Out with old, in with new top prospects after combine

The NFL Scouting Combine never ceases to amaze me. It gets bigger each time around. We get more players to participate every year. It’s such an impressive, well-run event.

Being in Indianapolis allowed me to revisit my “Hot 100” prospects, and you’ll notice some significant changes: Players who helped their stock, guys who hurt themselves, and those who fell off the list altogether.

You’ll notice that Julio Jones elevated himself to Tier 1, despite his foot injury (remember, this isn’t taking medical conditions into account). Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback from Nevada, wasn’t on the list initially, but he was impressive at the combine. As was Fort Valley State receiver Ricardo Lockette, who is making his debut because he had such great speed and burst.

For those players no longer on the list, they’ll get a chance to make it again during pro days. This is a continuation of the evaluation all the way up until the draft at the end of April.

Note: Tiers are listed alphabetically; * denotes early entrant.

Tier 1

Da’Quan Bowers*, DE, Clemson, 6-4, 276
Can get after the quarterback. Had 15.5 sacks for the Tigers in 2010. Has very good speed for position.

Marcell Dareus*, DT, Alabama
Can play in both 3-4 and 4-3 defensive schemes. Had 4.5 sacks for Crimson Tide in 2010. Plays hard every play.

Nick Fairley*, DT, Auburn, 6-5, 300
Only played two years at Auburn after spending first two years at junior college. Had 11.5 sacks for Tigers in 2010.

Blaine Gabbert*, QB, Missouri, 6-4, 235
Two-year starter. Mobility a strength. Completed 63.4 percent of his passes in 2010. Works best out of the shotgun.

A.J. Green*, WR, Georgia, 6-3, 212
Was suspended four games in 2010 by NCAA for sale of a bowl jersey. Still finished with 57 catches and nine TDs.

Julio Jones*, WR, Alabama, 6-4, 211
Able to return kicks. Had 78 catches for 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns last season.

Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M, 6-2, 240
Led the nation in sacks as a junior and even had 10.5 last year despite an early-season injury.

Cam Newton*, QB, Auburn, 6-5, 245
Only a one-year college player, but he passed for 30 TDs and ran for 20, with a 66.1 completion percentage.

Patrick Peterson*, DB, LSU, 6-0, 215
Very good return man. Able to cover the pass and play strong against the run.

Robert Quinn*, DE, North Carolina, 6-5, 254
Missed the entire 2010 season after violating NCAA rules. In 2009, he had 11 sacks.

Tier 2
Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska, 6-1, 205
Four-year college player, two-year starter. Had five INTs in 2009, but none in 2010.

Anthony Castonzo, OL, Boston College, 6-7, 308
He started all four years for the Eagles. Played left guard at the Senior Bowl.

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa, 6-4, 285
Only had 3.5 sacks last year, down from the year before. Watch the Penn State film to see him at his best.

Mark Ingram*, RB, Alabama, 5-10, 215
Injured and shared time in 2010. A good inside runner, who rushed for 13 touchdowns last season.

Cameron Jordan, DE, California, 6-4, 283
Father, Steve, played tight end for the Vikings for 13 years. Cameron had 5.5 sacks in 2010.

Aldon Smith*, DE, Missouri, 6-5, 260
Missed some games with injuries last season. In 2009, he had 11.5 sacks.

Jimmy Smith*, DB, Colorado, 6-2, 205
Tall and has long arms. Has good speed. Why no interceptions in 2010?

Tyron Smith*, OT, USC
He’s a natural fit at right tackle. Has long arms and is very athletic for his size.

Nate Solder, OL, Colorado, 6-9, 315
High school tight end, who moved to OT after his freshman year at Colorado. Has great feet and long arms.

J.J. Watt*, DE, Wisconsin, 6-6, 279
Transferred from Central Michigan, where he played TE. Seven sacks in 2010. Shined against Ohio State.

Tier 3
Akeem Ayers*, OLB, UCLA, 6-4, 249
Had four sacks and two INTs in 2010. Has speed and can blitz or play in space.

Gabe Carimi, OL, Wisconsin, 6-7, 327
Four-year starter. Can he play left tackle in the NFL? Or is he only a right tackle?

Brandon Harris, DB, Miami, 5-9, 191
He’s good in man coverage. Smart player who is tough against the run.

Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue, 6-4, 263
Lacks the size (weight) as a defensive end, but he has quickness. Had 12.5 sacks in 2010.

Corey Liuget*, DT, Illinois, 6-3, 300
Had 63 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 2010. Was named All-Big Ten Second Team.

Jake Locker, QB, Washington, 6-3, 230
Very athletic with good speed. Needs to improve his accuracy.

Ryan Mallet*, QB, Arkansas, 6-7, 238
Threw 32 TD passes in 2010, completing 64.7 percent of his passes. We’ll know more after his March 8 pro day.

Kyle Rudolph*, TE, Notre Dame, 6-5, 253
Only played six games last year. Had 28 catches and three touchdowns. Lots of upside.

Phil Taylor, DL, Baylor, 6-4, 337
Transferred from Penn State. Needs to improve stamina. Was named All-Big 12 Second Team.

Muhammad Wilkerson*, DT, Temple, 6-5, 295
Very good production. 70 tackles and 9.5 sacks. Lots of upside.

Tier 4
Ras-I Dowling, DB, Virginia, 6-2, 200
Limited by injuries in 2010. Grading him as a safety, rather than cornerback.

Cam Heyward, DT, Ohio State, 6-5, 288
Played well in the Sugar Bowl. Made move inside to tackle. His father, “Ironhead” Heyward, played in the NFL.

Justin Houston*, LB, Georgia, 6-3, 254
All-SEC First Team selection. Had 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. Can he play in space?

Mikel Leshoure*, RB, Illinois, 6-0, 227
Had a fantastic season in 2010, with 1,697 rushing yards and 20 total TDs (17 rushing, three receiving).

Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State, 6-1, 311
Good inside pass rusher. Had six sacks in 2010. All-Pac 10 First Team selection.

Mike Pouncey, OL, Florida, 6-5, 315
Brother, Maurkice, made Pro Bowl as rookie with Steelers. Mike stayed a fourth year with Gators.

Derek Sherrod, OL, Mississippi State, 6-5, 321
Has good length and good feet. Great instincts as a run blocker.

Torrey Smith*, WR, Maryland, 6-0, 202
Has outstanding speed. Named All-ACC First Team. Had 67 catches and 12 touchdowns in 2010.

Aaron Williams*, DB, Texas, 6-1, 192
Has the height every scout looks for. No INTs last season. All-Big 12 Second Team selection.

Martez Wilson*, OLB, Illinois, 6-4, 240
Had 112 tackles in 2010. He’s an athletic player. All-Big Ten Second Team selection.

Tier 5
Allen Bailey, DL, Miami, 6-4, 285
Has speed for his position. Seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss in 2010. All-ACC Second Team.

Jonathan Baldwin*, WR, Pittsburgh,6-5, 224
Had 53 catches and five touchdowns in 2010. Was named All-Big East First Team.

Bruce Carter, LB, North Carolina, 6-3, 235
Can play the run or play in space. Good special teams player, too.

Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky, 5-10, 191
Catches the ball well. Returns kicks and is very athletic. He was a high school QB.

Ben Ijalana, OL, Villanova, 6-4, 317
Did not run or lift at combine. Very long arms. Blue-collar player who should play for a long time.

Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada, 6-5, 233
Very strong arm. Needs work, because he has not been under center. Very good runner. Lots of upside.

Rahim Moore*, DB, UCLA, 6-1, 196
All-Pac 10 First Team selection. Has good range and good ball skills.

Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State, 6-2, 229
Smart and very athletic. Threw 20 TDs and 8 ints in 2010. He is ready for the NFL.

Tyler Sash*, SS, Iowa, 6-1, 210
Two-time All-Big Ten First Team selection. Had 13 INTs the past two years. Fine athlete.

Danny Watkins, OL, Baylor, 6-3, 310
Older player. Works as fireman in Waco, Texas. Tough player. Should be a good guard.

Tier 6
Marvin Austin* (DL, North Carolina), Marcus Cannon (OL, TCU), James Carpenter (OL, Alabama), Jurrell Casey (DL, USC), Chimdi Chekwa (DB, Ohio State), Orlando Franklin (OL, Miami), Greg Little (WR, North Carolina), DeMarco Murray (RB, Oklahoma), Jabaal Sheard (DL, Pittsburgh), Ryan Williams (RB, Virginia Tech).

Tier 7
Sam Acho, Clint Boling (OL, Georgia), James Brewer (OL, Indiana), Rodney Hudson (OL, Florida State), Kendall Hunter (RB, Oklahoma State), Greg Jones (LB, Michigan State), Ricardo Lockette (WR, Fort Valley State), Drake Nevis (DL, LSU), Williams Rackley (OL Lehigh), K.J. Wright (LB, Mississippi State).

Tier 8
Brandon Burton (DB, Utah), Chris Carter (DL, Fresno State), Quinton Carter (DB, Oklahoma), Andrew Dalton (QB, TCU), Marcus Gilbert (OL, Florida), Lawrence Guy (DT, Arizona State), Leonard Hankerson (WR, Miami), Jarvis Jenkins (DL, Clemson), Shane Vereen (RB, California), D.J. Williams (TE, Arkansas).

Tier 9
Christian Ballard (DL, Iowa), Jordan Cameron (TE, USC), Kenrick Ellis (DL, Hampton), Jerrell Jernigan (WR, Troy), Colin McCarthy (LB, Miami), Dontay Moch (LB, Nevada), Jacquizz Rodgers (RB, Oregon State), Robert Sands (DB, West Virginia), Kelvin Sheppard (LB, LSU).

Tier 10
Curtis Brown (DB, Texas), Jalil Brown (DB, Colorado), Chris Culliver (DB, South Carolina), Davon House (DB, New Mexico State), Niles Paul (WR, Nebraska), Da’Norris Searcy (DB, North Carolina), Brooks Reed (DL, Arizona), Stefen Wisniewski (OL, Penn State), Titus Young (WR, Boise State), Daniel Ziemba (OL, Auburn).