NFL Draft 2011: Five Most Impressive Combine Performances so Far

Collin BerglundCorrespondent IIIFebruary 28, 2011

NFL Draft 2011: Five Most Impressive Combine Performances so Far

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    Football players can move up or down entire rounds based on how they work out in the NFL combine.

    Over the last few days, a number of players have tried to leave their mark on NFL coaches so when the 2011 NFL draft rolls around, they will be remembered.

    While fans love to argue about whether the combine is an effective tool for measuring talent, many coaches use it to determine the athletic ability of guys who they otherwise might question.  

    No matter what top picks do in the combine, they won't work their way out of the first round, but a guy who might be a late first-round pick might sneak his way into the top 10.

    Keep reading to see which players had the most impressive workouts.

No. 5: Jordan Todman Improves Draft Status

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    The former Uconn running back, and the second-leading rusher in the nation last season, was impressive in his combine workout.  

    He clocked an impressive 4.40 in the 40-yard dash that might help ease concerns over his size (Todman measures in at 5'9").  He also benched 225 pounds 25 times, a high number for a running back.

    The biggest concern teams have about Todman is his bruising running style.  Players like Todman often have running styles that avoid tacklers—think Darren Sproles.  Todman is not averse to creating contact though.  Coaches and scouts worry this mentality could lead to injuries down the road.

    Despite this, Todman's college tape and combine performance might be enough to allow him to sneak into the second half of the second round.

No. 4: Christian Ponder Perseveres through Injury

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    In the shadow cast by Cam Newton over the quarterback portion of the 2011 NFL combine, Christian Ponder left an indelible mark on the minds of many coaches and scouts.

    Despite a nagging forearm injury that nearly kept him out of the throwing portion of the combine, Ponder made all the throws asked of him and impressed scouts with his footwork.

    This is Ponder's second straight strong performance in preparation for draft day.  Scouts were initially impressed by his preparation for the Senior Bowl.

    Ponder has worked his way into a likely pick in the second round.

No. 3: Greg McElroy on the Wonderlic

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    The Wonderlic test has become one of the most famous traditions of the combine.  

    The test supposedly measures prospects' intelligence on a 50-point scale.  Although the results of the test are anonymous, when a player does well, his agent often leaks it to the press.

    Greg McElroy scored 48 points on the Wonderlic test, believed to be tied with Kevin Curtis among active players for the highest score.

    Whether Wonderlic results actually improve draft status is debatable; the test is often used to ensure people have reasonable intelligence as opposed to comparing the smartest guys to one another.

No. 2: Julio Jones in 40-Yard Dash and Broad Jump

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    Former Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones might have done more for his draft stock than any other player at the combine.  

    After running a 4.39 40-yard dash and jumping 11'3" in the broad jump, Jones showed scouts and coaches that he has the speed and athletic ability to go with his height.  Jones projects as a Plaxico Burress-type player—a receiver that uses his height and athletic ability to get jump balls in the end zone.

    At 6'2" and with the longest broad jump at the combine, no receiver will be able to compete with Jones' jump ball ability. 

No. 1: Stephen Paea on Bench Press

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    Former Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea repped 225 pounds on the bench press 49 times at the combine.  Not only was that the most this year, but it was the most ever—the previous record was 45.

    Paea was considered a late first rounder or early second rounder before the combine.  With his performance, he might have solidified a first-round spot.

    Paea was able to convert his strength into production in college as a 2010 consensus All-American. Whether he can do so in the NFL is unclear, but the strength of professional offensive lines will be an obstacle easier for him to overcome than most rookie linemen.