Posted on: April 26, 2011 10:34 am
Edited on: April 26, 2011 11:29 am

Report: Houston, Ballard failed combine drug test

Georgia outside linebacker/defensive end Justin Houston and Iowa defensive lineman Christian Ballard failed drug tests at the scouting combine in Indianapolis in February, according to a report by FOXSports.com.

Houston is a converted defensive end who registered 10 sacks as a junior in a pass-rushing role created for him by the Bulldogs' defensive staff, and he jumped on the opportunity to leave Georgia after his junior season. He has been considered a late-first or second-round draft value and is the No. 44-rated player overall by NFLDraftScout.com.

Houston has been an intriguing prospect for 3-4 teams because he already has a season of experience rushing off the edge, compared to most converted defensive ends who need to make a completely new transition to the role in the NFL. However, he's also considered a one-trick pony who is more athlete than football player at this point and might lack the explosiveness to develop into an elite pass rusher in the NFL.

Ballard has been projected as a second-round pick and is the 59th-rated prospect by NFLDraftScout.com, including the 10th-rated player in a very deep defensive end class. He has experience inside and outside and plays with explosion and hustle. A tight end when he arrived at Iowa, Ballard is excellent in one-on-one drills but struggles to make impact plays once the whistle blows.

Neither player has any previous records involving marijuana, according to the FOXSports.com report. If the reports of a failed drug test are true, it could significantly impact both players, who were already entering the draft fighting the dreaded 'tweener label as excellent athletes who might lack an ideal position in the NFL.

--Derek Harper, NFLDraftScout.com Executive Editor

Posted on: April 25, 2011 1:45 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 7:41 pm

NFL's PR play will create awkward draft viewing

The public relations digs from both sides in the labor dispute have hit full tilt since the lockout began, with neither side wanting to miss an opportunity to win additional public sentiment.

You can almost feel the NFL and the players looking at the invisible pendulumn swinging and just waiting for an opportunity to push gravity in their favor.

The NFLPA immediately retreated amid strong backlash when word leaked out that the union would encourage prospects invited to the draft to skip the event at Radio City Music Hall and instead attend union-sponsored events in NYC.

Sensing the momentum, the NFL is going to squeeze every ounce of PR juice out of the door opened by the NFLPA's slip up. The league announced that a record 25 prospects have accepted invitations to attend Thursday night's first round festivities in primetime.

That's not including several who were invited but have chosen to stay home to watch the first round with their families, including quarterbacks Jake Locker and Colin Kaepernick. But it does include a host of players considered fringe first-round prospects by NFLDraftScout.com.

It could make for an uncomfortable scene late in the stanza as 5-6 prospects will likely be sitting in the "green room" as commentators discuss what a great value they'll make 24 hours later. Among those could be Kentucky WR Randall Cobb, UCLA S Rahim Moore, Baylor NT Phil Taylor, Baylor OL Danny Watkins and Virginia Tech RB Ryan Williams. And a few others could slide into the category as the night wears on.

Boston College LB Mark Herzlich will also be in attendance, but the cancer survivor has an inspirational story and isn't expected to be selected until at least the middle rounds (he's projected as a sixth-round value by NFLDraftScout.com.

Update: The NFL Network's Jason La Canfora reported that Herzlich will be announced with the others and take part in a group photo, but then will be allowed to stay as long as he likes or leave to be with friends and family. That's a sensible approach for a compelling prospect who likely won't hear his name called until Saturday - if at all.

--Derek Harper, NFLDraftScout.com Executive Editor
Posted on: April 25, 2011 1:28 pm

DE Da'Quan Bowers' knee a concern for many

One of the biggest stories leading up to Thursday's opening of the 2011 NFL Draft has been the health of Da'Quan Bowers' surgically-repaired right knee.

Though, disinformation runs rampant in the days before the draft, historically-speaking, if several sources are telling you the same thing (even at this point) the information is typically true.

If the information is, indeed, true, Bowers could be in for a dramatic draft-day fall.

I've spoken to representatives of four different NFL teams who each have "legitimate concerns" about Bowers' knee and the leg strength surrounding it.

As a way of cutting through the smokescreens, I simply asked one team's representative how much faith he placed in his team's medical staff.

He explained that several teams, while confident in their own doctors, don't rely on one opinion. Just as members of National Scouting and BLESTO share scouting information, some NFL teams routinely "trade" medical reports on players. The source claimed to have the medical reports from six different teams (including his own) on Bowers and other prospects.

According to the source, each of the six teams had identified Bowers' knee as a concern. One club he identified as having given the knee a score of 3 (on a scale of 1 to 5), which could result in pushing the player's grade a full round.

The source expected Bowers, who was once viewed as a possible candidate for No. 1 overall, to slip into "the teens or later, but to probably still make the first round."

Both Chad Reuter and I each have the nation's leading sacker (15.5 sacks) slipping to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 20th overall selection. Based on the medical information, NFLDraftScout.com has dropped Bowers to No. 17 in our overall rankings.

Bowers underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus following the 2010 season. He elected not to participate in the Scouting Combine despite being "100 percent" as he wanted an opportunity to get into top physical condition like the other prospects had enjoyed. While this is certainly understandable, teams were initially concerned about the fact that Bowers postponed his Pro Day workout from its' originally scheduled date (March 10) to April 1st. Even with the longer time since his surgery, some felt that Bowers' workout was disappointing.
Posted on: April 23, 2011 12:18 pm

Vets' character ?s could (should) impact rookies

The end of the Collective Bargaining Agreement has put the 2011 (and future) NFL seasons in doubt. It has eliminated free agency and veteran trades (to this point) and put a damper on the enthusiasm that many fans have about next weekend's draft.

Perhaps the most unfortunate consequence of NFL teams not being able to communicate directly with their veteran players, however, has been the sudden rise in off-field problems for too many of the league's players.

The NFL world is buzzing this morning about the apparent stabbing of Miami wide receiver Brandon Marshall . This, of course, comes on the heels of Tampa Bay Bucs' cornerback Aqib Talib being charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and for Dallas' wide receiver Dez Bryant's silly controversy regarding he or his friend's inability to wear their pants at a level deemed appropriate by police working inside a shopping mall.

The troubles from these veteran NFL players are as wide-ranging as they are predictable.

As many draft fans know, each of these players was plagued by character questions when entering the NFL.

The actions of these (and other) players since the end of the CBA should serve as a reminder to NFL teams that for some players -- even if they don't like trouble, trouble seems to like them.

Others in the media have highlighted specific instances of criminal activity or character concerns with prospects. I, too, have reservations about many prospects in this draft, which is why I've consistently referred to intangibles as one of the primary factors when ranking players on my Big Board.

I (and more importantly, NFL teams) know of prospects being given first round grades from some with multiple arrests, multiple failed drugs tests (including some who failed at the Combine and/or team administered tests since the Combine), and even multiple abortions.

Wake up NFL teams considering these players. These guys aren't holding up red-flags -- they've planted brilliant scarlet banners on their front lawns.

Does anyone believe that players with these mistakes in their past are likely to improve when given a million (or multi) dollar contract?

Some NFL veterans are proving the opposite to be true -- which could (and perhaps should) be all the more reason to proceed cautiously with any and all prospects with legitimate character concerns -- regardless of their athletic talent.

Posted on: April 10, 2011 3:54 pm

Teams looking to trade? More complicated in 2011.

Much has already been made of how the lack of a CBA will restrict teams from adding veteran players through free agency and trade.

Though teams will still have the ability to trade picks from the 2011 class (as well as future classes), they may be less willing to do so, according to league sources.

That's because teams don't know the contract parameters of the players they'll be selecting.

Put simply, under the old CBA, teams have the option of offering a six-year deal to players drafted among the first 16 picks. This isn't to say that every team would get their player to sign a six-year deal, but the team has that option. Players drafted from No. 17-32 can be offered only a five-year max deal. Any players drafted after the first round can only be given a four-year maximum contract.

With no CBA in place, it is anyone's guess if the old rules will apply to this year's draft class.

That fact might make it less likely that a team drafting in the top half of the first round would want to drop into the second half... or lower.  Teams aren't going to want to give up the extended time in which they hold a player's rights -- especially in a year when rookies may not be able to contribute much early. Rookies, like every other NFL player, won't be allowed contact with their new coaching staffs until after an agreement is forged between the union and team owners.
Posted on: April 7, 2011 12:57 pm

All 32 teams represented at Indiana WR's Pro Day

Indiana wideout and kick returner Tandon Doss is considered one of the better "second-tier" prospects in the draft. This much was proven by the fact all 32 teams were represented at his Wednesday Pro Day, according to an NFL source on the scene.

Doss, who left after his junior season, is a two-time All-Big Ten selection who led the conference in all-purpose yards last season (175.8 per game) despite missing the opening game of the season with a groin injury. Doss battled through the injury throughout the season and had surgery on both groins on December 2, keeping him sidelined for the Combine and Indiana's initial Pro Day, March 10.

Doss, according to the source, was given a 2nd-3rd round grade from the NFL Advisory Committee.

Despite his production and high grade, teams are nervous about his recovery. Doss (6-2, 202 pounds) caught the ball fluidly during his workout Wednesday, but timed slower than hoped. This scout had him at 4.59 and 4.64, though NFL.com's Gil Brandt cites a source who had Doss timing between 4.62 and 4.67. Brandt also lists Doss as having a 32 ½-inch vertical jump , a 9-8 broad jump, and ran a 4.21 short shuttle and 7.04 3-cone drill and notes that these efforts are probably not indicative of Doss' true athleticism as he recovers from the surgery.

When healthy, Doss' ability as a downfield target and kick returner has been proven. Though he lacks true explosiveness, his size, good route-running and reliable hands make him an intriguing fit in the West Coast Offense.

Below is a video of his performance against Michigan in 2009. In it, you can see his versatility and big play ability.

Posted on: April 4, 2011 1:33 pm

Liuget will attend draft

Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget became the seventh prospect to publicly announce he intends to be at the NFL Draft, telling The (Champaign, Ill.) News-Gazette that he'll be at Radio City Music Hall on April 28.

Liuget has enjoyed a strong pre-draft circuit, and has steadily moved up many teams' boards. The Miami native is viewed as a potential first-round prospect by NFLDraftScout.com, and boasts good versatility. His ability to generate a pass rush from the three-technique and nose spots will excite teams using four-man fronts. His experience at the five-technique and nose tackle positions his season should intrigue 3-4 teams, as well.

The other players to publicly commit to being at the draft include UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers, Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn, Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones, Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson and USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith.

--Derek Harper, NFLDraftScout.com Executive Editor
Posted on: April 4, 2011 1:25 pm
Edited on: April 4, 2011 1:26 pm

McElroy to work out Tuesday

Alabama QB Greg McElroy and TE/FB Preston Dial are scheduled to work out in Tuscaloosa on Tuesday along with South Alabama WR Courtney Smith, according to a report by NFL.com.

McElroy, who is rated as a fifth-round pick by NFLDraftScout.com, had surgery on his throwing hand for an injury suffered at the Senior Bowl and was unable to throw at the scouting combine or at Alabama's pro day. Dial has been bothered by a sports hernia. Undersized to play a traditional tight end role in the NFL, he's viewed as a potential late-round pick as an H-Back prospect.

McElroy worked with Smith at the Senior Bowl, and it will be a vital workout for the raw wideout. Smith was not invited to the combine and is also viewed as a late-round prospect or priority free agent by NFLDraftScout.com. He has excellent size at 6-feet-4 and 223 pounds, and would benefit greatly if he can improve upon his 4.65 40.

--Derek Harper, NFLDraftScout.com Executive Editor
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com