Posted on: February 26, 2010 3:00 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2010 3:47 pm
Too much can be made out of the size and speed shown by prospects at the Combine.
If there is one number that has traditionally scared scouts, however, it has been hand size for ball-carriers -- especially for running backs. Small hands mean less protection of the football, at least theoretically.
For that reason, Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer, who officially only had 5 fumbles in over 550 touches with the 'Jackets, could see his stock slip this week.
The 5-11 1/4, 229 pound Dwyer has the smallest hands of any true tailback measured at the Combine this year. His hands, measured from the end of his thumb to his small (pinkie) finger measured in at only 8 and 5/8 inches. Only diminutive all-purpose back Dexter McCluster (5'8 3/4, 172 pounds) measured in with smaller hands among the 26 backs here. McCluster's hand came in at 8 and 3/8 of an inch.
As a comparison, top rated running back CJ Spiller, who measured in at 5105, 196 pounds, has 10 and 1/4" hands.
Considering that scouts already questioned how well Dwyer would project to a pro offense after playing in Paul Johnson's triple option attack, this is shaping up to be a bad start to the week for a back whose production (nearly 2,800 yards over 2008-09) should warrant plenty of NFL attention.
Posted on: February 11, 2010 6:11 pm
Edited on: February 11, 2010 6:14 pm
I traveled last year to Athletes Performance Institute in Tempe, Arizona to get a firsthand look at the training that goes on prior the Combine. Following this trip, I also spoke to gold medal winner and world record holder Michael Johnson about the performance center which bears his name and his work with high profile NFL prospects prior to the Combine.
Johnson boasted an impressive class last year, including first round picks Michael Crabtree, Knowshon Moreno and Brandon Pettigrew.
Some of his detractors were quick to point out that Moreno and Pettigrew were disappointingly slow in workouts and that Crabtree, Johnson's most celebrated prospect, never did work out for scouts.
Those detractors must not have carried much weight, however, as Johnson boasts an impressive group of prospects this year -- even more impressive than last's year's crop.
Among those signed up to work with Johnson is Ndamukong Suh, LSU wide receiver Brandon LaFell, Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer, Texas pass rusher Sergio Kindle, Kansas wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe, Mississippi defensive end Greg Hardy and his former teammate, Dexter McCluster, among others.
A strong showing by these athletes in workouts this year not only will boost their own stock, it could further improve Michael Johnson's profile within the pre-combine training community.
Posted on: December 30, 2009 1:02 pm
In my last post, I highlighted what I expect to be the best one on one battle between highly rated senior prospects of the bowl season with Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung lining up opposite Mississippi defensive end Greg Hardy.
Hardy's inability to remain healthy made the dream matchup appear to be just a tease, until it was announced that Hardy had deemed himself 100% recovered from the wrist surgery and ankle injuries that had robbed him of his senior season.
Now, it might be Okung who is unable to suit up due to injury.
The Tulsa World is reporting that Okung suffered a knee injury during the closed practice held at Cowboy Stadium. Head coach Mike Gundy did not sound as if he knew the extent of the injury at his press conference following the practice, offering only "I really can't even comment on it..."
Okung, the veteran of 46 consecutive starts for the Cowboys, has been NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior offensive tackle all year long.
The link to the Tulsa World article is here.
Posted on: December 28, 2009 2:25 pm
Mississippi's Greg Hardy is the wildcard in a supremely talented class of defensive linemen. When healthy, he's proven over his career to be as disruptive as DL in the country, including even Ndamukong Suh.
The problem, of course, is that he hasn't been able to stay healthy.
Sidelined since undergoing surgery on the left wrist he broke against Northern Arizona on November 7th, however, Hardy has had time to heal. The wrist and two sore ankles that limited him for much of his senior season have healed.
As he told David Brandt of The Clarion Ledger, ""The surgery allowed me some time to get my ankle and my foot back under me," Hardy said. "Now I can come back with confidence and no pain and can be my regular self."
Perhaps most intriguing about Hardy's recovery is who he'll be lining up against -- Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung (6-5, 302), the top-rated senior offensive tackle.
Okung has allowed only one sack all season long and despite playing in a spread offense based more on finesse and technique, Okung is a bit of a brawler and one of the only OTs in the country capable of matching up one on one with a healthy Hardy. Neither Okung nor Hardy, 6-4, 265, are spectacular athletes, but instead rely on physicality, strong hand play and determination to get the job done. The matchup is a potential coup for Hardy, who could supply a great late boost to his stock against Okung and has the ready excuse of being rusty should he fail to deliver on this opportunity.
Okung could further distance himself from the other OTs of this class with a strong performance against Hardy, a better, more powerful DE than anyone Okung has faced this season. Giving up a sack or two against Hardy could put Okung's spot at the top of the OT class very much in question. While Rutgers' junior Anthony Davis (6-6, 325) hasn't been as consistent as the Okung, he's bigger, more athletic and has experience in a pro-style offense and as such is seen by some as possessing more upside for the NFL.
Their matchup should make for one of the most intriguing one on one battles of the entire year.
In fact, only one other OT-DE battle of the coming bowl games will earn as much attention from scouts: the battle between Iowa OT Bryan Bulaga and Georgia Tech DE Derrick Morgan. Bulaga and Morgan are each juniors, but as legitimate first round talents, have earned plenty of interest from NFL scouts.
Posted on: September 6, 2009 4:42 pm
Greg Hardy has returned to the field for the Rebels after having to be helped off the field earlier due to pain in his left leg. Hardy had previously undergone multiple surgeries on his right foot.
Posted on: March 30, 2009 3:29 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2009 3:39 pm
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 26, 2009 9:37 pm
Michael Oher had been characterized as slipping down draft boards after only a so-so performance in drills and interviews while at the Combine.
His teammate, defensive tackle Peria Jerry, likewise was slipping after not being able workout in Indianapolis due to a pulled left hamstring.
Both boosted their stock with impressive showings Thursday at the Mississippi Pro Day. Oher and Jerry's rare foot quickness stood out to scouts on film and on the field at the Senior Bowl. It did on Thursday in front of an estimated 65 scouts -- representing every team in the league -- as well.
Oher, despite working out at the Combine, was characterized by one scout attending the workout as "the star of the show." Oher, 6-5, 306 pounds shaved nearly two-tenths of a second off of his 40-yard dash time from Indianapolis, going from a 5.32 to a 5.14, according to the watch of the scout. Oher also lifted the 225 bar 25 times, though two of the attempts were not allowed by scouts because he didn't lock-out. Still, the 23 repetitions was two more than he had lifted at the Combine.
Peria Jerry was still hampered a bit by the hamstring injury and only ran the 40-yard dash once Thursday, but the 4.94 time he recorded (according to the scout) was faster than any defensive tackle as heavy as Jerry (6-2, 290) at the Combine. Jerry was just as impressive in the short shuttle (4.64) and 3-cone drill (7.30), demonstrating the agility and burst that caused him to be one of the most talked-about prospects in Mobile. Jerry also recorded a 31-inch vertical jump and a 9-foot, 6-inch broad jump. His 28 bench press reps were also impressive.
Ole Miss has several other NFL prospects of note. Wide receiver Mike Wallace elected not to perform any timed drills Thursday, after proving his unique blend of size and speed at the Combine. The 6-0, 199 pounder was timed in the 4.3s in Indianapolis and had a 40" vertical there, but did help his cause Thursday by running surprisingly crisp routes, according to the scout, and catching every pass thrown to him in drills. One of the knocks on Wallace is that he remains a bit of a track guy in pads, so catching the ball cleanly is sure to boost his stock with scouts.
Safety Jamarca Sanford (5-10, 209) showcased better speed (4.45) Thursday than he had in Indianapolis (4.50) and again proved his rare strength, lifting the bar 26 times. Sanford finished behind only USC safety-linebacker hybrid Kevin Ellison at the Combine with 29 reps.
One more note on Oher... NFLDraftScout.com ranked Oher as the top senior prospect in the country for much of the 2008 season and despite other analysts questioning if he'll even make the first round, I've stuck with him. The lowest I've had him go in any mock draft is 13th overall. There is a possibility that the questions about his consistency will drop him lower, but Oher's size, athleticism and dominance against what I believe to be the most talented conference in the college football makes him an underrated talent in my book. I believe he is a potential Pro Bowl left tackle -- and those players deserve high early first round consideration.