While many stop watches and clipboards at this year's 2012 NFL Scouting Combine year will be focused on quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the person who stands to gain the most is Oklahoma St. wide receiver Justin Blackmon.
Many saw Blackmon's dominant performance against Stanford's secondary in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl to the tune of eight receptions for 186 yards and three touchdowns.
If that wasn't enough, then two seasons worth of catches (232), yards (3,304), and awards (two Biletnikoffs) should be enough to convince scouts that the kid can produce.
The final piece to Blackmon's résumé is the Combine, in particular his timed 40-yard dash.
Regardless of what anyone tells you, 40 times matter. If they didn't, then why does every NFL team have someone in Indianapolis every February with a stop watch? For Blackmon, his 40 time speed is absolutely critical to him landing a rather significant payday. Dan Pompei at National Football Post keeps it simple:
It has been widely accepted that the Oklahoma State receiver will be a top five pick. But he’s not a burner. If Blackmon runs a 4.6 40, it’s unlikely a team will be able to justify using a top five pick on him.
Speed at the wide receiver position is valued over all other attributes in the NFL. It's why guys like Darius Heyward-Bey (7th overall, 2009) get drafted in the top ten, and guys like Reggie Wayne (30th overall, 2001) don't.
For Blackmon, he can throw a big monkey wrench into the evaluations of several teams in possession of the top five picks if he runs an impressive 40. Heck, it doesn't even need to be impressive. Just adequate will do. Julio Jones ran a 4.39 at last years combine, and it surprised many scouts (especially considering he did it on a fractured foot). He went No. 6 overall after Atlanta traded up to grab him. Meanwhile, Titus Young ran a 4.43 40, and got drafted in the second round. Basically, Blackmon has to run a 4.4 or 4.5. If he doesn't, he's might not go top five.
However, let's say, for the sake of crazy fun, that Blackmon does run a 4.4 40 or better. This could dramatically change things near the top of the draft board.
Indianapolis is taking Andrew Luck No. 1 overall. Don't look for surprises there, as Luck is already reportedly doing what the Colts tell him to do. The St. Louis Rams at No. 2 is where things get interesting. The assumption is that another team (Cleveland, Washington, Seattle) will trade up with St. Louis in order to get Robert Griffin III.
Well, suppose that after Blackmon runs well at the combine that St. Louis doesn't want to trade.
If a team like Cleveland trades up and hands St. Louis their No. 4 and No. 22 overall selections, the Browns could get Griffin at No. 2, but the Rams could still lose out on Blackmon. At No. 3 sits the Minnesota Vikings, and if Blackmon impresses them as much as the Rams, why wouldn't they pass over USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil to take Blackmon?
The Vikings already made a top ten investment in Christian Ponder last year. It only makes sense that they draft someone he can throw the ball to. While dynamic and explosive, Percy Harvin is injury prone, and not a No. 1 receiver. After Harvin (87 receptions), the Vikings have Michael Jenkins (38 receptions).
This would leave St. Louis with Kalil at No. 4, which is certainly not awful, but it might not be as ideal as some think. St. Louis already has Rodger Saffold, who struggled last year with injuries after a very impressive rookie season, and Harvey Dahl, a player Pro Football Focus recently rated as the top tackle in football last season. When they look at their team, the Rams might not be interested in trading down from No. 2, especially if they feel that Blackmon is the next Julio Jones or Calvin Johnson.
Thus, if St. Louis opts not to trade, this leaves Minnesota as the team someone might be willing to make a deal with, and if they are perfectly content to take Matt Kalil at No. 3 overall (and why wouldn't they?), then that means Cleveland lands Robert Griffin III without needing to trade a thing! They can then use their 22nd overall pick on Alshon Jeffery, WR out of South Carolina.
All this if... and it's a big if... Justin Blackmon runs faster than many expect this week at the Combine.