NFL Combine 2012 Results: Projecting the Combine's Defensive Standouts

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystFebruary 29, 2012

NFL Combine 2012 Results: Projecting the Combine's Defensive Standouts

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    College football's defensive stars have taken center stage at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, and Tuesday's workouts by the defensive backs will bring this year's festivities at Lucas Oil Stadium to a close.

    Some collegiate stars made the most of their opportunity in front of NFL scouts and coaches, putting on displays of athletic prowess that have significantly boosted their draft stock, and here's a look at what destination some of those top performers may find themselves buying plane tickets for come April.

Dontari Poe: DT, Memphis

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    Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe showed up big at the combine both literally and figuratively, as not only did he arrive for measurements at a robust 6'4" and 346 pounds, but Poe then proceeded to rip off one of the fastest pound-for-pound 40-yard dash times of the event.

    Not only was Poe's 4.98 second time filthy but his 44 reps on the bench press were the most of any player at the combine, and after that display of strength and speed Poe is likely shooting up the draft boards of both 3-4 and 4-3 teams across the NFL.

    Projected Destination: Arizona Cardinals, first round

Melvin Ingram: DE, South Carolina

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    Defensive end Melvin Ingram of South Carolina was already projected by most experts as a first-round pick in April's NFL Draft, but it was still important for the 6'1" 264-pound Gamecocks standout to showcase his versatility and not pigeonhole himself a 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker.

    Ingram did that and more with an impressive showing, placing among the top performers at his position in a number of drills, looking strong and quick in position drills, and probably cementing his status as a top 15 pick.

    Projected Destination: Buffalo Bills, first round

Luke Kuechly: ILB, Boston College

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    Although Boston College middle linebacker Luke Kuechly won the Butkus award as college football's top linebacker a year ago while leading the nation with 191 tackles, questions about the 6'3" 242-pounder's athleticism still swirled around Kuechly entering the scouting combine.

    Kuechly dispatched most of those questions the same way he dispatched opposing ball-carriers while in college, and after running the third fastest 40-yard dash at his position in Indianapolis while looking sharp in position drills Kuechly has likely solidified his status as a first-round selection this April.

    Projected Destination: Philadelphia Eagles, first round

Nick Perry: DE/OLB, USC

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    Defensive end Nick Perry led the Pac-12 in sacks in 2011, but most pundits believed entering the combine that Perry's skill set and 6'3" 271-pound frame left him best suited to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense at the next level.

    Perry may have changed some minds with his performance at the combine, as not only did he run a very respectable 4.64 second 40-yard dash but Perry also displayed impressive strength in the bench press, increasing the possibility of first round suitors among 4-3 teams as well as those running three-man fronts.

    Projected Destination: San Diego Chargers, first round

Stephen Gilmore: CB, South Carolina

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    For South Carolina cornerback Stephen Gilmore, the combine carried the most importance of any player on this list, as the 6'0" 190-pound junior could potentially propel himself into the first round of April's draft with a strong workout.

    Gilmore did his part in Tuesday's drills, turning in a blazing 4.4 second 40-yard dash and displaying a 36" vertical leap and 123" broad jump that should increase his appeal for corner-needy clubs picking near the end of the first.

    Projected Destination: Green Bay Packers, first round