Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor
It is hard to put Griffin on this list because he entered the Combine as the prospective No. 2-overall pick. At the same time, you can't not include Griffin just because he was the talk of the Combine. He really impressed teams with his intangibles. His character, intelligence, worth ethic and life perspective all illustrated that Griffin is a rare quarterback prospect. On the field, he showed his elite athleticism by racing an official 40-yard dash time at 4.41 seconds. Griffin didn't throw at the Combine, but he did enough to improve his standing around the league.
The improved stock for Griffin has raised the price for teams to move up in the draft to land him. St. Louis holds the pick to land Griffin, and there are a lot of teams that need franchise quarterbacks. The rookie contracts from the new CBA also make him a bargain compared to other franchise signal callers. The demand for Griffin has gone up as a result of the Combine, and a bidding war could ensue to acquire the pick to select him.
Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
The two most discussed players from the Combine were Griffin and Dontari Poe. The mammoth defensive tackle Poe created a stir with his combination of speed and power. He topped the Combine with 44 reps on the bench press. At 6-foot-4, 346-pounds, Poe ran staggering 40-yard dash times of 4.87 seconds and 4.94 unofficially (his official time was 4.98). His 10-yard splits were 1.70 and 1.68.
Whichever result you pick, you get a stunning time for a defensive tackle who is as heavy as Poe. Those are fast numbers for defensive tackles that weigh 40-50 pounds less than him. In the bag drills on the field, Poe showed off impressive movement skills. With his power, speed and agility, he proved himself to be a rare defensive tackle prospect.
Entering the Combine, Poe was already the top 3-4 nose tackle prospect in the 2012 draft class, but now, he drastically has increased his grade. Nose tackle 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. His movement skills are tantalizing for defensive coaches to place him at different spots on the defensive line to create size/speed mismatches.
Poe will also have a big appeal to 4-3 teams looking for a dynamic interior presence on the defensive line. Following his Combine performance, Poe has moved into the top 20 of the draft and may warrant consideration in the top 10.
Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Hill had a massive Combine that has given his draft stock a real boost. It was hard for him to break out and show his dynamic skill set in a Yellow Jackets offense that rarely threw the ball. Still, in 2011, Hill averaged 29.3 yards per catch with a total of 28 receptions that he turned into 820 yards and five touchdowns.
Like Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas, Hill is another wide out with has a rare combination of size and speed who was underutilized at Georgia Tech. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder blew people away when he ran a 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds. It was a staggering time for a receiver with his size.
In the field drills, Hill performed well. He showed natural, strong hands in catching the ball. Hill led all the wide outs with a broad jump of 11-1 and tied for fourth on the vertical jump with 39.5 inches. Before the Combine, he was sleeper prospect. That is definitely not the case anymore as Hill grabbed the attention of the league and forced his way into the discussion over the early-round wide receivers. Following his Combine performance, Hill has moved up from a potential third-round pick into being a potential top-45 pick.
Nick Perry, DE, USC
Perry showed up at the Combine and changed everyone's perceptions of him. It started immediately at the weigh in when he checked in at 6-foot-3, 271-pounds. That is about 20 pounds heavier than his listed weight. Apparently, Perry put on the mass in the correct fashion because he had an impressive total of 35 reps on the bench press.
After that, Perry burned the track with a 40-yard dash time of 4.50 unofficially with a 10-yard split of 1.57. His official time was 4.64. He led all the defensive linemen with a 38.5 inch vertical jump. Perry demonstated some stiffness in the field drills, but for his game as a rushing defensive end, that is a large liability.
With his athletic skill set showing, Perry confirmed and improved his first-round standing. His Combine puts him in the mix for consideration among the other first-round defensive ends like Quinton Coples, Melvin Ingram, Whitney Mercilus and Courtney Upshaw. Perry's draft stock is now in the 10-25 range.
Josh Robinson, CB, UCF
The Combine star for the defensive backs was Robinson. He ran the fastest time in the 40-yard dash with two unofficial sprints at 4.31 and 4.29. His official time was 4.33. Robinson also had the longest broad jump at 11-1 and his vertical jump of 38.5 was tied for second. His straight-line speed was an eye opener, and the workout warrior did his part to standout from the rest of the defensive backs.
The early entry played mostly man coverage in college, so his speed along with that experience will have a real appeal to a lot of NFL teams. Entering the Combine, Robinson looked like a third- or fourth-round prospect, but after his massive performance he could be pushing into the second round.
Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
There is no doubt that Kuechly confirmed his grade as a top-20 pick, and answered all the doubters that felt he didn't have the athletic ability to be a high first-round pick. His official 40-yard dash time was a studly 4.58 seconds along with an unofficial time of 4.50. Kuechly had a nice broad jump of 10'3'' and was second in the vertical jump at 38 inches. He moved well in space and looked good in the field drills.
The 6-foot-3, 242-pounder demonstrated his strength by coming in was fifth among linebackers, with 27 reps, on the bench press. At the Combine, Kuechly put on display that he is the complete package: speed, strength, explosiveness and intelligence. Unsurprisingly, Kuechly was said to have interviewed extremely well with teams at night.
Kuechly is a very safe prospect, and he could be a dark horse to crack the top 10. Every year there are some surprise picks at the top of the draft, and a prospect like Kuechly could cause a team to fall in love with him. At worst, he has clearly defined that he is a mid first-round pick.
Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
If Hill didn't have such an excellent workout, Floyd would have been the wide out who caused the biggest waves. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Floyd entered the Combine as a potential first-round pick. However, there were questions about his straight-line speed, and many did not think he would run well in Indianapolis.
Floyd put those criticisms to rest when he ripped off a 4.47 40-yard dash time with a 10-yard split of 1.57. It was an striking time for a wide out who has Floyd's height and strength. In the field drills, he displayed good hands and smooth route-running.
Floyd has production on his resume along with his special physical skill set. In the nightly interviews, he had to convince NFL teams that his off-the-field problems are a thing of the past. If Floyd did that effectively, there is no other reason for him not to be a top 20 pick. In the 2012 NFL Draft he made his case to be considered as the second-rated wide receiver and may have passed Baylor's Kendall Wright in the eyes of many teams.
Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
Even though Poe grabbed the headlines among the defensive tackles, Cox had an excellent performance at the Combine. The big defensive tackle displayed quick feet and athleticism in the bag drills. The 6-foot-4, 298-pounder had a 40 time of 4.79 with a 10-yard split of 1.63. Those are fast times for a tackle pushing 300 pounds. Cox is a fast and versatile athlete who looked very good in every drill. He has long arms (34 1/2 inches) and impressive strength to go with them (30 reps on the bench press).
Cox showed the ability to play tackle in a 4-3 defense and also the flexibility to slide outside at defensive end in a 3-4 defense. He moved around the line at Mississippi State, displaying the length, power and speed to do that in the NFL. Cox confirmed a first-round grade at the Combine.
David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
Wilson was one perhaps the most impressive running back at the Combine. He showed off his straight-line speed by running the 40-yard dash at 4.40. Wilson did well with a broad jump of 11 feet and a vertical jump of 41 inches. In the receiving drills, he was excellent. Wilson didn't catch a lot of passes at Virginia Tech, but the runnning back showed some receiving potential to be considered as a three-down back in the NFL. He was said to interview well with teams and impressed them with his professionalism.
The running back position has been devalued, but Wilson did his best to force himself into consideration for a late pick in the first round. At worst, he validated his stock as a second-round pick. His Combine performance has put him as the favorite to be the second running back selected in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Ingram was one of the stars of the defensive line and linebackers workouts. The 6-foot-1, 264-pounder blazed an unofficial 40-yard dash at 4.66 seconds. In the bag drills, Ingram was dominant. His lateral movement and agility to play in space were extremely impressive. He is a unique athlete who showed the capacity to be an edge rusher in a 3-4 defense. Ingram has the ability to play some defensive end and defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense while also showing the skill set to be a 3-4 outside linebacker. He truly is a rare athlete.
Ingram's stock was already on the rise after an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl. His Combine should serve as a confirmation that he is a top-half-of-the-first-round pick. Ingram could crack the top 10 in the 2012 NFL Draft, and shouldn't fall further than the mid teens.
Ronnell Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma
For many teams, Lewis is an intriguing prospect, and he showed why at the Combine. Lewis ran an official 40-yard dash at 4.68 seconds, a fast time for a hybrid end/outside linebacker. What was really impressive about the 6-foot-2, 253-pounder was how athletic he was in the bag drills. Lewis' foot speed was phenomenal with how he chopped and slid through the bags. Lewis also was good at sinking his hips to turn and change direction. He had a vertical jump of 31 inches, with 36 reps on the bench press. Lewis is a physical specimen who is built like a truck. He is a hard-hitting player who has a unique combination of size and speed.
One hurdle for Lewis was how he would handle the interviews with NFL teams after having academic issues at Oklahoma. The feedback has been that Lewis performed well and eased any concerns there. After his strong Combine, he looks like a late first-round or early second-round pick.
Mychal Kendricks, LB, California
Kendricks burned the track with the fastest 40 time for a linebacker in the past 12 years of the Combine. His time of 4.41 was shockingly fast. Kendricks also logged impressive numbers in the broad jump at 10-7 and the vertical leap at 39.5 inches. To finish off his fabulous combine, he excelled in the field drills.
Kendricks has been a sleeper prospect in part because of a position change. He had a good junior season as a pass rusher while playing outside linebacker. In 2011, Kendricks played middle linebacker and performed well, but the position change left some wondering what his true fit would be in the NFL. His stellar Combine performance could push Kendricks into the second day of the draft while causing teams to spend more time getting comfortable with him as a prospect.
Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
Martin has a body builder's physique, so it wasn't all that surprising that he performed well at the Combine. Still, Martin put together a collection of numbers that were special. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds. Martin showed explosiveness with a vertical jump of 36 inches and a broad jump of 10 feet. On the bench press, he was tied for the lead among running backs with 28 reps. In the field drills, Martin excelled as a receiver and clearly enters the NFL having developed his skills as a contributor in the passing game.
The 5-foot-9, 223-pounder is a solid rock who has the ability to be a three down back in the NFL. If Martin is the backup running back, he could be a contributor on special teams as well. Martin had a strong showing at the Senior Bowl and has kept up the momentum through the Combine. It wouldn't be surprising if he goes early in the second round, and he could pass Miami's Lamar Miller as the third running back selected.
Honorable Mentions: Georgia guard/tackle Cordy Glenn, TCU linebacker Tank Carder, Illinois tackle Jeff Allen, Virginia Tech cornerback Jayron Hosley, Clemson defensive end Andre Branch, Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, Miami wide receiver Tommy Streeter, California wide receiver Marvin Jones, Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins, Illinois Whitney Mercilus, Connecticut defensive tackle Kendall Reyes, North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins, West Virginia outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, Miami running back Lamar Miller, Iowa State guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele, Baylor center/guard Philip Blake, Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith and Louisiana-Lafayette cornerback Dwight Bentley.
2012 NFL Draft Stock Down
Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State
No player may have done more damage to his draft stock than Burfict. Reportedly, he interviewed poorly with teams, and compounded that negative impression by performing poorly on the field. He ran two 40-yard dashes at horrible times of 4.93 and 5.10 unofficially. Plus, Burfict passed on doing the bench press even though he is said to be healthy.
Burfict needed to have a good Combine coming off a disappointing junior season. His production was down and he did not have the presence that he had in other seasons. With a bad season of tape, character concerns and a poor combine performance, Burfict has sent his stock plummeting. Right now, he is probably a mid-round pick, at best. Some teams will probably take Burfict off their draft boards, and there is speculation that he could go undrafted.
Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Wright ran much slower than expected with an official 40 time of 4.61. The 5-foot-10, 196-pounder was fast on the field during the game and was a threat to score on any reception. Thus, it was surprising that he didn't challenge for one of the fastest 40 times for wide outs. Wright has a lot of good tape, and he could easily improve his 40 at his pro day. The Combine raises some questions about Wright, but plenty of first-round picks have had a bad Combine.
As Robert Griffin III's primary receiver, Wright caught 108 passes for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. During his collegiate career, he showcased fabulous quickness to gain separation and good hands. Wright played in every game of his four-year career, and he had at least two receptions of each contest. I still believe that Wright is a first-rounder in the 2012 NFL Draft, but he definitely has taken a hit with his disappointing 40.
Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Adams gave credence to the belief that he is overhyped when he produced a disappointing total of 19 reps on the bench press. That caused NFL Network draft gurus Mike Mayock and Charles Davis to rightly question Adams' work ethic while he was suspended for part of the 2011 season. One thing that really helps him is the demand for left tackles in the NFL.
Adams struggles with speed rushers, but he has enough physical talent to warrant him staying at left tackle in the NFL. In addition to the need at his position, Adams is really lucky that this isn't a deep draft for offensive tackles. If it were a better class, he would likely be a second-round pick based off his issues with speed rushers, multiple suspensions in college and a disappointing Combine.
Markus Zusevics, OT, Iowa
I hate to have include his name on the list, but suffering a serious injury in February could impact his readiness to play in training camp. That is definitely going to lower Zusevics's draft stock. During the Combine bench press, he tore a pectoral muscle. It was a tough luck for the mid to late-round prospect. Zusevics had played well at the East-West Shrine, and this injury really hurts his draft status. Now he has to hope that a team will take him in the late rounds. It wouldn't be surprising if Zusevics falls to the undrafted free agent ranks.
Dishonorable Mentions: Boise State safety George Iloka, Georgia tight end Orson Charles, Iowa State cornerback Leonard Johnson, Rutgers wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, Wisconsin center Peter Konz, South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, Alabama outside linebacker/defensive end Courtney Upshaw, Ohio State center Mike Brewster, Iowa tackle Riley Reiff, Miami linebacker Sean Spence.
I really don't understand why you keep bashing the 49ers contracts. You have to overpay for guys when you have one of the worst rosters in the NFL. Beyond that, they have nearly $70 mill in cap space even after free agency, so what's the big deal if they overspend?