|RG3 took the Heisman ahead of Luck, but their draft order will almost certainly flip. (Getty Images)|
There was an interesting take last weekend from a very experienced AFC scout as he packed for his trip to the Senior Bowl and was interrupted by a phone call. The scout, whose team owns a top 20 selection in April, has already devoted considerable time roughly doping out how the first round might transpire.
He suggested that the Cleveland Browns might not have to trade up to acquire Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Robert Griffin III. And second, that, while team officials have all but decided that Colt McCoy is probably not the guy to advance the team, the club isn't completely sold on Griffin yet either.
Said the scout: "If they want [Griffin], he could fall right to them [with the fourth overall choice]. But they have to decide if they want him first." The Browns are one of three franchises with two first-round picks (Cincinnati and New England are the others), owning their own, at No. 4, and the Atlanta pick (22nd), because of last year's Julio Jones trade.
The early rationale has been that St. Louis, which has the second overall choice, will market the pick to a team desiring to take Griffin, since the Rams already have Sam Bradford in place. But the scout opined that the Browns might not necessarily be a buyer for the No. 2 pick, unless they are "completely sold" on Griffin.
Indianapolis figures to grab Andrew Luck with the top pick, and then the Browns' game of draft roulette could begin. The Rams won't take a quarterback with the second pick, and the scout feels that Minnesota at No. 3, after selecting Christian Ponder last April, won't draft a quarterback, either. In his mind, Griffin could fall to Cleveland at No. 4.
"That's a lot of 'supposing' to do this early, and I'm not saying I'll be right, but I could see it going that way," the scout said.
A few notes:
• With the deserved hype being afforded top-shelf offensive tackles such as Matt Kalil (USC), Jonathan Martin (Stanford), and Riley Reiff (Iowa) for the draft, Ohio State's Mike Adams has kind of gotten lost in the shuffle. But there are scouts who feel that, while the others will definitely go off the board in the first round, Adams will be a steal in the second or third stanzas. Adams is playing in the Senior Bowl, and it will be interesting to follow his progress, this week, but he seemed to pass the early week "eyeball test," and could be a candidate for some team at right tackle. Sure, right tackle prospects don't necessarily rate as first rounders -- remember, Tyron Smith of Dallas, a first-rounder in 2011, was actually drafted that high for his long-term projection on the left side -- and that won't help Adams. Nor will he be aided by some red flags on his resume, including a suspension in 2011, but any team that put on the tape of him might be impressed by his strength and decent feet. And there were a few people at the Senior Bowl who felt like Adams, who checked in at 323 pounds, could end up playing at 340. So, while it's understandable for scouts to be impressed with some of the other tackles, no one should dismiss Adams, either.
• Once a glamour position in the league, the middle linebacker spot for a 4-3 team has been somewhat devalued of late. In the past five seasons, Rolando McClain (Oakland, 2010) and Jon Beason (Carolina, 2007) have pretty much been the only pure 4-3 'backers chosen in the first round. A third name could be added to the list this year in Boston College's Luke Kuechly. Among scouts, the jury is still out on whether Kuechly projects better to 4-3 middle linebacker or inside linebacker in a 3-4, and the assessments between the two are fairly split. There have been some comparisons to current NFL players at both positions. One component on which scouts agree, though, is that Kuechly's extraordinary football instincts will make him a standout at either spot.
• A few league personnel people were a bit surprised by the number of underclass players, a record 65 entries, who applied for inclusion in the 2012 draft. And one of the NFL's premier talent evaluators, Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome, told The Sports Xchange at Sunday's AFC championship game, that the volume of underclassmen presents a challenge of sorts for NFL scouts. "There obviously are a lot of the guys you've seen play and have an opinion on," Newsome said. "But as far as scouting them, really doing the work on rating them [as prospects], I'd say, no, we haven't started that yet. The thinking is that, no matter what you hear, you don't really know if a kid is going to come out. So why do the work and then the player stays [in school]? So there's a lot of work to be done on these guys."
• The early read on North Carolina defensive lineman Quinton Coples is that he is an end, not a tackle, in terms of NFL projections. There were a few personnel people who felt Coples might be able to move inside, but his weight at the Senior Bowl (281 pounds), length, and propensity for playing a big high at times and not always being a leveraged defender, likely make him an end candidate. That certainly won't be enough to drop Coples out of the first round, but cuts his options a bit. The sense from a few scouts in Mobile is that Coples will be a 4-3 end, and that, in addition to not being able to play tackle, he is a dubious prospect for a 3-4 front.
• Last week in this space, we mentioned University of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray took advantage of the NFL's underclass committee this year to get a gauge on his future. But he never planned on entering the 2012 draft so he is a passer on whom to keep an eye as a potential prospect in 2013. One other quarterback with Bulldogs ties, Zach Mettenberger of LSU, actually got a pretty good rise (some were actually more excited about him than Murray) from scouts when Murray's name was mentioned to them. "He's probably not as athletic [as Murray], but he can really spin it," one scout assessed. Mettenberger enrolled at Georgia in 209, never played a snap, but was dismissed after his freshman season, after an incident at a bar. He enrolled at Butler Community College for 2010, and threw for 2,678 yards and 32 touchdowns (just four interceptions) there, leading the team to an 11-1 record and a berth in the Juco national championship game, before moving on to LSU. Although he played in just one game this season, completing eight of 11 passes for 92 yards, Mettenberger figures to be the starter in 2012, given the departures of Jordan Jefferson and Jarret Lee, and the decision by the highly regarded Gunnar Kiel to de-commit. The NFL's "three year rule" would make him eligible for the '13 draft and, while he's unlikely to enter it, Mettenberger, who will be 21 in July, theoretically could add another prospect to what figures to be an impressive QB list. The last word: "I'm not going anywhere. My golf game will still be there when I'm done. .. and it will still need plenty of work." -- Newsome, to The Sports Xchange, reiterating he has no plans to retire.