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NFL Combine: Players on the rise

Chad Jackson, WR Florida – No one helped themselves more at the Combine than Jackson did. Because he's coming out after his junior season, Jackson wasn't able to take part in Senior Bowl week so the Combine was his first chance to display his skills. Well, the former Florida Gator didn't disappoint by running a blistering 4.32 40-yard dash and catching everything thrown his way. Jackson caught 88 balls for 900 yards during his senior season but his production was hurt because the Gators struggled with adapting to a new offense early on in the season. If Steve Spurrier was still at Florida, Jackson might have been a top ten pick. After his performance at the Combine, Jackson is now competing with Ohio State's Santonio Holmes to be the first receiver drafted.

Vernon Davis, TE Maryland – Davis was projected as a top ten pick before the Combine but the show he put on in Indianapolis might have pushed him closer to the top five. Davis set a Combine record for tight ends when he ran an eye-popping 4.38 40-yard dash at 260 pounds. To put that in perspective, Western Michigan's Tony Scheffler turned in the next fastest time at 4.54. He also did 33 repetitions of 225 pounds and leaped 10 inches more in the broad jump than the next best tight end. Oh yeah, the guy is also a dominant player on the football field as well. Davis' performance at the combine was legendary and will be talked about for many years. It also made him a heck of a lot of money.

Nick Mangold, C Ohio State – Mangold is considered the best center in this year's draft but centers aren't usually selected in the first round. Mangold could buck that trend. He did 24 reps of 225 at the Combine and showed quick feet and good technique in all of his drills. NFL teams don't put a big premium on centers but someone with Mangold's potential will probably be too good to pass up late in round one.

Jerious Norwood, RB Mississippi State - Norwood was one of the stars at this year's Combine. Coming in, NFL scouts had some questions about his speed but he answered critics by running an impressive 4.40 40-yard dash in Indianapolis. He played on one of college footballs worst passing offenses during his career at Mississippi State but still managed to post over 1,000 yards rushing in back-to-back seasons. Norwood could be a real sleeper in this year's draft because he's been productive against top competition in the SEC, despite not playing with a strong supporting cast. Norwood's overall performance at the Combine greatly enhanced his draft stock.

Joseph Addai, RB LSU - Addai is a player whose stock will be on the rise after he ran a 4.40 40-yard dash and excelled at all the running back drills at the Combine. Addai played the waiting game at LSU and it finally paid off in his senior season. He began his career at LSU backing up Domanick Davis and LaBrandon Toefield. However, Addai was so talented that Nick Saban – the Tigers' head coach at the time – moved him to fullback just so the freshman could get on the field. Addai's versatile to play either running back or fullback - plus the speed and quickness he showed at the Combine – will probably land him in the late first/early second round area of the draft.

Brodrick Bunkley, DT Florida State - You should see this animal. The guy weighs 306 pounds and doesn't have an ounce of body fat on him. Bunkley did 44 reps of 225 – one short of the Combine record – and ran a 4.95 40-yard dash. He's a versatile tackle that doesn't only stuff the run; he can rush the quarterback from his tackle position as well. Teams are always looking for a big tackle and both the Browns and Bengals have already expressed interest in the former Seminole. With Bunkley's combination of speed and strength, it's hard to imagine that he won't be off the board somewhere in the first 25 selections.

Richard Marshall, CB Fresno State - Marshall was moving up a lot of draft boards before the Combine but like he told the media, he would be a first rounder for sure after he ran the 40-yard dash. Marshall didn't disappoint by running an impressive 4.42. He led Fresno State in tackles last season with 78 – something rare for a corner – and he returned three interceptions for touchdowns during his college career. His combination of speed, big-play ability and toughness against the run now has Marshall rising on draft boards all over the league. He was considered a second round prospect coming into the draft but after the Combine, he's now moved up to a late-first round prospect - possibly going to the Patriots with the 21st selection.

Manny Lawson, DE/OLB North Carolina State – Lawson ran a 4.40 40-yard dash at 265 pounds and a defensive end with speed like that is certain to turn a lot of people's heads. Lawson has been climbing up draft boards all offseason to the point where he's probably a certain first round draft choice. He would probably fit best with a team that runs the 3-4 defense but Lawson can still be an effective pass rushing end for teams that run a 4-3 as well. His teammate at NC State, Mario Williams, is going to be a top ten pick for sure but the athletic Lawson won't have to wait long before he hears his name called on draft day either.

Be sure to check back tomorrow as Patriots.com looks at the players who hurt their draft stock the most at the Combine.

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