Tag:Combine
Posted on: April 8, 2009 3:34 pm
 

RB Wells, DE Orakpo Going Oppsite Directions

 

 With only 2 1/2 weeks until the draft, two of this classes' biggest names are going in opposite directions -- and their stock fluctuation could prove to be one of the real stories of the draft.

Anyone who has watched Beanie Wells throughout his career with the Buckeyes knows of his talent. Physically-speaking, he is clearly the best RB in this class, though questions about his consistency and toughness have caused many (including me) to rank Georgia's Knowshon Moreno as this year's best back.Wells, frankly, was disappointing even before the mysterious leg injury that robbed him of his effectiveness last season.

Scouts diligently reviewing Well's 2007 film, however, see a different back. A Larry Johnson, perhaps even Adrian Peterson-like combination of size and power. I've taken some angry comments from Packers' fans due to my projecting Wells to Green Bay in my latest mock draft. Certainly the team has other, greater needs, but there are many teams within the top ten considering Wells. His physical tools are just so great that some team, scouts tell me, is likely to pull the trigger earlier than most are anticipating.

On the flipside, Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo seems to be slipping down boards. I've spoken to scouts who operate for teams using the 4-3 and 3-4 alignments and each club is souring on the Longhorn pass-rusher. The more film teams do on Orakpo, the more they are left wondering if he is explosive and persistent enough to consistently generate a pass rush against NFL left tackles or, for that matter, agile enough to drop back into coverage. Orakpo's imposing build is impressive to look at, but belies his career-long struggles with durability, as well; another element that scouts are mentioning as a reason he could slip out of the top ten -- and perhaps considerably farther than that.

 

Posted on: April 6, 2009 2:18 pm
 

Easy Solution to Drug Testing Fiasco

 

 Over the past week much of the media attention surrounding the prospects in the 2009 NFL draft have centered upon reports of failed drug tests taken at the Combine. The reports mentioned several players by name, including a handful of prospects generally considered first round talents. The reports prompted a release from the league, itself, which included the following excerpt:

“Neither the 32 clubs nor the league office know the results of drug or steroid tests taken at the 2009 Combine. The independent medical advisors who administer the tests have notified in writing those players  and only those players  who  tested positive at the Combine. Unfortunately, rumors about draft eligible  players, including rumors about test results, begin to circulate every year at this time. Many of these rumors are circulated for self-serving reasons and they are terribly unfair to the players and their families.”

Like the athletic test results from the Combine, once the official drug and steroid tests are released to teams, it will only be a matter of time before stories seep out. The league has done some things to assure that the story never breaks. The results are only provided to the highest ranking officials and there is a potential $500,000.00 penalty the league could impose if the source is exposed.

The league can do more to tighten the gaps that result in these "self-serving" and "terribly unfair" rumors, however, by no longer allowing the independent medical advisors, who administer the tests, to contact those players who test positive.

Players, upon receiving a letter that they tested positive, typically alert their agent. Often, the agent then calls the teams to alert them that that one of their clients tested positive and to schedule another test. By being proactive with the teams, the agent is attempting damage control.

By contacting the teams, however, the leaks result, which is why there are reports circulating throughout the league that some players have tested positive, when, in reality, the official results have not been sent to the league, itself, or any of the 32 teams. 

Releasing the information early to those that failed allows them time to reschedule future tests and therefore attempt to rescue their falling stock. It also, however, allows, and in some ways even encourages, the "reporting" of rumors.

 

Posted on: April 2, 2009 11:59 pm
 

CBs Byrd, Mouton Flash in Pro Days

Oregon junior cornerback Jairus Byrd was unable to workout at the Combine due to a groin pull, but struggled to reward scouts for their patience in testing in the mid to upper 4.6s in the 40-yard dash, according to scouts in attendance.

The time is certainly a concern for scouts, though they were also quick to point out that Byrd tested very well in shuttle drills (4.10 short shuttle, 6.75 3-cone). Each of these marks would have ranked among the top ten cornerbacks tested in Indianapolis and are indicative of the rare agility and burst Byrd showed throughout his career with the Oregon Ducks. If Byrd's name is familiar, it is because his father, Gill Byrd, was a long-time standout for the San Diego Chargers at cornerback.

A few hundred miles south, Hawaii cornerback Ryan Mouton suffered the same fate at his Pro Day today (held at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles) that limited him at the Combine over a month ago -- a pulled hamstring. Still, the 5'09, 187 pound cornerback flashed some eye-popping explosion by dropping his 40-yard dash time from 4.51 seconds at the Combine to 4.46 seconds Thursday. So why did five-hundredths of a second rate as a significant improvement? Because Mouton, according to scouts in attendance, pulled up with the hamstring at about the 30 yard mark in the event and still posted a 4.46 second time. Had the injury not occurred, he likely would have been in the low to mid 4.3s... Mouton's explosiveness was on display in the broad jump, where he leapt 11'0 -- a mark beaten only by potential first round pick Darius Butler (Connecticut) among the cornerbacks tested at the Combine.

 

 

Posted on: March 31, 2009 8:51 pm
 

Sleepers at UCLA benefit from early USC crowd

 

 Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson and Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman were among the scouts on hand to watch several UCLA Bruins perform in their Pro Day on the eve of the USC workout -- the last of the big Pro Days -- tomorrow.

The workout began with the disappointing news that oft-injured quarterback Ben Olson had once again hurt his right foot and would be unable to participate. Olson was rated as the top prep quarterback in the country in 2002, but has struggled with durability throughout his career and has broken bones in his right foot three times in the past year.

Another Bruin quarterback Patrick Cowan, who was not invited to the Combine, elected not to run and wasn't impressive in throwing drills, according to scouts in attendance, despite working with head coach Rick Neuheisel in preparation for the event.

The Bruins' one Combine-invite -- running back Kahlil Bell was unable to dramatically improve upon the disappointing 4.74 time he registered at the Combine in the 40-yard dash by clocking in the 4.7s again. 

Scouts said the most impressive workouts were actually posted by punter Aaron Perez and by defensive linemen Tom Blake and Brigham Harwell.

Perez looked good in positional workouts, showing the strong leg that has led to his #7 ranking among all punters according to NFLDraftScout.com.

Blake, a little used defensive end who missed much of his senior campaign due to a sports hernia, showed better speed than expected, running in the 4.6s at 6-3, 265 pounds.

Harwell, who flashed enough in the first game of the season (Tennessee) to warrant my writing him up in Draft Slant, NFLDraftScout.com's weekly PDF available throughout the collegiate season, helped his cause by lifting the bench 36 times. Harwell, 6-1, 292 pounds, lacks the size and athleticism teams are looking for and has struggled with durability throughout his career, but still earned second team Pac-10 honors last year.

Posted on: March 31, 2009 8:03 pm
 

Stafford Strengthens Hold on #1

 

 According to multiple sources throughout the league, the Detroit Lions staff are raving about the workout put forth Tuesday by Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford.

Lions' head coach Jim Schwartz spoke to media at the owners' meetings last week and characterized Stafford's performance in Tuesday's workout as another critical element in the Lions' assigning their final grade on him. The Lions' offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was expected to orchestrate the workout -- a key difference from Stafford's Pro Day workout earlier in the month, when some suggested that Georgia quarterback coach/offensive coordinator Mike Bobo scripted the passing drills to highlight Stafford's strengths.

Schwartz explained how the Lions expected to change the workout to see if Stafford was indeed worthy of #1 overall consideration.

"You can put him in some situations and all of a sudden sort of throw some curveball, so to speak, at him -- see how he reacts, see how he handles that, see how he interacts with the other guys," Schwartz said. "Those are all things that you're probably going to see in a workout that you really couldn't see anywhere else."

Due to the fact that Stafford did not throw at the Combine, his performance at Georgia's Pro Day was important. Scouts in attendance told me that his throwing there was better than Matt Ryan's last year at Boston College's Pro Day. If the reports circulating through the scouting community are accurate -- that Stafford was even more impressive Tuesday -- the race to be the first pick of the draft could be nearing an end.

 

Posted on: March 30, 2009 3:29 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2009 3:39 pm
 

Vols DE Ayers "Most Polarizing Defender..."

With the draft less than a month away most teams are settling their draft boards. One player whose stock remains very much in flux is Tennessee defensive end/outside linebacker Robert Ayers.

There appear to be two camps when it comes to Ayers. Some teams view him as a top ten prospect. Mike Mayock of the NFL Network, whose opinion I respect, recently ranked Ayers as the 5th best player in the entire 2009 draft. Other teams, however, view Ayers as a second round prospect -- and a marginal one at that.

I contacted four teams about Ayers -- two AFC teams and two NFC teams. Two of the clubs operate primarily out of the 4-3, two primarily out of the 3-4 defense. The reviews were stunningly mixed. One 3-4 team loves him. The other ranks him as the 8th best pass rushing OLB prospect of the draft. Similar results came from the 4-3 teams. Each viewed him strictly as a 4-3 defensive end in their scheme.

I respect the opinions of my contacts in the league, but ultimately, I trust my own eyes more than anyone else's. Therefore, I went back to the film. I own game-film of 6 Tennessee games (UCLA, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Wyoming, Kentucky), as well as the Senior Bowl. After two days of reviewing these tapes, I feel comfortable with my current grade of a late first round to early second round grade.

Ayers, 6-3 (3/8), 272 pounds, primarily lined up as the right defensive end out of the 4-3 alignment in the 6 UT games viewed. This is the position he lined up throughout the week of practice at the Senior Bowl, as well. I have detailed notes from those practices, as well as the Senior Bowl, itself, in which Ayers earned Defensive MVP honors with 3 tackles, including 1.5 sacks. I thought that Ayers was arguably the most impressive player early in the week of practice in Mobile and wrote as much in my Monday and Tuesday reviews of the South practices.

Monday: The surprise was vs. Oher was Ayers, whose quickness off the snap, strength to anchor and dizzying array of counter moves enabled him to beat Oher at times and consistently proved too much for lesser pass blockers. If he can build upon his initial showing with a strong week of practice, Ayers could be the latest example of players catapulting up draft boards with a strong performance in Mobile.

Tuesday: Perhaps due to the colossal battles waged between Oher and Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers on Monday, the two were rarely matched up against each other for this second practice. After an eye-opening initial practice, Ayers struggled with lesser blockers early Tuesday. He picked up his play as the one on ones heated up, however, and finished practice playing with the fervor he’d shown a day earlier. His final snaps of the scrimmage Tuesday, in fact, were spent bull-rushing Tulane tackle Troy Kropog onto his back during one play and using a beautiful swim move to cleanly get past the Green Wave blocker and into the backfield on the next.

 

The concern I and others have with Ayers is twofold. For one, he didn't establish himself as even a starting caliber player until his senior season despite signing with the Vols as one of the most highly touted preps in the country. Until this season, he was viewed by many as a bit of a bust. Secondly, even though he was as good as any defensive lineman in the SEC this season (and that is saying something) and absolutely deserved the 1st team conference honors he received this year (49 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss), he finished with only 3 sacks.

Based on the film, Ayers consistently plays to his level of competition. His most dominant game (statistically-speaking) was against Georgia, which unfortunately, I don't have film of. Against Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith, Ayers showed good burst, impressive strength to shed, good agility and vision when redirecting and hustle. These were the same attributes I saw against Oher in the Senior Bowl practices.

Against lesser talent in the Wyoming and UCLA losses, however, Ayers disappeared too long for my taste.

Ayers' fluidity improved so dramatically from his Combine performance and Pro Day, that I can understand why some are very excited about him. Those close to the Tennessee program rave about his emergence as a senior leader and there is no denying his athleticism. While he predominately lined up at right defensive end, he also moved inside to defensive tackle, at times, to the left defensive end and was a standup pass rusher from either side, as well. He is not truly explosive off the snap, but can bend under the tackle and has very good lateral quickness to "get skinny" and beat the offensive tackle back inside after a jab-step to the outside to tackle runners for loss.

He has the versatility that every team is looking for and the opinion that he could be an ascending talent will likely push him into the first round -- but there is significant boom or bust potential here.

For these reasons, Ayers was characterized to me by a high ranking official of one of the four teams as "the most polarizing defender who's gonna go in the top 50. Some love him. Some are only luke-warm on him. He's moving up though..."

 

Posted on: March 30, 2009 2:35 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2009 2:36 pm
 

OT Joel Bell, CB Brian McCain Flying up boards

Each year there are relative unknown players whose eye-popping workouts in February and March force scouts back into the film room. Many times scouts are quick to acknowledge the impressive athleticism of prospects to local media covering the event, but once they review the players on film, realize that the speed, agility and strength shown on the track or weight room doesn't translate onto the field. 

And then, sometimes, there are players whose workouts go well and scouts return to the film room to discover that perhaps they had simply overlooked or undervalued the prospects. Two such players moving up the charts this year are Furman offensive tackle Joel Bell and Utah cornerback Brian McCain.

Bell, a three-time all-conference selection at left tackle, was invited to the Combine and put forth one of the more impressive all-around workouts, earning top-ten marks in the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical, broad, 3-cone, and 20-yard shuttle at a shade under 6-7, 315 pounds. His workout was good enough that he didn't need to workout at Furman's Pro Day, though an eye-popping 25 teams still showed up to see him go through positional drills. 

Indianapolis Colts' scout Bob Guarini put Bell through a 20 minute workout while the other team scouts' watched. Besides the Colts, the teams represented were the Eagles, Titans, Saints, Jaguars, Browns, Steelers, Seahawks, Dolphins, Texans, Patriots, Lions, Chiefs, Falcons, Cowboys, Bears, 49ers, Rams, Raiders, Vikings, Bills, Giants, Panthers, Chargers, and the Packers.

Like Bell, Utah's McCain is hardly just a workout wonder, though the workout he put forth at the Ute's Pro Day could technically classify him as one. McCain was clocked in the low 4.3s and the buzz around scouting circles is that he's been timed even faster before. McCain's 20-yard shuttle (3.99) and 3-cone (6.74) drill times would have ranked among the best among the cornerbacks tested in Indianapolis. McCain, however, was not invited to the Combine, despite earning All-Mountain West accolades each of the past three seasons. While fellow defensive Sean Smith has the size scouts covet, McCain is the more athletic of the duo and has the rare speed and agility for man to man coverage. Among the estimated two dozen teams represented at McCain's workout were the Panthers, Lions, Dolphins and Seahawks. Considering the lack of speed shown by this year's cornerback class, some believe McCain could continue to rise as the draft approaches -- perhaps all the way to the 5th round.

 

 

 

Posted on: March 27, 2009 8:49 pm
 

NIU's Larry English Steps it up at Pro Day

 

 Northern Illinois defensive end/outside linebacker didn't necessarily have to workout for scouts Friday. The two-time MAC defensive player of the year was impressive off the edge at the Senior Bowl and flashed athleticism in Combine workouts, as well.

However, considering that many teams wanted to see him shed some time off his 40-yard dash, the move was a good one. English's fastest time at the Combine was 4.82 seconds, but he was clocked in the high 4.6s to low 4.7s according to scouts in attendance Friday, and was better in both defensive line and linebacker drills, as well. 

The knock on English is that while he has good burst off the snap and reasonable straight-line speed, he doesn't necessarily change directions as fluidly as some teams operating the 3-4 defense would prefer out of their linebackers. In a 4-3 scheme, English, 6-2, 255 pounds, is probably best suited as an undersized defensive end, which is why many of the teams who had scouts on campus were from clubs operating out of the 3-4.

Among the teams represented were the 49ers, Ravens, Packers, Steelers, Texans, Colts, Jaguars, Broncos, Lions, Falcons, Bears, Saints, Bills and Buccaneers.

English has the tools to warrant consideration late in the first round, but this year's unique collection of outside linebackers and hybrid defensive ends likely to make the transition to the OLB position could push him into the mid second range. He is among a group of about a baker's dozen hybrid pass rushers (Brian Orakpo, Everette Brown, Brian Cushing, Aaron Maybin, Robert Ayers, Connor Barwin, Clay Matthews Jr, Clint Sintim, Paul Kruger, Michael Johnson, Lawrence Sidbury, Jr, Cody Brown, Zach Follett, etc.) scouts feel warrant first day consideration. 

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