10 Players Who Have the Most to Gain at the Combine

Wes StueveContributor IIIFebruary 20, 2013

10 Players Who Have the Most to Gain at the Combine

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    It's no secret that the NFL Scouting Combine is a huge part of the draft process. The 2013 combine will be just as huge as it is in any year, and many players' stocks will be predicated on the event.

    Most players go into the combine hoping to improve their stock. Some, however, have more to gain than others. 

    There could be numerous reasons for a player's stock weighing heavily on the combine. He could have to answer questions about off-the-field issues. He could have injury problems, with attention focused on his medical checkup. Maybe, there are questions about his speed, his weight, his strength or his quickness.

    All these questions and more can be answered at the combine. That's why the event reigns supreme in the draft process, despite many people's insistence that it is irrelevant. 

    There are many players with questions to address at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. But who could move up the most based upon the answers?

Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina

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    Prior to his sophomore year, Marcus Lattimore was championed as a future first-round pick and potential star running back. Then, as a sophomore, Lattimore tore his ACL.

    Lattimore returned for his junior season, but he didn't look the same. The burst and quickness that had been obvious before were now gone. However, many were still hoping that Lattimore simply needed more time to return from his injury. 

    Then, the South Carolina star again blew out his knee, this time tearing his ACL, PCL and LCL.

    So no, Lattimore won't be running at the combine. He won't be doing much of anything. But the medical checkup could prove crucial. 

    If the doctors in Indianapolis are confident about Lattimore returning strong, he could be a second-day draft pick. If they are skeptical, however, Lattimore could go undrafted.

    It's possible that no player is relying on the combine more than Lattimore. 

Robert Woods, WR, USC

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    At USC, Robert Woods was quite prolific, catching 251 passes for 2,924 yards and 32 touchdowns in three years. 

    However, at just 6'1", 190 pounds, Woods isn't particularly big. He is savvy and quick, but his deep speed raises questions. 

    If Woods were bigger, his speed wouldn't be such an issue. Analysts are concerned that he won't be able to stretch the field in the NFL, limiting his overall potential.

    With a 40-yard dash time below or around a 4.5, Woods could cement himself as an early second-round or late first-round selection. This would seem like an improbability, however.

    Woods' stock relies on his ability to perform at the combine. His ability to play receiver is unquestioned. His physical ability, on the other hand, is an issue.

Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinnati

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    Travis Kelce is a terrific blocking tight end with great, reliable hands. There is no doubt that he can catch the ball and dominate in the run game.

    This alone makes Kelce a likely second-round pick. However, in order to go in the first round, a tight end has to show explosive athleticism and speed. Simply catching the ball and blocking is rarely enough for that type of draft status.

    Thus, Kelce's 40-yard dash time will prove crucial. A good time will suggest that he is capable of stretching the field and making an impact as a receiver. 

    A slow time, on the other hand, won't impact Kelce's status much. It's somewhat expected.

    If he runs well, Kelce could end up selected at the back end of the first round. There will be few remaining questions about his skill set, and he will be valued as a safe pick with the ability to impact a game.

D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama

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    Many analysts are conflicted about whether D.J. Fluker is a right tackle or a guard in the NFL. Showing up at the combine overweight won't help the argument that he can hang on the outside.

    Fluker showed up at the Senior Bowl weighing 355 pounds. It's unlikely that NFL teams will feel confident about his ability at tackle if he shows up at Indianapolis weighing the same.

    If Fluker dropped some pounds since the Senior Bowl, however, his stock could find itself increasing. The Alabama product possesses unparalleled power, and only his ability in pass protection is under fire.

    At around 330 pounds, Fluker will get a chance to play tackle. And if he is playing tackle, Fluker could end up a top-20 selection. As a guard, he will probably fall further, possibly out of the first round entirely.

Cornellius Carradine, DE, Florida State

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    Prior to tearing his ACL in November, Cornellius Carradine was cementing himself as a first-round selection. On tape, Carradine is a top-10 pick.

    However, no one has seen him play since November. No one knows how he will return from tearing his ACL. He could come back just as strong, or he could come back a less dynamic player.

    Again, this is where the medical checkup could prove crucial.

    Should Carradine's knee check out fairly well in Indianapolis, he could still be drafted toward the middle of the first round. If the checkup produces uncertain or negative results, he could fall out of the first round entirely, possibly to the third round.

    It's impossible to say how Carradine's time at the combine will go, but it will undoubtedly have a huge impact on his eventual selection. 

Barkevious Mingo, LB, LSU

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    Barkevious Mingo revealed that he weighed 230 pounds during the 2012 season in an interview with NFL AM (via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk).

    On tape, Mingo displayed terrific athleticism and huge upside. He is an explosive player with great speed and length. But if he weighs just 230 pounds, what role can he play in the NFL?

    Now, Mingo says he's bulked up to 245 pounds, but will he be able to retain his athleticism? With this weight gain, the 40-yard dash, 3-cone and shuttle drills now become important to Mingo.

    If he bulked up but lost his athletic ability, the weight gain is completely irrelevant. His stock will tumble as he demonstrates he is unable to play at a sufficiently high weight. 

    Should he continue to show his trademark athletic ability, though, Mingo's stock will rise. The biggest question surrounding Mingo is his strength, size and power. Showing the ability to gain weight and still move could propel him into the top five.

Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame

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    A few months ago, no one would have thought that combine interviews would prove important to Manti Te'o's stock. After all, he's a great leader with undeniable intangibles, right?

    Well, then the whole fake-girlfriend scandal happened, and now, Te'o has some questions to answer. NFL teams will certainly be curious about what happened and how Te'o defends himself.

    The Notre Dame star's high draft status was always built strongly upon his intangibles and leadership ability. With those under scrutiny, his status is at a questionable place right now. He needs to assure teams he is the leader the whole country thought he was.

    If Te'o can do that, there is no reason he can't be a top-20 selection. Right now, he probably isn't a first-round pick. 

    It's unlikely anything Te'o says will hurt his stock anymore—that damage is already done—but he could push it back up to where it was.

Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia

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    Gil Brandt of NFL.com recently broke the news that NFL doctors have cleared Jarvis Jones, despite a diagnosis of spinal stenosis. This disorder forced Jones to leave USC for Georgia in 2010.

    However, the report from Grandt was somewhat vague, and it's unclear whether the combine's medical checkup will still be a factor for him. If it is, that will be significant to Jones' stock.

    Just as important, though, is Jones' questionable length. Many are concerned that the 6'3" pass-rusher lacks the length to effectively get after the quarterback.

    All eyes will be focused on Jones' arm length. His burst and flexibility aren't questioned, but his ability to adjust to the NFL is. If he measures in with longer arms than expected, that could significantly boost his stock.

    With a clear medical checkup and longer-than-expected arms, Jones could find himself a top-five pick.

Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State

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    The 6'2", 213-pound Xavier Rhodes is a terrific athlete with length and power. From a physical standpoint, he is one of the most impressive players in this draft.

    However, concerns remain about Rhodes' ability to turn with wide receivers. Some feel like he is a better fit at safety, given this possible limitation.

    The defensive back drills at the Combine will provide Rhodes a great opportunity to prove the doubters wrong. If he can show some flexibility and smoothness, he could rise into the top 15 picks.

    In addition to the drills, the 3-cone and shuttle runs will also show if Rhodes has the quickness required to stick on the outside. 

    No one will really be watching Rhodes at the weigh in or 40-yard dash—he will be fine there. It's the other Combine events that could prove crucial and boost his stock.

Dion Jordan, LB, Oregon

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    According to trainer Travelle Gaines, Dion Jordan played in 2012 weighing just 226 pounds (per Doug Farrar of Yahoo! Sports). That's too thin for any linebacker/defensive end, much less one who's 6'7".

    Jordan's athleticism and length are fine traits. He consistently shows great burst, flexibility and speed all over the field, be it rushing the passer or playing in coverage. 

    None of this will matter if Jordan shows up at the combine weighing just 230 pounds. That's too small to play linebacker in even a 4-3 scheme, much less a 3-4. 

    Jordan will certainly show up undersized—he won't weigh in over 250 pounds—but undersized has its limits. At about 240 pounds, Jordan could conceivably play outside linebacker in a 3-4 and maybe even defensive end in a 4-3, though he'd probably stand up there too.

    At 226 pounds, however, Jordan will find himself dropping. His athleticism goes only so far at that size. But if Jordan weighs in at an acceptable weight and still shows great athleticism, he could find himself in the top 10.