Tag:Auburn
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 28, 2011 6:44 pm
 

Cam Newton "struggled" in some team interviews

Cam Newton's struggles in the throwing session at the Combine Sunday has already been well documented. His strategy of reading a prepared statement and refusing to acknowledge the extent of the "mistakes" he made earlier in his career while at Florida has been hotly contested.

Even more of a concern, however, is that the reigning Heisman winner is also struggling answering football questions during team interviews at the Combine.

NFLDraftScout.com has learned that at least two teams gave Newton poor grades for his "football character" following interviewing him at the Combine. Newton, according to league sources, had a difficult time drawing up plays and how to react to different defensive schemes when asked to work on the white board.

There is no denying Newton's potential, but his success in spread option offense much simpler than anything he'll see in the NFL continues to be his greatest challenge. Not all teams are convinced he has the ability to make the adjustment to the complex defensive schemes he'll see at the pro level.

Posted on: February 28, 2011 6:29 pm
 

Beware: "manufactured" speed doesn't translate

The Combine always produces some eye-popping test results. Some times, these results match the tape. Other times, however, they are the result of great training and so-called "workout warriors" whose speed, strength or explosiveness in workouts does not translate well onto the field.
Former Boston College pass rusher Mike Mamula is, of course, the most famous example of this phenomenon.

As the results pour in from this year's Combine, it is important to identify which players actually play with the same measureables as what they demonstrated on the Indianapolis track.

Take Alabama's Mark Ingram or Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers as prime examples. Neither tested particularly well. Ingram was clocked at 4.62 in the 40-yard dash. Rodgers came in at 4.64. Both play considerably faster than their Combine times.

The following is a list of players whose 40 times surprised me so far. I'm not claiming that they're workout warriors whose speed doesn't translate to the field. However, I've scouted each of these prospects and these times did, indeed, surprise me. I will go back to the tape and look again to see if I missed something the first time around and adjust my thoughts on them, accordingly.

  • Da'Rell Scott, RB, Maryland -- Maryland churns out speedsters, but none more surprising than Scott, who led all running backs with a 4.34 second time in the 40-yard dash.
  • Mario Fannin, RB, Auburn -- timed at 4.38 seconds, yet rarely demonstrated this type of explosiveness for the Tigers.
  • Julio Jones, WR, Alabama -- defenses weren't scared of his deep speed this season. Was he hurt or did teams not respect Greg McElroy's ability to throw the deep ball? His 4.39 second showing in the 40-yard dash was a stunner.
  • Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami -- Hankerson, himself, told me he "hoped he'd break the 4.50 mark when I interviewed him at the Senior Bowl. He made a lot of big plays, but his time (4.43) was surprising.
Posted on: February 27, 2011 2:52 pm
 

Ponder out-shines Newton in 2nd QB session

Cam Newton entered the second throwing session of the Combine with all of the hype, but it was Florida State's Christian Ponder who stole the show.

Ponder showed surprising zip and very good accuracy throughout the throwing session, especially in the short to intermediate levels. His deep outs and post-corner routes were especially impressive.

Newton has all of the physical tools scouts are looking for, but showed that he is still in the early developmental stages in dropping back, transferring his weight and throwing passes accurately. This led to some of his throws -- especially timing routes like deep outs -- to sail on him.

We'll have more on the QB and WR drills as a feature article.
Posted on: February 26, 2011 4:37 pm
 

Newton, like Mallett, fails to answer tough Qs

Though he was unquestionably more poised in his responses, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, like his SEC counterpart Ryan Mallett, elected not to answer questions about his past when taking questions from the media at the Combine Saturday.

Newton did admit to "mistakes" at Florida but wouldn't go into detail when pressed about them.

The willingness to admit he's made mistakes helped appease a mob of media ready to pounce after Mallett repeatedly brushed aside their questions about his past.

Newton has a personable demeanor about him that makes people like him. His charm helped him today win over some members despite the fact that his rumored violations could be every bit as serious to scouts as the ones circling Mallett, Weslye Saunders of South Carolina, and a host of North Carolina players, among others.

Having watched players dazzle the media over the years -- including quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Matt Ryan -- and transfer that ability to skyrocket up draft boards during team interviews, I can greater understand the growing sentiment that Newton will wind up as the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Posted on: February 24, 2011 11:41 am
 

Did John Fox leak Broncos plan for No. 2 overall?

Denver Broncos head coach John Fox may have unintentionally leaked the direction his team will be going with the No. 2 overall pick.

The Broncos need help on the defensive line. Ranking dead last in the NFL in total defense, including 31st against the run will do that to a club. The team is also transitioning back to a 4-3 defense.

Fox sound excited about the impending healthy return of pass rusher Elvis Dumervil. He twice cited the fact that Dumervil "had 17 sacks" and erased any doubt that Dumervil would be returning back to defensive end, as he had played prior to former head coach Josh McDaniels' switching the Broncos to a 3-4 defense.

The surprise came moments later when he described his feelings about Broncos' 2009 first round pick Robert Ayers, a defensive end at the University of Tennessee, who struggled the past two seasons as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

Fox, when asked what he thought of Ayers and how he fit in with his defensive scheme, "I saw him [Ayers] as a 4-3 defensive end. We've got him penciled in as a defensive end. I have the utmost confidence that he'll be a productive player for us this season."

If Fox does, indeed, have the "utmost confidence" in Ayers and is comfortable with Dumervil's return after a torn pectoral muscle sidelined him all of last year, the Broncos will likely be looking at defensive tackle with the No. 2 overall pick rather than defensive end Da'Quan Bowers from Clemson or Robert Quinn from North Carolina.

Fox wouldn't go into specifics about this year's defensive tackle group, but seemed less than enthusiastic about his team's current defensive tackles.

Auburn's Nick Fairley and Alabama's Marcell Dareus are considered by most scouts to be top five prospects. Both have the size and physicality to be an immediate upgrade inside for the Broncos.
Posted on: February 22, 2011 1:49 pm
 

Gil Brandt would be "shocked" if Newton not No. 1

Last night I described Cam Newton as getting a head start on Missouri's Blaine Gabbert in the race to be the first quarterback selected in the 2011 draft.

According to Gil Brandt, the race is already over.
Brandt, an NFL.com analyst and longtime Dallas Cowboys' director of personnel, was quoted by Jimmy Burch in Monday's Star Telegram that he'd be "shocked" if Newton was not the No. 1 overall pick of the draft.

While Newton is unquestionably talented , Brandt's prediction is a bold one. Just because Newton is a spectacular athletic talent and plays the quarterback position does not necessarily mean he should be the first player selected. Newton's numerous character concerns and adjustment to a pro-style offense require significant investigation.

Perhaps Brandt and some clubs have learned enough already about Newton. I have not. I look forward to watching his interview and workout. Both will have play a considerable role in my ultimate grade on his NFL prospects.

Perhaps most importantly, it is important to note the fit that Newton may or may not have with the Carolina Panthers, who, of course, own the No. 1 overall pick.

This is a team currently built around the running game. While the Panthers could lose impending free agent DeAngelo Williams, they boast the talents of Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson and a solid run-blocking offensive line. On the one hand, adding a multi-purpose threat like Newton might seem like the perfect addition to the club. On the other hand, however, a ball control quarterback might be a better fit for a team likely to be built around the running the ball and defense -- the style of play new head coach Ron Rivera is thought to prefer.

Rivera's offensive coordinator, Rob Chudzinski, might also be making a huge adjustment should the Panthers elect to take Newton. Chudzinski, who was promoted to this role after serving as the tight ends coach and assistant head coach for the Chargers last season, may not have the experience with multi-purpose quarterbacks to endorse such an obvious gamble on pure athletiicsm.
 
Posted on: February 20, 2011 12:27 pm
 

Combine Countdown -- QB Ryan Mallett

Between today and the beginning of the NFL Combine Thursday, I'm going to list one player per position who I see as having the most riding on their performance. That means multiple updates each day, so keep tuning in.

You'll see a couple of overriding themes with the players I select. For one, many of them are underclassmen. Obviously, most of them have played in fewer games than the seniors, so talent evaluators are forced to make a greater projection. Also, whereas most seniors have previously been measured and timed, the underclassmen have not. If a player is shorter or lighter than NFL teams thought this week, he most likely will be an underclassmen.

The other theme you'll see me mention throughout these posts is that interviews and medical testing are infinitely more important to a players' grade than how fast they run, high they jump or times they can lift 225 pounds. Medical testing is critical for obvious reasons. Before you scoff at the importance of the interviews, recall yourself at 21 or 22. Can you honestly say, you'd work harder after someone presented you a multi-million dollar contract? Not many of us have that type of maturity. Not many players do either. And that is precisely who the great scouting teams are looking to weed out, regardless of how athletic they are.

Arkansas junior quarterback Ryan Mallett is the perfect prospect to lead off the series (at least in my humble opinion).

Mallett would be wise to do all of the testing in Indianapolis. His size and big arm will stand out next to the other quarterbacks. Even if he is inaccurate -- which he shouldn't be as he's typically at his best when his feet are set -- the velocity with which he throws will catch the attention of NFL coaches who haven't researched him for months like the scouts have.

Of course, of greater importance to Mallett's final grade will be how he handles the team (and, quite frankly, the media) interviews. Mallett is going to get hit with lots of questions about his so-called lack of leadership and reports of illegal drug use. The poise and honesty with which Mallett handles these questions could the difference in his landing in the first round -- as his passing ability warrants -- or slipping into the second or even third round. 

No quarterback - not even Cam Newton - has as much riding on their total Combine performance than Mallett.

For the very best in NFL Combine coverage, keep your eyes glued to NFLDraftScout.com and my and Chad Reuter's Twitter feeds. I'm @RobRang . He's @ChadReuter .
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com