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Skill position stars use combine as proving ground

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 22, 2013 at 4:26 pm •  Published: February 22, 2013

Right now, the top-rated quarterback is believed to be West Virginia's Geno Smith, like Jones and Barkley a drop-back passer, Others expect North Carolina State's strong-armed Mike Glennon to be a fast riser as the draft nears.

The quarterbacks aren't alone.

At running back, the list of potential first-round options essentially ended when South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore shredded his right knee in a gruesome scene Oct. 27. His pitch is that he will be the same spectacular runner when he returns, like two other NFL superstars who came back from devastating knee injuries.

"There will never be another Adrian Peterson, but that gives me a lot of motivation knowing that he came back from it. That's what I plan on doing, just coming back better," Lattimore said. "I feel like we both run hard. (Peterson) runs like nobody is there. He runs with total destruction.

"I feel like if I could compare my game to anybody, it would be Frank Gore. I feel like he's got low pads, he's got great vision, he can see the field and (has) great balance."

If Lattimore isn't the guy, the next best hope might be record-setting runner Montee Ball of Wisconsin. Critics complain he does not have enough speed to be a breakaway threat or enough size to be a power back.

There's also Alabama running back Eddie Lacy, the SEC championship game MVP, who must show he can stay healthy after a college career that included toe, knee, ankle and foot injuries.

Those guys will at least have a chance to prove themselves on the field at the combine and pro days between now and late April.

Receiver Da'Rick Rogers has the much tougher sell.

Yes, he's talented, but the receiver was booted off the Tennessee roster in late August after failing a drug test, transferred to Tennessee Tech and came out of school a year early.

"Those are things that I've been working on since I've left Tennessee. It was a real humbling experience for me," Rogers said. "I feel like it did help me in the long run. It's sad that it happened like that. For me, personally, it made me change who I was and what I was doing wrong."

All that's left is for the NFL's decision-makers to render their judgments on the biggest questions of all:

— Has Rogers really made that big a change in six months?

— Can Lattimore be the player he once was?

— And are Barkley and Jones worth high draft picks?

"Every year is not going to be the same," Barkley said in making his case. "You can't get better every single year. It's physically impossible to keep throwing for more yards, more yards, more yards every year. There's going to be some years where it just doesn't click or things don't go as planned."