During the month of February, STACK traveled to four of the nation's elite Combine training facilities, visiting with more than 30 top NFL prospects—and observing countless others—to experience what premier players are doing to elevate their game to the next level. Thanks to our exclusive access, we are in a position to identify breakout prospects who seem destined for Combine—and later, NFL—greatness.
So, who will blow up at the 2012 NFL Combine? We're highlighting three prospects we believe will improve their already-soaring draft stock with monster performances at the Combine.
Here, we feature the consensus pick as the top guard in the 2012 NFL Draft, former Stanford Cardinal David DeCastro, who completed his pre-Combine training at Athletes' Performance (AP) in Phoenix.
"Putting on a clinic there!" proclaims Nick Winkelman, AP's lead Combine performance coach, as DeCastro drives through the end line of the 5-10-5 Shuttle Drill.
It's not just what Winkelman says that speaks volumes about DeCastro's exceptional skill and athleticism, but the matter-of-fact tone he uses when saying it. It's as if DeCastro has mastered the art of the Combine workout, leaving Winkelman nothing left to offer in coaching tips or technical advice.
The 5-10-5 is the third and final event comprising the "mock Combine," which roughly 20 of AP's athletes are performing on this bright and sunny Friday morning, just two weeks prior to player workouts at the official NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
DeCastro is the first athlete from Group Two (offensive linemen) to test in each event, and he sets the bar high. In the first event, the 40-Yard Dash, the 6'4½", 315-pound guard explodes from his starting stance and smoothly transitions into his drive phase before shifting into full acceleration and bursting through the finish.
Timed results aren't shared with the athletes until individual meetings later in the day, but judging from the looks exchanged by the AP coaches who are timing and recording them—and their collective nod of approval—it's clear that DeCastro is hitting his peak performance.
Next up is the Three-Cone Drill; and when changing direction and weaving around the third cone—or the high point of the "L"—DeCastro looks every bit as fluid as the speed guys in Group Three, who will perform the test later in the morning.
Finally, the 5-10-5 Drill. Based on the elite lateral speed and change of direction ability he exhibited during this practice run, it seems likely to be DeCastro's signature event at the Combine.
If NFL scouts haven't fallen in love with DeCastro by the end of the Combine tests, they will surely be smitten during the position-specific portion of the big guard's workout. He's one of the best interior linemen prospects in recent years, and he's expected to step in and start from Day One, making him a very attractive building block for any NFL team seeking offensive line help.
As for his draft position, the only place for DeCastro to go is up, and a solid all-around Combine performance will certainly help his cause. He says, "The coaches love to see the position-specific drills. There's five to seven drills that we'll run through at the Combine that I've been working on fine-tuning and trying to become an expert at."
What NFL Draft experts are saying about DeCastro: "A player who plays with exceptional awareness, DeCastro is the kind of guard who helps teams crack off bigger gains in the run and screen game because he gets a great initial punch, but will also get to the second level and throw great blocks out in space." —Mel Kiper of ESPN
Combine Workout Date for DeCastro (and the offensive line group): Saturday, Feb. 25
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock