For all of the impressive Onterio McCalebb-, Tavon Austin- and Marquise Goodwin-like performances at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, we have disappointing ones from players expected to be top picks in the 2013 NFL draft.
While those first three players took strides toward cementing their places in the early rounds of the draft, several players came away with more question marks than answers.
That could have a profound impact on the draft.
In the past, names like Ryan Mallett and Vontaze Burfict have had first-round potential, but their combine performances have left doubts in the minds of scouts and NFL personnel. This ended up being a blessing in disguise for the Cincinnati Bengals and Burfict, but it opened the door for other players to get more money and be higher draft picks in the process.
With pro days right around the corner, here's a look at a few players that will have to work overtime to eliminate some of the prolonged doubts left from what they did at the combine.
Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel
With a chance to cement his status at the No. 1 draft pick, Joeckel only further clouded what looks to be one of the most unpredictable top fives in NFL draft history.
Although Joeckel isn't going to slide down draft boards after his 27 bench-press reps and 5.30 40-yard dash, there's a good chance he'll now face the heat from a slew of other tackles who are coming up with impressive performances in front of NFL management.
Eric Fisher, Lane Johnson and Terron Armstead will all leave Indianapolis with chances to be first-round picks after their impressive displays of fluidity and athleticism in drills. According to Dallas Cowboys draft scout Bryan Broaddus, there's a good chance Fisher could usurp Joeckel before this process is over and done:
I would be very surprised if Luke Joeckel is the first overall selection in this 2013 NFL Draft. Matter of fact I wouldn’t be surprised if Eric Fisher is taken over him in this draft. In my mind it was very close when you studied the tape of the two players and who really was better.
Bleacher Report's own Ryan Lownes only gives Joeckel a small chance of being the No. 1 pick:
Everyone loves numbers so I'll take a wild guess: Geno Smith 40%, Sheldon Richardson 40%, Star Lotulelei 15%, Luke Joeckel 5%. #Chiefs— Ryan Lownes (@ryanlownes) February 22, 2013
Many expect Joeckel to run a better 40 and be more at home in his backyard—Kyle Field and College Station. If that's the case, this minor freakout might be for naught, but it's clear that there are other offensive linemen who are going to nip at his heels if his numbers don't improve.
Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o
Te'o's quest to be a first-round pick might have ended during the 2012 BCS National Championship Game.
If it didn't end there, it probably ended in Indianapolis.
A slow 40 time (4.82) combined with his off-the-field questions makes for a risky pick at the bottom of the first round, especially with middle linebackers expected to drop into coverage and be more versatile than ever before.
As noted by ESPN's John Clayton, all hope is not lost for Te'o. He compares the Irish star to St. Louis Rams LB James Laurinaitis and insists that there is still hope for Te'o to prove doubters wrong as a good value pick in the second round:
In his first season, Laurinaitis established himself as an every-down linebacker, but he wasn't drafted until the second round. He ran a 4.82 and went 35th. The good news for Te'o is that he has time to improve his 40. Still, you have to feel for him.
After all the intrigue surrounding his press conference and subsequent answers to both NFL media and personnel, Te'o had to have a lot on his mind. Hopefully for his draft's sake, he can overcome his personal embarrassment from the scandal and post better numbers at the Notre Dame pro day.
South Carolina WR/KR Ace Sanders
Ace Sanders was a star at South Carolina, putting on a show each time he touched the ball from the receiver or returner position.
After being one of the slowest receivers in Indy (31st), he might have lost a chance to do the same for quite some time in the NFL.
Sanders posted a 4.53 40 and dropped several catchable balls during the route-running portion of on-the-field drills. With Austin and Goodwin posting near-record numbers during their straight-line races and getting rave reviews from all over the event, it's looking like Sanders is a forgotten man.
Brad Crawford notes the same in his latest piece for Saturday Down South, recognizing that Sanders' pro day is going to have to be something special, especially considering Sanders gave up his senior season to enter the NFL draft:
South Carolina’s Pro Day is March 27 at Williams-Brice. Sanders needs a spectacular showing just to move into the fourth round range with so many talented pass-catchers in this year’s draft. A fifth or sixth round selection seems more likely at this point.
Sanders is one of many who will look to improve upon his stats during a pro day. With Joeckel and Te'o already in that position, there's a good chance NFL teams will keep a close eye on highly-touted players who disappointed in Indy.