Posted on: February 5, 2011 12:24 pm

Prospects boycotting Combine, Draft senseless

Reportedly among the latest threats by agents and the NFLPA is that incoming 2011 draft propsects may elect not to show up at this month's Scouting Combine or the 2011 draft, itself. 
Quite frankly, I see very little chance of this happening.

Certainly, if prospects elected not to show up at the Combine, it would cause problems for NFL teams -- which is, of course, the point.

While the vast majority of the Combine coverage revolves around who runs the fastest or puts up the most repetitions of 225 pounds, for NFL teams the two most critical elements of the annual Indianapolis trip are the extensive medical testing and the face to face interviews with prospects.

If prospects did not attend the Combine, there is no doubt that it would disrupt teams' preparation. In doing so, it would make the million dollar gambles that each team was making with their owners' money even riskier. I get it.

But who has more to lose in this situation?

The prospects who elected not to come to Indianapolis would be perceived by teams as selfish, mindless drones following the orders of agents and current NFL players -- not the eager-to-please (and get paid to play) prospects that they actually are.

And let's be clear about which of the prospects have the most to lose. It clearly would be the underclassmen. It is especially important for the juniors and redshirt sophomores to attend the Combine as in many cases this is the first time NFL decision-makers have had an opportunity to meet these players. Considering that there are a record 57 underclassmen this year -- with many of them rating as 1st and 2nd round talent -- they typically have the most to gain (or lose) that week. Can you imagine trying to convince a Da'Quan Bowers or Patrick Peterson -- each with a legitimate chance at being the first pick of the draft -- to skip the Combine, entirely? Or what about players like fighting so-called "intangibles" red-flags like Nick Fairley, Ryan Mallett or Robert Quinn? Do you think they'd be eager to waste their greatest opportunity to convince teams that all of the reports of their laziness, poor leadership or reasons for their year-long suspension, respectively, are hogwash?

Sure, teams send their power contingents to invidual player and collegiate Pro Days when prospects don't work out at the Combine, but  if a collective group of prospects boycotted the Combine, rather than a few scouts, coaches or front office executives flying in to watch a prospect test athletically, time+money+travel would have to be set aside for medical testing, Wonderlic testing, interviews, etc.

It would be a logistical nightmare for all with flawed results.

Put bluntly, if the players don't show up at the Combine, they (or their agents) are idiots.

Now, the draft itself, is a different story. NFL teams aren't likely to change their draft board based on whether or not a player is shown on television in the green room as opposed to their parents' living room, after all.

Any leverage the prospects could gain for the NFLPA would likely be in the lost television ratings the networks, league and thus, team owners would receive from the draft's coverage.

But, let's be honest? Do you watch the draft because of the riveting interviews conducted before and after a player is drafted?

Or is it because you want to see who your favorite team picked? They would be making a pick, after all, regardless of which players (if any) were actually attending the draft.

I'm very much on the side of the NFLPA on many of the key issues, but on this particular front, I see very, very little to gain and much to lose. Expect to see the players (all of them) at the Combine. Don't be surprised at all if they show up to Radio City Music Hall, as well.
Posted on: February 2, 2011 1:33 pm

NFL releases official Combine list

National Football Scouting, the agency that works with the NFL in the colossal undertaking of organizing the annual Combine, has released the list of the players invited to this year's event.

The full list can be seen here. The list includes underclassmen, as well as several seniors who were given late invitiations based on strong performances during senior all-star games.

Some of the late-invite seniors include cornerback Cortez Allen from The Citadel, Ohio State guard Justin Boren, Appalachian State safety Mark LeGree and North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates, among others.

Senior Analyst Chad Reuter highlighted some of the biggest Combine snubs in this article.
Posted on: January 30, 2011 5:04 pm

'Bama QB McElroy breaks hand during Senior Bowl

Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy cracked a bone in his throwing (right) hand during Saturday's Senior Bowl.

According to a report from the Press-Register , McElroy banged his hand on a helmet after completing a pass to South Alabama wideout Courtney Smith on the first play of the 4th quarter.

The report quotes McElroy after the game and cites McElroy's father as the source who confirmed that the Alabama quarterback was x-rayed following the game, identifying the injury.

"I had no feeling the rest of the series," McElroy said following the game. "The ball was kind of sporadic. I couldn't get a grip on the ball. I still can't get a grip on the ball. I think it will be OK."

The injury is expected to keep McElroy from throwing for approximately two weeks. If this timetable holds true, McElroy could be able to participate in the upcoming Combine.

McElroy completed 5 of 8 passes for 36 yards in the Senior Bowl. He was seen shaking his hand in obvious discomfort later in the drive. Though he completed the series, he did not return.

McElroy completed 70.9% of his passes this season for 2,987 yards and 20 touchdowns. He threw only five interceptions.

He is currently rated by NFLDraftScout.com as the No. 10 quarterback available in 2011 and a potential 5th round pick.

Posted on: January 29, 2011 11:00 pm

Newton taking unnecessary risk with media workout

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton might be able to impress the media during a one-hour workout he's scheduled for February 10 at Cathedral High in Del Mar, California, but will it do any good?

Despite winning the Heisman Trophy and BCS Championship, there are plenty of questions about the Auburn junior's ability to translate his success into the NFL. The spread-option offense he ran under Gus Malzahn's direction won't cut in the NFL. He'll need to be able to read defenses quicker, be more accurate with a greater variety of passes and do both while dropping back from center -- something he was rarely asked to do with the Tigers.

Helping him improve in these areas is George Whitfield, the San Diego-based quarterback guru who helped keep Ben Roethlisberger fine-tuned while the Pittsburgh star served his four-game suspension this season.

I don't doubt Newton's talent as a quarterback, nor Whitfield's talent as a coach. I do question Cam Newton, Sr.'s decision to have this media-only workout in the first place.

And let's be clear, this is a media-only event. NFL scouts are forbidden to attend a prospect's workout of this nature in any other setting than the Combine, the player's hometown or his university.

The purpose of the workout, Whitfield told Jim Corbett of USA Today is to "differentiate [Newton] from Vince Young and JaMarcus Russell " and to determine if Newton should workout at the Combine or wait for Auburn's Pro Day in March.

The obvious question I'd ask is what could Newton possibly gain from this workout in front of the relatively untrained of national media?

Taking an optimistic approach, let's assume Newton blows us all away with his workout for a moment.

Doesn't he run the risk that NFL teams will be turned off by what appears to be an attempt to upstage the NFL and its Combine?

And to do what? Create some buzz? There isn't a more famous (rapidly becoming infamous) collegiate player in the country.

And, what if Newton struggles - or is even inaccurately portrayed by some as having struggled -- in his workout? Will he elect not to workout for scouts at the Combine, thereby opening himself up to questions about his competitive fire?

I asked a handful of scouts about this workout. All were mystified as to what gains could be made with what one front officie executive termed a "publicity stunt."

One high level scout put it this way:

"The Newtons would be best to realize they aren't in college anymore. Regardless of how good he looks for [the media], there isn't going to be a bidding war for him. We're not recruiting him. They could wind up turning more people against them than for them with this [workout]."

Posted on: January 22, 2011 8:21 pm

Ohio State DE Heyward undergoes surgery

Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward will miss the upcoming Senior Bowl and perhaps much more after undergoing elbow surgery, according to a report from Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch.

According to May's report, Heyward underwent surgery at renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews' facility in Alabama. It is not immediately known when Heyward will be back to 100%.

The 6-5, 288 pound Heyward hyperextended his elbow in the Buckeyes' 31-26 victory over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.

Heyward was terrific in that contest, clearly struggling with pain throughout much of the game, but enjoying as dominant of a performance as we saw from any defensive lineman throughout the bowl games. He was officially credited with six tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss, a sack, two QB hurries and a pass breakup. Heyward earned First Team All Big Ten honors this season with 48 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, a safety and an interception he returned 80 yards against Miami.

Posted on: January 20, 2011 12:57 pm

EWU RB Jones 57th underclassman in draft

According to an NFL spokesperson, Eastern Washington running back Taiwan Jones was indeed granted special eligibility for the 2011 draft.

There had been some confusion as Jones was not among the record 56 underclassmen listed on a league press release provided yesterday.

The NFL's initial release "included only Division I-A players" and that Jones, as well as any other FCS players, would be mentioned in a later release by the league.

Until the league releases its non-FBS list to teams, the NFL was unwilling to list any other FCS underclassmen who may or may not be included in the 2011 draft. The spokesperson did confirm, however, that Jones turned in his paperwork and is eligible for the 2011 draft, making him the 57th (and counting?) underclassman available. 

The 6-0, 200 pound Jones rushed for 1,742 yards and 14 touchdowns for the FCS champion Eastern Eagles. Jones was unable to play in the national championship game, however, as he broke a bone in his left foot earlier in the playoffs. He'd rushed for 230 yards against North Dakota State before sustaining the injury.

Jones, a former cornerback, possesses a combination of speed and elusiveness that quite frankly is rare at the the FCS level. He is currently rated as a 5th round pick by NFLDraftScout.com, but if he can prove his health to scouts at the Combine, he could skyrocket up draft boards.

Teams are always going to be hesitant to draft a running back with Jones' marginal build and history of injuries (broken foot, broken fibula in 2008, hand, shoulder and hip flexor issues in 2009), but in terms of explosiveness, Jones ranks with any back in this draft. 
Posted on: January 19, 2011 12:35 pm

Szczur picks MLB's guaranteed $ over NFL chances

Matt Szczur's football career is apparently over.

The Villanova star, who had agreed to play in next week's Senior Bowl in the hopes of impressing NFL scouts, instead decided the guaranteed dollars of Major League Baseball was too much to pass up , according to an article by Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Szczur (pronounced "See-zer") was drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 MLB draft by the Chicago Cubs and played in the Cubs' minor league system this summer.  Upon signing a contract with the team, Szczur was given $100,000 and promised an additional $500,000 if he committed to the Cubs and shunned the NFL prior to next month's Scouting Combine.

Szczur wanted to explore his NFL options, turning down the 500,000 bonus. When the Cubs tripled their offer Tuesday, however, Szczur took the 1.5 million dollars and turned his attention to back to baseball.

Szczur had been a standout football and baseball player for the Wildcats throughout his entire career. A 2009 consensus All-American and the Colonial Athletic Conference Offensive and Special Teams Player of the Year, Szczur is perhaps the most widely accomplished "small school" prospect in the country. As such, it wasn't a huge surprise when the Senior Bowl made him (and teammate, offensive tackle Ben Ijalana) an early invites to the prestigious all-star game.

Szczur struggled with injuries early in the 2010 season, but was his typically spectacular self down the stretch, earning my Diamond in the Rough honors after a particularly impressive performance against Stephen F. Austin in the FCS playoffs.

An outfielder with great speed and live bat, he played at three levels in the Cubs organization last summer, batting .347 with a .414 on-base percentage and a .465 slugging percentage in 25 total games.

As part of the agreement, Szczur will not play in the Senior Bowl or participate in the Combine.

Posted on: December 21, 2010 2:44 pm

NFL Advisory Committee details

Over the next few weeks you can expect to hear and read a great deal about theNFLAdvisory Committee. This committee of pro scouts was organized to give underclassmen prospects considering making the jump to the NFL an accurate grade before they give up their collegiate eligibility.

Here is how the process works.

First, players have to be three years removed from their high school graduation date to be eligible for the NFL Draft.

When one of these players determines that he wants an NFL grade, he asks a member of his current coaching staff to set up the process. The paperwork involved asks the player to identify himself, his position, jersey number and other pertinent information, including games missed and their "best games." This paperwork has to be signed by a member of the coaching staff or a pro liason before it will be accepted by the NFL.

Once the league gets the paperwork, the name of the player is sent out to 4-5 teams. Scouts for these teams review the player off tape and provide a grade. The grades are tabulated and sent back to college coach to give to the player. The grades are broken up into five categories based on how high a player may be drafted -- 1st round, 2nd round, 3rd round, 4th-7th round, and unlikely to be drafted.

With as many 150 underclassmen requesting grades, you can imagine the league can get swamped. The NFL encourages prospects to turn in their requests early. A soft deadline of December 17 is given for a full assessment. The NFL will accept later requests up to January 4, however, but cautions prospects that they won't get a full assessment.

Players have a deadline of January 15 to officially declare for the draft. They do get three days (January 17, midnight EST) to reconsider before the decision becomes final and they are officially part of the player pool eligible for the upcoming April's draft.

While the NFL Advisory Committee does a great job of providing prospects with grades, it is important to note that each prospect's final grade won't be determined until after the Combine. While the Combine is often characterized by the media as one big workout, the more important information to NFL teams is the medical testing. A prospect can receive a high grade from the Advisory Committee based on game tape, but subsequently drop significantly if a medical condition is discovered after testing.

Remember that for complete draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com or simply click here.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com