2010 NFL Draft: Top 10 NFL Combine Stars of the Past 5 Years
For some reasons, the NFL Combine is insignificant. Scouts know "generally" how fast prospects are and how strong they can be.
Scouts have a "range" in mind where they expect to see the prospects run in. If they go above that range in running drills or below it in lifting and jumping drills, red flags are raised and stock might drop.
However, if a prospect outperforms the expectations by a notable amount, that's when players really start to rise.
Dubbed as "Workout Warriors" since Mike Mamula wowed scouts at the 1995 NFL Combine, these prospects rose dramatically because of the Combine and have gotten a much bigger pay day thanks to their athletic attributes.
10. Michael Boulware—2005
Coming out of Florida State, Boulware was viewed as a classic Bobby Bowden linebacker: quick, athletic, instictive, yet undersize.
His transition to the next level was undecided and projected to make him a mid- to late- round pick because of the risk required to draft him.
But after an outstanding workout at the 2005 NFL Combine, the Seahawks thought well of him to draft him in the 2nd round, 53rd overall as a linebacker.
Boulware never did live up to those Combine expectations and now is with his third team in four years.
9. Manny Lawson—2006
His defensive end counterpart, Mario Williams, was a much more notable NC State graduate coming into this draft, but Lawson may have had the most to gain.
Williams was a well-known dynamic athlete and was unlikely to fall past the Top 10. However, Lawson was viewed as a "tweener", a mix of a linebacker and a defensive end.
Lawson exploded in the 2006 combine, measuring in at 6'5", running a 4.43, jumping a 39.5 inch vertical leap, and scoring an outstanding 43 on the Wonderlic test.
He went on to go 22nd overall to the 49ers as they transitioned to the 3-4, but has yet to emerge as a Pro Bowl-caliber player.
8. Darius Heyward-Bey—2009
The Combine riser on this list that is most likely still fresh in people's minds, "DHB" as he has come to be known, is an obvious example of Al Davis's love of athletes.
Heyward-Bey was projected as a top-three receiver coming into the Combine. Some scouts, including myself, felt he could out-perform Michael Crabtree in the right system.
He proved that he has that kind of talent in the 2009 Combine after the 6'1" receiver boasted a 4.30 40 time and a 38.5 inch vertical leap. It's easy to see what Davis loved so much.
7. Dustin Keller—2008
With the tight end position becoming arguably the most intriguing position to watch develop, it's not surprising that a versatile athlete can rise quickly up draft boards.
I feel that the NFL doesn't quite know what they want in a tight end yet, but whatever it is, they know he needs to be a great athlete.
Keller wasn't overly productive at Purdue and was viewed as a mid- to late- round pick. But a 4.53 40 time and a 38-inch vertical leap, tops by far among tight ends in his class, he emerged as the clear cut top dog at tight end.
The Jets, in need of a playmaker across the middle, scooped up Keller in the bottom of the 1st round, and he hasn't disappointed all that much so far.
6. Chris Henry—2007
If you're looking for a prime example on why college kids put so much effort into Combine workouts, you can look to Chris Henry.
A career situational player at Arizona, Henry never emerged as a legit Pac-10 star and barely started on his own team. However, with 5'11", 230-pound size, teams were intrigued enough to give him a Combine invite.
But, after running a 4.40 and benching 225 pounts 26 times, team's were intrigued with this oversized speed back.
The Titans, known for taking chances on athletes more than football players, took a shot with the fifth overall pick on Henry. Two years later, he's currently fighting to stay in the league on the Houston Texans' practice squad.
5. Joe Flacco—2008
Quarterbacks rarely help their draft stock at the Combine through measurable workouts. Scouts and GM's understand that the position doesn't revolve around running ability or power.
However, one indicator that can come from the Combine is the individual workouts, something that scouts take very seriously.
Joe Flacco, who began his rise up draft boards throughout the season and at the Senior Bowl, reached his climax in the draft process at the Combine. He showed dominate arm strength and fundamentals compared to the other quarterbacks.
He went on to be a first round pick of the Baltimore Ravens, and it's safe to say that it was a great pick. He is a big factor in the Ravens resurgence to AFC title contention.
4. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie—2008
It's very rare that a non-Division 1A (now called FBS) prospect rises to first round consideration. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie defied that consensus, and paired his college dominance with amazing athletics.
The physically-gifted corner was viewed as a "sleeper" prospect that could go as high as Round 2. But after the Combine, not only did every scout know him, but every fan as well.
The lanky corner ran a 4.33 40 time and boasted a 38- inch vertical leap, among the best at the Combine in 2008. His stock skyrocketed so high, that he went on to be a mid-first rounder and has become a staple of the Cardinals defense.
3. Fabian Washington—2005
The Nebraska cornerback was a solid college player, respected in the Big 12 but not as much nationally. But, coming into the draft process, Washington had the potential to climb into the first three rounds of the draft.
After getting to the Combine, however, his potential would rise higher than that. Washington posted one of the lowest 40-yard dash times in the Combine's history, with a 4.25 time.
The Raiders selected Washington with the 23rd overall pick. He performed decently with the team but has now moved on to his third team in Baltimore, where he has assumed a starting role once again.
2. Troy Williamson—2005
To give the Vikings some respectability with this former seventh overall pick, they were desperate. They had just traded Randy Moss and were in dire need of a deep threat.
After the 6'1" receiver ran a 4.32 40 time and had a 41.5-inch vertical leap, multiple teams fell in love with his potential.
However, it was evident why most teams rated him as a second or third round prospect coming into the draft by the end of his first season. Williamson, well, can't really catch.
He has since been released from the Vikings and is now a reserve receiver and a return man for the Jaguars.
1. Vernon Davis—2006
It's safe to say that the current spokesman for Under Armour is one of the best overall athletes the NFL has seen in the past 20 years.
Coming out of Maryland, scouts knew this tight end beast was the top tight end in the class and was a versatile threat. But once he took his shirt off at the Combine, scouts were already drooling.
Davis, sculpted form stone, was the star of the 2006 Combine. He measured in at 6'3", ran a tight end best (by far) 4.38 40-yard dash time, 42-inch vertical leap, and benched 225 pounds 33 times.
Davis worked out his way to the sixth overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. While he hasn't lived up to a Top 10 pick, Davis has slowly developed into one of the NFL's most feared tight ends and should be improved by next season.
Possible 2010 Risers
Jason Pierre Paul, DE, South Florida
DeMaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech
Jimmy Graham, TE, Miami