- Steve Muench, Scouts Inc.
The NFL combine (Feb. 22-28) will offer all prospects a chance to boost their stock at least a little, but some players are in position to make more of a gain than most.
Perhaps they played in a scheme that didn't maximize their talents and/or were on a team that struggled in 2011. Others might be looking to rebound from a disappointing showing during an all-star game or to show teams that they are healthy after missing time with injuries.
With that in mind, here are the three 2012 prospects who could help themselves as much as anyone else during their upcoming time in Indianapolis. As always, non-seniors are noted with an asterisk.
LSU WR Rueben Randle* (Scouts Inc. Grade: 84)
Randle is coming off a big season, and he's faced some of the best athletes in the country during his career in the SEC, but he flew under the radar playing for a Tigers team known for its running game and defense. That run-heavy scheme and quarterback play that could be considered inconsistent at best hurt Randle's overall production and hindered his progress, especially as a route-runner.
In terms of draft positioning, Randle sits right behind South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery* (85), who is not expected to run well at the combine. If Randle posts a better 40-yard dash time and catches the ball as well as expected, while also showing some improvement in his routes during field drills, he could very well leapfrog Jeffery on the draft board. That would put him in position to land with a team like the Minnesota Vikings, who could be in the market for a receiver early in the second round.
Mississippi OT Bobby Massie* (76)
Massie didn't get much attention as Mississippi went 2-10 and 4-8 the last two seasons, but don't be surprised if he creates some buzz while in Indianapolis. He's an above-average athlete expected to measure in the 6-foot-6 range and weigh in at around 320 pounds, and Massie has the potential to stand out during position-specific drills. In particular, keep an eye on his footwork and lateral mobility when asked to slide in pass protection.
The 2012 tackle class is not all that strong, and with teams always looking for help at that position, Massie has an opportunity to move into the second-round conversation if he performs as well as expected. The Miami Dolphins need to address their quarterback need before anything else, but they would do well to get Massie on Day 2 (rounds 2-3). He could line up on the right side, teaming with standout LOT Jake Long to give the Dolphins the bookends they'll need in order for their quarterback to have time in the pocket.
Washington RB Chris Polk (70)
Polk is coming off a somewhat underwhelming performance at the Senior Bowl, where he didn't look as quick as he appears on film, so running well in Indianapolis would help Polk regain some momentum. He's said he expects to run in the 4.4-second range in the 40, which would be well below the four-year combine average (4.60) for running backs.
That time would be even more impressive when you consider Polk weighed in at 224 pounds at the Senior Bowl. Polk also catches the ball well, so he has a chance to stand out during that portion of position-specific drills. The Green Bay Packers should be in the market for a running back, and if Polk shows well at the combine, he could be an intriguing possibility late in the third round. He has the tools to develop into a primary ball carrier and can contribute on passing downs early in his career.
Five others to watch
Troy DE/OLB Jonathan Massaquoi* (74)
Louisiana Lafayette TE Ladarius Green (71)
Texas A&M DC Coryell Judie (61)
Virginia Tech DC Jayron Hosley* (60)
Arizona State DC Omar Bolden (51)
Steve Muench looks at three players with plenty to gain at the NFL combine, including a big-name SEC wideout and a productive Pac-12 running back.