With less than a week remaining before the 2012 NFL Combine gets underway, let's take a moment and attempt to predict how things will shake out in Indianapolis next weekend (otherwise known as the Super Bowl of college prospect workouts). We already have a good idea of who the main players will be at the Combine; what we don't know, however, is if any lesser-known prospects will be close to household-name status after next weekend. The field of defensive prospects this year is sneaky good, and there are a handful of receivers who could make some serious noise via pass-catching drills and the 40 yard dash.
Some of these predictions are obvious; others are pretty much shots in the dark. Let me know your own predictions in the comment section. I'll post the best responses in my recap following the Combine.
Offense: Trent Richardson, RB Alabama
Defense: Quinton Coples, DE North Carolina
No surprises here. Richardson is built to destroy Combine workouts, and I expect Coples to pick up where he left off from Senior Bowl week.
Biggest Riser - QB
B.J. Coleman, Tennessee-Chattanooga
Great size (6'3", 225), big arm and accurate. Coleman could put on a show during passing drills and warrant a day two selection.
Biggest Riser - RB
David Wilson, Virginia Tech
Wilson should be in play as the No.2 running back in this draft class after his Combine performance (though Miami's Lamar Miller will have something to say about that). Wilson is an explosive talent in the backfield, and he has the thick build necessary to withstand a punishing workload at the NFL level.
Biggest Riser - OL
Mike Adams, Ohio State
Adams may have already sneaked past Jonathan Martin as the third-best tackle in this draft class, but he could become a legit top 15 selection with a solid performance in Indianapolis. His size (6'7", 330) and impressive footwork will turn plenty of heads at the Combine.
Biggest Riser - WR
Kendall Wright, Baylor
Haven't heard much regarding Wright's banged-up ankle. Still, I am certainly not putting myself out there by suggesting he will have a big Combine. Wright's phenomenal speed and near-flawless hands should vault him into the No.2 receiver position in this draft.
Biggest Riser - TE
Orson Charles, Georgia
Dwyane Allen and Coby Fleener will be the big tight-end names at the Combine, but Orson Charles' style of play is very similar to New England's Aaron Hernandez. That aspect alone will get him plenty of attention next weekend.
Biggest Riser - DE
Andre Branch, Clemson
Branch has tweener size, but could play end in the 4-3, and he's a big hitter for such a lanky prospect. He'll be able to put his speed and length on display for scouts next weekend. Get ready for the JPP comparisons.
Biggest Riser - DT
Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
Cox has the base to anchor consistently hold up at the point of attack, and he's athletic enough to be a frequent visitor to the opposing backfield. The defensive tackle position is a wee bit thin in this draft class, so look for Cox, as well as Michigan State's Jerel Worthy and Clemson's Brandon Thompson, to become familiar names at the Combine.
Biggest Riser - DE/OLB
Nick Perry, USC
Questions remain as to whether or not Perry is big enough to play 4-3 end in the NFL, but his speed, instincts, Enzo Ferrari-approved motor and pass-rush skills will have scouts drooling over the prospect of Perry playing outside linebacker at the next level. That's not to say Perry can't be a 4-3 end, though, and he'd sure be a nice addition to a team running, say, a hybrid scheme.
Biggest Riser - LB
Zach Brown, North Carolina
This projection is mainly based on the likelihood that Brown will run a phenomenal 40 yard dash. Unlike fellow linebacking flyer Dontay Moch (remember him?), Brown consistently looked the part of dominant 4-3 outside linebacker this season.
Biggest Riser - S
Antonio Allen, South Carolina
Allen's name was often lost on a Gamecocks defense loaded with talent (Melvin Ingram, Devin Taylor, Jadeveon Clowney, Stephon Gilmore, etc.), but he brings quality size (6'2", 205) and speed to the safety position, and he was an absolute run killer at South Carolina. Notre Dame's Harrison Smith was a close runner-up here.
Biggest Riser - CB
The only true split on this list, mainly because I believe both prospects are going to tear it up in their own unique way at the Combine. Bentley looked fantastic during Senior Bowl week, and could be a day two lock in the 2012 draft if he has an impressive showing in Indianapolis. Harris' 2011 season was mired in character concerns and questionable choices, but his athleticism and uber-ball-hawking prowess could win over several scouts at the Combine. He's a pure cover corner who can make a difference in the run game.
Tomorrow we'll take a look at the players who may not look so great at the Combine.