Although it's fair to debate how important the NFL Scouting Combine is when it comes to scouting draft hopefuls, there's no doubt it has become a major stop during the process. A strong performance in Indianapolis can do wonders for a prospect.
Most of the attention this year has been directed toward the offense, likely because the skill positions are so muddled at the top. Everybody will be watching as the quarterbacks and wide receivers try to separate themselves, but there are some defensive prospects capable of stealing the spotlight.
With that in mind, let's examine three players on the defensive side of the ball that have a great chance to walk away from the combine among the biggest winners.
Mingo is one of the most polarizing prospects in the draft. Some people believe he's massively overrated due to his lack of production at the college level. Others are in awe because of his tremendous combination of size and athleticism.
At the combine, size and athleticism reign supreme. Workout warriors always find themselves among the biggest winners because teams tend to fall in love with their upside, even if they are still a bit raw in terms of technique.
That perfectly describes Mingo. He's going to attract a lot of attention because the potential is there for him to become an elite pass-rusher from the defensive end or outside linebacker spot. He should prove that with some terrific combine numbers.
The only reason Brown isn't being ranked higher on draft boards is his size. At 6'1'' and 228 pounds, teams will wonder about his ability to survive at the linebacker position. So he must prove his strengths in other areas to outweigh that concern.
Luckily for the Kansas State star, he should test well. He's a versatile backer will the ability to defend from sideline to sideline and also has solid cover skills. And despite his lack of size, he still has the strength to make a major impact in the box.
Players like Brown, who have to jump a couple extra hurdles because of preconceived notions, are under a lot of pressure at the combine. That said, he should have more than enough athleticism to become a standout in Indianapolis.
Rhodes is basically the opposite of the first two players on the list. He's got ideal size for the cornerback position and had a strong final season at the college level. Now teams want to find out if he's got the speed necessary to thrive in the NFL.
Since he's such a strong cover corner, he doesn't need to post top-tier numbers in the speed and quickness drills. He just needs to satisfy scouts to the point where they feel comfortable he'll be able to hold his own against NFL wideouts.
A good workout would likely solidify his spot in the first round. A great workout could help him challenge Dee Milliner for the top spot amongst corners. Don't be surprised if the Florida State product ends up doing the latter.