NFL Draft 2012: Ranking the Draft's 10 Most Freakishly Athletic Players

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2012

NFL Draft 2012: Ranking the Draft's 10 Most Freakishly Athletic Players

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    The 2012 NFL draft is only a few weeks away. Leading up to the draft, fans have had an inside look at each prospect through events such as the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine.

    What fans have discovered in the events leading up to the draft is this is one of the more athletic draft classes in recent history. It seems that each year the athleticism of the prospects entering the NFL improves by a noticeable margin, and 2012 is no exception.

    Athleticism alone won’t allow a player to find success in the NFL, but these 10 individuals have an early advantage over other prospects. Whether it’s their blazing speed, brute strength or impressive all-around athleticism, these prospects have shown this offseason they have the raw ability to take over the NFL.

    Here’s 10 of the draft’s most freakishly athletic players ranked.

10. Mike Martin, DT, Michigan

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    Looking at the results of the NFL Scouting Combine for the defensive tackle position, one trend sticks out above all else—Mike Martin is a pure, giant athlete. Martin ranks in the top five for every drill at the combine except the 40-yard dash.

    Martin is a big defensive lineman standing at 6’1” and 306 lbs, so his elite athleticism is a bit shocking. Martin threw up 36 reps on the bench press, had a 7.19 on the three cone drill, a 4.25 on the 20-yard shuttle and a solid 4.88 40-yard dash.

    Martin is a rare athlete, and his ability to combine all of these skills will make him a valuable player at the next level. He isn’t a big name yet, but if he applies himself off the field, his raw athleticism will do the rest.

9. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon

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    LaMichael James is known for being a shifty running back with breakaway speed who can also contribute in a big way on special teams. Still, many thought James wouldn’t be selected high come draft day, but that perception is beginning to change, as James has continued to show off his elite athleticism.

    James wowed fans and teams alike at the scouting combine in almost every drill he participated in. He tied for the second-fastest 40-yard dash for running backs with a 4.45, posted the third-best cone time with 6.88 and tied for the third-best 20-yard shuttle time with a 4.12.

    James has doubters because of his size, but his freakish athletic ability ensures that he will find an effective role somewhere in the NFL.

8. Chris Rainey, RB, Florida

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    Chris Rainey is another freak athlete entering the draft along with Oregon’s LaMichael James. Rainey is every bit as athletic as James, so it will be hard to tell who has the more effective career in the NFL.

    At the combine Rainey ran a 4.45 40-yard dash and led all running backs with a 6.50 cone drill time. He also led all backs in 20-yard shuttle times with an impressive 3.93 and had a very respectable 36.5” vertical leap.

    Rainey’s biggest flaw is his height, standing at only 5’8”, but like James, he won’t have trouble finding an effective role in an NFL offense or special teams unit thanks to his rare athleticism.

7. Nick Perry, DE, USC

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    Nick Perry is a freak of nature that is being credited as a first-round pick because of his amazing athletic talent. He has the intangibles as well, but it’s his athleticism that has defensive line coaches around the league salivating.

    Perry is a monster defensive end, standing at 6’3” and 271 lbs. At the scouting combine Perry was among the best performers at his position in three drills—the vertical jump (38.5”), the bench press (35 reps) and the 40-yard dash (4.64).

    Perry’s ridiculous combination of raw strength and speed makes him a force on the football field. Perry shouldn’t find the transition to the NFL a difficult one thanks to his freakish athletic ability.

6. Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

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    Stephon Gilmore has been on the rise all offseason, and he deserves it. He’s the most athletically gifted corner in the draft not named Josh Robinson, and he combines that with the correct intangibles to make himself the second-best corner in the draft.

    Gilmore solidified his draft stock at the combine when he showed off his elite athleticism. He placed in the top five at his position in several drills, including the 40-yard dash (4.4), the cone drill (6.61) and the 20-yard shuttle drill (3.94).

    Now that teams and fans alike have truly seen what a physical specimen Gilmore is, he is highly coveted around the league. Gilmore’s intangibles mixed with elite athletic ability ensure he’ll excel at the next level.

5. Orson Charles, TE, Georgia

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    Orson Charles is well known for his size and pass-catching ability. Standing at 6’2” and 251 lbs, Charles has ideal size to take on linebackers and safeties at the next level.

    What most didn’t realize is just how strong Charles truly was. Charles put up 35 reps on the bench press at the scouting combine. Keep in mind that means he repped 225 lbs 35 times. That’s better than all but one offensive lineman that participated in the drill and better than most defensive linemen as well.

    Charles entered the scouting combine in a competition to be the first tight end taken in the upcoming draft, and he may have solidified that with his impressive performance. Run-first teams will love to have a blocker and passing threat like Charles.

4. Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech

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    Everyone knows Stephen Hill’s story by now. He was the no-name receiver from Georgia Tech, where he was criminally under-utilized in a triple-threat rushing attack. Sure, he's a nice size at 6’4” and 215 lbs, but that’s all that was really known about him.

    Until he ran a 4.36 40-yard dash at the scouting combine.

    Now Hill is likely a first-round pick, as he should be. Receivers with that kind of size and speed are rare and are sure to give opposing cornerbacks fits in the NFL. Hill’s display of raw athleticism is drawing eerie comparisons to another former GT wide receiver who is currently dominating the NFL—Calvin Johnson.

3. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

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    It shouldn’t be surprising to see a Heisman Trophy winner make this list. RGIII is currently jousting for position with Stanford’s Andrew Luck as the No. 1 overall pick when the Indianapolis Colts take the podium in a few weeks.

    RGIII may have a distinct advantage over Luck that the Colts may value—athleticism. Sure, Luck is a great athlete, but Griffin even more so. He’s the fastest quarterback in the draft, having run a 4.4 40-yard dash.

    Griffin is simply quick on his feet; he can make cuts without losing speed and break tackles when he has to. He also has a very strong arm with the ability to make any NFL throw. RGIII is sure to be a starting quarterback in 2012, and his amazing athleticism is a major reason for that.

2. Josh Robinson, CB, UCF

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    Josh Robinson has slowly been making his way up draft boards all offseason after some had questioned his decision to enter the NFL draft. Now Robinson is proving the doubters wrong thanks to his unquestioned athletic ability.

    Let’s get the obvious out of the way first—Robinson is fast. Very fast. He ran the fastest 40-yard dash at the combine at 4.33 seconds.

    Straight line speed is nice, but corners have to be able to move in a variety of ways, and Robinson was also in the top three of his position at the combine in the cone (6.55), 20-yard shuttle (3.97) and vertical jump (38.5") drills.

    His rare combination of athletic ability will not only see him taken in the early second round—it will also allow him to be successful in the NFL, fast.

1. Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

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    Dontari Poe is easily the most freakishly athletic player entering the draft. He wasn’t a big name going into the offseason, but his workouts have wowed scouts, and now he’s a sure-fire top-10 pick.

    A man like Poe who stands at 6’4” and 346 lbs isn’t supposed to be fast, right? At the scouting combine Poe ran a jaw-dropping 4.98 40-yard dash and blew away the competition in the bench press with 44 repetitions.

    Poe’s freakish combination of size and athletic ability puts him on top of this list with ease. His skill set will allow him to be a force in the NFL for any team lucky enough to draft him.