By Rob Staton
The combine's over for another year and team's will now go away to study the tape again and see if what they've witnessed in Indianapolis matches up. Then it's on to the pro-days before the home stretch towards April 22nd. For a full calendar of when the pro-days will take place, click here.
I wanted to offer some immediate thoughts now that the combine has passed. The greatest competition is undoubtedly at cornerback, where a cluster of prospects all with potential first round grades jostled for position in Indianapolis. Devin McCourty (CB, Rutgers) won the battle royal, posting impressive times and working well in drills. I already had him posted in the first round, but running 4.3's in the forty yard dash should confirm his name will be called in the first 32 selections. Kareem Jackson (CB, Alabama) similarly performed well and should be considered a near certainty for the first round. Brandon Ghee (CB, Wake Forest) has appeared in my first round mock drafts in the past and will likely return to that status in tomorrow's update after also posting a time in the 4.3 range.
Kyle Wilson didn't perform due to an injury, which was a shame because this was such a good opportunity to compare a group of corner's that are of a similar level. Perrish Cox (CB, Oklahoma State) and Dominique Franks (CB, Oklahoma) didn't impress as much with their performances. Patrick Robinson (CB, Florida State) was always expected to run a fast time, but is a 4.4 fast enough to ignore some of the weaknesses in his game and force him into round one?
But undoubtedly one of the biggest stories was Joe Haden's (CB, Florida) sluggish runs. Was it a case of technique? Haden had chosen to work exclusively in his father's gym leading up to the combine, rather than at one of the many work out center's the top prospects usually use. Brian Cushing likewise didn't run as fast as expected last year and he worked out at a local gym. There might be something in this, or we might be looking for excuses. I'd never seen a lack of recovery speed from Haden on tape and he's very athletic. There's no getting around the fact though that this could affect his stock. It was a strange combine for forty times though - with Golden Tate running especially fast whilst Haden and Dexter McCluster were a lot slower - all unexpected.
All of the prospects listed above had a chance to go in round one and there's great depth at corner in that late first/early second range. It's a high demand position too, so there wil be plenty of teams willing to invest in a young cornerback. It was almost like putting all the prospects in a league table and seeing how they've moved around after work outs. All should be gone by the middle of the second round, but the McCourty's, Jackson's and Ghee's should feel very pleased with their draft stock.
Staying with the defensive backs, I think Eric Berry (S, Tennessee) was as impressive as anyone in interviews and work outs during the combine. I've raised concerns about Berry that seemingly have been ignored in most quarters, but he certainly put on a show this week. He ran well, performed drills exceptionally well and interviewed with a personable nature. I still don't think he will go as early as some seem to think (top five) but he's certainly very much in that 6-15 range and whilst I think he's unlikely to end up in Seattle at #6, I also wouldn't rule it out.
Both Berry and Earl Thomas (S, Texas) arrived in Indianapolis bigger than expected. I think both showed the kind of speed that will get teams thinking flexibility - you can line either up in the slot or at corner and feel confident. They are both playmakers. They are both return threats, although Berry has the edge there. Good teams with a solid base will be salivating over the prospect of adding a top notch safety like this. I'm just not sure the worst teams in the NFL will see value in investing tens of millions at the position with other, much bigger holes to attend to.
Of the defensive lineman, I still think teams will be split on who is better between Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy. I imagine if polled, Suh would come out on top - but it'd be close. Jason Pierre-Paul (DE, USF) will have impressed a lot of people in work outs and his honest, humble approach to interviews. I caught him talking tactics at one point and I think his game smarts are better than advertised. He's a good kid and I wish him well wherever he ends up.
There could be a tight mix of prospects at defensive end that create a similar competition to that we've seen at cornerback. Everson Griffen (DE, USC), Carlos Dunlap (DE, Florida), Brandon Graham (DE, Michigan), Derrick Morgan (DE, Georgia Tech) and Pierre-Paul all offer great depth for teams looking for a pass rush. I could see all going before the 20th pick, but I could also see one or two dropping a bit - but only because of the depth. Seattle might be able to get a defensive line bargain - and a much needed one - at #40 if a guy slips through the net.
Of the running backs, Ben Tate (RB, Auburn) and Montario Hardesty (RB, Tennessee) impressed me the most. Tate has good size at around 220lbs but still ran very well in the forty yard dash. He had a very good year in the SEC last season and could be a day one starter and bargain for a wise team. Hardesty raised a few eyebrows with his performance too - running in the 4.4's and showing a very athletic physique. Both will be very viable options for Seattle in the middle rounds and offer much greater value than the over rated Ryan Mathews (RB, Fresno State) and the lethargic Jonathan Dwyer (RB, Georgia Tech).
Many Seahawks fans want the franchise to draft a left tackle. Charles Brown's (OT, USC) performance and the fact he managed to tip the 300lbs mark makes him a very realistic option at #14. His talent warrants a pick that high - the fact he's worked to add bulk is a credit to his work ethic. There isn't a greater fit for Alex Gibbs' zone blocking scheme in this draft. He absolutely will be on Seattle's radar.
Anthony Davis (OT, Rutgers) has received some criticism for his combine showing. A word of caution here though - Andre Smith went 6th overall last year despite a disastrous post season that left his stock in tatters. Teams were reportedly worried about his attitude and asked whether Smith truly wanted to be a pro. The reality was, even for a right tackle, upside usurped every concern and he remained a top ten pick. Davis has much greater potential than Smith due to his superior pass protection skills. However, Davis has similar attitude issues and has to manage his weight closely. But no other tackle owns his ceiling. Teams will understand that even if it seems like the Okung's, Brown's, Bulaga's, Williams etc outperformed the Scarlet Knights' lineman - none have the potential to be as good as the guy from Rutgers. I still think Davis could easily be the first tackle off the board as early as #4 overall.
I'll offer some more insight in tomorrow's updated two-round mock draft.