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Prospects on the rise after successful workouts


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From SI's Tony Pauline

The pro-day workouts are in the books as the 2006 draft draws near. One-on-one interviews and player visits to team facilities are all that's left before the big weekend. As is the case every year, several players came away from the month of March with significantly improved draft stock. Here are the 10 hottest names around the league.

1. A.J. Hawk, OLB, Ohio State: Hawk duplicated his efforts from a terrific combine and bettered many of his marks on campus at the beginning of March. Several teams around the league, including the New Orleans Saints, presently rate Hawk as the top defensive player in the draft. The burning question that must needs answering: Should a linebacker be selected with the second pick of the draft even though outstanding linemen from both sides of the ball are available?

2. Ernie Sims, OLB, Florida State: Another outside linebacker who significantly improved his combine numbers, Sims turned in a tremendous workout at Florida State. He ran a 4.47 40, almost a full tenth faster than his time on the carpet at the RCA Dome. Sims is zipping up draft boards and presently ranks as the No. 2 outside linebacker. He should be selected during the first half of Round 1.

3. Antonio Cromartie, CB, Florida State: Another Seminoles underclassman soaring up draft boards, Cromartie ran in the low 4.4s at his pro day, posted a 42-inch vertical jump and had an excellent showing during defensive-back drills. Once considered a late-first-round choice, Cromartie has moved into the middle of the frame and could be selected as early as 17th by the Vikings.

4. Laurence Maroney, RB, Minnesota: Unable to run at the combine and at his first pro day due to a strained hamstring, Maroney posted a 4.46 in the 40 as well as a 35.5-inch vertical jump while completing 21 reps on the bench. With the news getting worse for LenDale White by the day, Maroney is moving toward the middle of Round 1.

5. Abdul Hodge, LB, Iowa: After running a pedestrian 4.80 40 at the combine, Hodge posted times of 4.69 and 4.66 in the middle of March, which changed the thinking about him. Teams now project him as both an inside linebacker as well as a weak-side player. His draft stock has improved to the point where he is getting consideration in Round 2.

6. Brian Calhoun, RB, Wisconsin: Warning flags were raised after Calhoun ran terribly slow times at the combine. He bettered them by nearly three tenths of a second during his pro day, stopping watches at 4.35 seconds. Calhoun then put on a pass-catching clinic. He is considered one of the better third-down backs in this draft and solidified himself as a top-60 choice.

7. Jeremy Mincey, DE-OLB, Florida: In a draft full of undersized defensive ends from the college ranks that project as rush linebackers in the NFL, a few were bound to fall through the cracks. Mincey was one who was slipping, until his pro day. Running a 4.65 in the 40, a full tenth of a second faster than his combine time, Mincey is now getting first-day consideration.

8. J.D. Runnells, FB, Oklahoma: Getting little respect coming into the season, Runnells did nothing to endear himself to NFL scouts after a subpar senior campaign. But a great March workout has moved Runnells into the late part of the draft. The 235-pound lead blocker ran his 40 in 4.55 seconds and completed 28 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press, numbers that matched many of the top running backs at the combine.

9. Danieal Manning, DB-RS, Abilene Christian: After looking like the best athlete on the field during Texas A&M's pro day, Manning has built a great deal of momentum. Almost a dozen teams have individual interviewed him, and Manning will ride the wave into the draft's first day.

10. Derrick Martin, CB, Wyoming: The underclassman cornerback turned in much faster times at his pro day than his combine workout. Clocking a 4.40 40, he also impressed teams with his mature attitude, which had been a concern. In a draft stacked with defensive backs in the middle of the first day, many are thinking Martin could go as a late choice in Round 3.

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