Posted on: February 11, 2010 6:11 pm
Edited on: February 11, 2010 6:14 pm
I traveled last year to Athletes Performance Institute in Tempe, Arizona to get a firsthand look at the training that goes on prior the Combine. Following this trip, I also spoke to gold medal winner and world record holder Michael Johnson about the performance center which bears his name and his work with high profile NFL prospects prior to the Combine.
Johnson boasted an impressive class last year, including first round picks Michael Crabtree, Knowshon Moreno and Brandon Pettigrew.
Some of his detractors were quick to point out that Moreno and Pettigrew were disappointingly slow in workouts and that Crabtree, Johnson's most celebrated prospect, never did work out for scouts.
Those detractors must not have carried much weight, however, as Johnson boasts an impressive group of prospects this year -- even more impressive than last's year's crop.
Among those signed up to work with Johnson is Ndamukong Suh, LSU wide receiver Brandon LaFell, Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer, Texas pass rusher Sergio Kindle, Kansas wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe, Mississippi defensive end Greg Hardy and his former teammate, Dexter McCluster, among others.
A strong showing by these athletes in workouts this year not only will boost their own stock, it could further improve Michael Johnson's profile within the pre-combine training community.
Posted on: December 7, 2009 6:22 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2009 6:25 pm
The news that Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen and wide receiver Golden Tate and Kansas wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe have elected to come out after their junior seasons and head to the NFL is not at all surprising. Each is gifted enough athletically to warrant at least second round consideration and, more importantly, none have a head coach in place to try to convince them to return for their senior season.
In fact, as I pointed out in last week's issue of Draft Slant , you can expect more -- perhaps a record-breaking number -- of underclassmen to come out early. There are several reasons to expect such a large exodus.
Posted on: November 28, 2009 11:12 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2009 11:54 pm
LSU won an overtime thriller against a gutty Arkansas team, but may have lost the best senior receiver in the country in doing so.
One play before LSU kicker Josh Jasper hit the 36-yard field goal that would ultimately be the game-winner, LaFell dropped to one knee to try to make the catch of a poor pass from Jordan Jefferson. With his left knee bent behind him, LaFell was hit on his right side by Arkansas linebacker Jerry Franklin. The hit hyperextended LaFell's left knee, causing him to lie on his back for several moments in obvious pain. LaFell was able to walk off the field under his own power, but he had Tiger medical staff on either side of him in support and he was limping badly. With the game ending so soon after LaFell's injury, no news about the actual extent of LaFell's injury is likely to be released until Sunday, at the earliest.
The 6-3, 205 pound receiver had been highlighted as NFLDraftScout.com's Player of the Week after LSU's loss to Ole Miss last Saturday. There are few receivers of his size with the quick feet and feel for tight quarters to be used outside and in the slot. This versatility, along with his great strength after the catch, has made him one of the more highly touted receivers in the country over the past two seasons.
Despite a largely inconsistent offense around him, LaFell has been a headliner. He leads the Tigers with 52 receptions for 703 yards and is tied for the SEC-lead with 10 touchdowns. LaFell caught 4 passes for 68 yards and a score against Arkansas, Saturday.
Posted on: October 3, 2009 4:53 pm
With unsettling performances from many of the highly ranked senior and junior quarterbacks ranked ahead of them, two passers NFL scouts have become increasingly intrigued by this year are Washington and Notre Dame juniors Jake Locker and Jimmy Clausen, respectively.
Locker's athleticism, toughness and potential as a passer have drawn comparisons to Tim Tebow. In reality, he is a further along as a passer than Tebow and has a stronger, more accurate arm with a quicker release. This fact has led some to project him as highly as a potential #1 overall candidate for the 2010 draft, should he elect to come out early.
The poise and accuracy Locker showed in the stunning upset over USC significantly increased his national attention, but scouts have been well aware of his ability for years. He remains an unfinished product, however, who too often resorts to running rather than exhausting all of his passing options.
Against Notre Dame thus far, Locker has been accurate on the short to intermediate passes, but still too often is either throwing to his first read or tucking the ball. He has the prerequisite arm strength to zip passes into tight coverage and the touch and trajectory for the deep ball. He hasn't been helped by repeated drops from UW receivers and a porous offensive line. There is no denying his first round tools. At this point, however, scouts tell me they still view him as a second round pick, as he is at least a year or more away from contributing in a pro-style offense against NFL caliber defenses.
Classen, on the other hand, is significantly further along in his development as a passer. Of course, this is to be expected after serving for three years under Charlie Weis. Classen understands the offense, making the proper adjustments at the line of scrimmage and has the accuracy to hit receivers in stride. He also spreads the ball around the field beautifully.
Like former ND star Brady Quinn, however, Classen's lack of dominant arm strength makes him a good, but not necessarily great prospect for the next level. Classen relies on his accuracy and understanding of the offense to attack, but he's attempted some dangerous passes in the first half against Washington, attempting to squeeze passes into tight holes in the secondary, such as on a 2nd quarter pass into the endzone that the Huskies should have picked off.
Their national hype may lead some to believe Locker and Classen are certain top ten prospects. In reality, while each has tools to work with -- and quite different tools at that -- both are potential gems that still require a great deal of polish...
Posted on: September 5, 2009 7:27 pm
With the NFL cut-down today, there are literally hundreds of once-highly-touted prospects now available on the open market. Quarterbacks, as the saying goes, get the most credit when things are going right and the most blame when things are going wrong. For three big name quarterbacks, things went too wrong this preseason, apparently.
Veteran Jeff Garcia was a surprise signing by Oakland this year. Though one could make the argument that the Raiders might win more games with the former Pro Bowler leading the ship this season, for the long-term success of the franchise, it is difficult to argue that JaMarcus Russell will feel more comfortable with his position as the unquestioned starter with the ultra-competitive Garcia off the team.
There had been plenty of speculation that the Vikings would attempt to trade Tarvaris Jackson or perhaps Sage Rosenfels with Brett Favre now in the fold, but instead the club elected to drop former USC standout John David Booty, who insiders had suggested had improved considerably over his time with the Vikings. Don't expect Booty to be on the waiver wire for long.
Few, however, come with any more of a pedigree than former Green Bay Packer Brian Brohm, released today despite being the team's second round choice only two years ago.
Brohm, who some had suggested would have been the first overall pick of the 2007 draft had he left after his junior season, failed to impress the coaching staff despite several opportunities during the preseason. Former LSU standout, drafted by the Packers three rounds later than Brohm in the 2008 draft, made the team and apparently will be Green Bay's primary backup to young star Aaron Rodgers.
League sources had previously expressed to me how impressed the Packers had been with Flynn's development (and unimpressed with Brohm's). There was some belief throughout the league, in fact, that at least some of the reason why GM Ted Thompson was so adamant that Brett Favre's either remain retired or move on to a team other than the Vikings (remember that?) prior to the 2008 season was that he simply would not carry four quarterbacks on the Green Bay roster and liked the upside of Rodgers, Brohm and Flynn too much to allow one of the young passers to leave.
Posted on: September 4, 2009 12:35 pm
By now, most college football fans have already seen Oregon running back LaGarrette Blount's tirade after the Ducks' loss to Boise State last night. For those that haven't, I've pasted the URL for the YouTube video below.
Once the initial shock of Blount's inexcusable behavior wears off, NFL scouts will still need to determine if his skills translate to the NFL. Blount, roughly 6-1, 250 pounds, is a questionable fit in Oregon's spread offense and struggled to find holes yesterday against the Broncos, but in an I-back formation, the power back with surprising speed could be effective and many NFL teams will consider him.
His character grade, however, took a massive hit (sorry, couldn't resist) with the cheapshot, however. So much so that when placing this latest infraction with the multitude of others that have come in the past (suspended for grades over the summer, showed up overweight, etc.), Blount may have fallen from a potential Top 50 selection all the way out of the draft with his behavior.
How he answers questions about his lack of control to scouts and the media at the Combine (asssuming he's invited) will ultimately go a long way in determining whether he's given an opportunity in the NFL. More so, in fact, than any yardage and touchdown production he might put forth this season.
Posted on: April 22, 2009 1:18 am
Edited on: April 22, 2009 11:07 am
With few sure-fire prospects in this draft, many of the teams drafting within the top ten have privately -- and in some cases, publicly -- stated their interest in trading down. Few teams have publicly stated their interest in moving up, but the rarely candid Bill Belichick offered some interesting thoughts on the situation in his annual pre-draft press conference.
I don't think I have ever been in a draft where we've had the potential flexibility that we have this year. Last year, we went in with the 7th pick and 62nd pick and I felt, at that time, it would be hard to move very far from those two spots, and in fact, we didn't. I think this year, if you go by the generic trade charts-the charts everyone uses or has access to-if you just do the numbers we could probably trade a combination of our picks in the first round and get up as high as 10. We already have three picks in the second round, so we could pick anywhere from the beginning of the round until the end of the round and then a couple more picks in the third, so I think it's really important for us to know the value of the board all the way through those first 100 players and be able to know where the opportunities are or aren't, and how we can make the most of them. Again, we don't always have flexibility to trade because you need a partner on that, but I'm sure there will be some discussions there and there already have been with teams that see our multiple picks and have interest in acquiring two for one.
Belichick, of course, is not known for his particularly gabby, often light-hearted and carefree, terrifically insightful comments with media.
With six of the top 97 picks, including three second rounders (34, 47, 58) Belichick's Patriots are in position to do whatever they'd like in this draft, and the reality is, with teams so eager to move out, the Patriots could move even further up than in a typical year.
With a lot of the talk out of New England focusing on cornerback Darius Butler from Connecticut, don't be surprised if the Patriots package some picks and instead move up for Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins size, physicality, instincts and versatility could make him a perfect fit in New England.
Regardless of who they target, don't be surprised at all if New England makes some interesting, aggressive moves this weekend. For all of the talk that Scott Pioli and Josh McDaniels want to make a splash in the draft to begin their new legacies, Belichick is in better position to extend his own.
Posted on: April 12, 2009 8:00 pm
Just got a text back from Wake Forest outside linebacker Aaron Curry. We've been conversing over the latest several days in preparation for the third part in a series of four articles detailing his "Road to the NFL."
In an earlier posting on the blog I mentioned that Curry had not, as of last Thursday, received an invitation to the NFL draft. He received it this weekend and plans to attend the event.
His excitement about the honor of being among those invited to Radio City Music Hall was obvious in his text:
"It's amazing to be at the place I've always dreamed to be... Every year I watch the draft and I was so happy and excited for the guys that were in New York and now I'll be there too."
His story, which details what exactly transpires in a private workout and the 6 teams in which he's either worked out privately or traveled to recently, should be available this week.