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Studs and Duds at the NFL Combine

NFL Evaluates College Talent

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Studs and Duds at the NFL Combine

Players work out at the 2013 NFL Combine

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The NFL's latest meat market just closed its doors to blue-chip shoppers, and as expected there were only a few surprises and cases where players really helped and hurt themselves.

Most scouts, coaches and general managers will tell you privately that the NFL Combine rarely produces any big surprises. What with the elaborate scouting systems in place these days, rarely does a player capable of even a brief stop in the big leagues go unnoticed.

That doesn't mean the combines aren't interesting. Even if a player moves up a round or two because of his showing, it can significantly affect the way the draft goes, not to mention millions of dollars in contracts.

Here are the offensive players who stood out. Their defensive counterparts will follow in a later story.

Quarterbacks

Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel's stock probably rose the most significantly. Manuel won the Most Outstanding Player at the Senior Bowl and arrived at the combine on something of a roll. He's big - a legit 6-foot-5 and close to 240 pounds - he's mobile and he has a strong enough arm for the pros.

He had the second-fastest time in the 40-yard-dash, a 4.65, which is more important in these times of the read-option and other offenses that put pressure on the quarterback to get out of the pocket and move. Manuel is the most accurate passer in FSU history, but there are concerns about his unsound mechanics, especially when under pressure, and his tendency to be inconsistent.

But, his solid performance at the combine, where he showed good arm strength, accuracy and solid footwork, may have moved him up to a second-round pick. He's shown improvement in his weak areas, but will most likely never be more than a good NFL backup.

Geno Smith of West Virginia skipped the Senior Bowl. No matter, he is still the top-rated quarterback in a weak field this year, and he showed why at the combine. Smith is fast, athletic, strong-armed and accurate. He had the fastest 40-time among quarterbacks, but he is still, at best, an average NFL quarterback.

Matt Scott of Arizona could be the sleeper quarterback, while Mike Glennon of North Carolina State, Ryan Nassib of Syracuse and Tyler Bray of Tennessee all had good workouts. Also, MarQueis Gray of Minnesota may have made NFL people change their minds about moving him to tight end.

Wide receivers

Everybody wants to know how fast the receivers are, even though the fastest guy isn't always the best. So the 40-yard-dash is very important, with everybody trying to break Trindon Holliday's record of 4.21 seconds.

Fortunately for those NFL teams with needs at this position, there is a strong field to choose from, led by Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson was timed at 4.42 in the 40, despite a slight stumble. He is already a polished receiver who runs quick, precise routes and has good hands.

There are size concerns about Tavon Austin of West Virginia - he's only 5-8, 174 pounds - but he showed surprisingly good hands at the combine and would be a dangerous deep threat. Marquise Goodman ran the fastest 40 with a time of 4.27 and was outrunning passes during the combine's field workouts. He also had a good Senior Bowl.

Two other receivers to take note of are Ryan Swope of Texas A&M and Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins.

Running Backs

Running backs aren't quite the glory boys they used to be in the NFL. They are still highly valued, but there most likely won't be any first-rounders in this year's crop.

Kerwynn Williams of Utah State had the best all-around showing at the combine. Jonathan Franklin of UCLA and Christine Michael of Texas A&M had solid showings. A interesting darkhorse here is Arkansas' Knile Davis, once highly thought of, who seemed to work his way back into the elite category with his performance that showed off his speed, strength and agility.

Tight ends

Tyler Eifert of Notre Dame was the top prospect coming in and did nothing at the combine to change that. Stanford's Zach Ertz is also high on the list for those teams who need help at tight end.

Offensive Line

Offensive line prospects are deep this year. Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel might have hurt his lofty status at the combine while Central Michigan's Eric Fisher enhanced his status.

Six offensive linemen ran the 40 in under five seconds at the combine. The fastest were Lane Johnson of Oklahoma, 4.72, and Terron Armstead of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 4.71. They are also considered the top prospects.

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