While the NFL Scouting Combine is mostly a tool to make tough choices between similar prospects, it can also be used to weed out the weak players from the strong ones. Scouts likely have preconceived notions heading in, but there are often unheralded players who take the combine by storm.
As odd as it may seem, there have certainly been players who have boosted their draft value by several rounds in the past based solely on their combine performances. There are plenty of players who will look to do that in the coming week, as it is the best way to get the attention of the talent evaluators.
Here are three afterthoughts of who will become hot topics following their strong showings at the combine.
QB Nick Foles, Arizona
With so much attention being paid to the likes of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and even Ryan Tannehill, it's easy to understand why Arizona quarterback Nick Foles is flying under the radar. After all, he did play for one of the nation's worst teams last season. It wasn't his fault, though, as the big gunslinger put up phenomenal numbers, including 4,334 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and a sparkling completion percentage of 69 percent.
It's already known that Tannehill won't throw at the combine, and Luck and Griffin may not either, making it Foles' show to steal. He already has prototypical size at 6'5" and 244 lbs, and he was productive at the college level. Not only does he have a big arm, but he has proven to be accurate as well. Foles is one of the better pure passers in the draft, and if he proves it on Sunday, then he could very well work his way up to the early second round.
WR T.Y. Hilton, Florida International
While scouts have heard of him, the average football fan is probably unaware of Florida International wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. Obviously, Hilton played against a low level of competition, but he was a stud this past season with 72 grabs for 1,038 yards and seven touchdowns. Hilton's biggest asset is undoubtedly his speed—he has been clocked at a 4.4-second 40-yard dash and was an excellent return man at FIU.
Hilton is a bit on the smaller side at 5'10" and 183 lbs, but in today's pass-happy NFL, there are plenty of productive, small receivers. Hilton stands to make himself a lot of money with a good showing in the 40. While the 40-yard dash doesn't tell the true story of how fast a player is in game action, scouts put a lot of stock in it. Hilton is probably third or fourth-round material right now, but he may move into the second with a nice showing at the combine.
RB Chris Rainey, Florida
Florida running back Chris Rainey never quite lived up to his lofty expectations at Florida, but there is reason to believe that NFL teams could really covet him. Rainey is flat-out fast, so the combine will be his time to shine. Rainey has run a 40-yard dash as fast as 4.33 seconds, which would be one of the best at the combine in recent memory. There is obviously more to football than speed, but it figures to enamor somebody.
Rainey only rushed for 861 yards this past season, but he is extremely versatile. He caught 31 passes for 381 yards and looks like he could be the newest version of Kansas City Chiefs swing man Dexter McCluster. He has played a bit at both running back and wide receiver, and Rainey may be able to do the same. On top of that, Rainey is an electrifying return man. If he supplements his skill set with an awesome combine performance, then perhaps he can launch himself as high as the third round.