Tag:Washington
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.

Posted on: February 23, 2011 11:12 pm
 

Who'll Run Fastest? My position by position take

As I've noted previously, the most important element of the Scouting Combine to NFL teams lies with the medical testing and interviews.

The most entertaining part of the Combine, however, is of course, the athletic drills. The 40-yard dash, in particularly, has taken on a life of its own as the Combine's preeminent drill.

Ask five NFL scouts to predict who will be the fastest player in Indianapolis this year and you might get five different names. Rather than just identify one or five prospects who could turn in blazing times, I thought I'd give you my pick for each position.

Disagree? Perhaps in the greatest example of how big the NFL Combine has become, you can literally put your money where your mouth is and make prop bets through Bodog.com.

I didn't make any bets. If I had, these would have been my picks.

QB: Jake Locker, Washington -- I'm picking a bit of an upset from the start. Cam Newton is considered the favorite by most to the fastest and perhaps he'll prove he is. I expect each of them to run in the 4.5 range.

RB: Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech -- It is too bad that Eastern Washington's Taiwan Jones is still recovering from a broken bone, as I would have loved to have picked the D-II star to shock the world here. The world will have to wait for his Pro Day. If Williams runs the 4.4 or better time I expect, he could make a push for the late first round, just like former Cal star Jahvid Best did last year.

WR: Ricardo Lockett, Fort Valley State -- Despite the fact that he's a D-II prospect, Lockett's explosive speed at 6-3, 212 pounds makes him a well known commodity to many scouts. Lockette has publicly said he hopes to challenge Chris Johnson's 4.24 second time from 2008. Abilene Christian's Edmund Gates, Troy's Jerrel Jernigan, Boise State's Titus Young and Maryland's Torrey Smith can also fly, making wide receiver the year's most competitive group.

TE: Virgil Green, Nevada -- If anyone might have wondered why the Wolfpack lost only one game last year, you can point to the spectacular athleticism of Green, OLB Moch and, of course, QB Colin Kaepernick. Green could wind up in the 4.5s at 6-4 and 250 pounds.

OL: Nate Solder, Colorado -- USC's Tyron Smith is a spectacular athlete, but so too is Solder. There are some who believe he'll produce results similar to the ones that pushed former Central Michigan star Joe Staley into the first round. Staley was credited with a 4.78 second time in the 40 at 6-6, 306 pounds.

DL: Robert Quinn, North Carolina -- With nearly a full year to prepare for these workouts, as well as jaw-dropping athleticism to begin with, Quinn is going to be impressive. Perhaps that's why I listed him as my No. 5 overall prospect in the 2011 draft and have argued for months that he's a more explosive pass rusher than Da'Quan Bowers.

LB: Dontay Moch, Nevada -- Moch stunned scouts last spring when he was clocked in at 4.28 seconds in the 40-yard dash. I'm not so sure he can match that time on Indianapolis' notoriously slow track, but he should lap the field in a relatively weak year for linebackers.

CB: Demarcus Van Dyke, Miami -- LSU's Patrick Peterson told the media that his goal in the 40-yard dash was in the 4.2s. Van Dyke might actually accomplish this rare feat.

S: Rahim Moore, UCLA -- I'm not as high on Moore as many are, but there is no denying his pure athleticism. He could be one of the few safeties in this class that can break the 4.50 mark.

Posted on: February 13, 2011 3:14 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2011 3:17 pm
 

Interviews most underrated component of Combine

The workouts get all of the attention and savvy NFL draft followers know that the medical grades are actually the most important part of the Combine.

One critical piece of the Combine pie that gets very little exposure is the player interview process.

In the past, the interviews teams get with players have only earned attention when something bizarre occurs -- like last year when the Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland asked then-Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant about his mother's ... uhhh... profession.

In reality, however, this is an integral part of the Combine.

Teams are attempting to learn through a 15 minute interview if the young man sitting opposite them is one of the rare individuals who will actually work harder after signing a multi-million dollar contract.

When I visited Athletes Performance for an article two years ago on the process high-ranking athletes go through in Combine preparation, everyone there was willing to talk about the revolutionary techniques in exercise, nutrition and rehabilitation. Few, however, talk about the significant coaching that players go through to prepare for interviews.

Based on polling various scouts throughout the league, here are 15 high profile players who have as much riding on their interviews with teams as they do the other more hyped components of the Combine.

Players are listed alphabetically.
  • Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina
  • Jon Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
  • Kenrick Ellis, DT, Hampton
  • Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
  • A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
  • Greg Little, WR, North Carolina
  • Jake Locker, QB, Washington
  • Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
  • Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
  • Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
  • Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh
  • Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
  • Tyron Smith, OT, USC
  • Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
  • Titus Young, WR, Boise State


Posted on: January 29, 2011 2:59 pm
 

Don't put it past Locker to star in Sr Bowl

Washington's Jake Locker was the most scrutizined player in Mobile throughout this week's Senior Bowl practices.

The game will be no different -- except in one very key area.

I don't recall a single snap during the week of practice in which Locker ran with the ball. He clearly was attempting to put to bed concerns about his accuracy in the pocket. While he was unsuccessful in doing so, he also took away the element that makes him special.

Most of the mobile quarterbacks in the NFL lack elite accuracy. Their ability to buy time in the pocket or force secondary defenders to come up in run support and thereby leave their coverage responsibilities is precisely the skill that helps some passers succeed despite great accuracy.

Locker may have stuck in the pocket to his own detriment, at times, during the week of practice. In the game, however, his competitive juices could force him to vacate it -- especially if the South's defensive line is successful in rushing the passer -- as is the case in most all-star games, including last Saturday's East-West Shrine game.

This fact sets up the three most mobile passers in the Senior Bowl -- Locker, Nevada's Colin Kaepernick and Florida State's Christian Ponder -- to enjoy some success.

Kaepernick and Ponder have each helped themselves this week with strong performances. Sure, they'd like a strong finish to their week, but a ho-hum game will not hurt the impression they've already made on scouts.

Locker, however, has more riding on the game than the others due to his mediocre practices. That fact, as well as his re-discovered mobility could result in a strong, perhaps even MVP, performance.

The Senior Bowl will be televised by the NFL Network. It begins at 4 pm EST.
Posted on: January 5, 2011 3:10 pm
 

My thoughts on Andrew Luck, Jake Locker

Doug Farrar of Football Outsiders, Yahoo, Sports Press Northwest and probably another couple dozen entities since I began this blog posting recently asked me to provide a "paragraph or two" breakdown of Stanford's Andrew Luck and Washington's Jake Locker.

The finished article, which includes play by play details of both Pac-10 quarterbacks' performances in their recent bowl games, is part of Doug's weekly Cover Three piece for Football Outsiders and can be seen here.

Here are my thoughts on Luck. Below are my thoughts on Locker.

Andrew Luck has remarkably advanced technique for a redshirt sophomore. When dropping back, he shows good balance and fluidity, keeping his eyes downfield and quickly identifying the defense. He quickly scans the field and rarely forces the ball into coverage. Luck has an efficient over-the-top release, yet shows the ability to change his throwing slot, as needed. He possesses a strong arm, though it is not a rocket. Besides his ability to quickly decipher coverages, Luck's best attribute is his rare accuracy.

Where most quarterback prospects are content to hit their receivers in stride, Luck shows the remarkable ability to lead his receivers to the opening -- pushing wideouts upfield, turning them around when the safety is closing, placing the ball low or high so that his target has the best chance to make the reception. Like most passers, Luck's accuracy suffers when he's on the move, but he's shown the ability to square his shoulders and fire accurately while on the run. There is only one quarterback I've scouted with Luck's combination of intelligence, accuracy and size -- the previously incomparable Peyton Manning.

Jake Locker is the most frustrating quarterback prospect I've scouted in more than 10 years in the profession. Physically, he has the skills to warrant a Top 10 selection. Locker is experienced in the pro-style offense, demonstrating the quick feet and balance necessary in dropping back from center. He has a over-the-top release and a very strong arm. Locker's accuracy is maddeningly inconsistent, however. He's developed some bad habits running for cover behind a porous Washington offensive line, panicking when his first reads are covered and throwing off his back foot. Surprisingly for a four-year starter, Locker doesn't read defenses as well as scouts would like, , too often putting the ball up for grabs.

For all of his faults, however, Locker has made some of his most impressive throws in critical situations, coming through with clutch passes in upsets over USC, Cal, and most recently against Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. Throws like those have forced scouts to wonder how successful he might be if surrounded by more talent. Of course, Locker's most impressive physical attributes are his speed and power as a runner. Besides his rare running ability, Locker's toughness and leadership are the kind NFL decision-makers fall in love with during interviews. He reminds me of Donovan McNabb.


Posted on: December 31, 2010 10:02 pm
 

My Favorite Draft Stories of 2010

The 2010 season has been overrun with stories of scandal, sanctions and distractions from the competition and passion that makes college football great.

So, with so much of the year focused on negative stories that occurred off the field, I thought it appropriate to highlight some of the positive off-field stories, as well.
The following are links to my 10 favorite draft stories of 2010.
 
Did I miss some? I hope so. Feel free to chime in with some of yours too.


These last four stories are obviously not as heart-wrenching or important as the first six. They do, however, serve as reminders as to what is right about college football in a year when so many devoted so much time to what is wrong with it.

On behalf of everyone at NFLDraftScout.com, have a happy and safe New Year!
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com