Up and down: I love when I hear that combine results don't move players up and down draft boards. Human nature reacts to results and the linebackers on Monday are a perfect example.
Jon Bostic (Florida) came to the combine as a fourth-round type but he ran 4.50 while Manti Te'o (Notre Dame) had a 4.8 on many watches. Bostic had over 60 tackles, three sacks, seven tackles for loss and was one of the best players on a good defense. Teams like Seattle want fast people on their defense and so do many other coaches. Bostic looked smoother in drills than most of the linebackers ranked ahead of him coming into the combine.
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Not so sure it's going to stay that way. Same could be said for Cornelius Washington, the hybrid linebacker/defensive end from Georgia. He had a solid week at the Senior Bowl and an even better Senior Bowl game yet he came to Indy as a sixth- or seventh-round player. He can rush the passer and he just ran 4.50. He is moving up draft boards. One defensive coordinator said, "This is the kind of guy I came to Indy to find. Now I'll go back and study him. We're all looking for the Bruce Irvin in this draft."
Bjoern Werner came to Indianapolis as the top defensive end but his pedestrian 40 time raises questions about how high in the first round will he go? He's a very good player but as one coach said to me after he ran, "I wonder what his top end will be. He looks solid but I just don't know."
Alex Smith and the draftable quarterbacks: After talking with a few personnel people and head coaches it is interesting to see how Alex Smith relates to the draftable quarterbacks.
The class of 2013 isn't clear cut and a few teams at the top of the draft might try and wait to select a quarterback in the second round. To do that they are banking on the right guy or two being available when they go, and that is a risk-taking situation. For that reason it is looking more and more like Alex Smith could be a draft day trade. As one coach said, "Let's say Geno Smith and Barkley are gone in the first round but all of a sudden some team jumps into the bottom of the first round for the third QB whether it's Glennon, Manuel or Wilson. A team counting on one of those guys may have a deal set to go for Smith in the overnight before the Day Two draft starts up."
Another coach said, "Geno Smith is doing well this weekend and Barkley will be hard to pass in the top 15 if your team needs a QB. Mark my words the QBs will push up the draft boards by April."
That means Smith is an interesting option for a team thinking the quarterbacks were going to fall to them.
I had an interesting and revealing Sunday at the combine. There were some good player interviews, a couple of discussions with head coaches about how they see this draft class and one tough heart-to-heart with a young man trying to repair a much damaged image.
Tyrann Mathieu: He still has his blond hair streak down the middle of his head, reminding me of the dynamic player in an LSU uniform back in 2011. Since then he has been on the outside looking in because of off-the-field issues.
I looked right into his eyes and asked him why any team should take a chance on him with his history. At first I knew his answer was rehearsed as he talked about all he learned with a year to think about his issues. But then he started to convince me he really was a guy on the rebound.
He talked about being willing to take drug tests any and every day of the week. He talked about living with someone assigned by the club, and even suggested any protection the club wanted to incorporate to reduce its risk he was willing to do. All of it sounded good, but it got more interesting when I asked him about his circle of friends.
The first decision he made when it came to his issues was to get out of Louisiana and go where he could start over. He admitted there was some resentment from his buddies when he left to "better himself." I told him in my years in the NFL that was the hardest thing to do because the friends will follow him and want him to prove he's still one of the guys.
He looked right in my eyes and said, "I have already dealt with that problem and it was an issue."
Talking to Mathieu reminded me of talking to Janoris Jenkins last year. Jenkins had a checkered past, and Jeff Fisher and the Rams decided to take a chance. So far so good. I asked two head coaches about the Honey Badger and the answers were a reality check to the mountain this kid has to climb.
One coach said, "Sure he has all the right answers now; someone else can take the chance."
The other coach said, "He's kind of small anyway and is more of a nickel blitzer that I wouldn't take in the first two days."
The head coach comments may both be true, but there was something about my time with Mathieu that made me feel like taking a chance on the guy. I hope he convinces at least one club this week that he can help his team win games and not be an off-the-field liability.
Star Lotulelei: The defensive linemen were coming through the interview room and I was just finished up watching three game tapes of the Utah defensive tackle when I got the news he couldn't work out because of a heart condition discovered during the medical exams.
Former Chicago Bears QB Jim Miller and I both got excited while watching the BYU game that Star was a star. I sure hope he clears up the medical problems because this guy is a one-man wrecking crew whether he's on the nose, over the guard or lined up outside the offensive tackle. His game tapes reminded me of the year I watched Haloti Ngata coming out of college.
Lotulelei comes out of a great stance, can split a double team, has a solid gap penetration style and has a burst to pursue. Even though he lines up in a 3-4 defense, I see him as a three technique in a 4-3 because of his quickness. I sure hope he makes it back to the top of the draft.
DEFENSIVE BACK INTERVIEWS: Johnthan Banks (Mississippi State). At 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds he passed the eyeball test when he walked over to spend a little time talking about the combine and his playing days at Mississippi State. We talked about his sophomore season when he lined up against Julio Jones and played him in press and off man coverage.
I asked him what his preference was in coverage and he liked the off coverage as much as the press because he knows he can leap and go up for the ball against the better wide receivers. Banks has played safety and corner and that is a positive in the hybrid world the NFL lives in now.
Bacarri Rambo, (Georgia). He's a safety measured at 6-0, 211 and seems to be climbing up the safety group from a fourth- or fifth-round pick into the third-round area. He usually plays free safety and made it clear he models his style after Ed Reed. He prides himself in baiting quarterbacks into making bad decisions in the passing game and has a lot of pride in his physical style. Bacarri made it clear he intends to make sure receivers aren't going to feel comfortable coming into his area.