Posted on: March 10, 2012 12:54 pm
In the wake of the bold trade up by the Washington Redskins to secure the rights to one of the two elite quarterbacks of the 2012 draft class you can expect that there will be plenty of media speculation as to whether head coach Mike Shanahan and his staff overpayed.
The St. Louis Rams, on the other hand, are universally being lauded for their ability to pry first round picks from the Redskins in the 2013 and 2014 drafts, as well as Washington's second round pick this year for only dropping four spots.
And while I do believe that this trade could be one of the few in which both teams appear to be "winners," it isn't fair to characterize the Redskins as the only team taking a significant risk with the move.
Recent conversations with various league sources indicate that six prospects have pulled away as the elite talents of the 2012 draft. Though the order differs slightly per team, the general consensus seems to be that Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, Southern Cal offensive tackle Matt Kalil, Alabama running back Trent Richardson, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, and Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon have separated from the rest of the pack. In trading out of the second pick to the sixth, the Rams are still guaranteed to see one of these prospects still available to them. Whether it is one capable of making an immediate impact, however, is the bigger question.
With obvious needs at wide receiver and cornerback, the Rams would presumably love to see either Claiborne or Blackmon still available. The Minnesota Vikings (owners of the third pick), Cleveland Browns (four) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (five) also have signficant needs at these spots, however. With free agency looming, much will change prior to the draft but Rams fans may not be as thrilled with their options at No. 6 as they may have been when hearing of the bounty of picks their team will receive in the move.
Based on the lowered value of running backs in today's pass-happy NFL, Richardson would appear to be the most logical candidate, at this point, to slip to six. And while the Rams are expected to add a running back during the off-season to ease the burden on star Steve Jackson, adding another elite talent at one of the few positions of strength on the roster is not the recipe for success most teams would follow.
Of course, if the draft works out the way Dane Brugler and I anticipate in our updated mock drafts (which reflect the trade), St. Louis could be celebrating their mighty haul of draft picks and adding a certain playmaker for Sam Bradford to boot.
Posted on: March 9, 2012 7:34 pm
STILLWATER, Okla. -- When Justin Blackmon didn't run the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, questions about his speed persisted.
With 62 representatives from all 32 NFL teams watching him at his pro day, Blackmon erased any lingering doubt about his timed speed in roughly 4.45 seconds.
Oklahoma State listed Blackmon's 40 time as a 4.46 Friday. Scouts attending also had him running in 4.44 seconds.
"I was trying to shoot for a 4.45," Blackmon said. "That was kind of in my head, anywhere between there and 4.5.
"I felt pretty good when I ran it. My time was there. It says everything it needs to say."
In other drills, Blackmon touched 35 inches in his vertical jump, ran 4.36 in the shuttle and jumped 10-feet-3 inches in the broad jump. Satisfied with his 14 reps in the bench press from the NFL combine, he decided to skip that drill.
Blackmon caught 14 of 16 passes from quarterback Brandon Weeden during pass-catching drills. He did have two drops, both on out routes, but made two 50-yard catches on which he made adjustments to the ball in midair.
"Brandon put the ball on the spot," Blackmon said. "I had a couple of drops, but overall it went well."
Most of Blackmon's catches occurred either within 10 yards on the left sideline or past 20 yards on the right sidelines. He did not run any routes to the right side within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Some of the teams drafting early in the first round sent top coaches to Oklahoma State's pro day.
For the Cleveland Browns, head coach Pat Shurmur and offensive coordinator Brad Childress were on hand. Shurmur and Childress stood to the left of Weeden as they watched Blackmon in the receiving drills.
The Minnesota Vikings, with the third overall pick in the draft, had four members of their staff in attendance, including coach Leslie Frazier. The Vikings staff had a meeting scheduled with Blackmon immediately after his workout.
Frazier said he thinks there is a good chance Blackmon will be available for the Vikings at the third pick if his team decides it wants to select him. Andrew Luck of Stanford and Baylor's Robert Griffin III are widely expected to be the first two picks in the draft, but the Vikings drafted quarterback Christian Ponder in the first round of the 2011 draft.
"He's a terrific young player," Frazier said. "He didn't do anything to make you wonder if he was a different person on tape. He really solidified some of the things you saw on tape."
Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith and Denver Broncos coach John Fox were the other coaches in attendance. Fox was flanked by vice president John Elway and general manager Brian Xanders before hurriedly hitting the airport, where they boarded a jet bound for Denver with Peyton Manning as a passenger.
The Broncos, though, were likely scouting Weeden and other participants more than Blackmon.
After declaring for the draft, Blackmon's initial goal was to participate in as few drills as possible at the pro day. A minor hamstring injury during the week of the combine forced him to skip the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis, raising doubts about how fast he was projected to run.
For Blackmon, he felt relieved to post a convincing time of 4.46, which should stand up to any bristle about a "fast track" in Stillwater.
"It was a process to try to knock it all out at the combine, and things popped up and I couldn't," Blackmon said. "I'm glad I got to come out and perform today and glad I got to knock it out."
In the weeks leading up to the pro day, Blackmon had to adjust his training to allow his hamstring to rest.
"I didn't do everything running wise I could (have) to better myself," Blackmon said. "I had to cut down on the runs and coming in and out of breaks. I did a lot more upper body things."
Blackmon's focus turns to private workouts with teams. Todd France, Blackmon's agent, said his client had workouts scheduled with multiple teams, but France would not disclose which teams will be hosting Blackmon.
Contributed by James Poling
Posted on: March 9, 2012 1:32 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2012 6:37 pm
After measuring in shorter and lighter than expected and showing a lack of explosion during receiving drills at the 2012 Scouting Combine, the pressure was on Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon to perform well at his Pro Day.
It appears that he did precisely that. Former St. Louis Rams' Vice President of Player Personnel Tony Softli reported on Twitter that three separate scouts had clocked Blackmon in the low 4.4s (4.43, 4.44, 4.45) in the 40-yard dash Friday.
NFLDraftScout.com confirmed the time with one of our own sources on hand, who had Blackmon at 4.45 seconds. Our source also reports that Blackmon registered a 35.5" vertical jump.
While Blackmon, the reigning back to back Biletnikof winner as the nation's top wide receiver, had enjoyed a stellar career with the Cowboys there had been plenty of concern about his straight-line speed. Multiple scouts had estimated Blackmon in the mid 4.5s throughout this season and earlier in his career.
The faster than expected times, by themselves, won't dramatically increase Blackmon's stock. They do, however, help assure scouts that Blackmon has the speed to continue his big playmaking ways against NFL competition and likely solidify his stock as a top 10 -- or perhaps even top five -- prospect.
Blackmon had been rated as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 1 receiver and is our No. 5 rated prospect, overall.
At this point Blackmon and the rest of the Cowboys are still working out. NFLDraftScout.com will have a full report from the Oklahoma State Pro Day after it ends.
Posted on: February 26, 2012 2:34 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 2:36 pm
Several of the more highly regarded wide receivers of the 2012 draft may see their stock slip after running signficantly slower than expected Sunday at the Scouting Combine.
Posted on: February 26, 2012 12:19 pm
While the media isn't allowed in to view most of the workouts at the Scouting Combine, a select group of media members were invited in Sunday morning to watch the quarterbacks and receivers' positional drills.
With NFLDraftScout.com's top-four rated quarterbacks -- Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler -- either unwilling or unable to throw at the Combine, it was the pass-catchers rather than the passers who stole the show. This fact is all the more interesting considering that the highest regarded player at the position struggled to live up to his lofty billing.
Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon entered the week as NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated wide receiver and viewed as a potential top five prospect but a rather ho-hum performance Sunday morning may put his perch at the top in peril.
Blackmon demonstrated the strong hands and body control Sunday that he'd used to earn back to back Biletnikof awards as the nation's top wideout but it appeared that he was limited by the hamstring injury he'd cited as the reason he wouldn't be running the 40-yard dash this week. Blackmon had to gather himself a bit when cutting and never showed the top-end speed scouts would expect of an elite prospect. The key will be how much improvement Blackmon shows when he works out for scouts at his March 7 Pro Day. If he shows improved burst during the workout on the Oklahoma State campus, scouts will likely chalk up his Combine workout as an example of a player simply being limited by injury. If he isn't more impressive, however, Baylor's Kendall Wright and Notre Dame's Michael Floyd are very much in the race to be the first receiver selected in the 2012 draft.
Floyd certainly helped his cause by running the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds (unofficially) at 6-3, 220 pounds and showing excellent hands, flexibility, and surprisingly precise routes. Whether it was drifting across the middle during the gauntlet drill, dropping his hips on quick comeback routes or showing the ability to track the ball over either shoulder deep, Floyd consistently plucked the ball out of air, quickly secured it and got upfield in one fluid motion.
Perhaps the surprise star among receivers, however, was Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill. Possessing a similarly freakish combination of size and speed as his Yellow Jacket predecessor Demaryius Thomas, the 6-4, 215 pound Hill was credited with a blistering 4.30 time in the 40-yard (unofficial) and showed the sticky hands and excellent body control he'd flashed as a big play specialist in Georgia Tech's triple-option offense. If there was a concern about Hill's workout it would be that he seemed a bit stiff when re-directing. His quick acceleration and top-end speed, however, were every bit as obvious with the ball in his hands as they were when he was running the 40-yard dash.
Of the quarterbacks throwing in the morning session, Michigan State's Kirk Cousins was clearly the most polished. While he does not possess a cannon for an arm, Cousins showed enough zip and excellent accuracy on the deep out and was particularly accurate on the post-corner route -- a throw many view as the most difficult asked of quarterbacks during the Combine workout. Cousins does the little things well. While other passers struggled with their footwork and release point, Cousins' has a clean set-up and delivery and consistently stared down the middle as he dropped back, mimicking the form he'd use during a game to look off the safety before turning to fire passes to the outside. Considering his four years starting experience, two years as a captain and experience in a pro-style offense, don't be surprised if Cousins enjoys a late rise up draft boards very similar to the one Andy Dalton enjoyed a year ago.
Two relatively unheralded quarterbacks also took advantage of the big stage to turn some heads. Southern Mississippi's Austin Davis and Richmond's Aaron Corp each showed enough arm strength and accuracy to prove that they belonged. Davis' touch on the deep ball was particularly impressive.
On the flipside, Arizona's Nick Foles and Houston's Case Keenum struggled. Each were erratic with their accuracy, especially on longer routes. Foles has good enough tape to withstand the disappointing workout. Keenum, short and sporting a 3/4 release, may have an uphill climb ahead of him to get drafted despite a sparkling collegiate career.
Posted on: February 24, 2012 2:09 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 6:11 pm
INDIANAPOLIS - Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon won't run the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine after injuring his hamstring last week. He might participate in some short routes during receiver drills, but won't do anything this week that requires "opening up" and threaten his ability to perform at the Cowboys' March 7 Pro Day.
Posted on: February 20, 2012 12:44 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2012 3:02 pm
NFL scouts will get the opportunity to see Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, who most rated as the elite wide receiver in the 2012 draft, participate fully in this week's Scouting Combine.
NFLDraftScout.com has learned that a high ankle sprain will keep another potential first round pass-catcher from doing the same, however.
Albert Breer of NFL.com reports that Blackmon plans to "do it all" in Indianapolis this week and even predicts that he'll be timed between 4.4 and 4.5 seconds when he runs the 40-yard dash. Despite Blackmon dominating the competition at the collegiate level, including winning back to back Biletnikof Awards as the nation's elite receiver, scouts have reservations about his straight-line speed. Blackmon, in fact, has been routinely estimated as a receiver with 4.55-4.60 speed by area scouts who have scouted him numerous times in person. A perceived lack of top-end speed is the one physical characteristic Blackmon would appear to be lacking when compared to receivers taken in the top six in recent years like A.J. Green, Julio Jones and Calvin Johnson. Scouts also have some reservations about Blackmon's decision-making off the field, in large part due to an arrest for driving while under the influence of alcohol in October, 2010. Blackmon was just 20 years old at the time.
While scouts will get some of their biggest questions answered about arguably the elite non-QB skill-position talent in the draft at the Combine, they'll have to wait until Stanford's March 22 Pro Day to see Coby Fleener, NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior tight end, perform athletic drills. Considering that some guy named Luck is expected to throw that day as well as the presence of two first round caliber offensive linemen (OG David DeCastro, OT Jonathan Martin) also among those expected to be on hand for the workout, there should be plenty of decision-makers in Palo Alto for the workout.
Ironically enough, Fleener suffered his ankle injury playing against Blackmon's Oklahoma State Cowboys January 3 in the Fiesta Bowl. The injury kept Fleener out of the Senior Bowl. According to a source close to the situation, Fleener has recovered suffiiciently from the injury but hasn't yet had an opportunity to prepare fully for the Combine-specific workouts. Though he won't be able to work out, Fleener will attend the Combine to participate in the medical testing and interview process.
Posted on: December 8, 2011 10:34 am
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:50 pm
Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon is NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated receiver for the 2012 NFL Draft, and he indicated he's ready to move on to the next level after the Cowboys play Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl.
"I'm pretty sure that it will be (my last game)," Blackmon told ESPN.com.
A finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, Blackmon has 113 catches for 1,337 yards and 15 touchdowns this season.
"I think it's just time," he said when asked why he's ready to turn pro. "It's that time to go. I came back last year to win a Big 12 championship, set us up for a BCS bowl and I think we did that."
Rob Rang has Blackmon going No. 2 overall to St. Louis in his current mock draft, but he'll have to put together solid on-field workouts and off-field interviews between now and the draft.
Blackmon has good size at 6-1, 212 pounds, is physical and has as strong a pair of hands as and receiver in the country. But he lacks great top-end speed, has a DUI arrest in 2010 and is fighting the history of former stud OSU receivers such as Adarius Bowman and Rashaun Woods who flamed out in the NFL.
Blackmon could find early success in the NFL using his physicality out of the slot on slants and crossing patterns, and he's a strong runner who can make defenders miss in the open field.
--Derek Harper, NFLDraftScout.com Executive Editor