2012 NFL Draft: 5 Prospects Who Could Rise After a Great Combine

Ryan CookFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: 5 Prospects Who Could Rise After a Great Combine

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    Every year there is a handful of players who have a great showing at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. Their draft stock soars, and they are drafted far higher than they were projected after the college season ended.

    One thing the combine offers is a chance for players who have a weakness or uncertainty in their game to answer questions about those concerns.

    Let's look at five players who each have questions they can answer and who can move themselves up a round or two by proving they are complete players. 

1. Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina

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    One player who is all over the board in mock drafts is Alshon Jeffery. Some people have him as their top receiver available, while others have him going at the end of the first round as the fourth or fifth wideout selected.

    No one will doubt Jeffery's ability to go up and get the ball, but questions abound over his weight and how it will affect his athleticism. His straight-line speed is also being questioned.

    If Jeffery can show up at the scouting combine at somewhere near 225 pounds and can run a 40-yard dash in under 4.55 seconds, then he will shed the Mike Williams comparisons and find himself being looked at by teams in the top 10.

2. Bruce Irvin, OLB, West Virginia

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    West Virginia's Bruce Irvin is one of the most talented pass-rushers in the draft this year. No one will dispute this.

    The questions about Irvin involve his ability to stop the run and defend the pass, as Irvin was mainly asked to just pin his ears back and fly off the edge and go after the quarterback.

    A good performance in the pass-drop drill could boost Irvin's stock into the beginning of the second round.

3. Ryan Lindley, QB, San Diego State

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    Teams not in desperate need of a new starting quarterback and looking to find a prospect they can develop into a starter in a few years will be checking out San Diego State's Ryan Lindley.

    Lindley is a pure pocket-passer with prototypical NFL QB size at 6'4" and 229 pounds. Coached by former NFL star Brian Sipe, Lindley has learned the finer points of the game, from pump-faking to looking off safeties.

    Lindley has plenty of experience in taking snaps from under center and in the shotgun, and has pretty good footwork. The thing Lindley will have to prove is his accuracy. Struggles to make accurate throws when his feet are not set have scouts concerned he will have trouble in the pocket with NFL pass-rushers coming at him.

    Disproving doubts about the accuracy of his arm could lead Lindley to being drafted as high as the second round.

4. Jerry Franklin, ILB, Arkansas

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    Jerry Franklin has had a productive career at Arkansas for four years, beginning the minute he arrived on campus. A four-year starter, Franklin led the Razorbacks in tackles every year in Fayetteville.

    I feel Franklin could play inside linebacker in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense, but the worry is that he is only a two-down linebacker, lacking the athleticism to cover running backs and tight ends.

    Looking to be a third-day selection right now, a strong showing in the three-cone and shuttle drills, and the pass-drop drill, could prove to teams that Franklin can stay on the field on passing downs, moving him up into the third round.

5. Chris Polk, RB, Washington

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    Trent Richardson is clearly the top running back in this year's draft, but there is a group of four others who could be second off the board.

    Washington's Chris Polk could push himself into the first round with a great combine showing. Already known for his bruising style and ability to break tackles and finish runs off, Polk has enough speed and pass-catching skills to line up in the slot.

    A solid showing in the agility drills and the 40-yard dash could drive interest in Polk among teams like Cincinnati, the New York Giants and maybe even Green Bay or New England—they could all use an upgrade at running back.