Posted on: February 24, 2011 10:03 am
Edited on: February 24, 2011 10:15 am

Tyron Smith Gaining Momentum-and More

This morning at the first day of weigh-ins at the Scouting Combine, USC offensive lineman Tyron Smith stepped up to the scale, weighing at in 307 pounds. That's 22 pounds more than he weighed during the 2010 season, when he earned first team All-Pac-10 accolades as a second-year right tackle for the Trojans. (The only reason he did not start at left tackle was the presence of future first round pick Matt Kalil.)

Smith's hands were measured a massive 11 inches and his 36 3/8 inch arms are exactly what teams like to see on the edge, and among the largest at the Combine over the last decade.

Smith's lack of weight did not prevent him from standing up to many talented defenders on the strong side, including Cal's probable first round defensive lineman Cameron Jordan.

Scouts have questions about whether Smith can maintain that weight during training camp and the season, however. They will be comforted, in part, by the fact Smith just turned 20 years old in December. He should continue to grow over the next few years in an NFL strength and conditioning program.

If he decides to work out at that weight this week, and performs as expected, teams will consider using a top 15 selection to acquire his services.

--Contributed by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter
Category: NFL Draft
Posted on: February 20, 2011 6:43 pm

Combine Countdown -- Hawaii RB Alex Green

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. Many are underclassmen - as many of them have more to prove to scouts - and many are players with either off-field or medical concerns.

Unlike at quarterback, where Ryan Mallett fit all of these characteristics, I see a potential diamond in the rough at running back with the most to gain (or lose) at the Combine. Hawaii's Alex Green is a senior with no known off-field or medical issues and certainly lacks the name recognition of some of this year's top backs, but I like his combination of size (6-0, 220), burst and hands out of the backfield.

The 2011 class of running backs is a very solid group. There is only one surefire first round pick in my opinion -- Alabama's Mark Ingram -- and two others I see as possibly sneaking into the top 32 (Illinois' Mikel LeShoure and Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams). Because either LeShoure and Williams could leap into the first round conversation with a dynamic showing in Indianapolis, I strongly considered listing them here. I believe entirely too much draft analysis is spent on the top 40-50 players, however. Real scouting begins in the middle rounds and extends into free agency, which is one of the reasons why I'll be watching Green closely.

Consider these three facts.

1. There were 12 running backs selected in the 2010 draft.
2. NFLDraftScout.com currently rates 27 running backs as potential draft picks in 2011.
3. Green is rated 20th and a 6th-7th round pick.

As a junior college transfer playing for the most geographically remote team in the country, scouts haven't seen a lot of Green despite the fact that he led the country with a gaudy 8.2 yards per carry this season. Now, before you dismiss his numbers as a product of the Warriors' dynamic offense, recall that Hawaii's spread attack is pass-heavy, inflating the numbers of their quarterbacks and wideouts, but deflating the production of their running backs. In fact, since former head coach June Jones implemented Hawaii's spread offense in 1999, Green is the first back to ever surpass the 1,000 yard mark. Hawaii's historical struggles running the football go back even further. They haven't seen a 1,000 yard runner in nearly 20 years (1992). Green rushed for 1,199 yards this season.

Scouts were impressed with Green's build and burst at the East-West Shrine Game. Ultimately, however, to remain at running back and not be thrown upon that heap of "oversized running" fullbacks, Green will need to perform well this week in athletic drills. He's been estimated to run in the mid 4.6s. If he runs that slow in Indianapolis, he'd better get used to the idea of blocking -- and that is if a team gives him a shot as a utility fullback.

If, however, he can run in the low 4.5s and show some explosiveness in the jumps and shuttle drills, he'll reinforce the positive impressions he made in Orlando.

I argued that the Combine could prove very important for Ryan Mallett. How he performs in drills and interviews could dictate whether he's a first or third round pick.

The week could be even more important for Green. If he performs well, I could see him being drafted as high as the middle rounds. A poor performance, however, could see him slip right on out of the draft entirely. 

Posted on: February 20, 2011 12:27 pm

Combine Countdown -- QB Ryan Mallett

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 .
Posted on: February 17, 2011 8:36 pm

Patrick Peterson move to FS? Very unlikely

I couldn't help but chuckle when I read that Mike Mayock of the NFL Network characterized LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson as a player who may be asked to move to safety in the NFL.

I found the projection humorous not because I necessarily disagree with it, but because cornerbacks 6-0 and taller and weighing over 205 pounds are almost always viewed by some as a potential safety prospect.

Peterson could make the switch to safety. He certainly has the bulk at 6-1, 212 pounds to make the move and has proven to be a reliable open field tackler who takes excellent angles in pursuit. A natural ballhawk, his secure hands and open field running ability make him a threat to take back any interception for a score -- something he might be in a better position to do if operating down the middle of the field rather than simply one sideline.

However, I'm a believer in the Keep-It-Simple, Stupid philosophy. Patrick Peterson rates as one of the most effective collegiate corners and most impressive NFL corner prospects I've graded in over ten years in this profession. I don't doubt that he could be a very successful safety; I just don't see the point in moving him when I feel strongly that he can be quality cornerback.

There are those who believe that Peterson is too upright and slow in his backpedal to handle the speediest of NFL receivers. I do believe that these traits make Peterson more susceptible to smaller, quicker receivers, but I also expect to see Peterson star in workouts, including the 40-yard dash eliminating any questions about his speed.

I have steadfastly kept Peterson as the No. 1 pick in my mock drafts for one simple reason. I believe he's the best player in the draft.

He may not wind up the first pick. After all, no cornerback has ever been selected with the first pick.

But he will be a top ten pick. And when he is, it will be as a cornerback.
Posted on: February 17, 2011 12:55 pm

Pre-Indy buzz- Baldin, Smith, House running well

Agents and athletic trainers preparing their athletes for the annual Scouting Combine in Indianapolis are generally hesitant to put expectations on prospects prior to their official workout.

That said, each year in the week leading up to the Combine there is a buzz in the scouting community of prospects who are already turning heads in the pre-Combine preparation.

This year three players generating quite a lot of buzz are Pittsburgh wide receiver Jon Baldin , Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith and New Mexico State cornerback Davon House .

The 6-5, 230 pound Baldwin is reportedly running in the 4.4s and could push the 40" mark in the vertical jump. Results such as this could push Baldin into the first round.

Smith, a 6-2, 205 pound cornerback, has received a lot of national attention in recent weeks as some analysts have finally got around to reviewing his game tape. Graded as a top 40 prospect by NFLDraftScout.com since September, Smith could move into the top 20 if the early reports of his speed are true. Smith, according to sources, has been running in the high 4.3s to low 4.4s. If he runs that well in Indianapolis, Smith will only have to ease scouts' concerns about his off-field behavior to guarantee himself a spot in the draft's opening frame.

Just as many were slow in recognizing Smith's talents, don't be surprised if Davon House is suddenly cast as a draft "riser" if he runs in the high 4.3s to low 4.4s at the Combine, as he's been doing in preparation for the event, according to sources.

House didn't get much national attention playing for the Aggies, but like Smith, he has been highly rated by NFLDraftScout.com all year long. The First-Team All-WAC defender had signed on to play in the Senior Bowl before a recurring ankle injury forced him out of it.

The Combine always reveals some surprises. If these three players work out well, they'll be labeled as surprises by some. NFL scouts and those of us with an ear to the action won't be... 

Posted on: February 16, 2011 1:12 am
Edited on: February 16, 2011 1:15 am

NFL buys out ELITE; will offer regional Combines

For most football fans, the term "Combine" has come to mean the National Invitational Camp held each February in Indianapolis.

In reality, smaller, more bare-bones versions of the Indianapolis Combine are put on all over the country as street free agents work out in an attempt to get back into professional football.

The most successful of these Combine organizers is Elite Pro Football Combines , who, according to their website Combines.com has helped place 455 players into the NFL and another 1,860 players in the AFL, CFL and AF2 leagues since its inception in 1989. Among the Elite's NFL success stories are kicker Adam Vinatieri and wide receivers Wayne Chrebet and Joe Horn.

The NFL apparently liked what they saw from Elite; so much so that they bought the company, according to a letter being distributed by the league.

A copy of the letter, obtained by NFLDraftScout.com , states that the NFL has acquired Elite Pro Football Combines and explains the company's role.
Elite Pro Football Combines will supplement the NFL's National Scouting Combine and will be held in different locations across the United States. These Regional Combines are intended for draft-eligible players not invited to the NFL's National Scouting Combine, free agent players, and unsigned players with some pro experience. The goal of the Elite Pro Football Combines is to ensure that no worthy player is overlooked by providing an opportunity for a player to showcase his talents in a comprehensive NFL-style evaluation.

Elite's website lists the 2011 workout sites as Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Columbus, Atlanta again and Los Angeles from February 26 to April 9. Athletes who perform well at these regional events would get the opportunity to be tested by real NFL scouts during the Combine "re-checks" that happen in early April each year.

According to various sources inside and out of the league who had attended these workouts, the combines run by Elite Pro Football focused strictly on recording players' measureables. The medical testing and interviews so important at the Indianapolis Combine are not part of the deal in these workouts. Measuring scouts heights, weights, and recording their times in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, bench press and shuttle drills is the focus, with the information being recorded so that the professional scouts can view the results online.

Players do not have to be invited to these workouts, unlike the Indianapolis Combine. They do have to register, however, and pay an entry fee. This fee, according to sources, is typically around $160.00 with another $25-50 possibly needed for prep materials such as a DVD and workbook explaining the process and tips on what scouts are looking for.

The decision by the NFL to purchase Elite makes a lot of sense for many reasons. Certainly, the greater exposure and proximity of these workouts will churn out more talent. The Combines also offer opportunities to former or hopeful NFL scouts wanting to pick up a little extra money or get their foot in the door. Scouts hope that it will result in accurate measureables for hundreds more prospects.

Perhaps most thought-provoking is that the addition of Elite Combines puts the NFL one step closer to potentially creating a true minor league farming system similar to what is done with Major League Baseball. The idea, which many have characterized as silly at first blush, makes a lot of sense to some in the league and wasn't dismissed by sources inside and out of the NFL when I asked them for comments on this story.  

Posted on: February 15, 2011 5:44 pm

Saunders back in the Combine

The National Football Scouting Service has included former South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders on their official invitation list: http://www.nflcombine.net/players/o

The NFL ruled Saunders is now eligible for the 2011 draft despite failing to hand in the paperwork to declare as an early entry. His dismissal from USC gave him additional eligibility, so he could have transferred to a lower-division school in 2010 or 2011.

But the league heard and approved Saunders' appeal to allow him into this draft, so now he has re-gained the invitation he originally accepted before the ruling.

If Saunders performs well at the Combine, which he should if he has been training to enhance his natural athleticism in recent weeks, teams may take a chance on his talents late in the draft.

--Contributed by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter
Posted on: February 15, 2011 3:34 pm
Edited on: February 15, 2011 3:38 pm

Bowers, Smith not kneeding sympathy

NFLDraftScout.com has spoken with sources close to two top prospects, defensive end Da'Quan Bowers (Clemson) and offensive tackle Tyron Smith (USC), who had surgeries on torn meniscuses after the 2010 season.

Bowers rehabbed his injury immediately following the surgery six weeks ago, but now feels no effects. His injury is not preventing him from performing any drills at the Athletes Performance Institute's Los Angeles facility. The results of tests run recently make him confident he can prove his athleticism is elite, allowing them to keep their top five grade on him.

Smith is also well on the way to recovery after playing through his injured meniscus, on which he had surgery following the team's final game against UCLA. He is performing all of the Combine drills without any lingering issues with the knee. After playing most of the year at around 280 pounds, Smith is also weighing over 300, which will only help the cause of a young player who just turned 20 in mid-December.

Scouts are, frankly, more likely to be impressed by their toughness suiting up while in pain than any reprecussion from the operations.

It is still unclear, however, which tests either player will perform at the Combine, because they will make their decisions after going through workouts the rest of this week. But whether they run the forty yard dash in Indianapolis or at their respective pro days, expect both to look healthy -- and excel.

--Contributed by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com