With the collegiate All-Star games in the rearview mirror, the draft world turns its attention to the annual NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. The combine gathers hundreds of the top football prospects in one place for NFL teams to poke and prod over the course of a week. It also provides a stage for the most athletic prospects to show off their potential.
As a result, every combine produces a handful of workout warriors, players who perform so well in individual drills that it boosts their draft stock. Dontari Poe is one player who wowed during the combine and rose from the middle rounds to become an early first-round selection. Poe is now the Pro Bowl nose tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs.
However, that approach doesn't always yield the best results. Some of the players labeled as combine "winners" end up missing cuts and having short careers. Not unsurprisingly, many who fall short of expectations during the workouts still have solid careers.
As he does every year, Mocking the Draft's Dan Kadar declared his winners and losers for the 2014 NFL Combine. Here's how they performed as rookies last season.
How the winners fared as rookies
Before the 2014 combine, Aaron Donald was thought of as a capable-but-undersized interior pass rusher who needed the right team to draft him. After the 285-pounder produced the best 40 time, 10-yard split, bench press total and three-cone drill of any defensive tackle, he started to be discussed as a potential top-10 pick. Donald came off the board at No. 13 and went on to win Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Greg Robinson didn't need to show out at the combine to garner top-10 pick consideration. After the redshirt sophomore helped Auburn to the National Championship game, teams looked at the 6'5, 332-pound offensive tackle and saw a clone of the Dallas Cowboys' Tyron Smith. Still, it didn't hurt that Robinson produced one of the better 40-times for offensive linemen. However, unlike teammate and fellow first-round pick Donald, Robinson didn't crack the starting lineup until an injury to Jake Long forced him onto the field. His play was mixed, though that should be expected of such a young player. He enters 2015 as the presumed starting left tackle for the Rams.
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Bishop Sankey, Charles Sims and Jerick McKinnon
The 2014 draft class might end up going down as one of the greatest in NFL history, but it lacked quality at the running back position. The top performers at the combine were a handful of Day 2 picks: Bishop Sankey, Charles Sims and Jerick McKinnon. All three ran the 40 in the 4.4 range, with McKinnon standing out most with his 40½-inch vertical leap. Still, none of the tailbacks became more than a part-time ball carrier. Sankey and Sims finished the season with under 4 yards per carry, while McKinnon landed on injured reserve with a back injury.
Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandin Cooks
No rookie in last year's class had a more visible impact than the New York Giants' Odell Beckham Jr. After running a 4.43-second 40 at the combine, Beckham went on to show that his best assets are his incredible hands. In just 12 games, he caught 91 passes for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns, nearly identical to the season Dez Bryant produced in a full 16 weeks. As for Cooks, he put up a decent rookie stat line with 53 catches for 550 yards, but he failed to show off the explosive playmaking ability that made him a star at Oregon State.
Built like a linebacker, Bucannon proved he had the tools to play safety at the NFL level with a 4.49-second 40. Perhaps buoyed by his showing at the combine, the Arizona Cardinals nabbed him late in the first round to become their version of Kam Chancellor. His presence allowed defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to get creative with his packages, some of which had Bucannon playing a hybrid safety-linebacker role. He finished second among Arizona defensive backs in tackles with 81.
2015 NFL Draft
Our latest mock draft: Every team has options
At this point, nothing about the draft is set. That means teams have plenty of options. This week's mock draft takes a look at the different directions the first round could turn.
2015 NFL Draft
How the losers fared as rookies
Entering the draft process, Texas Tech's Jace Amaro was discussed alongside Eric Ebron and Austin Seferian-Jenkins as potential first-round tight ends. However, unlike Ebron, Amaro ran a less-than-stellar 4.74 40-yard dash. While that's a great time for many tight ends, Amaro's game was built entirely on speed and pass-catching ability rather than blocking. Still, he led all rookie tight ends with 38 catches and 345 receiving yards.
Beckham wasn't the only all-world receiver LSU produced in 2014. Teammate Jarvis Landry flashed comparable hands and a knack for creating separation. Still, a 4.77 40 and 28½-inch vertical raised enough questions about Landry's athleticism to drop him out of the first round. The Miami Dolphins grabbed him at the end of the second round and got 84 catches and 758 receiving yards for their troubles. Landry also served as a returner on kickoffs and punts.
Sam's rookie season went well beyond his performance at the combine or on the field. Despite comparing favorably to many NFL players in both size and workout performance, Sam fell to the bottom of the draft and then out of the league after the Rams and Cowboys released him. Sam's 4.91 40-yard dash at the combine didn't help his chances. After not signing on with a team following the 2014 season, Sam has applied for the inaugural veteran combine.