2012 NFL Draft: 20 Prospects We're Most Excited to See at the Scouting Combine

Ryan CookFeatured ColumnistFebruary 1, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: 20 Prospects We're Most Excited to See at the Scouting Combine

0 of 17

    The 2012 NFL Scouting Combine kicks off on February 22 lasting seven days through the 28th. It is the premier talent show for players entering the NFL Draft this spring.

    More than 300 players will be on display for NFL coaches and scouts to evaluate in both generic drills that all players will do such as the 40 yard dash and the bench press, and position specific exercises like the kick-slide protection drill for the offensive linemen.

    Most participants have a huge amount of money on the line as they try to prove themselves both against the clock and against the other players from the same position.

    Who will be the most exciting prospects to see perform at the scouting combine? I'll give you 20 that will be fun to keep an eye on.

Robert Griffin III, QB

1 of 17

    Griffin is easily the second best QB in the 2012 draft class and many people think that the team who really wants him will have to trade with the Rams for the number two pick to get him.

    The Redskins and Dolphins are clear candidates to move up for the Heisman winner, but what will they be getting?

    Already blessed with great pocket presence and scrambling ability, the area where Griffin could really help himself is with his footwork. Coaches will want to see if he is able to transfer his momentum on three and five step drops into live throws.

Andrew Luck, QB

2 of 17

    Is he really the next great QB in the NFL?

    Everything seems to be lining up for Luck no matter what happens with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. If Peyton stays, Luck will benefit from one of the best available tutors at the quarterback position. If Manning is not with Indy in 2012, the job is Luck's and he should be able to handle it.

    Already cemented as the first pick, it will be interesting to see how much Luck puts into the process. I feel that he is such a competitor that he will give it his all and show everyone why he is the best QB prospect since Peyton.

Nick Foles, QB

3 of 17

    Foles could be drafted in the high part of the second round by a team looking for a starting QB. He could possibly drop to the late third or early fourth round to a team looking for a backup.

    The reasons Foles is not a first round prospect are numerous. He rushes throws leading to passes that sail over his receivers, his touch on throws is questionable, and he has an injury history.

    The accuracy Foles has on his throws will determine when he comes off the board.

Kirk Cousins, QB

4 of 17

    Cousins is someone who could boost his draft stock by a full round or so with a good performance at the combine. He will not be ready to start right away as a pro, but teams looking for a solid backup and someone to develop as a future starter should look at the former Michigan State star.

    There is no questioning the leadership or the accuracy in Cousins' game. His arm strength and throwing technique will be scrutinized the most in Indy.

    With a solid workout, Cousins could sneak onto a team into the third round that misses out on Luck or Griffin.  

Lamar Miller, RB

5 of 17

    One of the most explosive running backs in this year's draft, Miller is just a redshirt sophomore. Scouts have a bit of a limited resume to look at when evaluating the Miami product.

    It will be interesting to see how Miller does catching the ball, as he was rarely used as a receiver by the Hurricanes. 

    One thing is for sure; it will be fun to watch Miller run the 40-yard dash and a time under 4.4 would probably secure him a spot in the first round.

Doug Martin, RB

6 of 17

    Coming from of an offense that relied primarily on the pass, Martin was still able to go over 1,000 yards in each of his last two seasons at Boise State and scored 42 touchdowns for the Broncos.

    Martin is pretty solid in most aspects and should have a good showing at the combine. If he really impresses someone, he could find himself coming off the board in the early second round.

Alshon Jeffery, WR

7 of 17

    Jeffery may be the player with the most to prove in Indianapolis as he is constantly questioned about his speed and ability to separate from defenders.

    At 6' 4" and 230 pounds, Jeffery can use his body to shield defenders from the ball and draws comparisons to former first-round WR Mike Williams from USC.

    Jeffery should excel in the gauntlet drill and running a great 40 yard dash could propel him into the discussion as a top-ten pick.

Arkansas WRs

8 of 17

    OK, I am kind of cheating here putting three players in one slide.

    The Arkansas WR with the most to prove is Greg Childs. After a nice start to his career, Childs has battled injuries his during his final two years in Fayetteville. Once thought of as a possible mid-round talent, Childs will have to prove he is healthy to even get teams to take a look at him on draft day.

    Two other Razorback WRs have taken advantage of the playing time they received due to Child's inability to stay on the field. Joe Adams and Jarius Wright have put themselves in a spot to be drafted in the fourth to fifth round range.

    What will be fun to see is Adams and Wright run the 40 as they are two of the fastest players in a draft class which doesn't have many true burners in it.

Kevin Koger, TE

9 of 17

    One of the bigger TEs available this year, Koger could really do himself a favor by showing teams he has the hands to be a threat in the passing game.

    Playing in Rich Rodriguez's spread offense and primarily catching passes from Denard Robinson hasn't really given Koger a chance to showcase his skills.

    I think he will surprise a lot of people and be close to the fifth TE taken in April.

Zerbie Sanders, OT

10 of 17

    Sanders is probably the most versatile tackle prospect available this year. He has the size to be a great run blocker on the right side and enough athleticism to man the left side.

    One question he can answer at the combine is whether or not he has the speed to keep up with the fastest edge rushers.

    His work in the kick-slide drill could lock him into the first round. There is no shortage of teams that would love to have a guy who can start at right tackle and be the top backup at left tackle.

David DeCastro, OG

11 of 17

    DeCastro is easily the best guard in this year's class and probably the best since Steve Hutchinson back in 2001.

    There aren't many questions about what DeCastro can do on the field. He is great as a pass blocker and solid in the run game.

    It should be fun just to watch him dominate the workouts; he doesn't have much to prove and will be selected in the 10 to 20 range come April.

Peter Konz, C

12 of 17

    Again I want to see what the top prospect at a position will do at the combine. This time there are more questions to be answered as Konz has missed time in three consecutive years with injuries, including the Rose Bowl this year.

    Knoz is coming out of a program that loves to run the football and he is great as a run blocker but he is a decent pass blocker as well.

    Konz will have to show that his ankle is healed before a team will be willing to use a first round pick on him. His name is linked to the Detroit Lions a lot but they have a few other areas they could fill if Konz isn't fully healthy.

Melvin Ingram/Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB

13 of 17

    These two guys are running neck and neck to be the first DE/3-4 OLB to be taken in the draft. Both were very productive last season in the nation's best conference, the SEC.

    Both players were mainly asked to rush the passer in their defense with Ingram sliding inside to tackle on third down occasionally.

    Either man could gain an edge over the other if he proves he can drop back and cover a back, tight end, or play zone coverage.

    I would say Upshaw has the advantage here and will separate himself from Ingram and come off the board at number 10 to Buffalo. 

Bruce Irvin OLB

14 of 17

    Irvin has had a very long road to becoming the player he is now and is still learning the game.

    No one can deny the explosiveness he brings off the edge as a pass rusher, and he will be tough to handle for offensive tackles.

    He has not really been asked to do much in coverage at West Virginia, but has the athleticism to cover a running back. 

    With a good interview session, Irvin could move to the top of the second round as there are a lot of teams that might be willing to take a chance on his Aldon Smith type of potential.

Tank Carder, LB

15 of 17

    Carder's name has been all over draft boards with some seeing him as a fit in the third round and others slotting him in the sixth round.

    Playing in TCU's 4-2-5 defense, Carder was asked to be aggressive in filling running lanes and was also used to cover running backs out of the backfield and he did both well.

    He may slide a bit on draft day due to concerns about his upper body strength and major injuries he suffered as a result of an auto accident years ago.

    A strong showing in the bench press could solidify him as a third to fourth round selection.

Janoris Jenkins, CB

16 of 17

    There is no one who will doubt Jenkins has the physical tools to be a shutdown corner in the NFL, the question is how long will he be in the league?

    Jenkins started as a true freshman at Florida and progressed to being an All-SEC player as a junior. He then found trouble, getting arrested twice for marijuana possession in a three month span. This lead to his dismissal from the Gators.

    He will need to show teams that he is willing to stay out of trouble before they use a first round pick and throw big money at him.

    It should be interesting to watch Jenkins—and the player on the next slide—show their skills in an effort to convince a team to make one of them the second CB taken.

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB

17 of 17

    There is a lot of talent available at the CB spot this year, and Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick is right near the top of that list.

    Kirkpatrick has great size at  6'2", so he won't be at a disadvantage against bigger receivers in the NFL. Yet, he still is a great athlete.

    Of course, there is the question of his commitment to the game after an arrest for marijuana possession in January. He should be able to convince teams of his desire to excel on the field with a good interview. Winning the Bart Starr Award as the Tide's most improved player in the spring of 2011 is a testament to his work ethic.