The NFL combine has historically been a place where the athletically gifted can considerably boost their draft stock.
This year will be no different, as prospects gun for top times in the 40-yard dash and shuttle, among other things.
When scouts lay their eyes on a strong, explosive prospect, they can't help but wonder how he can translate to the next level. We've seen plenty of "raw" prospects go on to do great things in the NFL (New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith come to mind).
Here's a look at five athletically gifted prospects who I see boosting their draft stock at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine.
Marquise Goodwin, WR, Texas
Marquise Goodwin participated in the 2012 London Olympics. That's the first thing you need to know. He captured the long-jump title in the Olympic Trials (27 feet, 4.25 inches). His leaping ability will be on full display in Indianapolis. It also wouldn't be a surprise if the 5'9", 180-pounder posted a 40-yard dash time of under 4.4 seconds.
Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
Offensive linemen usually aren't the most exciting prospects when it comes to the NFL combine, but Menelik Watson of Florida State has the tools to impress. The 6'6", 320-pounder grew up playing basketball and worked out with Oscar De La Hoya's trainer as a boxer. He'll probably be selected in the second or third round of the NFL draft because he's raw, but expect his 40-yard-dash time to surprise you (hint: for a guy his size, running the dash in under 5.0 seconds would be impressive).
Zaviar Gooden, OLB, Missouri
Zavair Gooden impressed during Senior Bowl week. That may be just the tip of the iceberg. He was timed at 4.39 seconds in the 40 by NFL scouts last spring (via DraftCountdown.com) and he posted a vertical of 40 inches at Missouri. Combined with his strength (30 reps on the bench press in Indy wouldn't be a stretch), don't be surprised if the 6'2", 220-pounder makes his way into the third round of the draft when all is said and done.
Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M
There are certainly questions surrounding Christine Michael (character concerns, pass-blocking, durability), but none of those questions surround his measurements and speed. The 5'11", 220-pounder displayed stunning speed and acceleration for his size at Texas A&M, as well as the repertoire (spin move, stiff-arm) to make a mockery of defenders. If Michael can stay healthy and remain focused on the field, he has the potential to be an impact player in the NFL.
Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
Margus Hunt is one of the better known names in this group, but he still could be a second-round pick in the draft, given the wealth of impressive defensive ends in the 2013 class. There are also worries about Hunt's consistency (or lack thereof). Still, he won gold medals in the shot and discus in the 2006 World Junior Championships. He also could run the 40-yard dash in roughly 4.7 seconds as a 6'8", 280-pounder.