NFL Combine 2014 Results: Prospects on the Rise After Strong Showings

Ryan DavenportContributor IFebruary 23, 2014

Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks makes a catch during a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Each year, the NFL Scouting Combine offers prospects with a late opportunity to raise their draft stocks in the eyes of scouts and management teams across the league.

While putting up big combine numbers doesn't necessarily guarantee success for young players hoping to break into the NFL, it certainly never hurts, and a poor showing can absolutely have a negative impact on when a player hears his name called by one of the league's 32 clubs.

Over the last few years, we've seen future stars such as Chris Johnson, Robert Griffin III and DeSean Jackson use the combine as a platform to demonstrate their potential at the next level, and the 2014 crop of prospects obviously hope to do the same.

This class is loaded with talent, and many of the biggest available names have been under an unprecedented amount of scrutiny in preparation for the big day in May, and the 2014 combine could prove to be what ultimately convinces prospective teams that they're worth taking a flier on.

Over the weekend, we saw tight ends, offensive linemen, quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and special team players show their stuff at Lucas Oil Stadium, so here's a look at which prospects are on the rise following solid outings in Indianapolis.

 

De'Anthony Thomas

One of the potential steals of this year's class is former University of Oregon standout De'Anthony Thomas, as the versatile offensive threat has the tools to make an impact in a number of ways.

TUCSON, AZ - NOVEMBER 23:  Running back De'Anthony Thomas #6 of the Oregon Ducks rushes the football during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Tucson, Arizona.  The Wildcats defeated the Ducks
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With the Ducks, Thomas burst onto the radar of NFL scouts with a sublime 2011 campaign that saw him become the only player in the nation to amass 400 yards each in receiving, rushing and kick returns.

However, since then, Thomas has struggled to stay healthy and hasn't consistently received opportunities to demonstrate his potential as an every-down back.

As a result, some projections, such as this one from CBS Sports, have Thomas going in either the sixth or seventh round, but his performance at the combine could very well change that.

Though just 5'8", Thomas' blazing 40-yard dash time of 4.34 puts him in second place among running backs, and he finished eighth in the broad jump as well.

His athleticism and quickness has never been in question, but this showing should convince scouts that he's a unique talent with all the physical gifts to be a special player at the next level.

 

Brandin Cooks

As of now, ESPN (Indsider subscription required) has Brandin Cooks as the No. 4 wide receiver available, but one has to think that his performance at the combine could propel him to move up at least a spot. 

Yes, we've seen situations in which NFL teams overrate a player's potential based on his 40 time (Darrius Heyward-Bey comes to mind), but Cooks' 4.33, combined with his remarkable 2013 season, should solidify his status as a first-rounder.

CORVALLIS, OR - OCTOBER 26: Wide receiver Brandin Cooks #7 of the Oregon State Beavers runs back a punt during the fourth quarter of the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Reser Stadium on October 26, 2013 in Corvallis, Oregon. Stanford won the game 20
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

He racked up more than 1,700 yards receiving with Oregon State, setting multiple Pac-12 records in the process, but obviously, his 5'10" frame remains a concern.

That being said, his speed, durability and ability to find the open field are far too impressive to ignore, and Cooks appears to be more than capable of making an impact in the NFL in 2014.

 

C.J. Fiedorowicz

Heading into the combine, C.J. Fiedorowicz was undoubtedly one of the most coveted tight ends available, as the former Iowa standout put together two very productive seasons with the Hawkeyes.

Generally viewed as a safe bet to go within the first two rounds, Fiedorowicz strengthened his case to be a surefire first-rounder by lighting it up in Indy. He started things off by posting 7.10 three-cone time, but he wasn't even close to being done impressing scouts and teams.

Given how important quality tight ends have become in recent years, with numbers like that, why couldn't a playmaker as productive as Fiedorowicz go late in Round 1?

IOWA CITY, IOWA - OCTOBER 26:  Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz #86 of the Iowa Hawkeyes during a break in the action in the second quarter against the Northwestern Wildcats on October 26, 2013 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa won 17-10.  (Photo by M
Matthew Holst/Getty Images

 

Johnny Manziel

This isn't necessarily a case of a player boosting his stock as much as it is reaffirming it, as the 2012 Heisman winner has long been thought to be a slam-dunk early first-rounder.

But at the combine, Manziel displayed the acceleration that made him college football's most unstoppable threat over the last two seasons, as he clocked in with a solid 4.68 in the 40.

Of course, his height (just under 6'0") is a potential red flag, especially at quarterback, but as Manziel said to Yahoo! Sports, guys like Russell Wilson have proved that it isn't a prerequisite to success in the NFL.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 21: Former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel speaks to the media during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 21, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

His improvisational skills and poise under pressure are off the charts, and after being tabbed a top performer in both the broad jump and vertical jump, it's clear that his athleticism is elite as well.