Between today and the beginning of the NFL Combine Thursday, I'm going to list one player per position who I see as having the most riding on their performance. That means multiple updates each day, so keep tuning in.
You'll see a couple of overriding themes with the players I select. For one, many of them are underclassmen. Obviously, most of them have played in fewer games than the seniors, so talent evaluators are forced to make a greater projection. Also, whereas most seniors have previously been measured and timed, the underclassmen have not. If a player is shorter or lighter than NFL teams thought this week, he most likely will be an underclassmen.
The other theme you'll see me mention throughout these posts is that interviews and medical testing are infinitely more important to a players' grade than how fast they run, high they jump or times they can lift 225 pounds. Medical testing is critical for obvious reasons. Before you scoff at the importance of the interviews, recall yourself at 21 or 22. Can you honestly say, you'd work harder after someone presented you a multi-million dollar contract? Not many of us have that type of maturity. Not many players do either. And that is precisely who the great scouting teams are looking to weed out, regardless of how athletic they are.
Arkansas junior quarterback Ryan Mallett is the perfect prospect to lead off the series (at least in my humble opinion).
Mallett would be wise to do all of the testing in Indianapolis. His size and big arm will stand out next to the other quarterbacks. Even if he is inaccurate -- which he shouldn't be as he's typically at his best when his feet are set -- the velocity with which he throws will catch the attention of NFL coaches who haven't researched him for months like the scouts have.
Of course, of greater importance to Mallett's final grade will be how he handles the team (and, quite frankly, the media) interviews. Mallett is going to get hit with lots of questions about his so-called lack of leadership and reports of illegal drug use. The poise and honesty with which Mallett handles these questions could the difference in his landing in the first round -- as his passing ability warrants -- or slipping into the second or even third round.
No quarterback - not even Cam Newton - has as much riding on their total Combine performance than Mallett.
For the very best in NFL Combine coverage, keep your eyes glued to NFLDraftScout.com and my and Chad Reuter's Twitter feeds. I'm @RobRang . He's @ChadReuter .