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Tag:NFL
Posted on: February 16, 2011 1:12 am
Edited on: February 16, 2011 1:15 am
 

NFL buys out ELITE; will offer regional Combines

For most football fans, the term "Combine" has come to mean the National Invitational Camp held each February in Indianapolis.

In reality, smaller, more bare-bones versions of the Indianapolis Combine are put on all over the country as street free agents work out in an attempt to get back into professional football.

The most successful of these Combine organizers is Elite Pro Football Combines , who, according to their website Combines.com has helped place 455 players into the NFL and another 1,860 players in the AFL, CFL and AF2 leagues since its inception in 1989. Among the Elite's NFL success stories are kicker Adam Vinatieri and wide receivers Wayne Chrebet and Joe Horn.

The NFL apparently liked what they saw from Elite; so much so that they bought the company, according to a letter being distributed by the league.

A copy of the letter, obtained by NFLDraftScout.com , states that the NFL has acquired Elite Pro Football Combines and explains the company's role.
Elite Pro Football Combines will supplement the NFL's National Scouting Combine and will be held in different locations across the United States. These Regional Combines are intended for draft-eligible players not invited to the NFL's National Scouting Combine, free agent players, and unsigned players with some pro experience. The goal of the Elite Pro Football Combines is to ensure that no worthy player is overlooked by providing an opportunity for a player to showcase his talents in a comprehensive NFL-style evaluation.

Elite's website lists the 2011 workout sites as Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Columbus, Atlanta again and Los Angeles from February 26 to April 9. Athletes who perform well at these regional events would get the opportunity to be tested by real NFL scouts during the Combine "re-checks" that happen in early April each year.

According to various sources inside and out of the league who had attended these workouts, the combines run by Elite Pro Football focused strictly on recording players' measureables. The medical testing and interviews so important at the Indianapolis Combine are not part of the deal in these workouts. Measuring scouts heights, weights, and recording their times in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, bench press and shuttle drills is the focus, with the information being recorded so that the professional scouts can view the results online.

Players do not have to be invited to these workouts, unlike the Indianapolis Combine. They do have to register, however, and pay an entry fee. This fee, according to sources, is typically around $160.00 with another $25-50 possibly needed for prep materials such as a DVD and workbook explaining the process and tips on what scouts are looking for.

The decision by the NFL to purchase Elite makes a lot of sense for many reasons. Certainly, the greater exposure and proximity of these workouts will churn out more talent. The Combines also offer opportunities to former or hopeful NFL scouts wanting to pick up a little extra money or get their foot in the door. Scouts hope that it will result in accurate measureables for hundreds more prospects.

Perhaps most thought-provoking is that the addition of Elite Combines puts the NFL one step closer to potentially creating a true minor league farming system similar to what is done with Major League Baseball. The idea, which many have characterized as silly at first blush, makes a lot of sense to some in the league and wasn't dismissed by sources inside and out of the NFL when I asked them for comments on this story.  



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: February 10, 2011 8:04 pm
 

Cam Newton Media Workout Video

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. 

Video Link 
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Posted on: February 3, 2011 8:04 am
 

Wise to exercise caution on "Signing Day" grades

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: February 2, 2011 1:33 pm
 

NFL releases official Combine list

National Football Scouting, the agency that works with the NFL in the colossal undertaking of organizing the annual Combine, has released the list of the players invited to this year's event.

The full list can be seen here. The list includes underclassmen, as well as several seniors who were given late invitiations based on strong performances during senior all-star games.

Some of the late-invite seniors include cornerback Cortez Allen from The Citadel, Ohio State guard Justin Boren, Appalachian State safety Mark LeGree and North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates, among others.

Senior Analyst Chad Reuter highlighted some of the biggest Combine snubs in this article.
Posted on: January 20, 2011 12:57 pm
 

EWU RB Jones 57th underclassman in draft

According to an NFL spokesperson, Eastern Washington running back Taiwan Jones was indeed granted special eligibility for the 2011 draft.

There had been some confusion as Jones was not among the record 56 underclassmen listed on a league press release provided yesterday.

The NFL's initial release "included only Division I-A players" and that Jones, as well as any other FCS players, would be mentioned in a later release by the league.

Until the league releases its non-FBS list to teams, the NFL was unwilling to list any other FCS underclassmen who may or may not be included in the 2011 draft. The spokesperson did confirm, however, that Jones turned in his paperwork and is eligible for the 2011 draft, making him the 57th (and counting?) underclassman available. 

The 6-0, 200 pound Jones rushed for 1,742 yards and 14 touchdowns for the FCS champion Eastern Eagles. Jones was unable to play in the national championship game, however, as he broke a bone in his left foot earlier in the playoffs. He'd rushed for 230 yards against North Dakota State before sustaining the injury.

Jones, a former cornerback, possesses a combination of speed and elusiveness that quite frankly is rare at the the FCS level. He is currently rated as a 5th round pick by NFLDraftScout.com, but if he can prove his health to scouts at the Combine, he could skyrocket up draft boards.

Teams are always going to be hesitant to draft a running back with Jones' marginal build and history of injuries (broken foot, broken fibula in 2008, hand, shoulder and hip flexor issues in 2009), but in terms of explosiveness, Jones ranks with any back in this draft. 
Posted on: January 15, 2011 11:41 am
 

Poor decisions mar underclassmen deadline day

For NFL teams looking at a less than impressive senior class, January 15 has developed into a holiday of sorts. As the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft, teams are hopeful that a few more presents will pop up to enhance the crop they've already seen.

It has been a bountiful catch already. Each player selected in the top five will be underclassmen, with Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara and Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller rating as the only seniors likely to have a chance at the top ten.

But for every Da'Quan Bowers or A.J. Green physically ready to make the leap to the NFL, there are other underclassmen who should have remained in school.

As of this morning I've been told of 55 players making the leap. Some of them, quite frankly, are leaping off the cliff of undrafted free agency.

Some of the most troubling decisions were made by running backs and safeties. 

Consider that so far this year there have been 12 underclassmen running backs who have declared for the 2011 NFL Draft.

There were only 12 running backs drafted last year.

For players like Eastern Washington's Taiwan Jones, Virginia Tech's Darren Evans, and Wisconsin's John Clay, the decision could turn out disastrous.

You can't get three backs more different than the 5-11, 190 pound speedster Jones, the 6-0, 220 pound Evans and the 6-1, 248 pound bruiser Clay. Yet all three have struggled with durability and will be entering the NFL without the offenses taylored around their game that helped each standout at the collegiate level.

Jones, who has struggled the most with injuries but is the most physically gifted of the three may be one taking the biggest gamble, especially considering that scouts are going to naturally question his FCS competition. Even if he'd returned for his senior season and helped Eastern and again struggled with durability, he'd have potentially had the opportunity to play in a senior all-star game.

The weak senior running back class (scouts aren't sure there will be a single senior drafted in the top two rounds) convinced many of these underclassmen to come out. The same is true at safety. At of this morning, "only" five safeties had declared early for the draft -- UCLA's Rahim Moore, West Virginia's Robert Sands, Iowa's Tyler Sash, Georgia Tech's Jerrard Terrant and Florida's Will Hill -- but two of them could be making significant mistakes.

Moore and Hill have made some eye-popping plays over their respective careers, but each is coming off a disappointing junior season and surprised scouts with their decisions to leave early. Perhaps surprised isn't the correct word. Scouts had known that each was strongly considering the jump for the last month or so, but it doesn't change the fact that each was more highly thought of at the end of last season -- had much to gain with a strong senior year -- than they did by coming out now.

Moore, in particular, has been labeled by many as a first round caliber prospect, but after doing my film review of him this past week, I see an unreliable open field tackler who is inconsistent in coverage. His FBS-leading 10 interceptions in 2009 may have been a by-product of the play of his former teammates, now NFL players (Bucs' DT Brian Price and Titans' CB Alterraun Verner). Without them, Moore intercepted one pass in 2010.  I gave him a 3rd-4th round grade.
Posted on: January 11, 2011 1:58 pm
 

LeShoure added to big class of underclassmen RBs

The University of Illinois' Mikel LeShoure announced today that he'll be joining Alabama's Mark Ingram, Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams, and Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers, among many others as underclassmen running backs heading early to the NFL.

LeShoure is the 11th underclassmen running back to declare early so far. He'll compete with former Hokies' star Williams to be the second running back drafted after Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner.

So far, the running backs who have declared early include: Wisconsin's John Clay, Virginia Tech's Darren Evans, Ingram, Clemson's Jamie Harper, Pitt fullbakc Henry Hynoski, LeShoure, Pitt's Dion Lewis, Rodgers, Connecticut's Jordan Todman, Cal's Shane Vereen and Williams.

The early defections are hardly a surprise. While scouts generally encourage prospects to return for their senior seasons, there is an understanding that for running backs the same rules don't apply due to the fact that they absorb so much punishment.

Scouts also aren't surprised by the early defections because this year's senior class of running backs is one of the weakest positional groups in the country. In speaking to scouts over the past few weeks, only a trio of Big 12 runners -- Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray, Kansas State's Daniel Thomas and Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter were characterized as "possible" Top 64 picks. None were viewed as "locks" for the first two rounds.

LeShoure is coming off a spectacular junior season in which he rushed for a school record 1,687 rushing yards and 17 TDs. He was at his best in Illinois' Texas Bowl victory over Baylor, rushing for a Texas Bowl record 187 yards and three touchdowns, earning MVP accolades. 

As always for the best in NFL draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com