By: Brian Sanchez
With the combine now complete it is time to look at player performances, and of course the only thing that matters, what happened to their draft stock? Let's take a look at the 5 winners and losers of the NFL combine.
1. NT Dontari Poe, Memphis
2. WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech
Hill was the Poe of offense at the combine. And he needed to be. Coming from Georgia Tech where they run the triple option Hill only had 28 catches last season because they rarely throw. Hill burned the track at the combine running a 4.36 40 yd. dash and measured in at 6'5" 206 lbs. Hill reminded people of the previous two WR's to come from Georgia Tech, Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas. Hill is not as highly rated of a prospect as Megatron or Thomas, but he has now jumped into the first round. Hill is now a popular projection to the 49ers at the end of the first round, but if he has a good pro day he may not even be available at the end of the first. Hill's jump up big boards seems to be just as fast as his 40 time.
3. QB Kirk Cousins, Michigan St.
This draft is light on talented TE's and may not have one taken in the first round. The draft needed a TE to step up and establish themselves as the top choice. Fleener did so. Other top option Dwayne Allen from Clemson did not participate which boosted Fleener automatically, but he did plenty to help himself. If Fleener can run in the 4.5 40 yard dash range at his pro day he could easily be the No. 1 TE and the New York Giants are looking at a TE at the end of the first. It has also been noted that Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers loves having a lot of TE's and had Fleener at Stanford. Duel TE's have been shown to work in a big way in New England with Gronk and Hernandez. Vernon Davis and Coby Fleener could be lethal.
This is a much more minor winner but still an important one. Kuechly has always been listed as the top MLB but there were questions about size and athleticism. He was No. 1 more because of his instincts and lack of other talented players at the position. But Kuechly showed up bigger at 242 lbs. and surprised evaluators with his athleticism. So now, Kuechly can climb as high as No. 12 to Seattle who may be losing their MLB Hawthorne.
Here's a guy who was talked about on ESPN and Yahoo! Sports for being the pick of the Baltimore Ravens and the heir apparent to Ray Lewis. With an average combine he would have remained where he was. With a great combine he could have jumped into the top 20. So what did he do? Fail. He already has big character concerns, but his athleticism was supposed to outweigh them and make him a first rounder. Burfict looked sluggish and a little out of shape. Without the elite athleticism Burfict becomes a fourth to fifth round pick. He needs a huge pro day to save himself.
2. WR Alshon Jeffrey, South Carolina
3. DT Michael Brockers, LSU
Upshaw was the defensive MVP of the National Championship and terrorized offensive linemen during the Senior Bowl. He had climbed mock drafts as high as No. 10 and was listed as one of the premiere pass rushers in the NFL. He did not run in the combine and that made people question whether or not he has the explosiveness needed for rushing the passer against elite NFL tackles. He also really struggled dropping back into coverage. Upshaw will too be relying on a big pro day.
5. CB Cliff Harris, Oregon
Harris came into the combine with a second round grade. With a good combine he could have certainly jumped into the end of the first round despite his character concerns. With a poor combine and an especially poor 4.58 40 yard dash, Harris could very well have fallen from the 2nd round to the 4th round.
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