The 2013 NFL draft class will have their most important audition this weekend at the combine, and there will be a handful of players whose stock will soar after the workouts.
The NFL Network will broadcast the events from Indianapolis starting Saturday, February 23 and ending Tuesday, February 26. Each day will feature players from specific positions taking part in a range of drills, and fractions of a second can have a drastic impact on where a prospect is drafted.
The stakes could not be higher for these young men, and there will be a massive amount of pressure to perform.
Here is who to watch on each day at the 2013 NFL Combine.
Note: All videos courtesy of Bleacher Report's Prospect Comparison Series by Matt Miller.
Saturday: Tight Ends, Offensive Linemen, Special Teams
Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
At 6’6” and 249 pounds, it’s already clear that Ertz has the size to be a modern tight end in the mold of Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham.
But in Indy, he’s going to have to prove he has the speed and athleticism to make a major impact as a receiver at the next level. His 40-yard dash time and vertical jump will be important to his draft stock.
If he can excel in the important drills, teams picking as early as the middle of the first round could be tempted to add a dynamic weapon to their passing game.
Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Joeckel is the player most likely to go first overall at this point in the draft process.
However, without a clear-cut No. 1 pick in this year’s class, the combine could alter Joeckel’s stock. He has the opportunity to seal the deal with an impressive showing, but a lackluster performance will open the door for other prospects.
The tackle’s workouts on Saturday will shed light on what the Kansas City Chiefs will do when the 2013 NFL draft kicks off.
Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
If Joeckel does falter, Fisher is the player in position to benefit most.
The Central Michigan product already has a significant amount of momentum behind him and has been rocketing up draft boards in recent weeks. He’s already considered to be a top-10 pick, and a poor showing from Joeckel may allow him to become to top offensive lineman in the class.
Regardless of Joeckel’s performance, a strong outing from Fisher will ensure that his name is called very early in the upcoming draft.
Sunday: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers
Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Chiefs will be looking for an excuse to draft a quarterback with the top overall pick, and Smith has an excellent opportunity to give them one.
If Smith can impress with his arm strength, Reid will be tempted to repeat the blueprint that produced five trips to the conference championship game.
Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
Alabama’s Eddie Lacy is the top running back in the draft class, but he will be kept out of workouts at the combine due to a hamstring injury.
This gives Ball an opportunity to impress and start building momentum to take over Lacy’s spot atop the list of rushers in 2013 draft class.
Without any standout physical skills, Ball is having trouble impressing scouts. A strong time in the 40-yard dash could cause his stock to skyrocket.
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Austin is battling with Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter, as well as Cal’s Keenan Allen to be the top wide receiver in the draft.
The West Virginia wideout is just shy of 5’9”, while the other three players all stand 6’3” or taller. Speed will be the key to Austin’s draft stock, and he will be looking to put on a show at the 40-yard dash.
As USA Today’s Robert Klemko notes (via The Detroit Free Press), Austin has recently declared himself the best all-around player in the draft. Confidence will not be an issue with him, and he will just need to ensure that he backs up his bold talk.
Monday: Defensive Lineman, Linebackers
Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
There will be no player under more scrutiny at the NFL combine than Te’o.
While social media sites will surely be flooded with jokes about fake Twitter girlfriends, NFL scouts will have several football-related questions they will want answered.
Te’o excelled as an on-field leader, but he is not a freakish athlete compared to other prospects in the draft class. He will need to impress during his workouts to have a shot at going early in the first round.
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Lotulelei is another player with the potential to be the top overall pick in this year’s draft.
Scouts will be watching him in the bench press, as well as how explosive he is. If he proves to be as strong as he looks on film while also showing impressive athleticism, he could nail down his position as a top-five pick.
The big defensive tackle has plenty to gain in Indianapolis.
Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Moore will be looking to prove that he is the most dynamic pass rusher in this year’s class.
While some scouts may feel he currently owns this distinction, his performance in the position-specific drills for defensive ends and linebackers will be crucial.
He has the frame to rush the passer as a lineman in a 4-3 scheme or to stand up in a 3-4 defense. If he can impress with his speed, strength and agility, he likely won’t have to wait long for his name to be called on draft day.
Tuesday: Defensive Backs
Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
For NFL scouts looking for toughness, Milliner has already proved that he has that quality.
As ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported, the Alabama defensive back will have shoulder surgery after taking part in drills at the combine.
He already is considered to be the best DB in the draft, and the brave move will impress scouts. If he runs well, he will lock up a spot high up on every team’s draft board.
Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Vaccaro is another player with a significant amount of momentum behind him, and he will need to continue to prove that he is a complete prospect.
The 6’1”, 219-pound prospect has the ability to play either safety spot, and scouts will be looking for him to prove his speed, agility and ball skills.
With a strong showing, Vaccaro can seal his status as a first-round pick.