Posted on: February 20, 2011 12:27 pm
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 .
Posted on: February 15, 2011 3:05 pm
Jake Locker has made a wise decision to participate in all the drills at the Scouting Combine next week. He's coming off a disappointing senior season and a very uneven week at the Senior Bowl.
Posted on: February 14, 2011 1:50 pm
I was among those who spoke out against Cam Newton's media-day workout last week. I didn't see the point in Newton working out for the media when we don't own a draft pick.
Now the rationale for the workout may be emerging.
The hype generated from Newton's throwing session last Thursday no doubt contributed to Under Armour signing the Heisman Trophy winner to the biggest endorsement deal ever given to an incoming NFL prospect, according to a report from Darren Rovell of CNBC Sports Business .
Rovell's report does not include specific numbers, but he cites sources who claim the agreement "surpass[es] the $1 million a year deal adidas gave to Reggie Bush in 2006 both in terms of annual guarantee and overall dollars."
Under Armour plans to take advantage of Newton's NCAA appeal, selling Auburn jerseys with his name on them, as well as Newton-specific training apparel.
Newton will not be able to wear an Under Armour jersey in the NFL. Reebok owns the rights to these. He will, however, wear Under Armour shoes.
For the best in NFL Draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com.
Posted on: February 13, 2011 3:14 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2011 3:17 pm
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.
Category: NFL Draft
Tags: A.J. Green, Arkansas, Auburn, Auburn, Baylor, Boise State, Cam Newton, Colorado, Combine, Georgia, Greg Little, Hampton, Jabaal Sheard, Jake Locker, Jimmy Smith, Jon Baldwin, Kenrick Ellis, Marvin Austin, NFL, Nick Fairley, North Carolina, North Carolina, North Carolina, Phil Taylor, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, QB, Robert Quinn, Ryan Mallett, Southern Cal, Titus Young, Tyron Smith, USC, Washington
Posted on: February 10, 2011 8:04 pm
Marty Caswell of XX1090 AM radio in San Diego shot nearly 15 minutes of video of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton's Media Day workout Thursday. The link to the video is below.
The video has been cut up. The first seven minutes of the video are actually some of Newton's post workout question-and-answer session with the media. For those only interested in Newton's throwing, it begins at approximately the 7:03 mark.
I'd recommend listening to the interview, however. Though none of the hard questions were posed to Newton -- about the pay-for-play scandal that hung over his head while with the Tigers, etc. -- we are allowed some insight as to how he handles questions from interviewers. As we've seen in prior interviews, Newton is poised and funny, at times. He also resorts to cliches, on occasion. Is this nerves or is Newton going to struggle with the significant expansion in terminology of an NFL offense? This, much more than how well he throws in shorts, is a concern he'll need to address for teams during interviews at the Combine.
In the workout itself, Newton demonstrates good timing and efficiency in his drops. He has a smooth, over the top release and generally good accuracy. He does throw some balls a bit high, at times, especially during the early crossing routes. He shows the ability to stick some of the sideline throws, as well as demonstrate his great touch on the deep balls.
Among the more impressive things Newton does is adjust when Trent Dilfer requests some different throws. The willingness to do this -- and do it well -- no doubt contributed to Dilfer's and Warren Moon's rave reviews of the workout.
Newton does look good in on this video. The reality, is however, is that he should. Having personally been on hand for two stellar workouts that moved Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford into the top five of their respective drafts, I can tell you that I cannot see enough on this video to put Newton on par with either of those workouts.
I hope the positive press Newton is receiving from this workout encourages him to throw at the Combine. I hope to watch him in person there -- as I'm sure do the talent evaluators for 32 NFL teams.
Posted on: February 10, 2011 12:52 pm
For the first time since the BCS Championship game, Cam Newton will be throwing passes in front of a live audience.
Unfortunately, the audience will be a group of selected media, rather than NFL decision-makers at today's private workout outside of San Diego, California.
Only select media were allowed at the event. Among them is a representative of The Sports XChange, who will be contributing a report for NFLDraftScout.com.
Newton's workout will show off his live arm and rare athletic ability. What the media should be focusing on, however, is not Newton's rare physical tools, but instead on his footwork dropping back from center and if he consistently hits his receivers in stride.
I've been critical of Newton's workout in the past and remain so. The reality is, Newton can be dazzling today and it may do very little good for him. In fact, some scouts feel that Newton and his father (who reportedly pushed for this media-only event) are actually doing more harm than good to the Heisman winner's stock.
Posted on: February 3, 2011 8:04 am
I can't help but chuckle at how big signing day has become in the college football world.
There is no denying that recruiting and signing the best players are the lifeblood of college athletics. Those fortunate to have boast the best talent often win -- in college football, sports and in most situations in life.
Last year offered as great of proof of this as any. Auburn received as a dominant a performance as we've ever seen from a first-year signee with JUCO addition Cam Newton. South Carolina, which met Auburn in the SEC Championship game, did so largely due to the play of their true freshman running back Marcus Lattimore.
According to MaxPreps.com, the recruiting website featured by CBSSports.com, Notre Dame, Florida State and Alabama currently rank 1-3 as the top rated recruiting classes this year. Other recruiting organizations - such as ESPN's Scouts Inc. (FSU, Alabama, Auburn) and Rivals.com (Alabama, FSU, Texas) had slightly different rankings. It is easy to see why these teams are expected to either maintain their perch among the elite programs in the country or, as in the case of Notre Dame and Texas, re-emerge as such.
The numbers of high school All-Americans signed to a class, however, certainly doesn't translate into immediate success. Many of these players will, of course, never pan out.
As a point of comparison, I took a peek in the rearview mirror at the 2007 recruiting winners.
Most had USC as a big winner, based largely on the signings of RB Joe McKnight, DE Everson Griffen, LB Chris Galippo and QB Aaron Corp. McKnight and Griffen wound up in the NFL and Galippo and Corp may do the same, but none of them became the dominant players expected considering their hype.
This is hardly just an issue at USC.
Others tabbed Florida as the big winner. They certainly found a star in Joe Haden, but what became of WR Deonta Thompson and RB Bo Williams -- the two higher rated prospects the Gators signed?
Now, perhaps this is simply an example of the pot calling the kettle black - after all, I'm a guy who is asked to assign grades to NFL teams on draft day before any of their new players get a chance to prove themselves - but let's remember than these are teenagers. Their bodies, minds and levels of commitment are going to be tested in a way they can't imagine. Let's do them all a service by tempering our expectations.
Perhaps there is never a better day than this one to remind us all of the message the NCAA has used in the past: "There are 380,000 NCAA student-athletes, and just about all of them will be going pro in something other than sports."
My advice to the thousands of recruits signing yesterday? Focus on your academics. Virtually all of you dominated in high school. A tiny percentage of you will do the same at the collegiate level, winning an opportunity to play professional football. You may win that NFL lottery someday, but yesterday you won a free education. Don't lose out on that guarantee simply because someone tabbed you an elite recruit destined for the NFL.
Posted on: January 29, 2011 11:00 pm
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton might be able to impress the media during a one-hour workout he's scheduled for February 10 at Cathedral High in Del Mar, California, but will it do any good?
Despite winning the Heisman Trophy and BCS Championship, there are plenty of questions about the Auburn junior's ability to translate his success into the NFL. The spread-option offense he ran under Gus Malzahn's direction won't cut in the NFL. He'll need to be able to read defenses quicker, be more accurate with a greater variety of passes and do both while dropping back from center -- something he was rarely asked to do with the Tigers.
Helping him improve in these areas is George Whitfield, the San Diego-based quarterback guru who helped keep Ben Roethlisberger fine-tuned while the Pittsburgh star served his four-game suspension this season.
I don't doubt Newton's talent as a quarterback, nor Whitfield's talent as a coach. I do question Cam Newton, Sr.'s decision to have this media-only workout in the first place.
And let's be clear, this is a media-only event. NFL scouts are forbidden to attend a prospect's workout of this nature in any other setting than the Combine, the player's hometown or his university.
The purpose of the workout, Whitfield told Jim Corbett of USA Today is to "differentiate [Newton] from Vince Young and JaMarcus Russell " and to determine if Newton should workout at the Combine or wait for Auburn's Pro Day in March.
The obvious question I'd ask is what could Newton possibly gain from this workout in front of the relatively untrained of national media?
Taking an optimistic approach, let's assume Newton blows us all away with his workout for a moment.
Doesn't he run the risk that NFL teams will be turned off by what appears to be an attempt to upstage the NFL and its Combine?
And to do what? Create some buzz? There isn't a more famous (rapidly becoming infamous) collegiate player in the country.
And, what if Newton struggles - or is even inaccurately portrayed by some as having struggled -- in his workout? Will he elect not to workout for scouts at the Combine, thereby opening himself up to questions about his competitive fire?
I asked a handful of scouts about this workout. All were mystified as to what gains could be made with what one front officie executive termed a "publicity stunt."
One high level scout put it this way:
"The Newtons would be best to realize they aren't in college anymore. Regardless of how good he looks for [the media], there isn't going to be a bidding war for him. We're not recruiting him. They could wind up turning more people against them than for them with this [workout]."