Don't think it doesn't happen? Good Combine performances by cornerback Stephon Gilmore and defensive tackle Dontari Poe catapulted them into the top 15 picks. It helped prove the athleticism for Luke Kuechly and Andrew Luck, not that anyone was questioning where he'd be picked.
Conversely, it can falsely elevate a player's stock. Look at all the 40-yard dash warriors that the Raiders picked when Al Davis ran the team. Tight end Michael Egnew was a third round pick last year, partly because he was a Combine superstar. He wasn't active for Miami's first 14 games.
Here is a look at some players who gain draft position in Indianapolis. Not included are some obvious choices like Texas wide receiver Marquise Goodwin or SMU defensive end Margus Hunt. Goodwin is an Olympic-quality sprinter, and his question marks are strictly as a pass catcher. The Estonian powerhouse Hunt is going to time exceptionally well, but NFL teams will still question his technique and NFL readiness. No Jesse Williams of Alabama, either. He'll probably set a bench press record. Try to tell me who currently has the most without looking it up. *
Here are the players that can win in Indy:
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Look for Ansah to be one of the big stories in Indianapolis. The media will eat up his story – he comes from Ghana, didn't touch a football until two years ago and initially wanted to run track or play basketball. NFL teams will take note of his on-field performance. How high would Ansah rise if he runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash at 274 pounds? It's possible. If you thought the buzz around Ansah was high after he stole the Senior Bowl game, it could be overwhelming a week from now. He could go from being picked in the teens to the top 10.
Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
A good Combine showing and Mingo is in play for the second overall pick. A poor performance and teams may wonder how good of a fit he is an outside linebacker. Mingo's shuttle run will be heavily scrutinized. It's used to measure a player's change of direction and short area burst, critical for a 3-4 linebacker or Leo player. Given how he looks on tape, the guess is Mingo will test and measure well.
Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson
The 2013 NFL Draft running back class is clamoring for a player to separate himself and come off the board after Eddie Lacy and Giovani Bernard. My guess is Ellington, who was once referred to by coach Dabo Swinney as a better "pure runner" than C.J. Spiller. There's a chance if Ellington tests well that he could be taken in the back half of the second round.
Kyle Long, OG/T, Oregon
There are questions where Long fits on an offensive line. He has the frame of a left tackle at 6-foot-7 and 311 pounds, but played guard for the Ducks. He's a defensive end convert who played just a season at Oregon. As far as potential goes, no player in the draft this year has more than Long. He can allay concerns a team may have about him by doing well in drills. A high school tight end, and star pitcher, Long should be able to show off his quick feet and movement skills.
Just let the man himself take it away:
Can't wait to show people that this "lack of athleticism" that they speak of is ridiculous.. I am the definition of an athlete! #NFLCombine— Kyle Long (@Ky1eLong) February 19, 2013
Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas
Remember Knile Davis? You will after the Combine. After missing some of last season and generally playing poorly following injury, Davis needs the Combine. Don't forget, this is the running back that can squat 570 pounds and bench presses more than 400 pounds. Let me repeat: He is a running back. While he is a bigger back at 226 pounds, he reportedly ran a 4.33 40-yard dash a couple years ago.
Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International
Joe Goodberry of CincyJungle had the perfect summation of what could happen to Cyprien after the Combine.
After this week, everyone will be on board with Cyprien going in the top 25. We'll all collectively turn our keys and lock it in.— Joe Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) February 19, 2013
John Simon, DE?, Ohio State
John Simon is a man without an NFL position. At 6-foot-2 and 256 pounds, he may not have the length for an end. But he doesn't have the on-field agility for linebacker. Simon will test fine. He should run in the 4.6 range and get close to or pass 40 bench press reps. But it's the NFL team interview portion of the Combine where Simon will shine. Don't forget, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer once said that Simon had "Tebowish" dedication. Some team is going to fall in love with Simon and possibly use a third-round pick on him.
Jamie Collins, OLB, Southern Mississippi
How to justify Collins' athleticism? Collins started his college career as a defensive back and ended at the hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker Bandit position.
A whole bunch of wide receivers:
Don't be surprised when Tavon Austin of West Virginia breaks the 4.4 mark in the 40-yard dash. Or when Justin Hunter or Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee out-jump everyone or when Markus Wheaton of Oregon State sets a three-cone drill record. Chris Harper of Kansas State will get plenty of notoriety. At just over six foot and 228 pounds, Harper is one of the most powerfully built receivers in the draft and will test well. Oh, and then there's Denard Robinson. He could be among the fastest performers.
* It's Stephen Paea of the Chicago Bears. He pushed the bar 49 times and went straight to the media room afterward. Indy was abuzz with his Herculean feat. He played nearly as many snaps as Henry Melton a season ago after being injured as a rookie.