The 2014 NFL Scouting Combine offers prospects a chance to boost their draft stock heading into pro days and individual workouts, and there are a few who could make some serious money with huge performances.
While the combine is but a tiny sliver of the entire scouting pie, some prospects leap up draft boards by putting up jaw-dropping totals in such events as the 40-yard dash, vertical leap and broad jump—events that test speed and freakish athleticism.
One such player was Dontari Poe, who ended up getting drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs with the No. 11 overall pick of the 2012 NFL draft. Poe's combine numbers were off the charts, and the Chiefs took him early—despite the fact that he didn't have the game tape to justify the pick.
With this in mind, here's a look at a few players with the most to gain at this year's combine in Indianapolis.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
There's no consensus about where Jadeveon Clowney will land in the draft.
Some analysts think he could slide out of the top 10, while others are of the opinion Houston would be foolish to pass on him at No. 1 overall.
However, a monster showing from the physical freak would potentially force the Texans' hand, writes Dan Greenspan of NFL.com: "If Clowney lives up to the immense expectations and runs anywhere close to a sub-4.5 40, all the suspense of the draft will start with the second pick because the top spot will be locked up."
If you think it's crazy for a man who measures in at 6'6" and approximately 275 pounds to run a sub-4.5 40-yard dash, you're not alone. NFL scouts will be helpless to keep from drooling over Clowney's potential if he does live up to the expectations surrounding him.
If he doesn't, then nobody should be surprised to see Clowney fall out of the top 10.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
Every team is looking for the next Richard Sherman, who combines exceptional size with agility, speed and athleticism to lock down the league's top receivers on a weekly basis.
This year's prospect who looks the part is Stanley Jean-Baptiste, who measures in at 6'3" and 220 pounds.
“My size helps me a lot, being physical and putting hands on them, slowing down the connection they have with a quarterback,” said Jean-Baptiste, as relayed by Mike Jones of The Washington Post. "...Richard Sherman has a part to do with that. He’s playing good football right now and showing that people our size can move and play.”
B/R's Matt Miller currently has Jean-Baptiste as his No. 5-ranked cornerback of the draft, thanks to his size and speed:
He may not be as shifty as a smaller player, but he uses his speed and length to make up ground and attack the ball. And few receivers are getting over the top on a player with his combination of size and speed.
If the former Husker can demonstrate this on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium and runs around 4.50 or faster in the 40-yard dash, then there's a reasonable chance he could sneak into the first round.
Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
One of the most intriguing players of this year's draft is Ra'Shede Hageman, who possesses frightening size to go along with freakish athleticism and strength.
Measuring in at 6'6" and 318 pounds at the Senior Bowl, Hageman moves like someone with a slighter frame.
"He's really a freak of nature," Minnesota defensive line coach Jeff Phelps said, via Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, adding that Hageman "can run like a deer. He does some things that are unbelievable, and I think he'll really wow some people at the combine."
Hageman has been compared by some to Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, and he could put up similar numbers at the combine. If he does, then Hageman could make a monumental leap up one team's draft board in a similar fashion to what Poe did when the Chiefs drafted him No. 11 in 2012.
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