With the annual NFL Scouting Combine over and done with, NFL teams have a much better handle on the crop of college talent. After checking out more than 300 prospects in Indianapolis, some came away from the combine with their stock on the rise while others took a hit to their stock.
Here is our list of who were the winners and losers from their days in Indianapolis and how their performance at the combine could impact their draft stock – for better and for worse.
Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama – There wasn't much of a doubt that Milliner would be the first cornerback off the board prior to the Combine. The only question was whether he had the speed that would make him a blue-chip selection. He answered those questions by running a 4.37 40 and locked himself into a top-five pick. The only drawback was some dropped passes in the workout portion.
Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon – There are always questions about those who are viewed as 'tweeners for the NFL – too small to be a defensive end and lacking the coverage skills to handle the outside linebacker position at the next level. Jordan ran an impressive 4.60 40 and created a buzz by having scouts convinced he could play either position – opening him up as a possibility for teams that run a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense. He went from being a mid to late pick in the first round to potentially being reunited with college coach Chip Kelly with Philadelphia at the No. 4 pick.
Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan – There were some doubters when he arrived at the Senior Bowl, given the lack of top-end competition he faced in college. Those doubts were diminished in Mobile and erased in Indianapolis in a hurry. He has gone from a risk/reward type of pick to potential working his way into the top 10.
Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma – A converted tight end, he weighed in at more than 300 pounds and had a remarkable showing at the combine – running a 4.72 40 with a 34-inch vertical jump and 28 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press. With his athleticism and strength, he has the potential to be a surprise pick that could work his way into the top half of the first round.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame – Entering the combine, Eifert was rated about the same as fellow tight ends Zach Ertz of Stanford and Gavin Escobar of San Diego State. But, after running an impressive 4.68 40 with a 35-inch vertical jump and 22 reps on the bench press, he vaulted past the competition and solidified himself as the top tight end in the Class of 2013.
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU – Perhaps nobody had more to prove than he did because he is a native of Ghana and hadn't played football until arriving at BYU. His situation is eerily similar to that of Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants, who was viewed as a raw prospect and is now one of the most feared sack artists in the league. On draft weekend, all a player has to do is impress one team to the point they can't pass him up. Given his pure athleticism, it's hard to imagine he won't find a taker in the middle of the first round, if not pushing to get into the top 10.
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia – An undersized player with incredible quickness, he had a very strong combine performance – highlighted by a sparkling 4.38 40-yard dash. With most of the top receiver prospects being big guys, he has the Wes Welker/Percy Harvin sort of game-changing skills that could push him into the first round.
Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU – He came to Indianapolis slotted as a mid-first-round pick and did nothing to dissuade that opinion. He had an extremely strong workout – running a 4.58 40 with a 37-inch vertical and a 10-8 broad jump – leading many to speculate that he not only fits as a three-down defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, but could also project as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment.
Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee – Known as the "other guy" opposite Cordarrelle Patterson for the Vols, Hunter earned himself a lot of money in Indy. He measured as one of the biggest receivers (6-4) and ran a 4.44 40 with a 39½-inch vertical jump, getting the attention of a lot of NFL brass and pushing his stock higher than many may have envisioned when the combine began.
Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU – The Honey Badger had a lot to prove after being thrown off the LSU roster for repeated violations of team rules and multiple drug-related incidents. Initially thought of as no more than a Day 3 pick, his 4.42 40 turned some heads and will get more decision-makers looking back to his game film, where he was a pre-eminent playmaker. It won't be enough to push him into the first round and maybe not the second round either, but he has the look of a player who will now come off the board on Day 2, not Day 3. The drawback: Doing just four reps of 225 pounds may curb some of the enthusiasm.
Margus Hunt, DE, SMU – At 6-8½, the Estonia native passed the eyeball test before the workouts began, but when he ran a 4.58 40 and did a whopping 38 reps in the bench press, he went from being a Day 3 type prospect to someone who will be coming off the board somewhere on Day 2, perhaps early on in the process.
Jamie Collins, OLB, Southern Mississippi – Perhaps nobody pushed his way up draft boards more than Collins, who came into the combine as a third- or fourth-round prospect and left viewed as a solid second-rounder. He owned the drills, running a 4.64 40 with an amazing 11-7 broad jump and a 41½-inch vertical jump. Coming off a 10-sack season, he looks to be an ideal addition to teams running a 3-4 defense and looking for a pass-rushing linebacker.
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah – Viewed as one of the favorites to come off the board first on draft day, the news that he wouldn't be working out after a potentially significant heart defect was detected during the medical portion of the combine has left his career potentially in jeopardy. Teams that have a strong interest in him will likely submit him to a battery of their own tests, but, for a player who wasn't expected to make it past the third pick of the draft, he may now be on the board for a long, long time.
Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M – Viewed as one of the blue-chip prospects that was in the top-five discussion, after posting just 11 reps on the bench press and pulling out of the 40 with a tight hamstring after running a brutal 4.95, his stock has taken a big hit. In another year, it might not have been so bad, but given the depth of the defensive end crop in this year's draft class, it could be enough to drop him into the middle of the first round. He's become a candidate for the annual draft day free fall that certain players have every April.
Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame – As Ricky Ricardo once said, "You have a lot of 'splaining to do." It was bad enough that he couldn't run away from the fake girlfriend hoax, but when he couldn't run away from the 40-yard dash in less than 4.8 seconds, he went from being a prospect that was viewed as a lock for the top 10 when 2013 began to a player who might not get taken on the first day of the draft.
Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M – Joeckel didn't do anything wrong at the combine and didn't have a bad workout, but the gap between him and players like Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson got smaller when both of them had strong workouts. While it won't keep Joeckel from being the first offensive tackle off the board – and quite possibly the first overall pick – his dominance isn't as pronounced now as it was heading into the combine.
Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State – He was viewed by a lot of scouts as the No. 2 cornerback in the draft heading into the combine, but after running a dismal 4.59 40 – one of the worst among corners that ran in Indy – he has likely fallen to the bottom of the first round, if not out of the first round completely.
Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State – He has a lot of potential and has a lot of good tape, but his 4.83 40 was dismal in terms of a pass-rushing defensive end. He is still going to be an early- to mid-first-round pick, but, given the strength of the defensive class in the draft, it may be enough to drop him a bit on draft day when teams are making decisions that could impact their franchise for years to come.
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia – After being diagnosed with lingering spinal stenosis, he didn't work out in Indianapolis and his stock may have taken a significant gut punch. Unless team medical personnel give him the needed clearance, he may be viewed as too risky a pick for a lot of teams in the first 20 picks or beyond.
Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford – One of the measurables looked at when prospects are poked and prodded at the combine is arm length. Ertz has shorter arms than most scouts like in tight ends, giving him a shorter catch radius and allowing defenders to get into his body too easily – both black marks on his record.
Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M – He had an excellent workout and was consistently at or near the top of the running back class, but he opted to sleep in the day of his workout and blew off several team interviews. When you're viewed as a Day 2 or 3 prospect, dissing NFL franchises never bodes well and could do more harm than his workout did good, given his history of off-field issues.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.