NFL Combine: 7 Players Who Will Boost Their Draft Stock

Branden FitzPatrickCorrespondent IFebruary 22, 2012

NFL Combine: 7 Players Who Will Boost Their Draft Stock

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    Every year, the NFL Combine is an opportunity for soon-to-be-drafted players to improve their draft stock.

    While some players seize the opportunity that the combine presents, some falter and get drafted lower than they were originally presumed. A bad combine can cost a prospect millions of dollars. A 40-yard dash time can be the main factor as to why someone went in the second round, or the fourth round.

    This year's NFL draft will have a record 65 underclassmen. That means there are a lot of players that NFL scouts aren't completely familiar with. This combine will be their biggest opportunity to show NFL teams that they can be productive NFL players. 

    Here is a list of seven players who can raise or cement their draft stock if they have a strong combine: 

LaMichael James

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    LaMichael James has arguably been the best running back in college football over the past two seasons.

    But his small frame and injury issues will likely keep James from being drafted in the first round.

    James won't go in the first round because there isn't a need to draft a running back that high in the draft anymore unless he's an all-around back. The position is too replaceable to use a draft pick on a niche player. 

    As an AFC personnel director told NFL.com's Bucky Brooks:

    They're situational guys. There isn't a lot of strength at the position, but I can see a team taking James because he runs well, and saying, 'OK, he's situational, but in our offense, he'll get enough snaps to justify taking him in the first round.' 

    That's where James can convince a team to pick him early in the second round. He can be a key piece on an NFL team that needs a utensil guy like Darren Sproles. 

    Len Pasquarelli of The Sports Xchange said that James is "going to have to show (at the combine) that he can catch the ball as more than a back."

    James is great when he gets in open space. If he can catch well at the combine and show that he's improved his strength, there will be more than a few NFL teams that will want him as both a slot receiver and a third-down back. 

Brandon Weeden

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    Did you know that Brandon Weeden, 28, is the same age as Green Bay Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers?

    That fact alone will scare off many NFL teams from drafting him to be their play-caller. 

    Weeden is 6' 4" and 222 pounds, so he's the perfect size for an NFL quarterback. His arm strength is good, but not great. He's also doesn't have much mobility. 

    Weeden will turn scouts' heads at the combine in the interview room, more so than he will on the field. He plans on using his age to his advantage, as he told the Associated Press.

    I think my age is an advantage. Being older, being more mature. I’ve already been a pro. I’ve had to deal with the failures and success of playing baseball. I’ve overcome those failures and dealt with the success. I think I’ll be able to take on more early on.

    One of the biggest challenges for rookie quarterbacks is how they learn to deal with failure. Weeden has risen above failure in the past. Once he gets in a room with some NFL teams, he will impress them with his intelligence and demeanor.

    Weeden definitely has an edge over the other rookie quarterbacks in terms of preparation as a pro since he's been a pro baseball player already.

    Since Matt Barkley and Landry Jones decided to stay in college, Weeden could prove himself to be a quarterback worth taking early.  

Darron Thomas

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    Another Oregon Duck that could improve his stock at the combine is quarterback Darron Thomas.

    Many were flabbergasted when Thomas announced that he was foregoing his senior season and entering the NFL draft.

    There's no doubt that Thomas is a great athlete. But he played in a spread offense at Oregon, where it's hard to identify just how good a quarterback really is. Thomas' biggest challenge is that many scouts don't know his game that well because he wasn't expected to enter the draft.

    It's easy to say Thomas won't be good in the pros because he played in a spread system in college. What everyone seems to be forgetting is that Thomas is a great athlete with a good arm, and he's a proven team leader. He was 23-3 in his two years as a starter for the Ducks. Thomas can at least be a good backup in the NFL.

    Thomas has an opportunity at the combine to show to NFL scouts that he can be a project worth investing in.   

Bobby Massie

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    The key to having a successful NFL offense is having a strong line.

    It's simple—if the offensive line can't block anyone, it's significantly harder to gain yards. Having a weak offensive line also puts the skill players at risk of injury.

    Bobby Massie is a big offensive tackle who played at Mississippi. His size alone, 6' 6" and 325 pounds, will attract many NFL teams. He doesn't get as much attention as other tackles in the draft because of Ole Miss' struggles.   

    Since most teams in the NFL are in need of help at offensive tackle, Massie could raise his draft stock significantly if he has an impressive combine. 

Stephen Hill

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    Stephen Hill's junior year stats aren't all that impressive, especially when you look at how he performed late in the season.

    But one thing that will grab NFL scouts' attention is his size. Hill is 6' 5" and could develop into a deadly red zone receiver for an NFL team. He is also extremely fast for his size, so he's not a one-dimensional receiver.

    The biggest concerns about Hill are his route running and consistency. Those are two things a good coach can fix. He should blow scouts away with his athletic abilities and raise his stock in the draft.

    Drafting a good receiver in the NFL is one of the most challenging tasks. Hill may not be ready mentally to produce right away, but he is definitely a specimen worth investing in. 

Josh Robinson

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    There are a lot of good cornerback prospects in this upcoming NFL draft that will be drafted early. Josh Robinson is a guy that a team could sweep up later and still get good production right away.

    Robinson is smaller (5'10" and 193 pounds), but he's got great coverage skills and bursting speed.

    If Robinson can show that he has gotten stronger at the combine, his draft stock will rise quickly.  

Robert Griffin III

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    It's not completely set in stone that Andrew Luck will be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.

    Robert Griffin III could blow everyone away at the combine to become the late favorite. 

    Jarrett Bell of USA Today passed on some interesting comments that RG3 made over the weekend. "This is a business trip," Griffin, 22, says after a workout in Arizona last weekend. "I'm the CEO of Griffin Enterprises. It's my job to go sell my product."

    Griffin knows that the Colts are planning on drafting Luck with the first pick. But considering it was him that won the Heisman Trophy award and not Luck, he's probably confused as to why he's not the favorite.  

    Griffin doesn't plan on throwing at the combine because he feels it's not an "equitable environment for throwing." 

    It makes sense for him not to throw. Why would Griffin want to risk his draft status throwing to receivers he doesn't know?

    What Griffin will do at the combine is show off how much of a freak athlete he is. He will get timed in the 40-yard dash and other events, including the three-cone drill. 

    Griffin's athletic ability is going to blow away NFL scouts.

    The combine may not be enough for Griffin to leap frog Luck, but he will definitely lock up his spot as the No. 2 pick.