The NFL Combine can be a make-or-break event for players with an uncertain draft stock heading into this year's NFL Draft. For some, poor numbers can send them down the charts, raising questions about a player's athleticism or explosiveness.
But for others, a strong workout could impress enough teams to propel a player straight up a team's draft board—even into the first round. This year was no exception, as plenty of players helped themselves to great effect.
BYU's Ziggy Ansah now seems all but assured to go in the first round after a meteoric rise on many teams' watch lists. With a 40-yard dash time of 4.63, Ansah ranked sixth among defensive linemen, while his vertical jump of 34.5" and broad jump of 118" were also good for top 10 placement in those categories.
That performance could be enough to bring Ansah into the top 10 of the draft. Mock draft experts first called Ansah a mid-first round pick in January, but the strong numbers could have him going as high as Detroit at fifth overall, especially with the potential departure of Cliff Avril in free agency.
A team reaching for a quarterback in the first round that can't secure either Geno Smith or Matt Barkley may be wowed by Tennessee's Tyler Bray. At 6'6" and 232 pounds, he's a big enough pocket passer to take a hit, and his drills showed enough arm strength and quickness to merit a look despite perceived immaturity.
Springing for Bray in the first round may be too early, as it was with Tim Tebow in Denver a few years ago, but a team with durability concerns under center like Chicago, or a team that trades down for more picks (Buffalo, for example), could take that chance.
After running a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash, Washington's Desmond Trufant has the potential to break into the late first round with a team that desperately needs a cornerback and can't land Dee Milliner of Alabama or Xavier Rhodes of Florida State. In that case, there's a good chance that New England, drafting 29th overall, could use the pick on Trufant.
Of course, a player earning his way into the first round comes at the expense of another falling out. Utah's Star Lotulelei will likely fall down the draft order due to his recently diagnosed heart condition, and that combined with Ansah's emergence could potentially bump out another defensive lineman like Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins.
If Bray were to hit the first round, it would come at the expense of either USC's Matt Barkley or Syracuse's Ryan Nassib. Manti Te'o's past few months have spoken for themselves, as his stock continues to plummet with an average showing.
But without a doubt, the players who make it into the first round will have earned it in one way or another. The NFL Combine is just one of the last chances to make a good impression. Ansah, Bray and Trufant have done just that.
For more from Christopher Leone, follow @christopherlion on Twitter.
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