Posted on: March 29, 2011 12:40 pm

Seahawks interest in Ryan Mallett legitimate?

The Seattle Seahawks will be flying in Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett to their team headquarters, according to a source.

I typically don't put a great deal of stock into the travels of prospects during this time of year. While it makes for interesting fodder, the reality is, the vast majority of players selected will NOT have been flown in for a visit with their new team prior to the draft.

That the Seahawks are bringing in Mallett, however, is interesting in a couple of different ways.

For one, Seahawks' General Manager John Schneider was at Mallett's Pro Day workout. This is believed to be the only Pro Day workout Schneider has attended so far this year.

Secondly, the Seahawks could be in considerable need of a quarterback. Incumbent starter Matt Hasselbeck is scheduled for free agency. Head coach Pete Carroll said last week at the Owners' Meetings that the Seahawks "made a run" at re-signing Hasselbeck prior to the lockout.

"Financially, we went after it and couldn't get it done," Carroll said. "In my mind, it kind of came right down to the final day of it. We made an effort and they made an effort."

The Seahawks have veteran Charlie Whitehurst waiting in the wings, but in limited duty in his first season with the Seahawks (six games). Whitehurst failed to impress. He did, however, help Seattle beat the St. Louis Rams in the final regular season game of the year, giving the Seahawks the NFC West divisional crown. With Hasselbeck healthy the next week, the Seahawks beat the Saints in the opening round of the playoffs befoe losing on the road at Chicago the next week.

Should the Seahawks be able to re-sign Hasselbeck or feel comfortable enough with Whitehurst as their starter, the team has plenty of quaterback options to consider. The team has previously been linked to several passes including Florida State's Chistian Ponder, TCU's Andy Dalton, Washington's Jake Locker and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick.

With the exception of Ponder, however, most of these quarterbacks are viewed as developmental prospects. Should Seattle be unable to re-sign Hasselbeck, find another veteran option to compete with Whitehurst or feel Whitehurst is not the answer, the Seahawks could feel pressure to draft a quarterback who could contribute immediately.

The only two quarterbacks likely to be available at Seattle's No. 25 pick who are considered "pro-ready" are Mallett and Ponder.

Ponder fits Seattle's West Coast Offense better, but at 6-2, 230 pounds and with a history of injuries, he is a gamble.

Mallett is unquestionably the more gifted prospect. But, of course, concerns about his on and off-field decision-making makes him evey bit the gamble, as well.

Posted on: March 21, 2011 11:31 am

Big surprise - Panthers focusing on QBs for No. 1

Just as he did during the Combine, Panthers' head coach Ron Rivera has highlighted a group of eight prospects for the No. 1 overall pick.

He cited three quarterbacks among those prospects -- Auburn's Cam Newton, Missouri's Blaine Gabbert and, perhaps surprisingly, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett.

Though there are another five players potentially in play for the top pick -- presumably defensive linemen Marcell Dareus, Da'Quan Bowers and Nick Fairley, cornerback Patrick Peterson and wide receiver A.J. Green -- the Panthers' focus seems pretty intent on finding another quarterback to compete with (and potentially replace) incumbent starter Jimmy Clausen, at least according to a report from Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer.

Person notes that the Panthers "could go after" one of the five "other" picks in the draft, but only if "If the Panthers decide to bring in a veteran quarterback through a trade or free agency, assuming the lockout is resolved early enough."

Clearly, Person believes that the Panthers are acknowleding that quarterback is the number one priority and will be addressed. 

Person quotes Rivera as saying, “We have a number of positions that we've identified as needs. We're trying to get to that point where we can start filling those needs as the time is appropriate,” Rivera said. “If you can fill a need through free agency, we're going to do it. If we have to go through the draft, we'll do it. If we've got to make a trade, we'll do it.”

Should Carolina find a way to add a veteran quarterback, which is, of course, impossible until a new CBA is agreed to, the Panthers have options with the first pick.

If not, they'll be choosing between Newton and Gabbert with their first pick.

Regardless of what Rivera is saying publicly, Mallett is very much fighting just to stay in the first round, according to multiple sources inside the league,  much less contend for No. 1 overall honors.

Posted on: March 9, 2011 8:40 am

A day later & scouts still buzzing about Mallett

With all of the attention swirling around Cam Newton's Pro Day at Auburn yesterday, not enough national attention is going towards the more impressive throwing session put forth by Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, at least in the estimation of some NFL scouts.

NFLDraftScout.com anticipated the strong workout and had a man on the scene, detailing the session from the inside .

For my own information, however, I contacted various league sources also at the workout.

One high-level source working for a team expected to draft a quarterback this year, described Mallett as "demonstrating extremely high level velocity and accuracy" throughout the workout.

Another source - a regional scout familiar with Newton and Mallett - characterized it in another way.

"From what I saw of [Newton's] performance online, the cameras were at the wrong workout. [Mallett] proved he's the most talented passer yesterday, just like he did in Indy. I know you saw him at the Combine , but he was even better here."

Neither source provided the number of passes attempted or completed from Mallett's Pro Day, leaving us with only Mallett's disappointing time in the 40-yard dash and vertical jump as the only quantifiable numbers from the workout. With no way to compare apples to apples on their velocity and accuacy, many are comparing Mallett's athletic drills to Newton's and other quarterbacks.

Clearly, Mallett is slower and less athletic overall than scouts would prefer. The 5.37 second time he ran in the 40-yard dash is sloooow even for quarterback standards and the 26" vertical jump didn't show much explosive athleticism, but in comparison, a certain former Michigan quarterback -- some guy named Brady -- was clocked at 5.23 at the 2000 Combine and only jumped 24.5" inches -- and that was at only 211 pounds. Mallett measured in at 247 pounds.

I'm not about to project Mallett as the second coming of Tom Brady -- they are vastly different quarterbacks -- but it is important to note that the numbers some will use to describe the Razorback passer's Pro Day performance aren't the story.

Mallett is the draft's most talented passer. If a team can come to grips with his off-field question marks, he certainly has the talent to warrant a first round selection .

Posted on: March 8, 2011 9:07 am

What to look for in Cam's Pro Day workout

In yet another example of the undying thirst this world has for all-things football (and more specifically all-things Cam Newton), Auburn Pro Day workout will be broadcasted live today by ESPN3.com and the NFL Network.

The workout should feature defensive tackle Nick Fairley, offensive lineman Lee Ziemba and linebacker Josh Bynes, among other notable draft-eligible prospects for the BCS Champion Tigers, but, of course, the focus will be on the Heisman-winning Newton.

The pressure is on Newton to perform well after he struggled in his Combine throwing session. Newton's inaccuracy in Indianapolis caught some off guard as the reviews from his media-only workout outside of San Diego drew rave reviews. You can watch much of that workout here .

So, what does Newton have to do today to boost his stock?

In a word, improve.

After completing the easy ten-yard tosses to receivers during the gauntlet drill, Newton completed only 11 of his 21 passes at the Combine. Newton's struggles were due to the fact that his timing was off in his dropback from "center." He was a bit slow dropping back, forcing him to hurry his throwing motion. Too often he was throwing off his back foot with the ball leaving his hand too at an upward arc. This led to many of his passes sailing on him, especially on the deep out route, a pass requiring timing with his receivers.

Today, watch to see if Newton's timing is improved. It should be, as he'll be throwing to receivers he knows, as opposed to those he passed to in Indianapolis. Also, watch to see if Newton is stepping into his throws. This is essentially the weight distribution piece you've heard analysts refer to in the past.

Besides just the throwing session, it will be interesting to see how Newton's teammates rally around him. One of Newton's greatest attributes, according to scouts, is his leadership. Newton hadn't let the pressure of the big stage affect him in Auburn's undefeated season, but we might have seen cracks in the armor with his poor throwing session at the Combine. Newton needs a strong showing today. He also needs to show that he's having fun and be encouraging to his teammates. Today may really be all about Newton, but he can't let on that he believes that. This is Auburn's Pro Day, after all, not just Newton's.

I was on the field to watch the Pro Days that sent Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford's respective stocks soaring. I anticipate a similarly spectacular and stock-boosting performance from Newton today. If we don't get it, perhaps Chad Reuter and I will have to change the No. 1 overall pick in each of our current first round mock drafts.

Fairley, too, could see a boost or drop based on how he performs today. For all of the concern about his "soft" body at the Combine, there is no denying his spectacular workout. The natural athleticism that has caused me (and many others) to characterize him as the most naturally talented prospect in the draft was on display there. What will be interesting to scouts will be if Fairley's conditioning has improved or lessened in the eight days since he worked out at the Combine.

Every NFL team is expected to attend the event. In fact, some are predicting that it will be the most heavily attended Pro Day of all time. This is all the more impressive considering that Arkansas and Oklahoma are hosting their Pro Day workouts today, as well. Auburn's Pro Day begins at 1:30 pm EST.
Posted on: March 7, 2011 1:59 pm

Rivera, Elway among those going to Auburn Pro Day

The Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, owners of the top two picks of the 2011 draft, will be well represented at Auburn's Pro Day tomorrow.

Darin Gantt of the Rock Jill Herald reports that Carolina will send head coach Ron Rivera to the workout. Broncos' Vice President of Football Operations John Elway announced via his Twitter account that he, too, will be making the trip. Don't be surprised if every team in the league is represented at Auburn's Pro Day.

Quarterback Cam Newton is an obvious attraction, but getting a bit lost in the hype over the Heisman winner is the stock of defensive tackle Nick Fairley. One could argue that the Panthers and Broncos need help at defensive tackle every bit as much as at quarterback, especially considering the fact that both clubs invested high round picks in Jimmy Clausen and Tim Tebow, respectivley, just last year.

The timing of Auburn's Pro Day is a bit inconvenient for scouts as Arkansas and Oklahoma also have their Pro Days scheduled for tomorrow.

With so much interest in Newton and Fairley, most teams will likely choose to go to Auburn's workout over the others. However, the Arkansas Pro Day is very intriguing, as well. Talented, but troubled quarterback Ryan Mallett will be throwing, of course, which is reason enough to attend the workout. Mallett enjoyed a spectacular throwing session at the Combine and thus, doesn't have quite as much riding on his physical performance Tuesday as Newton, who struggled with accuracy in Indianapolis.

That said, teams truly interested in drafting Mallett may want to attend his workout to gauge more than just his physical skills. How Mallett interacts with his former teammates (and they with him) could give clubs a greater feel for his leadership potential at the next level.

Posted on: March 5, 2011 12:21 pm

Poll of NFL sources finds gulf of opinion on QBs

Since the Combine ended Tuesday, I've been polling league sources on their rankings of the quarterbacks. I spoken or texted with seven sources (ranging from area scouts to front office executives) as of Saturday morning and have some interesting results.

In six of the seven cases, Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert were the top two rated quarterbacks. Four teams had Auburn's Newton as the top passer. Three had Gabbert. All three of the Gabbert fans noted, however, that his March 17 Pro Day would significantly impact their grade on him.

Interestingly enough, the same four teams that rated Newton No. 1 had Arkansas' Ryan Mallett ranked as the third QB -- with one exception. One of these clubs had the rankings had Mallett as the No. 2 passer behind Netwon. This source is obviously less concerned about the so-called character questions of these two SEC stars than other teams.

The wildcard of the QB rankings was Washington's Jake Locker. Three teams had Locker as the 3rd rated quarterback. The other four teams rated Locker 4th (two teams), 6th and 7th, respectively in this year's QB class.

The other QBs jumping ahead of Locker for these clubs were Florida State's Christian Ponder, TCU's Andy Dalton and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick.

Given the choice between "sure," "likely," and "unlikely" five of the seven sources thought it was "likely" that all seven of the quarterbacks made the first three rounds.

To put that in perspective, seven quarterbacks being drafted in the first three rounds has happened only twice in the past 40 years (excluding the USFL.CFL-impacted Supplemental Draft in 1984).

Teams are certainly hoping that this year's group will enjoy more NFL success than the past two classes that sent this many highly-graded quarterbacks to the pros. The 1999 class featured huge busts in Tim Couch, Akili Smith and Cade McNown, among others. Donovan McNabb and, to a lesser extent, Daunte Culpepper were the success stories of the class. With the exception of Jay Cutler (and to a lesser extent Vince Young, Tarvaris Jackson) the 2006 class has yet to establish itself, either.

Posted on: February 28, 2011 7:24 pm

Could five QBs wind up in the first round?

We all know the value of quarterbacks raises as the draft gets closer. We also all know that significantly altering a player's grade based on Combine performance is a quick way to get a scouting staff fired.

That said, there is an increasing belief among NFL teams that as many as five quarterbacks could wind up in the first round, following strong performances from Ryan Mallett, Jake Locker and Christian Ponder at the Combine.

Mallett unquestionably has first round skills. While his struggles at the podium in front of the media has been well documented, league sources tell our own Len Pasquarelli of The Sports XChange that teams who interviewed him in Indianapolis "came away impressed with him."

Locker, too, has unquestionable talent. His career-long struggles with inaccuracy remain a concern for many, but there was no denying he enjoyed a strong throwing session at the Combine, throwing some of his most accurate passes on the deep outs, fly routes and post-corners that are generally considered the toughest throws scouts ask quarterbacks to make at the Combine. Some teams will take this as evidence that he's made strides under former pro quarterback Ken O'Brien -- and is likely to continue to do so under NFL coaching.

Perhaps the most surprising quarterback generating recent first round buzz is Ponder. His multiple arm surgeries make his medical grade the most important result from the Combine (and teams won't have these complete results for awhile), but there is no question that the former Seminole is building momentum following a Senior Bowl MVP performance and a strong showing during passing drills. Considering his intelligence, mobility and accuracy to the short to intermediate levels of the field, Ponder is viewed by some as the top true West Coast Offense quarterback in the draft.

In last week's mock draft I had only two quarterbacks (Missouri's Blaine Gabbert and Auburn's Cam Newton) projected in the first round. With virtually every one of the front office executives and head coaches acknowleding during their Combine interviews the supreme value of the quarterback position and another two months for the hype around these three to build, we could end up seeing that number more than double by April 28.

Posted on: February 27, 2011 12:38 pm

Mallett, Locker impress in 1st throwing session

As bad as Ryan Mallett's press conference may have been yesterday, his performance in Sunday's throwing session at the Combine should quiet some of his critics.

Mallett effortless passing made him the unquestioned star of the first session, outshining the likes of Jake Locker, Andy Dalton and several others. Cam Newton, Christian Ponder and Ricky Stanzi are some of the big names that make up the second group.

Mallett's rocket arm and good accuracy was especially evident on the tougher throws such as the deep out, fly and post-corner routes. Perhaps just as importantly -- considering the character questions that continue to dog him -- was his big smile and obvious camaraderie with the other quarterbacks and receivers throughout the workout. Of all the players throwing and catching, Mallett looked like he was having the most fun.

Washington's Jake Locker also enjoyed a strong performance. As I've said on numerous occasions in the past, Locker is as frustrating to scout as any quarterback I've ever known. He struggled early on with his accuracy some of the simpler throws -- including the throws over the middle to receivers during the gauntlet drill and the curl routes early in his throwing session.

As the session continued, however, Locker got hot, nailing the deep ball and the post-corner -- generally considered the most difficult throw quarterbacks are asked to make here. These two routes require a combination of arm strength, touch and, of course, accuracy.

Unfortunately, not every quarterback enjoyed a strong performance Sunday. TCU's Andy Dalton's average arm strength led to many of his passes fluttering, affecting his accuracy. Dalton's stock shouldn't slip much from his mediocre performance. He is a quarterback who relies on timing, and, of course, he had none with a group of receivers who he was largely meeting for the first time today.

Fresno State's Ryan Colbun and Texas A&M's Jerrod Johnson struggled mightily. Each were consistently inaccurate on the variety of throws the coaches put them through.

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