Sunday, 21 February 2010

NFL Combine week preview

By Rob Staton
It's the week of the scouting combine, as the NFL's focus of attention rests on Indianapolis from this Wednesday. The offensive lineman and tight ends get things under way on day one, followed by quarterbacks, receivers and running backs on day two. The defensive lineman and linebackers work out on March 1st and the event is complete when the defensive backs take part the day after.

It could be an interesting time for many reasons - especially with the trade window opening again three days after the combine - expect a lot of rumor and speculation as to what teams will be doing on March 5th. The big story is likely to be St. Louis and their situation at quarterback. This will be a chance for the Rams to speak to Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen, do some medical checks and get a feel for both prospects.

A lot of reports have been suggesting a strong interest in acquiring Michael Vick from the Eagles. Mike Sando at ESPN also suggests free agent Chad Pennington could be an option. I actually think that the Rams could draft a quarterback first overall and still bring in a Vick or Pennington. Let's be honest here, both of those prospects would be short term measures. If they want to draft someone like Bradford, this would give them the chance to bring him in and not feel the need to start him immediately. Alternatively, if the Rams do sign a quarterback elsewhere, a lot of assumptions will be made that they'll shift their attentions to Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy. That could be true, but this is a quarterback league and the Rams will continue to go nowhere without a franchise signal caller.

Speaking of Suh and McCoy - the combine could provide an interesting battle ground for that pair. Suh has a lot of highlight reel plays including a superb one-man show against Texas at the end of 2009. McCoy hasn't got the youtube showcase, but watch Oklahoma and you'll regularly see him making plays in the backfield. Some, such as NFL.com's Mike Mayock, rank McCoy above Suh. The question is, who's game translates best to the pro's? Will McCoy's quickness and ability to penetrate through the middle create opportunities off the edge? Will Suh's ability to dominate college opponents with power and agility translate to the next level against more physical pro-lineman?

Some will prefer Suh and others, like Mayock, will prefer McCoy. If Suh runs as well as McCoy, shows similar quickness and burst in drills and shows the kind of strength we've seen in the college arena - for me there's little doubt that will be enough to satisfy those who maybe doubted Suh's status as the #1 overall prospect. However, if there's a marked difference between the two and McCoy out performs the Nebraska DT, you'll begin to hear a lot more debates as to who should go first between these two highly talented prospects.

There's always prospects who turn up at Indianapolis and light the place up - whilst propelling their draft stock in the process. Jason Pierre-Paul (DE, USF) is suddenly the darling of most mock drafts, with many pundits ranking him inside the top ten picks. I've had JPP in my top ten since January for the sole reason that this is a prospect with incredible athletic qualities. Some have drawn comparisons to DeMarcus Ware. He's got a great burst off the edge, he doesn't give up on plays and he finds ways to get to the quarterback. On the other hand, his run defense is decidedly poor and his technique needs refining. However, if he puts in an explosive performance at the combine - he could convince a lot of teams that he's worth the gamble. He might only have one year's production and he might not sail through the wonderlic - but there may not be a prospect in the 2010 class with JPP's ceiling.

It'll be interesting to see how the skill positions fare in Indianapolis. This isn't a great draft for top end wide outs and running backs, but there's some depth at receiver. Dez Bryant (WR, Oklahoma State) is a really intriguing prospect. What condition is he in after a year off? A good display could convince scouts about his work ethic after an extended break and solidify a top 10-15 grade. Can another wide receiver come to the party - Brandon LaFell (LSU), Arrelious Benn (Illinois) and even Mike Williams (Syracuse) could push their stock up quickly. Williams is an interesting prospect because he has serious character concerns but undoubted talent. Is he too much of a risk in the second round? He could quell some of those fears this week.

C.J. Spiller can do a lot for his stock. Teams love speed and Spiller has it in abundance. If he can run a super fast time in the 4.3's or even attempt to push closer to Chris Johnson's time in the 4.2's he could be a top ten pick. Some scouts will push him that high up the board especially after Johnson's tremendous season in 2009. However, if Spiller isn't as quick as you'd expect - perhaps running in the 4.4's - he might have to settle for a place in the teens. Likewise Jahvid Best - no doubt some will voice concern about his recent concussion and durability. Put in a performance in Indianapolis though, and suddenly he could find himself back in first round consideration.

Charles Brown is one of my favorite prospects in the 2010 class. He fits Seattle's zone blocking scheme perfectly and could be high on Pete Carroll's board after the two worked closely in SoCal. Other teams could be put off by his lack of size (approximately 290lbs) but if he shows up at the combine above the 300lbs mark and works out just as well, you're talking first round grade and a high one at that. Not many other prospects can do as much for their stock this week as Brown - he's a viable option at #14 with a good performance, but an indifferent display could mean he's still around at #40. Personally, I think he's right up there with the top offensive lineman in his class.

Cornerback will also be a position to keep an eye on. You can never have enough good corner's and teams at the back end of round one will give a long, hard look at some of the prospects available. Joe Haden is the clear #1 and could be a top ten pick. Kareem Jackson (Alabama), Kyle Wilson (Boise State), Devin McCourty (Rutgers), Dominique Franks (CB, Oklahoma), Jerome Murphy (USF) and Perrish Cox (Oklahoma State) all have potential late first/early second round consideration. Rutgers' McCourty says he expects to run a 4.3 in the forty yard dash - that always helps. Teams like speed and fluidity from their cornerbacks so this is a position that could be as competitive as they come in Indianapolis.

1 comment:

Jon said...

I miss having the NFL network, combine time is the best time to have it because they replay combine footage pretty much all day after the combine until the draft.

It's a great time for a layman to get extra nerdy and feel like a scout for a minute.

I always hope for guys we don't need or want boosting their stock at the combine. If a linebacker, Tight End or Center jumped into the top 10-15 I'd be giddy.