Given that it features no actual football gameplay, the NFL scouting combine is the most overrated part of the pre-draft process, but it is an opportunity for prospects to put their athletic abilities on display against one another and in front of NFL scouts, coaches and general managers.
There are always a number of standouts at every year’s combine, as draft prospects wow viewers with their athletic ability. The finest athletic specimens among the 2012 draft class make up my projected top 10 performers at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine.
The 2012 NFL scouting combine will be held between Feb. 22-28 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
North Carolina outside linebacker Zach Brown is a potential first-round draft pick, and he has a good chance to work his way into the first round by making the combine his personal stage.
Brown’s football skills, specifically his tackling consistency, are raw. Thanks to his terrific athleticism, Brown has tremendous upside.
Brown will immediately be among the NFL’s fastest linebackers. He set a school record for North Carolina’s indoor track team, running the 60-meter dash in 6.72 seconds. Brown, at 6’1’’ and 236 pounds, will make a strong push to break 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine.
Brown has also shown in coverage that he is an explosive athlete with more than straight-line speed. Brown should put up good measurables in the lateral agility drills and in the jumping drills, and should look as fluid as any linebacker in the positional drills.
It is uncertain whether Brown can excel as a football player, but Brown is the most likely example of a player who will be overdrafted in 2012 by wowing scouts at the combine.
Height and athleticism have come to define the tight end position, and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Ladarius Green has both. A small-school prospect who can really benefit from the bigger stage of the combine, expect Green to put on a tremendous display.
Green is a terrific athlete who should be able to run his 40-yard dash in the 4.5-4.6 second range, and he has great vertical ability. Green should stand out among the tight ends athletically, but he can help himself even more with a strong showing in weigh-ins and the weight room.
Green weighed in at a slender 6’6’’, 237 pounds at the Senior Bowl, but if Green can add a solid 5-10 pounds of muscle to his frame, that could really help his stock. Additionally, while Green is slender, he is strong, and I expect him to surprise scouts with a strong showing on the bench press.
Coming from Louisiana-Lafayette, Green is not a well-known name yet, but I expect him to change that by standing out among the tight ends at the combine.
I project that Joe Adams will have the combine’s fastest times in the 20-yard shuttle and 3-cone drills, both tests of lateral agility. Adams is a tremendously dynamic wide receiver and punt returner who has an outstanding ability to make defenders miss with his ability to change direction in an instant.
Adams is also a strong bet to run one of the combine’s fastest 40-yard dash times, likely as one of a select group that will run faster than 4.4 seconds. Adams was not consistently productive at Arkansas as a receiver, but he is a tremendous athlete with playmaking ability. He should put that on display in Indianapolis, and be a standout of the combine.
Robert Griffin III should be expected to have one of the greatest combine performances that a quarterback has ever had. While Griffin truly made the transition in his final season at Baylor from a dynamic dual-threat athlete to a true pocket passer, he remains a superb athlete who can make a difference outside of the pocket, and he will put that ability on display in Indianapolis.
As a 17-year-old, Griffin finished third at the NCAA track and field championships with a time of 49.55 seconds in the 400-meter hurdles. That certainly displays that Griffin is a fantastic athlete, and he should back that up at the combine with very impressive measurables in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump and broad jump.
As a top-five draft prospect, Griffin may opt not to throw at the combine, but if he does, he should excel in that area as well. Griffin displayed this past season that he has a terrific arm, and can throw a strike 40 yards downfield with perfect accuracy. In a controlled setting, Griffin would be able to truly display his ability to drive and place his throws.
Griffin could really assert himself as a player worth trading up to the second overall pick for with a strong combine showing.
Chris Rainey is the odds-on favorite to run the fastest 40-yard dash at the 2012 NFL scouting combine. Rainey’s speed is his absolute best asset as a prospect, and anything higher than 4.3 seconds will be a disappointment.
Rainey displayed at the Senior Bowl that he has the ability to play wide receiver, and use his speed to burn opposing cornerbacks. However, Rainey must show more than just straight-line speed at the combine.
He should excel in all the athletic drills, but must show his ability to run routes and catch the ball consistently at the combine. If he does well in both areas, Rainey has a chance to be a Day 2 draft pick.
Bruce Irvin should be the most impressive athlete among the hybrid pass rushers at this year’s combine. Irvin struggles as a run defender, but projects well to the next level as a situational pass rusher and sack artist, as he was at West Virginia.
Irvin has terrific explosiveness off of the line of scrimmage, traits that he should display with his 10-yard split in the 40-yard dash and in his broad jump. Across the board, Irvin should excel athletically.
Where Irvin must also impress is in the positional drills, where his ability to drop into coverage and game-simulated movement will be tested. That said, the combine is an environment that is set up in favor of players like Irvin, and he should help himself considerably with a strong showing in Indianapolis.
Lamar Miller is one of the fastest prospects for the 2012 NFL Draft, and he should show that at the combine. Miller should be able to run faster than 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine, all the while carrying 212 pounds.
Miller’s explosive athletic ability should show up well at the combine, not only in the dash but also in the broad and vertical jumps. Overall, if Miller meets expectations and stands out among the running backs at the combine, he should establish himself as the No. 2 running back in the draft class.
Brandon Boykin is a tremendous athlete who should stand out in the measurable drills among the cornerbacks at the combine.
Not only did Boykin play in the secondary collegiately, he also returned kicks and punts, and was a wide receiver. Boykin was able to do so much because of his speed, lateral agility, leaping ability, and ball skills.
Boykin should do very well athletically in the measurable drills. He is also one of the most sound, consistent cornerbacks in the draft, so he should have a strong day in the on-field position drills.
With a strong performance in Indianapolis, Boykin has a good chance of making himself a second-round draft pick.
Update: Boykin suffered a leg injury in the Senior Bowl. His status for the combine is uncertain.
It came as a big surprise that LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers declared for the 2012 NFL draft as a redshirt sophomore, but Brockers has quickly become labeled as a top-10 draft pick by many prognosticators.
I believe that Brockers is overrated, has high bust potential and is not worth a first-round draft pick, but he is one of the quickest-rising prospects in the draft class, and his stock should continue to rise at the combine.
Brockers should weigh-in at over 300 pounds, and he has terrific athletic ability for his size. Among defensive linemen, Brockers should be a stand out both athletically and in the on-field drills, and continue to make scouts salivate over his potential.
Quinton Coples, who played both defensive end and defensive tackle in his senior season at North Carolina, was not particularly impressive in his final collegiate season. That said, his stock got back on the rise with a great showing at the Senior Bowl, and he has a great chance to keep his stock rising at the combine.
Coples will impress the scouts right away in weigh-ins, having weighed in with an impressive frame at 6’6’’ and build at 281 pounds. Coples has ideal size to play defensive end, but he is also a very good athlete for his size.
Coples has terrific explosiveness and burst at the line of scrimmage, which should show in the 10-yard split of his 40-yard dash as well as in the broad and vertical jumps. Coples should also do well in the shuttle drills given his ability to move laterally, and he should stand out in the positional drills.
Coples is a solid first-round draft selection, but could solidify himself as a top-15 draft choice with a strong combine.
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