2011 NFL Combine: Jake Locker and 10 Players Who Improved Their Draft Stock
The sole purpose of the NFL combine is for players to showcase their physical talents.
It shouldn't be looked at as the only source for evaluating talent.
However, it can shed some light onto concerns or help show physical ability that scouts didn't know an individual had.
There is always a long list of risers and fallers after the conclusion of the combine—this year is no different.
Here are 10 of the most noteworthy players to improve their stock in the NFL draft after their performances at the combine.
10. Ras-I Dowling (CB, Virginia)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Ras-I Dowling participated in one drill before pulling his right hamstring, which ultimately ended his day.
In most cases, this would kill somebody's stock in the draft.
Interestingly, it did the opposite for Dowling. The one drill he did participate in was the 40-yard dash and he ran an unofficial time of 4.40 seconds.
Prior to that time, scouts questioned Dowling's closing speed and said he may have to switch to safety in the NFL.
I think he proved his point.
Dowling is likely a second-round pick. Prior to the combine, some thought he would fall into the third round, but I don't see that happening anymore.
9. Dontay Moch (DE, Nevada)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Dontay Moch is another player who blew scouts away with his physical talents.
Moch is listed as a defensive end but could also play outside linebacker in the NFL.
He ran a 4.44 in the 40-yard dash—the fastest among the defensive lineman at the combine. He also had the highest vertical jump as well as longest broad jump in the group.
Moch showed he has all the physical attributes needed to succeed.
All he needs is a good coach to take him in the draft.
8. Martez Wilson (MLB, Illinois)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The biggest knock on Martez Wilson is that he relies too much on his athleticism to make plays, he doesn't diagnose plays correctly, and is often out of position.
These things can be coached.
His 4.44 40-yard dash time cannot. That's the fastest of all the linebackers at the combine.
Coaches know that all these young players will have flaws, so when they can find one with a unique skill set like Wilson's, they often need to take a chance.
Wilson was a second-round selection prior to the combine. He could have done enough to push himself into the late first round come draft day.
7. Tyron Smith (OT, Southern Cal)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Is Nate Solder still the top offensive tackle in the incoming rookie class?
I'm honestly not too sure, as he had an up-and-down day at the combine. Tyron Smith, on the other hand, had a very solid performance.
The biggest questions on Smith, prior to this weekend, were his size and strength.
Smith measured in with a 36.14" arm span and 307 pounds. He also bench-pressed 225 pounds 29 times.
So much for those questions.
He didn't run due to postseason surgery he had on his meniscus.
If he follows the performance with a great pro day, Smith could be the top offensive tackle selected in the upcoming draft.
6. Rahim Moore (FS, UCLA)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Rahim Moore helped himself this weekend.
Florida safety Ahmad Black also helped him.
Heading into the weekend Black and Moore were the two top safeties on many draft charts. After this weekend, Moore is the lone survivor.
Black looked slow, tight in the hips, and showed average ball skills.
Moore ran a good 40-yard dash, looked fluent in on field drills, and showed he had great ball skills.
He clearly emerged as the top safety available.
Prior to this weekend, Moore was valued in the early second round. After his performance, he could jump into the late first round.
5. Stephen Paea (DT, Oregon State)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
That's the only word in my mind as I watched Stephen Paea break the bench press record at the combine this weekend.
49 reps of 225 pounds.
It's the only drill Paea participated in this weekend, but it's the only one that he had to.
With a lot of teams converting to 3-4 defenses, a strong nose tackle is a priority.
Does it get any stronger than 49 reps of 225 pounds?
Paea will likely surpass Muhammad Wilkerson on that alone.
There is a strong chance Paea will now get taken with one of the final picks in the first round.
4. Christian Ponder (QB, Florida State)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Christian Ponder had the best overall performance of any quarterback at the combine.
Ponder showed fantastic athleticism in all of the measurable drills. He had the fastest 20-yard shuttle of any quarterback.
He followed it with the best on-field performance as well, as he threw the ball better than any other quarterback while showing decent footwork and fantastic accuracy.
After the combine, there is no question that Ponder is the next best quarterback after the big four.
In fact, there are some grumblings that Ponder should even be taken before Ryan Mallett.
Is it possible he slips into the first round?
3. Von Miller (OLB, Texas A&M)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
It's hard to improve your stock when you are already a top-five selection in the eyes of most people.
Von Miller may have done just that.
Miller has been a top story throughout the offseason. He lit up the Senior Bowl and has now followed it with a great combine performance.
Miller finished no lower than third among linebackers in every single drill except the bench press. He still put up 21 reps.
That kind of athletic ability is hard to find.
Most mock drafts had Miller going fifth overall to the Cardinals prior to the combine.
I wouldn't be surprised if the Bills take a look at Miller, as well, due to the fact that they had one of the worst rushing defenses in the league last year.
They need help with their front seven.
2. Julio Jones (WR, Alabama)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Julio Jones ran a 4.39 40-yard dash, had 17 reps on the bench press, and had a 11'3" long jump. On top of that, he had a 38.5" vertical jump and ran a 11.07 60-yard shuttle.
I forgot to mention one thing.
He did this all with a broken foot. Jones is set to have surgery this weekend.
Imagine what he could have done if he was completely healthy.
The Rams want to get Sam Bradford a weapon, but after that kind of performance, I'm not sure Jones will still be around at the 14th pick.
1. Jake Locker (QB, Washington)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Christian Ponder may have had the best combine in the quarterback group, but Jake Locker was right behind him.
Locker threw the ball great, which was important, because one of the questions is his accuracy.
What really stood out was Locker's athletic ability.
He ran a 4.49 40-yard dash—to put this in perspective—Cam Newton also ran a 4.49.
He actually outperformed Newton in the shuttle and cone drill.
Since Locker performed better than Newton in the physical aspects of the combine, and threw better, is it possible he gets selected before Newton?
Probably not. However, Locker did distance himself from the troublesome Ryan Mallett.
Before this weekend, experts weren't sure if Locker was a first-round talent. It now seems he will likely go somewhere in the first 15 selections.