Evan Silva

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2011 Combine Risers & Fallers

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Scouting Combine generates more interest every offseason. It was an especially publicized event this year because the NFL draft and its related events are the only sure things with no new Collective Bargaining Agreement on the horizon.

We previewed the six-day affair last week, and successfully pinpointed a number of workout wonders like Nevada DE Dontay Moch, Abilene Christian WR Edmund Gates, and Miami CB Demarcus Van Dyke, the latter of whom ran the fastest forty time in Indianapolis.

Now, let's have a look at risers and fallers from the 2011 Combine.

Combine's Biggest Risers

1. Florida State QB Christian Ponder

After undergoing three throwing-arm surgeries in his final two college seasons, Ponder's biggest pre-draft objectives were clear: stay healthy and pass medicals. He's done both, acing physicals at the Senior Bowl and Combine amidst lengthy stints on the MRI machine, and turning in terrific passing-drill performances. In Indianapolis, the consensus was that Ponder had the most accurate throwing session of any signal caller inside Lucas Oil Stadium. The ideal West Coast quarterback, Ponder emerges from the six-day affair gaining steam as a potential first-round pick.

Ponder's Combine measurables: 6'2/229, 10 1/4" hands, 4.65 forty, 34" vertical

2. Alabama DT Marcell Dareus

Last week, we discussed Dareus' competition with Nick Fairley to be the first defensive tackle drafted. Coming out of the Combine, Dareus has emerged as the clear favorite. The former 3-4 college defensive end ran a 1.66 ten-yard split to best Fairley's time by a full tenth of a second, doing it with 28 more pounds on his frame than his SEC adversary. While Fairley opted out of the bench press altogether, Dareus hoisted 225 pounds 24 times with nearly 34-inch arms. Dareus is considered to possess a better motor and technique than Fairley, showed more up-field burst in Indy, and projects as a significantly superior run stopper. Dareus will go to Denver in our next mock draft.

More Dareus measurables: 6'3 1/2", 319 pounds, 4.93 forty, 10 1/8" hands, 27" vertical

3. Alabama WR Julio Jones

Jones weighed in an inch shorter than his 6-foot-4 listing, but showed incredible explosiveness on the track. At 220 pounds, Jones ran 4.39 to rank third among receivers, and his 11'3" broad jump lapped the wideout field with only small-school flyer Edmund Gates (10'11") coming close. Jones also showed his trademark toughness, participating in all Combine drills on a broken foot. He needs surgery to repair the fracture, but has probably locked himself into the top-ten picks.

More Jones measurables: 33 3/4" arms, 9 3/4" hands, 17 reps of 225, 38 1/2" vertical

4. Miami (FL) WR Leonard Hankerson

When receivers lined up for their forty-yard dashes Saturday morning, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock called Hankerson's "the most important time of the week." The 6-foot-2, 209-pound prospect proceeded to run the fourth fastest forty among wide receivers in Indianapolis, clocking in at 4.43. Also possessing the biggest hands (10 5/8") of any wideout at the Scouting Combine, Hankerson vaulted himself into consideration for the back end of the first round. Naysayers point to a drop or two in the Gauntlet Drill, but very few NFL decision makers put stock in that workout.

More Hankerson measurables: 36" vertical, 4.21 short shuttle, 6.94 three cone

5. Illinois ILB Martez Wilson

Even the Fighting Illini's closest supporters were stunned when Wilson declared for the draft, and as an underclassman ineligible for postseason all-star games, he needed a dominant Combine to make the decision worthwhile. Wilson delivered, running the best forty of any linebacker in Indy (4.49) at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds. Wilson's speed is freakish, and at his position only surefire first-round picks Justin Houston and Von Miller showed more lower-body explosion in the standing long jump (10'4"). Wilson also benefits from being the cream of a weak inside linebacker crop.

More Wilson measurables: 34 5/8" arms, 23 reps of 225, 36" vertical, 4.28 short shuttle

6. Nebraska RB Roy Helu

Helu has flown well under the radar for a back who averaged 6.62 YPC in one of college football's most predictably run-first offenses, but stated his case to be a day-two pick in Indy. Running a 4.42 forty that ranked sixth among running backs, Helu also posted the best 20-yard shuttle time (4.01), fastest 60-yard shuttle (11.07), and second best three-cone drill (6.67). If folks are sleeping on the one-cut tackle breaker, it's not because of Helu's size (6'0/219) or respectable pass-catching background (54 career receptions). Some team is going to get a steal this April.

More Helu measurables: 10 1/4" hands (biggest among RBs), 36.5" vertical, 9'11" broad jump

7. Appalachian State FS Mark LeGree

No player in this draft class can touch LeGree's 22 career interceptions, but as an FCS small-schooler there were plenty of questions about his athleticism. LeGree didn't burn up the track with his 4.56 forty, but it was the second fastest among all safeties in Indianapolis. Also weighing in at a solid 5'11 1/2" and 210 pounds, LeGree is on the radar as a possible third-round pick.

More LeGree measurables: 9'8" broad jump, 4.09 short shuttle, 6.90 three cone

8. Auburn RB Mario Fannin

Fannin never topped 84 carries in a college season and played behind freshman Michael Dyer for last year's BCS champs, but his measurables are intriguing. At 5'10/231, Fannin turned in the second fastest forty time (4.38) among running backs, behind only injury-prone Maryland carry sharer Da'Rel Scott. Fannin is built to pass protect and is Auburn's all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards by a running back. He has the look of a homerun-hitting third-down ace.

More Fannin measurables: 9 1/2" hands, 37 1/2" vertical

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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

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