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5 Players Who Improved Their Draft Day Status at the NFL Combine. . . and Five Who Didn’t

2013 NFL Combine
Joe Robbins / Getty Images

Every year there is a guy or two who goes from unknown to first day NFL pick based on an impressive performance at the NFL Combine. Likewise, there are always a few big name players who see their draft stock slide after a sub-par showing.

With the 2013 NFL Combine wrapping up yesterday, here are some players whose draft status changed significantly.

MOVING ON UP

Terron Armstead, OL, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

You may not have heard of Armstead before now, but I’m sure that NFL scouts know who he is after the 6’5”, 306-pound left tackle led all offensive lineman with a 34.5-inch vertical jump and ran a 4.71 second 40-yard dash. He was the fastest offensive lineman at the Combine and, for comparison, ran faster than nine running backs at the event.  He also received strong reviews for his performance in the East-West Shrine Game.

Armstead is an outstanding all-around athlete who received several Division 1 offers, but chose Arkansas-Pine Bluff because it was the only school that would allow him to participate in track and field (he is an eight-time SWAC track event champion).  He will certainly need to get used to a much higher level of competition but he has been on the upswing with NFL scouts. Projected as a third round pick, Armstead is quickly moving himself up the draft board with his solid postseason work.

Marquise Goodwin, WR, Texas

Everybody knew that Goodwin already had Olympic-quality athleticism (he was a finalist in the long jump in the 2012 Olympics) and he showed off that talent with a blazing 4.27 second 40-yard dash, the second-fastest in combine history. He is undersized for an NFL receiver (5’9” and 183 pounds) and was woefully underused by the Longhorns (just 39 touches last season).

While Goodwin was never going to be a first-rounder, his eye-popping speed and solid route running at the Combine may have moved him up into Day Two of the draft.

Margus Hunt, DE, Southern Methodist

At 6’8” and 277 pounds, Hunt will be an imposing figure on any defensive line but the Estonian native definitely helped his stock with a showcase of power and speed rare for a man his size. Hunt ran the third-fastest 40-yard dash (4.60) among defensive linemen, had the most reps (38) in the bench press and finished ninth or better in the high jump, broad jump and three-cone drill.

He is an all-around athlete (won gold medals in the shot put and discus at the 2006 World Junior Championships) who will be a great defensive end in a 3-4 set and who can also be a difference maker on special teams (17 blocked kicks in four years at SMU). His size and athleticism already made him a hot commodity and his Combine performance may have launched him high into the first round.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

Because Tennessee suffered through another losing season, many fans outside of SEC country didn’t know about the speedy Vols receiver. But I can promise that NFL scouts do, particularly after his 37-inch vertical and 4.42 second 40-yard dash. Those are impressive numbers for anybody, particularly for someone like Patterson who has prototypical NFL receiver size (6’2”, 216 pounds). Patterson set a school record for receiving yards and was the only player in the FBS to score four different ways. With his size and versatility, Patterson was already likely to be one of the first wide receivers off the board. His combine performance could well make him the first wideout taken and move him into the mid-first round.

Cornelius Washington, OLB, Georgia

Washington wasn’t exactly a household name, playing in the shadows of so many other defensive stars in the SEC. But the former Georgia Bulldog turned some heads with his athleticism this week, finishing second among linebackers in the 40-yard dash (4.55), first in the bench press, second in the high jump and third in the broad jump. He also impressed with a solid performance in one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl and has likely moved himself up as high as the third round.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame

After a tumultuous offseason, no one came into the Combine with more question marks than Te’o. Unfortunately, the star linebacker didn’t do much to dissuade his critics after clocking a 4.82 40-yard dash, one of the slowest linebackers to run at the event. He also failed to crack the top five among linebackers in any of the other tests. Perhaps more importantly, Te’o blamed his poor performance on all the stress of the Combine process. While there may be a grain of truth to that, it had to raise more questions in NFL executives’ minds about Te’o’s ability to handle both the on-field and off-field pressures of an NFL star. Once considered a top ten pick, Te’o will need to have a solid effort at Notre Dame’s pro day to avoid falling out of Day One.

Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh

Graham was always known as a quick runner with surprising toughness between the tackles for a man his size (just 5’9” and 199 pounds). But his combine performance certainly raised questions about his ability to take his game to the next level. Graham ran a 4.80 40-yard dash, the fourth-slowest time among running backs. He also finished in the bottom half of most other drills. He suffered an ACL injury in October 2011 and may not still be fully 100 percent. He will have to have a much stronger showing at his Pro Day if he wants to convince NFL scouts that his combine performance was a fluke. Small and slow are not qualities for which many teams are looking.

Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

Lotuelei was projected as one of the top linemen in the draft, a potential #1 overall pick. Unfortunately, his career path took a nasty turn this weekend with something that didn’t even happen on the field. During a pre-Combine physical, it was revealed that Lotulelei was suffering from a heart condition that led to his left ventricle pumping at just 44 percent of efficiency (compared with a normal range of 55 to 70 percent). He will have further tests in Salt Lake City to determine what this means for his long-term health but, in the short term, this weekend’s physical will almost certainly send Lotulelei dropping down NFL draft boards.

Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M

Moore was a beast for the Wrecking Crew defense and was considered one of the top defensive prospects on the board. But his Combine performance may have put the brakes on his ride up the draft board. He ran an unimpressive 4.95 second 40-yard dash (22nd out of 37 d-lineman who ran). He also failed to impress with just 12 repetitions in the bench press (worst among defensive linemen) and had problems with techniques in one-on-one drills. Moore tends to play straight up-and-down and the big question mark was whether or not he had the power and quickness to overcome NFL offensive lineman. Unfortunately, his performance probably created more questions than answers. That said, Moore is projected to play either DE in a 3-4 or OLB in a 4-3 and could still excel if he gets in the right system.

Ace Sanders, WR, South Carolina

The second-team All-American was a star receiver and kick returner for the Gamecocks last season, leading the SEC in punt return average. While no one questioned his return abilities, the question mark came in his ability to become a reliable receiver at the next level after averaging just 29 receiving yards per game. Unfortunately, he didn’t do much to overcome those question marks after running a 4.53 40-yard dash (31st among receivers) and dropping several catchable passes during the route-running portion of the skills testing. At just 5’7”, the diminutive Sanders was projected as a fourth or fifth-round pick as a returner, but he could see his stock fall if he cannot convince scouts that he can also help in the passing game.

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