2012 NFL Draft: 10 Best Players Who Weren't Invited to the Combine

James ToljCorrespondent IIJanuary 24, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: 10 Best Players Who Weren't Invited to the Combine

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    The NFL scouting combine can't take everyone, so there are bound to be a number of NCAA football players that get left out.

    The players who aren't invited will miss out on showing what they can do with the other top NFL draft prospects in the country, but they will miss out on an important coaching session as well.

    The coaches at the combine give players tips on how to improve their performances in certain drills, and try to fix players' improper technique.

    All across the country there are players getting ready for their school's pro day because they didn't get invited to the combine, but here are 10 players who should have been asked to come.

Austin Davis, QB, Southern Mississippi

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    Austin Davis had a fantastic year for the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles, and the quarterback didn't just build his statistics up in garbage time. He helped his team to 12-2 record this season.

    Davis finished the year with 3,496 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions.

    Davis wasn't a one-year wonder either. He had similar numbers last season, and he had over 3,000 yards passing every season he started other than 2009, when he suffered a foot injury and started just five games.

    He finished his career at Southern Mississippi with 11,351 passing yards, 83 touchdowns and 27 interceptions.

    Davis can run well, too. He is a solid athlete, and he had  25 rushing touchdowns over his career.

    If he doesn't make it as a quarterback in the NFL, maybe he could be a possession wide receiver (just watch the video).

Chad Diehl, FB, Clemson

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    Fullback, like any spot on the offensive line, is a thankless position.

    A fullback can open up a hole for a running back, but for the most part, the player gets little credit (except from analysts or serious football enthusiasts).

    That is just what Chad Diehl does for Clemson. He opens up running lanes.

    Diehl has only had a handful of runs and receptions during his career, but he was invaluable to the team.

    Diehl could raise his draft stock if he shows he is a little quicker and has better hands than most teams assume.

    And at 6'2" and 265 pounds, Diehl could add to his value by proving he can move up to the line of scrimmage and block as a tight end.

Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky

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    Western Kentucky doesn't get a whole lot of love from the NFL. The team started off 0-4, but they didn't lose their fifth game until LSU beat them down 42-9 in the 10th game of Western Kentucky's season.

    Western Kentucky running back Bobby Rainey has been consistent throughout his career. In his junior season, Rainey had 1,649 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. He caught 24 passes for 230 yards as well.

    This season, Rainey ran for 1,695 yards and 13 touchdowns. He had 36 receptions for 361 yards and four touchdowns.

    At 5'7" and 208 pounds, Rainey is fast enough to break a run to the outside, and he is strong enough to take it between the tackles.

    He could be one of the biggest surprises of the 2012-2013 NFL season, and if he went to the combine, NFL scouts would walk away impressed.

Brian Linthicum, TE, Michigan State

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    There might be the dreaded character issues tag associated with Brian Linthicum after his 2010 arrest, but the Michigan State tight end can play.

    Linthicum was on a team that focused on two receivers and the running game to lead its offense, but he still managed to grab 31 receptions for 364 yards (third on the team in both categories).

    And he had a breakout performance against Georgia in the Outback Bowl, with 7 catches for 115 yards.

    At 6'4", 245 pounds, Linthicum can block well, but his hands are much better than his numbers show.

    Talent at the tight end spot is lacking this year, and Linthicum should have easily been one of the few at his position invited to the scouting combine.

Tim Benford, WR, Tennessee Tech

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    Players from smaller schools have to do a lot more to get noticed, because of the level of competition they play against is relatively weak.

    Tennessee Tech wide receiver Tim Benford didn't seem to have a problem getting some of the spotlight though.

    CBSSports.com calls Benford "...a precise, quicker-than-fast route-runner with smooth footwork in and out of his breaks and knows how to get open in the short-to-intermediate field."

    They also say he "...snatches the ball out of the air with soft, reliable hands," and he "...flashed athletic skills and is a near-certain draft pick in April."

    Benford isn't the most physically gifted wideout, but at 5'11" and 199 pounds, he deserves a chance to show his hands off to scouts during the NFL combine.

Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor

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    Nicolas Jean-Baptise was one of the best players on a bad defense. In fact, Baylor had the 116th-ranked defense in the FBS.

    Even with the plethora of points scored against them, Jean-Baptise's stellar play along the defensive line was evident.

    He finished the 2011-2012 season with five sacks (three solo and two assisted), 11 tackles for loss (six solo and five assisted), a blocked kick and three passes broken up.

    At 6'2", 335 pounds, he is the prototypical nose guard, and his tremendous power should be exhibited at the combine.

Donnie Fletcher, CB, Boston College

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    The Boston College Eagles only won four games this year, and both sides of the ball were in disarray (although the offense was especially pitiful). However, that wasn't Donnie Fletcher's fault.

    Fletcher had just five pass breakups and two interceptions this season, but he is talented enough to showcase his skills at the combine.

    Last season, Fletcher had five interceptions. This year, opposing quarterbacks did their best to avoid him if they could.

    If Fletcher can prove to have fluid-moving hips, great footwork and the quickness needed to be a NFL cornerback, then at 6'1" and 195 pounds, he could be a huge asset to a team with a depleted secondary (he could end up at safety).

Julian Miller, DE, West Vriginia

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    "Tenacious" is the best possible adjective to describe how Julian Miller plays. He has a motor that lasts all day long.

    The West Virginia defensive lineman had a spectacular year.

    He finished the season with 26 assisted and 31 solo tackles, two assisted and five solo sacks, six assisted and eight solo tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and two passes defended.

    In 2010, Miller played just as well. He had 26 assisted and 28 solo tackles, six assisted and solo tackles for loss, two assisted and eight solo sacks, three pass breakups and a forced fumble.

    Miller easily chases quarterbacks down from behind and isn't deterred by double teams, so if a team wants a player who will come in and provide some consistency, Miller is the guy.

    If only he had a chance to show what he can do at the combine. 

Quinton Saulsberry, C, Mississippi State

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    Quinton Saulsberry, the 6'2", 305-pound Mississippi State product, may be one of the most underrated players in the NFL draft.

    He has started at center, guard and tackle during his time at Mississippi State. There is no questioning his versatility, but no one can question his talent either.

    Someone that is able to move around from position to position like Saulsberry did has to have an amazing combination of speed, footwork and power.

    While he is projected to be the fifth center taken by CBSSports.com, with Saulsberry's immense skill, there is no telling what position he will end up playing.

Aaron Henry, S, Wisconsin

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    It is a surprise not to see Aaron Henry on CBSSports.com's list of players invited to the combine. Henry has everything a team would want in a safety.

    He has good size at 6'0" and 204 pounds, and he has decent speed. Henry is a strong tackler, and he played extremely well the past two seasons.

    This season, he had four interceptions, 23 assisted and 44 solo tackles, four pass breakups and a sack.

    In 2010, Henry had 47 solo and 11 solo tackles, two interceptions (both returned for touchdowns), seven pass breakups, one forced fumble (two recovered and one touchdown return), a tackle for loss and he even returned a few punts. 

    Henry has great hands for a defensive back, and there in no doubt he will be taken in the NFL draft.

    Unfortunately, he will just have to show off his ability at Wisconsin's pro day.