helped Griffin gain great notoriety. That will be the case at the combine as well.
While smaller, Griffin reminds many of last year's No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton. While there were questions regarding Newton after he was drafted by the Carolina Panthers, he proved all his doubters wrong by setting a rookie record for passing yards in a season and an all-time record for most rushing touchdowns by any quarterback in a single season.
It's impossible to say whether Griffin will make an immediate impact similarly, but he is from the same mold. Griffin is sure to impress at the combine even if he doesn't throw because of his speed and agility.
The Washington Redskins are in dire need of a franchise quarterback, so I would be shocked if he got past them at pick No. 6.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert looked lost as a rookie, but much of that had to do with a lame supporting cast. Blackmon gives him what could be an elite target from day one.
8. Carolina Panthers (6-10)*: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
The Panthers have been without a viable option at defensive tackle since the now-retired Kris Jenkins departed for the New York Jets. Still finally gives them a playmaker in the middle.
9. Miami Dolphins (6-10)*: Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama
The Dolphins have needs on both sides of the ball, but they could use a complementary pass-rusher across from Cameron Wake. Upshaw was the best pass-rusher on the best defense in college football.
10. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Bills allowed the fewest sacks in the league this season, but most of that was due to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick getting rid of the ball. Reiff will give Fitz much more time in the pocket.
11. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)*: Nick Perry, DE, USC
It may seem like a reach, but Perry has been flying up draft boards as the Senior Bowl and NFL combine approach. He would be a great fit on a Seattle team that struggles sacking the quarterback.
12. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)*: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Chiefs drafted offensive tackle Branden Albert in the first round a few years back, and he hasn't worked out. Martin has much less bust potential, though, and should be a fine pick.
13. Arizona Cardinals (8-8): Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Arizona had a lot of trouble getting to the quarterback this past season, especially with Joey Porter in sharp decline. That makes Ingram a smart pick at this juncture.
14. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
The Cowboys are getting a little long in the tooth at inside linebacker with Keith Brooking and Bradie James. A tackling machine like Kuechly would add some much-needed youth and intensity.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8): Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson seems to have overstayed his welcome in Philadelphia, meaning the Eagles need a replacement. Floyd would make a nice complement to Jeremy Maclin.
16. New York Jets (8-8): Quinton Coples, DE/DT, UNC
As bad as the Jets were on offense at times this past season, their defense regressed as well. They could use a big-time pass-rusher up front, so Coples is a perfect fit.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (via OAK 8-8): David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
The Bengals are a team that relies on playing good defense and running the ball. In order to run the ball effectively, though, the offensive line must improve. DeCastro would be an immediate upgrade.
18. San Diego Chargers (8-8): Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
With Quentin Jammer aging and Antoine Cason looking more and more like a bust, the Chargers could go with a cornerback again this season. If they do, Dennard looks like a very safe pick.
19. Chicago Bears (8-8): Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
The Bears offensive line was bad to begin with, and losing center Olin Kreutz certainly didn't help matters. Konz is the best center in the draft and should help fill the void.
20. Tennessee Titans (9-7): Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
Tennessee was able to do a lot with a patchwork linebacking corps this season, but they could use a player to replace departed middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch. Burfict fits the bill.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7): Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
In this current era where passing the ball is en vogue, fewer and fewer running backs are being drafted early.
Sometimes talent is just too good to pass up, though, and that figures to be the case with Miami running back Lamar Miller. No back in the draft is as explosive as Miller and that will be made apparent at the combine.
Miller has pretty good size, but his speed and ability to change direction are what set him apart from the rest of the field. Miller could step in for any team right away and be an exceptional change-of-pace back, and he will likely be capable of handling a full workload in the near future.
A perfect landing spot for him would be with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Veteran running back Cedric Benson is getting up there in years as far as backs are concerned, and he has lost much of his burst.
Miller could split time with him initially, but once Benson's contract expires, Miller will show off a skill set that reminds me of the Kansas City Chiefs' Jamaal Charles.
22. Cleveland Browns (via ATL 10-6): Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
Greg Little looks like a legitimate threat for the Browns, but quarterback Colt McCoy still needs another weapon. Jeffery brings a rare combination of size and speed to the table.
23. Detroit Lions (10-6): Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
The Lions' biggest issue may be their secondary, but their offensive line isn't far behind. Jeff Backus is getting old and Gosder Cherilus is nothing special, so Adams could start immediately.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4): Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was beaten and battered relentlessly this season, so the Steelers need to address their offensive line issues. Glenn will provide a solid, steady presence.
25. Denver Broncos (8-8): Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
The Broncos have one of the best pass-rush pairings in football in Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller, but they need some more help from the defensive line. Worthy is an excellent start.
26. Houston Texans (10-6): Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Houston orchestrated one of the finest year-to-year defensive turnarounds in recent memory this season. The final piece of the puzzle is a playmaking safety, and Barron is just that.
27. New York Giants (9-7): Zach Brown, OLB, UNC
The Giants defense was ravaged with injuries this season, especially at linebacker. Brown would give the G-Men excellent depth and would likely receive significant playing time immediately.
28. New England Patriots (via NO 13-3): Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
Quarterback Tom Brady has an embarrassment of offensive weapons, but he could use an outside threat at wide receiver. Sanu could eventually replace Deion Branch in that role.
29. Baltimore Ravens (12-4): Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
The Ravens have a great defense year in and year out because they are able to continually bring in new blood. Hightower could start alongside Ray Lewis next season and be his eventual replacement.
30. San Francisco 49ers (13-3): Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright operated as quarterback Robert Griffin III's go-to target all season long, and his numbers reflected that.
Thanks to his track and field background, Wright was one of the fastest players in all of college football and very well may be the fastest player in the 2012 NFL draft.
Speed doesn't mean everything, and it remains to be seen if Wright can run precise routes and go across the middle at the next level, but he has immense potential.
It may be fair to say that no player will impress more at the combine than Wright. His game speed is incredible as it is, so putting a tangible number on it will only help him.
Wright would be an absolutely perfect fit with the San Francisco 49ers. Quarterback Alex Smith has a couple good weapons in tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Michael Crabtree, but he has nobody who can stretch the field.
Wright would serve as a great complement to Crabtree in that regard and could become a favorite of Smith's immediately.
31. New England Patriots (13-3): Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Words cannot describe the issues that the Patriots have had defending the pass this season. Some of that has to do with injuries, but they need an infusion of talent. That makes Jenkins a great pick.
32. Green Bay Packers (15-1): Chris Polk, RB, Washington
Despite their defensive shortcomings, the Packers have no glaring needs. Since they can afford to take a luxury player, I see Green Bay adding Polk to a running back stable that already includes Ryan Grant and James Starks.
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