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Predicting Who Will Be the Biggest Stars of the 2013 NFL Combine

Danny FlynnSenior Analyst IFebruary 21, 2013

Predicting Who Will Be the Biggest Stars of the 2013 NFL Combine

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    You’ll often hear NFL personnel evaluators and draft analysts say that what a player shows on his game film is much more important than his workout numbers. Still, there have been many instances in recent years when a prospect has used a strong showing at the NFL combine to really boost his draft stock and earn himself a few bucks.

    That will likely be the case once again at this year’s combine.

    Over the next few days, scouts will have the opportunity to get an up-close look at many of the top prospects in the 2013 draft class. It should certainly be interesting to see which top players can use the showcase event to really generate a big buzz for themselves.

    Here’s a look at the prospects who will be the biggest stars of the 2013 NFL combine.

DE Ezekiel Ansah, BYU

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    In recent years, we've seen "physical freak" pass-rushing prospects such as Bruce Irvin, Aldon Smith and Jason Pierre-Paul surge up draft boards and jump into the top 15 following impressive workout showings. 

    BYU's Ezekiel Ansah seems like he could be ready to do exactly the same thing this year. 

    Ansah, a native of Ghana, has only been playing football since 2010. However, he displayed plenty of flashes of his enormous potential as a senior this past season. Very rarely do 6'5'', 270-pound athletes possess the type of burst, explosion and overall physical ability with which Ansah has been blessed. 

    He's got the chance to put up some truly eye-popping workout numbers in Indianapolis. 

WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee

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    Cordarrelle Patterson only spent one season at Tennessee before declaring for the NFL draft. However, he filled his breakout 2012 campaign with just as many highlight reel-worthy plays as most of the other receivers in the 2013 draft class had in their entire careers. 

    Patterson ranked second in the country with an average of 18.8 yards per play and he scored 10 touchdowns in four different ways (receiving, rushing, kickoff return and punt return). 

    The supremely athletic 6'3'', 205-pound pass-catcher has the chance to solidify his status as a top-15 pick if he can put up the type of workout numbers that he's capable of. 

OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma

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    Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel may be the consensus top-rated offensive tackle in the 2013 draft class, but he certainly isn't the most athletic tackle.

    That honor belongs to Oklahoma's Lane Johnson. 

    Johnson, who played quarterback and tight end at Kilgore College before transferring to Oklahoma, flourished during his one season spent at left tackle for the Sooners in 2012. 

    The 6'7'', 300-plus pound bookend blocker could solidify his status as the second-best tackle behind Joeckel and a top-15 pick if he has a strong showing at the combine. 

DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida

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    Florida's Sharrif Floyd has every single trait that you look for in an elite defensive tackle prospect. The former 5-star recruit from Philadelphia possesses prototypical size at 6'3'', 300-plus pounds, and he's got the type of quickness, power and overall tenacity to cause havoc in the interior. 

    Following an outstanding junior season, Floyd has been surging up draft boards. It now seems that he's got a legitimate shot to be a top 5 overall pick in April. 

    The former Gator has already created quite a stir in the scouting community. Now, it's time for Floyd to capitalize on that buzz with a big performance in Indianapolis. 

DE Dion Jordan, Oregon

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    According to a report in The Register Guard, Dion Jordan won't be bench-pressing at the combine due to a shoulder injury, but he will be doing everything else. 

    It should be fascinating to see just how fast and athletic the hybrid edge-rusher really is. 

    Jordan is a former tight end, who is still growing into his 6'6'', 245-pound frame. However, he's the type of explosive and fluid athlete who should excel in workouts. 

    Right now, it looks like the former Duck defender is flirting with being a top-10 pick. If he puts together a huge performance in Indianapolis and shows the type of speed he did on the field, it will really help push him to that top level.

TE Gavin Escobar, San Diego State

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    Up to this point, Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert and Stanford's Zach Ertz have been the two tight ends in the 2013 draft class that everyone's been focusing on. However, that will change if San Diego State's Gavin Escobar puts together a breakout performance at the combine.

    Escobar possesses just as much, if not more, natural athleticism and upside as both Eifert and Ertz.

    The 6'6'', 255-pound junior has the combination of size, speed and agility that should really catch the attention of scouts.

QB EJ Manuel, Florida State

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    EJ Manuel never managed to fully live up to the hype he received when he first arrived at Florida State as a blue-chip recruit out of Virginia Beach. Still, Manuel did manage to finish off his collegiate career in strong fashion with a terrific senior season, which included an ACC championship and an Orange Bowl victory. 

    Following a solid final campaign and a strong showing at the Senior Bowl, Manuel's built up some great momentum heading into the combine. 

    The big, athletic, dual-threat signal-caller will now have the chance to prove that he's not the "project quarterback" that some have labeled him, and that he is instead one of the truly top-tier prospects at his position.

    We know Manuel's got some of the best physical skills of any player in the draft. Now, he just has to show that he can handle the spotlight and the pressure and get the job done with hundreds of NFL personnel people staring at him.

LB Zaviar Gooden, Missouri

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    You couldn't build a much more perfect 4-3 weak side linebacker from scratch than Missouri's Zaviar Gooden. 

    Gooden possesses the type of speed and quickness to chase down ball-carriers from sideline to sideline. 

    The converted safety is truly one of the fastest linebackers in the 2013 draft class.

    Judging from the type of explosion and athleticism that Gooden displayed during his time as a Tiger, it certainly wouldn't be shocking to see him run in the 4.5s in the 40-yard-dash at the combine. 

WR Marquise Goodwin, Texas

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    If you're looking for the best pure athlete at the NFL combine, then look no further than Texas' Marquise Goodwin. 

    Goodwin has been turning heads on the track scene for the past few years, culminating with an appearance in the 2012 Olympics. 

    Now, it's time for him to show NFL scouts what he's really made of.

    Both the 40-yard dash and broad jump records could be in jeopardy when Goodwin takes the field for his workout on Sunday.

CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Connecticut

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    If you judged Connecticut's Blidi Wreh-Wilson purely on what he's shown on the field, you'd probably view him as nothing more than a third or fourth-round pick, simply because he's still so raw at this stage in his development. 

    When you possess the type of natural athleticism and long 6'0'', 190-pound frame that Wreh-Wilson does, though, it's a lot easier for scouts to overlook a few technique flaws. 

    The big, speedy corner is one of the fastest defensive backs in the 2013 draft class, and he's got a great opportunity to build up some serious buzz at the combine. 

LB Alec Ogletree, Georgia

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    Georgia's Alec Ogletree has recently found himself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, following the report that he was arrested for a DUI in Arizona

    Luckily for Ogletree, now he'll have the chance to get rid of some of the negativity surrounding him if he can put together a big showing at the combine.

    The former Bulldog 'backer is one of the most physically talented defensive players in the 2013 draft class. If it wasn't for his off-the-field red flags, he'd likely be a guaranteed top-15 pick. 

    Ogletree has concerns about his character, but there aren't any concerns about his speed. 

    He should post one of the fastest 40-yard-dash times of any linebacker at the combine. 

WR Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech

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    Quinton Patton ranked fifth in the country with 104 catches for 1,392 yards in 2012, but Patton still has yet to receive the proper recognition and attention that he truly deserves. 

    That could change after this weekend, however, if the super speedster puts up a blazing time in the 40-yard-dash. 

    Right now, Patton is flirting with sneaking into the first-round conversation. An impressive performance at the combine would really help put him over the top. 

RB Knile Davis, Arkansas

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    Knile Davis didn't come close to having the bounce-back season that many thought he would in 2012. Davis, who was considered to be one of the top running back prospects in the country before the season started, averaged just 3.3 yards per carry this past season. 

    That lackluster performance is certainly cause for concern, but fortunately, Davis has the opportunity to get back in the good graces of scouts by putting together a stellar showing in Indianapolis. 

    Davis may not have shown a great burst on the field in his first season back from an ankle injury but he's clearly one of the fastest backs in the 2013 draft class. Don't be shocked if the former Razorback posts a sub 4.5 time in the 40-yard-dash. 

CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State

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    Xavier Rhodes is still very raw, and there are plenty of times when he still looks like a wide receiver trying to figure out how to play cornerback. Nevertheless, there's no denying that Rhodes has top-notch athleticism and physical ability.

    The 6'2'', 217-pound defensive back should light up stopwatches in Indianapolis, which should only further enhance his already booming stock. 

    Although Alabama's Dee Milliner may be the consensus top cornerback in the 2013 draft class, Rhodes has a chance to take over the No. 2 spot and solidify his status as a top-20 pick with a great a workout at the combine. 

WR Chris Harper, Kansas State

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    Since Kansas State QB Collin Klein hogged up pretty much all of the attention in 2012, WR Chris Harper flew under the radar this past season. However, Harper has now started to garner more and more recognition as the offseason process unfolds. 

    The former 4-star recruit was considered to be one of the best athletes of the 2008 recruiting class. Now, he's one of the best athletes of the 2013 draft class. 

    Harper should be one of the top performers in the 40-yard dash, the broad jump and the vertical jump at the combine. 

DE/LB Barkevious Mingo, LSU

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    Barkevious Mingo certainly isn't the most polished prospect in this year's draft class. Still, Mingo does have the type of rare athleticism and natural physical ability that has scouts very intrigued about his potential.

    The 6'5'', 240-pound explosive edge-rusher possesses the size, strength and first-step quickness that you look for in a top 3-4 rush linebacker prospect. 

    Mingo's lack of production as a junior in 2012 is a bit concerning, but he can help scouts forget about that if he can put together a big-time performance at the combine. 

RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin

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    Since Alabama's Eddie Lacy, who many consider to be the top running back in the 2013 draft, reportedly won't be working out at the combine, that leaves the door open for Wisconsin's Montee Ball to steal the spotlight in Indianapolis. 

    Ball isn't going to set any new records in the speed drills, but don't be surprised if the former Badger back ends up posting better times than many seem to be expecting. 

    The 5'11'', 215-pound Doak Walker Award winner is sneaky athletic, and he also possesses the type of size, durability, toughness and natural running instincts that NFL teams look for in a featured back. 

WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson

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    DeAndre Hopkins put together a sensational breakout junior campaign in 2012, catching 82 passes for 1,405 yards and 18 touchdowns. 

    Hopkins is clearly one of the most gifted receivers in the 2013 class, and he appears to be the type of player that could make a huge instant impact in the NFL. 

    The question is, can Hopkins translate his outstanding play on the field into a successful showing in workouts?

    If he can, Hopkins should leave Indianapolis as one of the most talked-about wide receiver prospects.

RB Kenjon Barner, Oregon

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    Many may view Oregon's Kenjon Barner as too small to be an every-down back in the NFL, and they're probably right. However, that doesn't mean that the 5'9'', 188-pound Barner doesn't have the chance to be a valuable offensive weapon for an NFL team. 

    The former Duck showed that he could carry a heavy workload as a senior in 2012, carrying the ball 278 times for 1,767 yards. Now, it's time for him to show scouts just how explosive he really is. 

    Barner, who was also a member of Oregon's track team, should post one of the fastest 40-yard-dash times at the combine. 

OT Menelik Watson, Florida State

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    You're probably going to hear plenty of people calling Florida State's Menelik Watson this year's version of Bruce Campbell after he gets done working out at the combine. 

    Watson is still a raw and mostly unproven former JUCO transfer, who only played one season at Florida State before deciding to declare for the 2013 draft. 

    Still, the 6'6'', 320-pound former basketball player at Marist has the type of size and athleticism to be one of the biggest workout warriors of this year's combine. 

    Although he wasn't a true standout player on the field this past season, Watson has the type of rare physical skill set that could really cause a stir in Indianapolis. 

TE Vance McDonald, Rice

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    San Diego State's Gavin Escobar isn't the only tight end who has the chance to step out of the shadows of Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz at the combine. 

    Rice's Vance McDonald is another extremely athletic tight end who should flourish in workouts as well.

    The 6'4'', 262-pound former walk-on didn't receive much attention during the 2012 season, but he built up some substantial buzz for himself with a solid showing during Senior Bowl week.

    McDonald should have one of the most impressive workouts of any tight end in Indianapolis.

DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri

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    Sheldon Richardson really boosted his draft stock with a fantastic junior season, in which he racked up 75 total tackles, including 10.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. 

    Richardson is the type of explosive and disruptive penetrator that plenty of NFL teams would love to have. 

    The former 5-star recruit is arguably the most athletic defensive tackle in this year's class, and he should really shine during his workouts. 

WR Stedman Bailey, West Virginia

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    Stedman Bailey has been overshadowed by his former West Virginia teammate and close friend Tavon Austin. However, Bailey will have the chance to step out of Austin's shadow at the combine. 

    Bailey may not have great size, but he's got all the physical tools and skills to develop into a star receiver at the NFL level. 

    The 5'10'', 188-pound pass-catcher had some insane numbers as a junior in 2012, catching 114 passes for 1,622 yards and 25 touchdowns. 

    Don't be surprised if Bailey puts up similar numbers in the speed drills as Austin. He can really fly.

SS Jonathan Cyprien, FIU

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    There were a few prospects who really boosted their draft stock with strong showings at the Senior Bowl. But there was no other player who helped himself as much as FIU safety Jonathan Cyprien. 

    Cyprien put together an outstanding week down in Mobile that has left plenty of scouts buzzing about his potential to be an impact player in the pros. 

    The 6'0'', 209-pound strong safety has now entered the first-round conversation. If Cyprien can put up some solid workout numbers, he should solidify his status as the second best safety in the 2013 draft class behind Texas' Kenny Vaccaro.

DT Jesse Williams, Alabama

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    In terms of pure power, there isn't another prospect in the 2013 draft class who compares to Alabama nose tackle Jesse Williams. 

    Williams possesses the type of size and strength to develop into a dominant run-stuffer in the NFL. 

    The former Rugby player from Australia has a legitimate shot to break the combine's bench-press record, which was set by Eastern Kentucky's Justin Ernest, who did 51 reps back in 1999. 

    Jerry Dominguez, Williams' former coach at Arizona Western College, recently told the New York Times that he expects the powerful tackle to hoist up between 55 and 60 reps at the combine.

DE Margus Hunt, SMU

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    SMU's Margus Hunt is one of the most unique athletes and one of the most interesting prospects in this year's draft class. 

    The 6'8'', 277-pound defensive end is an Olympic-caliber athlete, who won a bronze medal in the discus throw in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. 

    The native of Estonia is absolutely loaded with natural power and explosiveness. 

    Hunt is the type of prospect that plenty of teams could easily fall in love with after getting the chance to see him dominate in workouts. 

WR Markus Wheaton, Oregon State

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    Oregon State's Markus Wheaton possesses the type of elite straight-line speed to really light up stopwatches at the combine. 

    Wheaton, who beat the supposed fastest player in college football, Oregon RB De'Anthony Thomas in a 100-meter dash this past summer, isn't just a track star who only shines in shorts either. 

    The 5'11'', 183-pound speedster hauled in 164 passes in his final two seasons as a Beaver. 

DT Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern

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    Brandon Williams dominated weaker Division II competition throughout his collegiate career, racking up 25.5 sacks and 52.5 tackles for loss during his time at Missouri Southern.

    Williams showed that he could certainly handle the step up in competition during Senior Bowl week practices. Now, it's time for him to once again show that he belongs in the same conversation with some of the other top tackles in 2013 draft class. 

    The massive 6'3'', 325-pound monster could really surprise scouts with just how quick and agile he is for a player his size. 

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