The lengthy, exhausting path to the NFL draft is far from over for those prospects who have hope of hearing their name called in the 2014 NFL draft.
While some prospects see their stock wilt over time for a variety of reasons, plenty of future pros make the most of the weeks and months before the draft to better position themselves amongst their peers.
This process is already in full gear with events such as the Senior Bowl in the books, but the NFL Scouting Combine is just around the corner. As it approaches, a few players have already put themselves in great standing for the event.
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
At 6'0" and 285 pounds, Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald has finally captured the minds of scouts everywhere now that he performed well against his peers.
Donald took the Senior Bowl by storm, where he posted some impressive numbers against the best of the best, as NFL.com illustrates on Twitter:
The strong performance should have come as no surprise to anyone who has seen Donald's film at Pittsburgh. He immediately jumps off the page thanks to his explosiveness from the interior of the line, which he combines with power to effectively drive linemen back and contribute against the run.
Donald is a strong marriage of unique skills (interior pressure is uncommon without a blitz) and the motor to succeed, which was on full display recently at the Senior Bowl, as Shane P. Hallam captured:
Also asked Aaron Donald his biggest weakness/thing to work on, gave me an answer I don’t usually hear: “Everything. I want to be great"— Shane P. Hallam (@ShanePHallam) January 23, 2014
From a relative unknown to a fringe first-round pick (the NFL won't make the same mistake as it did with a similar player in Geno Atkins and let him fall to the fourth), Donald is already one of the biggest risers this offseason.
Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
As the NFL continues to transition to more of a pass-oriented league, big-bodied wideouts who can often be mistaken for tight ends continue to rise to prominence.
In what is a ridiculously deep class, Penn State's Allen Robinson continues to stand out. While not tight-end huge at 6'3" and 210 pounds, Robinson does more with his size than most would expect.
Robinson is by no means a flashy player with the football, but he is deceptively fast and does an excellent job of using his hands to bring the ball into his chest.
While stats are not normally a quality indicator of a prospect's pro outlook, Robinson's 97 receptions for 1,432 yards and six touchdowns despite a shoddy quarterback situation last season speaks volumes to how reliable and productive he can be at the next level.
Robinson is now a fringe first-round pick coming in at No. 34 overall over at CBS Sports, which is much higher than his outlook was just weeks ago.
Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
The good hits continue to roll in for Auburn's Dee Ford.
Ford terrorized the Senior Bowl and brought home the MVP award. He was a bit of a known name before doing so, but top-15 whispers continue to abound after his performance against top-tier offensive linemen in the game.
Fine, but things continue to get even better because of what Ford does off the field, as ESPN's Louis Riddick points out:
Hearing more and more about how exceptional the football/personal character of #Auburn DE Dee Ford is. Going to go over well at combine..— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) February 8, 2014
Believe it or not, good character does go a long way in the NFL, especially for a young player undergoing an extensive interview process at the scouting combine. Rotoworld's Josh Norris is one name who is beginning to rank Ford, who has the looks of a complete package, over a top-10 prospect such as UCLA's Anthony Barr:
With the premium on pass-rushers currently in the NFL, Ford is a lock for the first round at this point despite just recently hitting the scene as a potential candidate for it.
So far, it is hard to argue against Ford as the prospect with the most improved stock since the collegiate season ended.