Posted on: February 26, 2012 12:40 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 1:09 pm
Every prospect with some skeletons in the closet is coached up by his agent to make a strong PR move at the Combine. Former Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins admitted the last time he smoked marijuana, for example, as part of an extremely forthright media session Sunday.
Arizona State LB Vontaze Burfict was laid back and very "Yes sir, no sir," although he wasn't exactly apologetic about his penchant for penalties on the field and issues with the Sun Devils coaching staff off it.
"I'm a soft-spoken guy, shy," he said. "But when I'm on the field I hate to lose and that aggression comes out."
Burfict's ASU's career was marred by a slew of personal foul penalties that hurt his draft stock. He also had an altercation in the locker room with a teammate - he said it began with an argument in a 7-on-7 drill - and he left school a year early after a very strained relationship with former ASU coach Dennis Erickson's staff.
Burfict is the No. 3-ranked inside linebacker by NFLDraftScout.com and the No. 88 prospect overall. He'll need to convince scouts that he is an impact player who can control his aggression to avoid slipping into the third or fourth round.
"I just know I'm the best linebacker in this draft," said Burfict, who added that he patterns his game after the Ravens' Ray Lewis and the Bills' Nick Barnett.
Burfict said he is down to 248 pounds after playing last season at 260, but he wasn't about to absolve the coaching staff for its role in his disappointing 2011 season.
"The coaches kind of messed me up. I didn’t know if I would start a game or be benched," he said. "It hurt me, but I tried to fight through it."
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 26, 2012 9:43 am
For those arguing that Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III should leap Andrew Luck as the top quarterback -- and prospect -- of the 2012 draft, he helped the cause by demonstrating his unbelievable straight-line speed Sunday morning.
Posted on: February 25, 2012 5:08 pm
Michael Brockers wasn't about to get drawn into a war of words.
Posted on: February 25, 2012 3:37 pm
The top four quarterbacks on NFLDraftScout.com's board are not throwing passes at the 2012 Scouting Combine.
Stanford's Andrew Luck (own choice), Baylor's Robert Griffin III (own choice), Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill (foot) and Arizona State's Brock Osweiler (unknown) have each said they won't be throwing at the Combine.
Highly regarded quarterbacks electing to hold off until their Pro Day is nothing new, of course. Often the reasons given by these quarterbacks as to why they'd rather wait until their Pro Day is the fact that they'll be throwing to their own receivers in the surroundings they've grown accustomed to.
NFLDraftScout.com, however, was told of another reason why quarterbacks may want to wait until their on-campus workouts. The high-level source used Cam Newton's erratic performance during the Combine throwing session last year as an example.
"Last year [scouts] didn't sync the QB drop and the wide receiver pattern. For example, [Newton] was dropping five steps but the wide receivers were doing three step type patterns."
The miscommunication caused Newton's accuracy to appear to be inconsistent. He took the hit publicly for a mediocre performance and to his credit never said a word publicly about what may have been the biggest reason for it.
The Carolina Panthers obviously looked past the performance -- and considering the terrific rookie season Newton had in 2011, they were certainly wise in doing so.
Posted on: February 25, 2012 12:37 pm
Despite being nearly 1,800 miles from Indianapolis and Lucas Oil Stadium, where 327 draft hopefuls are displaying their wares for the league scouts this week, Brandon Brooks retains an interest in the Scouting Combine.
"A lot of those guys, I worked out with," said the Miami (Ohio) guard, who took some time out from his training regimen in Phoenix on Saturday to watch the offensive line on-field auditions broadcast by The NFL Network. "Those are my buddies. So, yeah there's a curiosity thing at work there."
There's a bit of a curiosity element, too, about why Brooks, who is rated as the No. 8 guard prospect by NFLDraftScout.com, was training at the renowned Athletes' Performance Institute, instead of running the 40-yard dash and doing other position-specific drills with the rest of the offensive line candidates on Saturday in Indianapolis.
In discussions with league scouts about players not invited to the Combine, several players were mentioned to The Sports Xchange -- Oklahoma State offensive tackle Levy Adcock, Houston outside linebacker Sammy Brown, Wisconsin free safety Aaron Henry, East Carolina wide receiver Lance Lewis, Western Kentucky tailback Bobby Rainey, Miami (Fla.) defensive tackle Micanor Regis, among them -- Brooks' name was cited pretty prominently.
No one, though, could offer a strong reason as to why Brooks was not invited.
There are, after all, 14 guards at the Combine, and at least a few of them probably won't go off the draft board ahead of Brooks, who is regarded as a third- to fifth-round prospect. Given that there are seven other players from the Mid-American Conference, arguably several of them not as celebrated as Brooks, his exclusion is somewhat mystifying.
But Brooks, who has been training at API since early January, isn't particularly fazed by the numbers or the oversight.
"It keeps a chip on my shoulder," Brooks told The Sports Xchange. "It gives me something to work toward. The training here has been good. I'll still have my pro day and an individual workout, and I'll be really ready for both of them. So maybe it's for the best."
There is probably a hint of rationalization in Brooks' assessment of the situation, but there is determination in his voice as well.
And arguably some "I'll show them" element, too, it seems. What there is not is bitterness, as evidenced by his interest in the Saturday workouts. Instead of ignoring the televised session, much as he was overlooked by Combine officials, he will use the workouts as a tool to gauge how he measures up and the components of his game on which he must work.
After a strong performance at the East-West Shrine Game, where he was measured at 6-feet-4 5/8 and 353 pounds, there was good buzz about Brooks in the scouting community, and an expectation he would be invited to Indianapolis.
Fueling that expectation in part was the recent ascent of the guard position in the league. Once viewed as a kind of "grunt" position, the guard spot, although still well below the tackle position, has been swept up in the enhanced profile that the interior line slots have received in recent years.
The prominence of guards such as the New Orleans tandem of Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans -- two veterans mentioned by Brooks when asked about interior linemen who he followed closely and attempted to emulate in his play -- has elevated the position in the eyes of scouts. As recently as 2009, there were no guards selected in the first round of the draft. With David DeCastro of Stanford leading the way, this will be the third straight year with at least one first-round guard.
Said Brooks, who is currently at 346 pounds, thanks in part to API's emphasis on nutritional training: "The attention (for guards) has definitely been better. Teams seem to want the strong guy for the running game, but someone who can protect, too. Probably the position is better rounded than it used to be."
Primarily a guard for most of his career, Brooks has spent some time at tackle, so he is familiar with pass protection schemes. Some scouts, and NFLDraftScout.com analyst Rob Rang, noted that Brooks lacks some lateral agility, is a bit heavy-footed, and perhaps not nasty enough. But one only has to review video from the East-West all-star game to perceive some NFL-level attributes, and to see that he is a viable draft prospect, and Rang regards the Miami star as "draft worthy."
All three of the scouts queried specifically about Brooks agreed he will be drafted.
Brooks will depart API on Monday, after weeks of training that included twice-daily sessions and the addition of 20 pounds of muscle, and continue preparing for his March 1 pro day and an individual audition for scouts a week later. He will use the Combine exclusion as continuing prod, and this bit of motivation, as well.
"You just look at a guy like Sebastian Vollmer," Brooks said, referring to the New England three-year veteran right offensive tackle. "He wasn't invited, either, to the Combine, and he got drafted in the second round (in 2009). This year, he started in the Super Bowl.
"That's not so bad."
Posted on: February 25, 2012 11:41 am
Edited on: February 25, 2012 11:44 am
Iowa offensive tackle Markus Zusevics tore his left pectoral muscle while performing in the bench press drills in front of NFL scouts Friday at the 2012 Scouting Combine.
The injury will require surgery, according to NFL.com's Steve Wyche, and unfortunately ends his Combine prematurely. Even worse, it may put into question his ability to play as a rookie.
While Seattle Seahawks' quarterback Tarvaris Jackson was able to throw passes this past season with a torn pectoral, his injury did not require surgery, according to Seahawks' head coach Pete Carroll. On the flip-side, Houston Texans' pass rusher Mario Williams' torn pectoral last season did require surgery and knocked him out for the remainder of the 2011 season. He suffered the injury in the Texans' Week Five loss to the Oakland Raiders, October 9.
Zusevics (pronounced ZOOZ-uh-vicks) had been rated as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 15 offensive tackle for the 2012 draft and a possible 5th round prospect. The injury, however, very much clouds his status.
For the remainder of the prospects' bench press results, you can click here.
Posted on: February 25, 2012 11:07 am
One of the more eagerly anticipated workouts of the Scouting Combine each year occurs when the offensive (and defensive) linemen perform in the bench press drill. This is not a test measured to test a player's maximum bench press but rather their strength and conditioning. Athletes are asked to lift 225 pounds as many times as possible without stopping.
While scouts would love to see every offensive lineman lift the bar 30 times or more at the Combine, the reality is there is a significant difference in the strength required for different offensive line positions. Those athletes with enough size, foot quickness and balance to play left tackle in the NFL, for example, don't necessarily need as much upper body strength as the other offensive linemen - especially interior linemen.
Due to this fact, the relatively low number posted by Ohio State tackle Mike Adams (19) isn't necessarily a critical blow to his draft stock if a team feels that he has the athleticism to handle remaining at left tackle in the NFL. If he was to make the move to right tackle (where I believe he fits best), the number is a bit troubling. Traditionally, left defensive ends (who line up opposite right tackles) are the stronger, stouter versions of their more explosive pass rushing specialist right defensive ends -- at least for the 4-3 defense. Also, because of Adams' long arms (33 3/4") his football strength isn't necessarily indicated by weight room numbers. Remember, three offensive tackles drafted in the first round last year -- Nate Solder (21), James Carpenter (23) and Derek Sherrod (23) -- posted similar totals at the 2011 Combine. Adams, by the way, is currently NFLDraftScout.com's No. 4 rated offensive tackle.
Frankly, I'm more concerned with Wisconsin center Peter Konz's 18 repetitions of 225 pounds, NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated center prospect for the 2012 draft. Now, to be fair to Konz, he too has long arms (33") but considering that he'll be playing in the trenches, the relative lack of strength is a potentially significant concern. Konz's size and athleticism is intriguing enough that some teams view him as a better fit at guard in the NFL. Regardless of playing center or guard, the strength of interior linemen is very important when projecting their success at the next level. No interior lineman drafted in the first two rounds since 2005 posted less than 22 reps of 225 pounds at the Combine. By comparison, the past two centers to get drafted in the first round -- Maurkice Pouncey (2010) and Mike Pouncey (2011) lifted the bar 25 and 24 times, respectively, during their Pro Days.