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Top 5 combine performers


It looked like there would be a lack of star power at the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine with Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree discovering he has a stress fracture in his left foot and Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford electing not to throw.

Enter Aaron Curry. The outside linebacker from Wake Forest lit it up in Indy, showing he could be worthy of going No. 1 overall in this year's draft.

{QUOTE}Below are my picks for the top-five performers at this year's combine.

1. Aaron Curry, OLB, Wake Forest (6-2, 254): When it came to measurables, Curry simply dominated his position group. He finished with the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.56 seconds) and longest broad jump (10'4") and tied for the best vertical jump (37"). He also looked fluid and fast during shuffle drills. Curry emerged on the national scene in 2007 when he recorded 99 tackles, 13.5 behind the line of scrimmage, and three interception returns for touchdowns. In 2008, he led his team with 105 tackles, including 16 for a loss. Curry's stock is soaring after the combine, and many draft pundits believe he could be selected by the Detroit Lions with the first overall pick.

"Aaron Curry might be the safest pick in the draft," said Mike Mayock, scouting expert for the NFL Network. "He's done it over time. He's a fifth-year senior. He's clean off the field; you're going to hand him $30 million or $40 million and he's going to be like (Atlanta Falcons quarterback) Matt Ryan. He's going to put it in the bank and he's going to go to work.

"He can play in the 3-4 scheme or the 4-3. He does everything well, and he's extremely coachable. You can insert him Day 1 and he's a starter; your defense is better."

2. Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois (5-11, 203): Davis quite possibly edged out Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins as the top cornerback prospect in the draft by posting the most reps on the bench press (25 at 225 pounds) and the second-fastest 40 time (4.49) among his position group. He also was sixth-best in the three-cone drill (6.75) and fifth-best in the 20-yard shuttle (4.07).

Some talent evaluators have questioned Davis' coverage skills and technique, but he showed his playmaking ability last year when he led all Big Ten cornerbacks with 79 tackles and had seven interceptions and two blocked kicks. Plus, Davis comes from great football bloodlines. He's the younger brother of San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, who rode an outstanding combine performance into being selected as the sixth overall pick in 2006.

"I feel like I'm a physical corner who can come up and stop the run," Davis said.

3. Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut (5-10, 210): Brown may have moved from a second- or early third-round choice to a late first-round or early second-round pick after putting up stellar measurables in Indy. He ran a top-10 40-yard time of 4.51, which was faster than Knowshon Moreno of Georgia and Chris "Beanie" Wells of Ohio State. Brown also finished first among running backs in the vertical jump (41.5"), the broad jump (10'5") and the 60-yard shuttle (11.30). As a junior last year, he led the nation with 2,083 rushing yards and scored 18 touchdowns.

"I'm a very instinctual runner, and that's my strength," Brown said.

4. Pat White, QB, West Virginia (6-0, 197): White was a record-setting passer at West Virginia, but many scouts thought his size and speed made him better suited as a wide receiver. At the combine, White proved he has the chops to play quarterback at the next level. He threw the ball accurately and with authority during drills, and some thought he outperformed USC's Mark Sanchez, who is considered one of the top-two quarterbacks in the draft. White also finished with the fastest 40 time among quarterbacks with a 4.55.

"A few teams think that I am able to play quarterback at the next level and a few say that they see me at a different position," White said. "I just want to help out in any way that I can, whether that be at receiver or punt returner. I just want to get on the field some how."

5. Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland (6-2, 210): Heyward-Bey made a splash at the combine by running the fastest overall time in the 40 with a 4.3. His time matched the second-fastest mark by a wide receiver at the combine since 2000, behind only the 4.28 recorded in 2005 by former Texans Pro Bowler Jerome Mathis. Heyward-Bey also finished in the top five in the bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. Plus, he performed well during catching drills. Last year, Heyward-Bey recorded 42 catches for 609 yards, and while his collegiate production was modest, scouts believe he possesses the breakaway speed to make him a home run threat in the NFL.

Honorable mentions: Defensive end Brian Orakpo (6-3, 263) out of Texas was putting up stellar numbers at the combine before tweaking his hamstring. He ran the third-fastest 40 (4.70) and recorded the second-highest vertical jump (39.5") among defensive ends. Tight end Jared Cook (6-5, 246) out of South Carolina looked like a freakish athlete. He finished first among tight ends in the 40 (4.5), vertical (41") and broad jump (10'3").

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