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Friday, March 4, 2011
Big 12 stock up, stock down at the combine

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

The NFL combine ended this week, but now that the dust has settled, here's who helped themselves and hurt themselves with their performance in Indianapolis.

STOCK UP

Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M

If there was such a thing as scouting combine MVP, Miller might have won it. The 6-foot-3, 246-pounder wowed everyone in attendance with speed and agility more befitting of a defensive back. He clocked an unofficial 4.46 40-yard dash time and had the longest broad jump, the quickest 60-yard shuttle and quickest three-cone drill. Add that to his production the last two seasons and a year spent learning coverage as well as a pass rush under Tim DeRuyter, and Miller could find his way as high as the third pick in the draft. That's especially good to see for a player who elected to stay in school an extra year after projecting as a middle-round pick a year ago.

Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

Gabbert is a polished talent, and elected not to throw while his main competition for the top quarterback spot did. Cam Newton had a nightmarish outing in throwing drills, and Gabbert impressed in interviews. He plans to throw at Missouri's March 17 pro day, but until then, he may have moved up as the top quarterback in the draft, ahead of Newton and Washington's Jake Locker. Questions about Gabbert's physical skills are non-existent, and he's given scouts confidence he'll be able to learn and adapt to a pro system after being in a spread throughout his high school and college careers.

DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma

Like Miller, Murray showed he could carry a big frame and make it move. He didn't show a ton of breakaway speed late in his career after injuries early on, but the 6-foot, 213-pounder posted an impressive 4.41 40-yard dash time, fifth fastest among running backs.

STOCK DOWN

Jeremy Beal, DE, Oklahoma

Beal, at 6-foot-2 and 262 pounds, may have to play linebacker at the next level, and his 5.11 40-time didn't give reason to believe the transition from defensive end to linebacker would work. He also struggled in positional drills and looked sluggish. I mentioned this on Twitter earlier this week, but comments from scouts about his unimpressive showing reminded me a lot of what Brent Venables told me at the Fiesta Bowl.

An excerpt:
Beal's high school coach in Carrollton, Texas, brought him to Norman for a camp and a chance to be seen by Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables, whose jaw didn't exactly drop at what was in front of him.

"If you saw him, he wasn’t physically imposing. He was a bigger guy, but he didn’t look -- I don’t know -- he wasn’t impressive looking," Venables said. "He didn’t move impressively."

Thanks, but no thanks, the Sooners said, saving their scholarship offer and setting their sights on a five-star defensive end elsewhere.

December arrived. Beal's coach returned. This time, he had game tape of Beal's most recent season.

..."You just watched a few plays and you were like, 'This guy is incredible,'" Venables said.

Is it the same case this time around? Maybe. It's certainly a possibility. You can't argue with Beal's production for four seasons at Oklahoma, quickly becoming a coach favorite because of his consistency in games and on the practice field. He wasn't named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a senior or earn All-American honors earlier in his career by accident. He was consistently productive and led the Big 12 in tackles for loss this season. That alone will get him a shot somewhere, even if he falls to free agency status after the draft. When he does get his chance, Beal will take himself as far as he can get. That might be a lot further than his raw numbers at the combine indicate.

Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma

Carter was known more as a hitter than a pass defender at Oklahoma, and his 40 time supported that idea. A 4.62 40-time isn't impressive for an NFL safety, and though that might improve eventually, it's not a number that will have teams clamoring for his services. The pool of safety talent isn't very deep this year, but Carter's combine performance didn't help him rise to the top.