Posted on: March 9, 2011 8:40 am
With all of the attention swirling around Cam Newton's Pro Day at Auburn yesterday, not enough national attention is going towards the more impressive throwing session put forth by Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, at least in the estimation of some NFL scouts.
NFLDraftScout.com anticipated the strong workout and had a man on the scene, detailing the session from the inside .
For my own information, however, I contacted various league sources also at the workout.
One high-level source working for a team expected to draft a quarterback this year, described Mallett as "demonstrating extremely high level velocity and accuracy" throughout the workout.
Another source - a regional scout familiar with Newton and Mallett - characterized it in another way.
"From what I saw of [Newton's] performance online, the cameras were at the wrong workout. [Mallett] proved he's the most talented passer yesterday, just like he did in Indy. I know you saw him at the Combine , but he was even better here."
Neither source provided the number of passes attempted or completed from Mallett's Pro Day, leaving us with only Mallett's disappointing time in the 40-yard dash and vertical jump as the only quantifiable numbers from the workout. With no way to compare apples to apples on their velocity and accuacy, many are comparing Mallett's athletic drills to Newton's and other quarterbacks.
Clearly, Mallett is slower and less athletic overall than scouts would prefer. The 5.37 second time he ran in the 40-yard dash is sloooow even for quarterback standards and the 26" vertical jump didn't show much explosive athleticism, but in comparison, a certain former Michigan quarterback -- some guy named Brady -- was clocked at 5.23 at the 2000 Combine and only jumped 24.5" inches -- and that was at only 211 pounds. Mallett measured in at 247 pounds.
I'm not about to project Mallett as the second coming of Tom Brady -- they are vastly different quarterbacks -- but it is important to note that the numbers some will use to describe the Razorback passer's Pro Day performance aren't the story.
Mallett is the draft's most talented passer. If a team can come to grips with his off-field question marks, he certainly has the talent to warrant a first round selection .
Posted on: March 8, 2011 8:35 pm
Cam Newton stood around for four hours watching his Auburn teammates work out at the team's pro day Tuesday, most of the time with a backpack on and a smile on his face. As his workout progressed, the smile went away with only occasional returns, as he got to work.
He and throwing coach George Whitfield began his workout rolling out to his right, then left, keeping his shoulders square--though drifting forward a bit when running to his left, which would be into defenders during games. He continued to show his athleticism with footwork asked to shuffle within "the pocket", keeping his focus on Whitfield while moving with short, quick shuffle steps (without crossing his legs or even narrowing his stance).
There was not much wasted footwork in three, five or seven-step drops, as Newton usually got to his plant efficiently. Dropping in workouts does not require the expediency needed during games, but his drops were not slow or lazy by any stretch--and they were much tighter than those from Arkansas Ryan Mallett during his pro day workout.
Scouts will not come away from the workout with questions about Newton's release or arm strength. The ball popped out of his hand, and his over-the-top delivery is pretty quick for a quarterback with nearly 34-inch arms. The vast majority of his throws were tight spirals (with a handful of slight wobblers), allowing them to cut through wind on cold fall days.
His trajectory on deep passes was also much better than most other quarterbacks' were at the Combine, not putting too much air underneath them to prevent safeties from getting to sideline or seam throws (and artificially inflate workout completion percentages).
The main issue scouts will have with Newton's workouts is his "area code accuracy." His intermediate comebacks and curls were on the money, as were his speed outs to either side of the field. But not every ball was planted into his receiver's numbers, with several outs and seams throws only in the vicinity of the receiver (whether high, in front of, or behind the receiver). Those deep throws, while looking nice, did not hit their targets often enough.
Newton's over-the-top delivery actually causes some of his issues, as when his weight is not transferred correctly (as happened in Indianapolis), balls will sail over the heads of his receivers. Keeping short throws low (away from defenders and preventing tipped passes) can be an issue for him, as well, because of tall delivery but he managed that feat Tuesday.
The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner completed 50 of the 60 scripted throws, with four clearly dropped passes and a similar number of great catches to grab errant throws, while wearing shorts and facing no defense.
Others had completed more passes, like 2010 number one pick Sam Bradford (49-50), in their workout. But nobody should expect Newton to have Bradford's accuracy--few passers do. All Newton needed to do was show enough improvement from the Combine to encourage teams looking to add his athleticism and strong arm to their roster that he can move the ball effectively from the pocket at the next level.
And he did just that.
Posted on: March 8, 2011 6:54 pm
Cam Newton's quarterback coach George Whitfield, Jr. characterized the Heisman winner's performance at the Scouting Combine two weeks ago as a "pop quiz" and today's Pro Day workout as the "final exam."
Carrying the analogy further, it was clear Tuesday afternoon that Newton had studied hard for the big test, making significant improvement from the Indianapolis quiz, but also evident that he still has a ways to go before he can count on making the Honor Roll as an NFL passer.
Newton completed 50 of his 60 scripted passes on the day, demonstrating better timing and accuracy on some of the throws that troubled him at the Combine -- most notably the outs, comebacks and deep balls. He was the victim of several drops, diminishing his completion percentage somewhat, but also was helped out, at times, by receivers making some very good catches and adjusting their speed to track the football.
Most importantly, Newton showed improvement in taking snaps from center. Newton actually took snaps from a center Tuesday, rather than simply dropping back as he did at the Combine. This not-so-insignificant difference obviously greater replicated an actual football game and only made Newton's improvement in his dropback and timing all the better.
Newton still has a tendency to sail his passes high and wide, however. Had you asked me to assign a letter grade following the Combine throwing session, I would have given him a "D." Perhaps that seems harsh, but considering that after tossing a few easy passes to receivers during the gauntlet drill, Newton only completed 11 of 21 passes (and these weren't drops, mind you) on the day, the 60% it takes to get a "D" in my book is actually higher than Newton' completion percentage on the day.
On Tuesday, however, I thought Newton deserved a "B" for his efforts. He certainly did not demonstrate the spectacular accuracy I had witnessed firsthand at Sam Bradford's Pro Day last year. Newton wasn't as accurate as Mark Sanchez during his Pro Day a year earlier -- another workout I attended.
However, Newton did demonstrate all of the physical ability tools scouts are looking for -- and, again, showed significant improvement. Considering that it has been less than two weeks since the pop quiz, that is all most teams were looking for...
Posted on: March 8, 2011 9:07 am
In yet another example of the undying thirst this world has for all-things football (and more specifically all-things Cam Newton), Auburn Pro Day workout will be broadcasted live today by ESPN3.com and the NFL Network.
The workout should feature defensive tackle Nick Fairley, offensive lineman Lee Ziemba and linebacker Josh Bynes, among other notable draft-eligible prospects for the BCS Champion Tigers, but, of course, the focus will be on the Heisman-winning Newton.
The pressure is on Newton to perform well after he struggled in his Combine throwing session. Newton's inaccuracy in Indianapolis caught some off guard as the reviews from his media-only workout outside of San Diego drew rave reviews. You can watch much of that workout here .
So, what does Newton have to do today to boost his stock?
In a word, improve.
After completing the easy ten-yard tosses to receivers during the gauntlet drill, Newton completed only 11 of his 21 passes at the Combine. Newton's struggles were due to the fact that his timing was off in his dropback from "center." He was a bit slow dropping back, forcing him to hurry his throwing motion. Too often he was throwing off his back foot with the ball leaving his hand too at an upward arc. This led to many of his passes sailing on him, especially on the deep out route, a pass requiring timing with his receivers.
Today, watch to see if Newton's timing is improved. It should be, as he'll be throwing to receivers he knows, as opposed to those he passed to in Indianapolis. Also, watch to see if Newton is stepping into his throws. This is essentially the weight distribution piece you've heard analysts refer to in the past.
Besides just the throwing session, it will be interesting to see how Newton's teammates rally around him. One of Newton's greatest attributes, according to scouts, is his leadership. Newton hadn't let the pressure of the big stage affect him in Auburn's undefeated season, but we might have seen cracks in the armor with his poor throwing session at the Combine. Newton needs a strong showing today. He also needs to show that he's having fun and be encouraging to his teammates. Today may really be all about Newton, but he can't let on that he believes that. This is Auburn's Pro Day, after all, not just Newton's.
I was on the field to watch the Pro Days that sent Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford's respective stocks soaring. I anticipate a similarly spectacular and stock-boosting performance from Newton today. If we don't get it, perhaps Chad Reuter and I will have to change the No. 1 overall pick in each of our current first round mock drafts.
Fairley, too, could see a boost or drop based on how he performs today. For all of the concern about his "soft" body at the Combine, there is no denying his spectacular workout. The natural athleticism that has caused me (and many others) to characterize him as the most naturally talented prospect in the draft was on display there. What will be interesting to scouts will be if Fairley's conditioning has improved or lessened in the eight days since he worked out at the Combine.
Every NFL team is expected to attend the event. In fact, some are predicting that it will be the most heavily attended Pro Day of all time. This is all the more impressive considering that Arkansas and Oklahoma are hosting their Pro Day workouts today, as well. Auburn's Pro Day begins at 1:30 pm EST.
Posted on: March 5, 2011 12:21 pm
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.
Category: NFL Draft
Tags: Akili Smith, Andy Dalton, Arkansas, Auburn, Blaine Gabbert, Blaine Gabbert, Cade McNown, Cam Newton, Christian Ponder, Colin Kaepernick, Daunte Culpepper, Donovan McNabb, Florida State, Jake Locker, Jay Cutler, Missouri, Missouri, Nevada, Pro Day, Ryan Mallett, Scouting Combine, Tarvaris Jackson, TCU, Tim Couch, Vince Young, Washington
Posted on: March 4, 2011 12:54 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2011 1:13 pm
Oregon inside linebacker Casey Matthews "will do all drills except for the bench," at Oregon's Pro Day March 10 his agent, David Dunn, confirmed this morning.
Matthews, NFLDraftScout.com's No. 7 rated inside linebacker , injured the shoulder while performing the bench press drill at the scouting combine Feb. 27. The injury kept him from performing linebacker drills the next day.
Matthews said, according to NFL.com's Steve Wyche , that the injury occurred during the 14th repetition of 225 pounds. Matthews characterized the injury as a "freak accident" but also noted that he had suffered an injury to his left shoulder as a freshman.
Matthews, whose athletic pedigree has been well documented, emerged from his famous family's shadow this season to earn First Team All-Pac-10 honors lastseason with 79 tackles, nine tackles for loss, three interceptions and three fumble recoveries. Like his older brother, Clay, Casey Matthews' instincts and propensity to make the big play at critical moments stand out -- especially in this year's relatively weak class of linebackers.
His forced fumble of Cam Newton in the closing moments of the BCS National Championship game put Oregon in position to score the winning points.
Posted on: March 3, 2011 6:17 pm
The official start of the Pro Day season was today with 23 teams traveling to Waco, Texas to watch a handful of former Baylor Bears work out only two days after the annual Scouting Combine shut down.
Baylor's top two prospects -- defensive tackle Phil Taylor and offensive guard Danny Watkins -- stood on their Combine performances, but worked out "extremely well" in positional drills, according to Gil Brandt's sources . Taylor's strength, length and surprising overall athleticism could make him a first round pick. I am currently projecting him to be the Jets' choice with the 30th pick , overall, of the first round. I'm also quite high on Watkins, listing him among my top players on the Big Board.
The news wasn't quite as good for Baylor safety Byron Landor, a 6-0, 212 pound safety who posted 127 tackles this past season -- the most of any non-linebacker in all of the FBS. The JUCO transfer was a surprising non-invite to the Combine despite his production, All-Big-12 hype and this year's relatively poor class of safeties.
Landor was unable to take full advantage of the heavily attended workout, coming in a slower than scouts would like at 4.68 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Posted on: February 25, 2011 3:46 pm
Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas measured in shorter than expected and will not be able to participate in workouts at the Combine this week due to a "tweaked" left hamstring.
Thomas was listed by Kansas State at 6-2 and 228 pounds, but came in at 6-0 (six foot and one quarter inch, actually) and 230 pounds.
Generally speaking, athletes measuring in smaller than expected can have a negative effect on their grade. In Thomas' case, however, it could help his cause. Taller backs, especially ones with an upright running style like Thomas, expose their bodies (and the football) to too many collisions.
Thomas will work out at Kansas State's Pro Day on March 15. Thomas' workout could prove critical to his final draft grade as teams questions his straight-line speed. He's been estimated in the high 4.5 to low 4.6 range by scouts.
Thomas, who led the Big 12 in rushing each of his two seasons with the Wildcats, is currently NFLDraftScout.com's No. 7 rated running back. He rushed for 2,850 yards, which makes him the second-leading rusher (behind Darren Sproles) in Kansas State history.