Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Poe's stock has gone up in the weeks leading up to the combine. The 6-foot-5, 350-pounder is a run plugger who entered the draft early after two quality back-to-back seasons. The massive defensive tackle has deceptive speed and hustles downfield to try and get in on tackles. As a sophomore, Poe had 41 tackles with 6.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks. In 2011, he totaled 33 tackles with eight tackles for a loss, one sack and one forced fumble.
Entering the combine, Poe is the top 3-4 nose tackle prospect in the 2012 draft class. That can be a hard position for 3-4 teams to find. A quality one-technique can have a huge impact, and there are a number of 3-4 defenses that are looking to find a new nose tackle. The demand at the position could prompt a team to select Poe late in the first round. If he has an impressive combine performance, pro day and interviews, his stock will continue to rise and push into the top-32 picks.
Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
The Stanford tight end has moved towards the top of the second round with some projecting him to make it into Thursday night of the draft. If Fleener had a fast 40 time at the NFL Scouting Combine that could easily pushed him over the top, but he will be unable to run due to a high ankle sprain. Like Poe with 3-4 defenses, the success of tight ends and multiple tight end sets could have Fleener garnering consideration from teams that already have quality tight ends. Over the past couple of seasons, he was a dangerous receiver for quarterback Andrew Luck. In 2010, Fleener caught 28 passes for 434 yards and seven touchdowns. This season, he improved his production with 34 receptions for 667 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Fleener (6-6, 244) is a very skilled route-runner who exploits the middle seam of the defense. He also is a technically sound run blocker who could be even better as he fills out his frame in a strength and conditioning program. With Fleener unable to do the on-field workouts at the combine, his pro day in March will be very important. A strong performance could help him crack the top 32.
Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State
Positional demand is helping the draft stock of Oweiler as well. None of the senior quarterback prospects like Brandon Weeden Nick Foles, Kirk Cousins or Russell Wilson have been able to establish themselves as the definitive target at the top of the second round. Momentum has built for Osweiler to be the first signal caller drafted after the first round. The 6-foot-8, 240-pound Osweiler is a big-armed pocket passer who has surprising mobility. The former basketball player has good athletic ability and is a quality scrambling/running quarterback. Few signal callers who are extremely tall have that dual-threat potential.
In 2011, Osweiler completed 63 percent of his passes for 4,036 yards with 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He also ran for 298 yards and three touchdowns. Osweiler set the school record for yards, completions and attempts. It was his only year as the starter, but he showed a plus skill set to NFL evaluators. In the 2012 NFL Draft Osweiler looks like he is moving up and making a run to be the fourth-rated quarterback.
Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
Another early entry who is gaining steam is Cox. He has a nice combination of speed and playmaking ability. Cox is disruptive off the snap and has the ability to fire past guards out of his stance. He is a disruptor at the point of attack and consistently pressures the pocket. In 2011, Cox recorded 56 tackles with 14.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks and one forced fumble. As a sophomore, he totaled 29 tackles with 6.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks. The junior improved throughout this season, having impressive games against South Carolina, Alabama and Arkansas.
Cox's versatility is helping his stock. He has the length at 6-foot-4, 295-pounds to fit as a five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 defense. Cox has rushed from defensive end at times and was tough on offensive tackles with his power. Currently, he is moving up to be selected in the 20-35 range of the draft.
Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright has steadily improved his draft slotting over the weeks since the season ended, and that has happened despite his pulling out of the Senior Bowl with an ankle injury. It is believed that he will run at the scouting combine and there are expectations of an extremely fast time in the 40-yard dash. A time in the 4.3s is not out of the question for the speedy wide out.
As Robert Griffin III's primary receiver, Wright caught 108 passes for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder has fabulous quickness to gain separation and good hands. He played in every game of his four-year career and had at least two receptions of each contest. Throughout 2011 and the post-season, Wright has steadily improved his stock for the 2012 NFL Draft and now is a sleeper prospect for a high first-round pick.
Ronnell Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma
As teams have prepared for the combine, Lewis has been a prospect who has impressed a number of teams. The senior stood out in film study with impressive games against some of the top tackles he faced while going against Florida State and Texas A&M. Lewis is a versatile defender who played defensive end in 2011 and outside linebacker in 2010. In the NFL, he would be an excellent fit in a 3-4 defense. Lewis could be an edge rusher and could also play some inside linebacker. The 6-foot-2, 244-pounder is a physical specimen who should impress in the combine workouts.
In 10 games this season, Lewis had 59 tackles with 13 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, five passes batted away, a forced fumble and an interception. He will need to interview well with teams that want clarification about his academic issues at Oklahoma, but assuming those go well, Lewis can continue his climb to be a top-40 selection.
2012 NFL Draft Stock Down
Donnie Fletcher, CB, Boston College
Fletcher was one of the most surprising combine snubs. He had a quality collegiate career with an up and down performance at the Senior Bowl. For him not to receive a combine invitation sounds a big warning bell about his draft status. Fletcher (6-0, 201) has quality size and with some decent production in college. He had a five interception season in 2010, with two interceptions as a senior. It will be interesting to see if a reason is exposed as to why Fletcher did not receive combine invite, or if he is dealing with an unspecified injury. Fletcher's chances to be a second-day pick have taken a serious hit, and now, he looks like a mid-round pick on the third day.
Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia
Tandy is another prospect who played in a collegiate All-Star game, the East-West Shrine, that did not get an invitation to the scouting combine. The three-year starter Tandy totaled 10 interceptions the past two seasons. The 5-foot-10, 202-pounder is a scrappy defender. After a quality week at the East-West Shrine Game, he looked like a good nickelback to specialize in covering slot receivers. Not getting a combine invite is a real detriment to his draft stock. Now, Tandy probably slides from a potential fourth-rounder to the fifth or sixth round.
@Steel Willy The funny thing is, OLB, S, and CB entered free agency as bigger needs than DL, RB, and WR and in free agency, DL, RB, and WR depth were all added while out of OLB, S, and CB, depth was added to only one of those positions, yet Walt ignores CB, S, and OLB but gives them RB, WR, and DL. Another funny thing is offense is the stronger unit, yet the majority of the picks for Pittsburgh is offensive players. Not to mention, Buddha Baker and Derek Rivers being available at pick 62, and Walt having Pittsburgh pass on both is insanity