Posted on: February 15, 2011 3:05 pm

Locker wise to go all-in at Combine

Jake Locker has made a wise decision to participate in all the drills at the Scouting Combine next week. He's coming off a disappointing senior season and a very uneven week at the Senior Bowl.

Locker has built a reputation as a fierce competitor who won't back down from any opportunity to show off his skills. Everyone expects Locker to impress during his team interviews in Indy - his personality has always been his strongsuit. Remember, this is a kid who turned down a likely Top 10 selection last year to return to the Huskies.

And with Cam Newton unlikely to participate in the positional drills, it's an opportunity for Locker to stand out among the few top-level quarterbacks who will throw in Indy. It has become too commonplace for quarterbacks to bow out of the positional drills - even Dan LeFevour opted not to throw last year - and it turns off personnel men who are all huddled at the end of February in ice cold Indianapolis to see all the prospects under one roof.

Locker continues to provide a fresh alternative to the typical NFL Draft prospect. He's not risking a lot by throwing in Indy - most teams are already wary of his innaccuracy and will look at potentially using a first-round pick on him based mostly on potential. And a good showing at the Combine could vault Locker ahead of some of the other QBs he's fighting with for a spot in the top 32.

--Derek Harper

Posted on: February 15, 2011 1:08 pm

Taiwan Jones out of boot but won't run at Combine

Eastern Washington junior running back Taiwan Jones is out of the boot he'd be wearing to protect a broken left foot and is preparing to run for scouts at Hawaii's Pro Day March 31, according to a source close to him.

Jones would be allowed to work out at Hawaii's Pro Day because that workout will take place in California -- Jones' home state.

Jones had been wearing the boot since undergoing surgery. He has been working out at Athletes Performance in Los Angeles to prepare for the Combine and subsequent Pro Days.

It is unfortunate that Jones, the only FCS player to be granted early eligibility into the 2011 draft, will be unable to run and jump for scouts at the Combine later this month. The 6-0, 200 pounder is an electric open field runner who rushed for 1,742 yards this season, scoring 14 touchdowns on the ground. The former cornerback averaged a stunning 7.9 yards per carry over his 24 game collegiate career. Jones has been compared to Tennessee's Chris Johnson and Kansas City's Jamaal Charles for his almost video game-like combination of speed and elusiveness.

His production was a vital component of Eastern's rise to the FCS Championship. Despite the success of the program, as an FCS player, Jones is a relative unknown. Had he been able to work out in Indianapolis, he could have generated a great deal of interest with in less than four and a half seconds with an impressive workout. One regional scout who visited Eastern's campus in tiny Cheney, Washington characterized Jones as a "legiitmate 4.3 guy with explosive hops."

Jones, according to the source, can do just about anything on the foot -- walk, lift, jump -- except run.

Posted on: February 13, 2011 3:14 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2011 3:17 pm

Interviews most underrated component of Combine

The workouts get all of the attention and savvy NFL draft followers know that the medical grades are actually the most important part of the Combine.

One critical piece of the Combine pie that gets very little exposure is the player interview process.

In the past, the interviews teams get with players have only earned attention when something bizarre occurs -- like last year when the Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland asked then-Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant about his mother's ... uhhh... profession.

In reality, however, this is an integral part of the Combine.

Teams are attempting to learn through a 15 minute interview if the young man sitting opposite them is one of the rare individuals who will actually work harder after signing a multi-million dollar contract.

When I visited Athletes Performance for an article two years ago on the process high-ranking athletes go through in Combine preparation, everyone there was willing to talk about the revolutionary techniques in exercise, nutrition and rehabilitation. Few, however, talk about the significant coaching that players go through to prepare for interviews.

Based on polling various scouts throughout the league, here are 15 high profile players who have as much riding on their interviews with teams as they do the other more hyped components of the Combine.

Players are listed alphabetically.
  • Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina
  • Jon Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
  • Kenrick Ellis, DT, Hampton
  • Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
  • A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
  • Greg Little, WR, North Carolina
  • Jake Locker, QB, Washington
  • Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
  • Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
  • Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
  • Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh
  • Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
  • Tyron Smith, OT, USC
  • Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
  • Titus Young, WR, Boise State

Posted on: February 11, 2011 2:37 pm

Amukamara surprised his speed is in question

I spoke to Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara yesterday in preparation for an upcoming feature for NFLDraftScout.com . He was very open and honest as to why he elected not to play in the Senior Bowl, how difficult it was to remain at Nebraska when they asked him to switch from running back to cornerback and what happened on the 80-yard touchdown reception he gave up to Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon.

Perhaps his most interesting comments, however, came when I asked him he wasn't focusing a great deal of his pre-Combine training on the all-important 40-yard dash.

"I realize the importance of the 40," Amukamara told me, "I just don't anticipate any problems in that area. My speed has never been an issue before and I don't expect that it will be now either."

It is that kind of confidence one might expect from the All-American, who cited his record-breaking track career at Apollo High in Arizona as one of the reasons why he might be a little better prepared than some athletes for the Combine.

Amukamara won the Class 4A state titles in both the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes in 2007. His times in the 100 (10.78) and 200 (21.91) were both the fastest of any high school track athlete in Arizona.

Amukamara is working out at Athletes Performance in Tempe, Arizona in preparation for the upcoming Combine. He is planning to participate in every drill there.
Posted on: February 10, 2011 8:04 pm

Cam Newton Media Workout Video

Marty Caswell of XX1090 AM radio in San Diego shot nearly 15 minutes of video of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton's Media Day workout Thursday. The link to the video is below.

The video has been cut up. The first seven minutes of the video are actually some of Newton's post workout question-and-answer session with the media. For those only interested in Newton's throwing, it begins at approximately the 7:03 mark.

I'd recommend listening to the interview, however. Though none of the hard questions were posed to Newton -- about the pay-for-play scandal that hung over his head while with the Tigers, etc. -- we are allowed some insight as to how he handles questions from interviewers. As we've seen in prior interviews, Newton is poised and funny, at times. He also resorts to cliches, on occasion. Is this nerves or is Newton going to struggle with the significant expansion in terminology of an NFL offense? This, much more than how well he throws in shorts, is a concern he'll need to address for teams during interviews at the Combine.

In the workout itself, Newton demonstrates good timing and efficiency in his drops. He has a smooth, over the top release and generally good accuracy. He does throw some balls a bit high, at times, especially during the early crossing routes. He shows the ability to stick some of the sideline throws, as well as demonstrate his great touch on the deep balls.

Among the more impressive things Newton does is adjust when Trent Dilfer requests some different throws. The willingness to do this -- and do it well -- no doubt contributed to Dilfer's and Warren Moon's rave reviews of the workout.

Newton does look good in on this video. The reality, is however, is that he should. Having personally been on hand for two stellar workouts that moved Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford into the top five of their respective drafts, I can tell you that I cannot see enough on this video to put Newton on par with either of those workouts.

I hope the positive press Newton is receiving from this workout encourages him to throw at the Combine. I hope to watch him in person there -- as I'm sure do the talent evaluators for 32 NFL teams. 

Video Link 
Posted on: February 9, 2011 8:44 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2011 8:54 pm

Why these hyped 5 didn't make my Top 32 (or 42)

Today we released my initial Top 32 "Big Board" as part of NFLDraftScout.com's expanded coverage of the 2011 NFL Draft.

Though I was asked to only list 32 players, I thought it important to list the next 10 prospects who just missed the cut, which, of course, also highlights those who did not make the list.

There are some awfully good football players out there that didn't make my list. The following five are the ones I expect fans will be the most surprised by. This post is designed to explain why those players didn't make my list.

Players are listed alphabetically.

Jon Baldin, WR, Pittsburgh: If the buzz in the scouting community is accurate and Baldwin does dazzle scouts at the Combine with breathtaking speed at 6-5, 230 pounds he'll be moving up a lot of boards. Not mine, though. I don't care how fast he runs in a straight-line, I see a prospect who lacks the flexibility and balance to create explosion out of his breaks and isn't nearly as physical a receiver as his size would indicate either.

Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia: Houston was a dominant force in the SEC this season, earning First-Team honors with 67 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. He has experience as a 4-3 defensive end and a 3-4 rush linebacker. However, I believe he's a more explosive rusher with his hand in the ground than he is standing up and I haven't seen enough fluidity in his drops to make me believe he's anything more than a one-trick pass rusher. I believe he is one of the more overrated prospects in the draft to this point.

Drake Nevis, DT, LSU: I listed Nevis as a player who missed an opportunity in this recent post-all-star game wrap-up because I really believe he could have made himself some money by going to the Senior Bowl. As I  noted in that article, Nevis' ability to collapse the pocket made him the SEC's best defensive lineman not named Nick Fairley. Still, at only 6-1, 285 pounds, he's a rotational player. Not many teams can justify taking a rotational player in the first round, so I think there is a very real possibility he slips out. I'd take him in the second round if I can a 4-3 defense and needed a penetrating three-technique, but not until halfway through the round.

Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech: There is a lot I like about Williams. In fact, there are elements to his game that I believe translate better to the NFL than Illinois' Mikel LeShoure, who I rated as the 33rd best prospect. However, the struggles with durability concern me as Williams is 5-11, 205 pounds. In a class with as much middle round talent at RB as this one, I believe it drops the value of good, but not special backs like Williams.

Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois:
Of the five listed here, Wilson was the closest to making my list. In fact, I currently have him as the 43rd best prospect and a solid 2nd round pick. Like most NFL teams, I struggle with stamping a first round grade on inside linebackers. Wilson is the class of the position, however, and could creep up my board if he works out and interviews well. I believe he has the upside to ultimately be a better player in the NFL than he was in college.

Posted on: February 8, 2011 1:19 pm

Most charges dropped, DJK gets one year probation

Iowa wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos appeared to have destroyed any chance of playing professional football with the news two months ago that he and roommate Brady Cooper Johnson  were arrested on multiple drug-related charges. DJK, as he was affectionately referred to by those close to the Hawkeye program, was officially charged with four counts of possession of controlled substances, two counts of unlawful possession of prescription drugs and one count of keeping a drug house.

Now, according to documents obtained by NFLDraftScout.com, Johnson-Koulianos has had all but one of these charges dropped - a misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana. He received a deferred judgment on this charge. As such Johnson Koulianoas will require unsupervised probation for one year.  In the event he remains drug free, completes counseling and remains free of any difficulty with the law, the court indicated it would consider discharge from unsupervised probation within six months.

Essentially, if Johnson-Koulianos doesn't screw up, he can have his record wiped clean in six months. He had no criminal record prior to these charges and has taken and passed drug tests as part of the initial ruling.

The news could be enough to get DJK a shot at the NFL. Iowa's all-time leading receiver enjoyed a strong performance in last Saturday's NFLPA game, helping his cause after a rather ho-hum weak of practice. The interviews with scouts there were the most important component of his week, however, as Johnson-Koulianos was not invited to the Combine.

Johnson-Koulianos holds the school career records for receptions (173) and receiving yards (2,616). He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a senior after catching 46 passes for 745 yards and 10 touchdowns.

As always, for the best in NFL draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com .
Posted on: February 7, 2011 1:24 pm

Prince Amukamara plans to do all Combine workouts

Like his former Nebraska teammate Ndamukong Suh, Prince Amukamara is not going to rest on his laurels at the Combine. He plans to participate fully, according to source close to him.

The 6-0, 205 pound Amukamara turned down an opportunity to partipate in the Senior Bowl, but his level of play wasn't questioned. The All-American provided lock-down coverage and physical run support in 2010. Like Suh, Amukamara entered the  year as the top-rated senior prospect by several scouting organizations, including National Football Scouting which helps NFL teams coordinate the annual Combine and NFLDraftScout.com.

Despite his reputation, Amukamara has a lot riding on his workout. Questions about his true speed have been rampant ever since Oklahoma State redshirt sophomore Justin Blackmon beat him for five catches, 157 yards and two touchdowns in a showdown between the two stars October 23. See the video here.

Getting beaten by Blackmon, who won the Biletnikof Award as a redshirt sophomore, is hardly a reason for shame. Amukamara had provided his typically stellar coverage for most of the game, but was beaten for an 80-yard score in the second quarter when Blackmon fooled him with a slow release, before bursting upfield. Earlier in the game Blackmon had beaten Amukamara downfield on a go-route, forcing a pass interference penalty from the Nebraska cornerback. With college rules, the penalty gave the Cowboys 15 yards. In the NFL, of course, the penalty would have been for the yardage lost by the interference -- a difference of 35-40 yards.

Blackmon is a savvy route-runner with deceptive speed, but isn't expected to run in the 4.4s. The fact that he was able to get deep on Amukamara consistently is a concern. The two other big corners expected to be first round picks -- Peterson and Colorado's Jimmy Smith -- did not have a game this season in which they struggled as much as Amukamara did against Blackmon, making their respective speed in workouts potentially less important to their final stock.

With a strong showing in Indianapolis, Amukamara could all but lock up a spot in the top ten and perhaps even the top five. Some teams, in fact, like Amukamara more than Peterson. A poor showing, however, and he could slip behind Peterson and Smith and into the mid teens. I currently have Amukamara pegged to go to the Houston Texans with the 11th pick of the draft.

After scouts had questioned his competitiveness with the decision to not play in the Senior Bowl, they'll be pleased by his decision to participate fully at the Combine.

For the very best in NFL Draft content, be sure to keep the page refreshed at NFLDraftScout.com.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com