Combine  

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Locker, Mallett might enter first-round conversation


INDIANAPOLIS -- The second day of workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine provided plenty of opportunities for quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs to boost their value.

The emphasis on the 40-yard dash appears to make the rest of the drills irrelevant, but the data gained from the battery of athletic tests and position-specific drills helps evaluators stack their respective draft boards.

Although this workout is only a small fraction of the overall evaluation process, the measurables are often the deciding factor between similarly graded players.

Given the impact of the numbers and passing the eyeball test, let's take a look at some players who will move on draft boards based on their combine performance:

Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas: Mallett was the star of the day with his sensational performance in drills. He looked like the most natural thrower in the group, and his pinpoint accuracy and touch impressed. He showed outstanding footwork and fundamentals throwing off three-, five- and seven-step drops. He delivered the ball on time after hitting the top of his drop, and had little trouble completing passes of the intermediate and deep variety. His arm strength and touch stood out on vertical tosses, and it is easy to envision him thriving in an offense that pushes the ball down the field. Mallett still must address some character and leadership concerns in team interviews in the coming weeks, but his exceptional workout has thrust him back into the conversation as a potential first-round pick.

Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Locker had a phenomenal workout Sunday. His work in the agility drills showcased his athleticism, as he finished the day among the top performers in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump and three-cone drill for QBs. While most expected him to shine in those exercises, Locker was surprisingly one of the standouts in throwing drills. He showed accuracy and touch, while his footwork looked vastly improved from his erratic performance at the Senior Bowl. He set up with better quickness and body control at the top of his drops, which resulted in more consistent and accurate throws. He threw the speed out with excellent timing and zip to both sides. His touch on the post corner and go-route were also impressive. Although his workout must be kept in perspective given his accuracy issues throughout his career, his rapid improvement from the Senior Bowl will force scouts to evaluate if he is worthy of going in the first round.

Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: Jones shocked everyone in attendance with his explosive display. He blazed a 4.39 40-yard dash, and posted outstanding measurables (11-foot-3 in broad jump, 38.5 inches in vertical jump, 6.66 in three-cone, and 11.07 in 60-yard shuttle) in all of the agility drills. His display of speed took most scouts by surprise since he was widely viewed as a possession-type receiver. He had a solid performance in receiving drills, but still struggles with consistency and route running. He dropped a few catchable balls and needs more work on his body control coming out of breaks. Regardless, his performance puts him in the conversation as a possible top-10 pick.

Edmond Gates, WR, Abilene Christian: Gates' 4.37 time in the 40-yard dash was tied for the best of all receivers, but it was only a small part of a performance that raised his profile in the scouting community. He showed strong hands, plucking the ball effortlessly while running through the gauntlet. His ability to adjust to errant passes during individual drills illustrated his superior hand-eye coordination. Throw in the good balance, body control and explosiveness that he displayed while coming out of breaks, and it is easy to envision Gates blossoming into a legitimate big-play weapon.

DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma: Murray was regarded as one of the most dynamic runners in the draft, and his workout only validated that status. He posted a 4.41 time in the 40-yard dash and showed explosiveness while going through drills. His combination of speed, burst and agility were apparent during the combination of bag and agility drills. He also appears to be a natural pass catcher given his effort in the receiving portion of the workout. Murray is looking like a solid option as a third-down back.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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