NFL Quick-Hits: 2013 Scouting Combine News & Notes

Te’o holds his own.
Manti Te’o handled the media horde at the combine with maturity and grace. He answered every question, was concise and direct with most of his answers, and took the moment seriously. He no doubt was coached on what to say and he’ll continued to be grilled leading up to April’s draft, but he past his first test with flying colors. Now, is he a top 10 pick? I don’t know if he ever was. Teams will be attracted to his lateral movements, his ability to quickly attack down hill, and his good change of direction skills. He can also cover, is comfortable in space, and is fairly component when it comes to play recognition. But linebackers that aren’t elite pass rushers don’t hold the same value in the NFL as they did 10 years ago. Some of the best inside or strong-side linebackers (which is where Te’o projects to play at the next level) weren’t first-round picks. Patrick Willis was, but Bobby Wagner was a second-rounder, as was Daryl Washington. NaVorro Bowman was a third-round pick and Dannell Ellerbe of the Super Bowl-winning Ravens wasn’t even drafted. Is Te’o a first-rounder? No question. Is he a top-10 pick like many have wondered? I highly doubt it. The more likely projection for him is picks 15 through 25.

What was Montgomery thinking?
LSU DE Sam Montgomery wins the award at this year’s combine for what not to tell the media. In his combine interview, the pass rusher admitted to betting in college and taking games (not just plays, but entire games) off when the Tigers faced lesser opponents. “Some weeks when we didn’t have to play the harder teams, there were some times when effort was not needed. But when he had the big boys come in, the ‘Bamas or the South Carolinas, I grabbed close to those guys and went all out.” Montgomery also admitted to betting with teammate Barkevious Mingo, including one for $5,000 on which LSU defender would be drafted higher. Based on his talent, Montgomery is a late first, early-second round prospect. He’s strong at the point of attack, can be a power or finesse player, and is very good in pursuit. He also played with a lot of energy, although I only watched him against the likes of Alabama, South Carolina, Washington and Auburn. I guess I should have flipped on the film of him playing against the Little Sister’s of the Poor because apparently I would have seen a different player.

Deep year for defensive linemen.
This is an impressive crop of defensive linemen, both at end and tackle. Despite a poor effort on the bench press, Texas A&M DE/OLB Damontre Moore really stands out on film. He’s difficult to block one-on-one, displays good lateral quickness and does a pretty good job bending the arc when pass rushing. He doesn’t always use his hands well and doesn’t have a full compliment of pass-rushing moves, but he should attract teams that use hybrid fronts in the NFL. The same can be said for Oregon’s Dion Jordan, who ran a blazing 4.53 and a 4.63 forty at the combine. The former Duck will have surgery to repair a torn labrum but that should deter teams from taking him in the first round. He played drop end at Oregon, flashing a combination of speed, athleticism and length. He plays well in space, is violent on contact and is also scheme versatile. He’s not as polished as top-10 prospect Bjoern Werner from a pass-rushing standpoint, but he can play with his hand in the dirt or standing up. Former track star Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah also ran well at the combine (he’s a former track star, after all) and is likely to be selected in the first 11 picks. He’s powerful, holds up well at the point of attack and doesn’t have a lot of wasted movement. He’s not as explosive off the line as Moore or Jordan, but he’s scheme versatile after playing in 43 and 34 fronts at BYU. At defensive tackle, Star Lotulelei is drawing comparisons to Haloti Ngata (although recent reports about his heart condition is concerning), while Florida’s Sharrif Floyd is receiving top-1o attention as well. Floyd is built like an ox but is quick, agile and strong. He isn’t as explosive as fellow top prospect Sheldon Richardson of Missouri, but he’s the perfect fit for a 3-technique in a 4-3 and could wind up being a double-digit sack guy down the road. (The same could be said for Richardson, really.)

Jones a top 5 pick?
SI.com’s Peter King believes that Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones could be a top-five pick, although that’s hard to envision. Jones suffers from spinal stenosis, which is why he transferred from USC to Georgia in 2010. And while Chris Mortensen reports that Jones got a “favorable review” of his neck at the combine, his medical history could cause him to drop a la Clemson defensive end DaQuan Bowers in 2011. Bowers was widely regarded as a top 5 pick before the draft but offseason knee surgery caused him to drop into the second round. Granted, we’re not exactly comparing apples to apples, but the main takeaway is that Jones is a potential red flag for NFL teams. That said, he’s one of the better pass-rushers in this year’s class thanks to his athleticism and has decent cover skills. He’s seemingly a perfect fit as an OLB in a 3-4 but again, it’s hard to envision a scenario where he’s a top 5 selection.

Barkley a fit for the WCO?
One of the more polarizing prospects in this year’s draft class is USC quarterback Matt Barkley, who was once considered to be a candidate to be taken first overall. Scouts are reportedly worried about his arm strength and his ability to stretch a defense vertically. But he’s not without skill. He gets the ball out of his hand quickly, displays good touch and is a tough kid. He also throws the ball better outside the numbers and between defenders than people give him credit for but again, he won’t survive in a vertical-based offense. Considering he worked the short-to-intermediate game while at USC, he would be a good fit for a team running the West Coast Offense. But because of his arm, teams will have to figure out whether or not he’s worth taking before the third round.

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2012 NFL Scouting Combine: 15 players that improved their draft stock

Missouri Tigers Michael Egnew (82) gets past the Iowa State Cyclones defense for a 39 yard touchdown in the first quarter at Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri on October 15, 2011. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Which NFL prospects improved their draft stock at this year’s scouting combine?

Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Poe may have been the most impressive player at this year’s combine. He’s already a physical marvel at 6-foot-5 and 348 pounds that can play in either a 3-4 or a 4-3. But toss in the fact that he ran an unreal 4.9 forty and did 44 reps on the bench press and what you have is a sure-fire top 20 pick.

Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Hill ran a 4.36 forty, which was the fastest time among all of the receivers (Miami’s Travis Benjamin also ran a 4.36) and placed him second behind only Central Florida cornerback Josh Robinson (who ran a 4.33). He also posted an impressive 39.5-inch vertical jump and displayed good quickness in short shuttle drills. At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Hill has the size and speed that teams look for in a potential No. 1 receiver. With his stellar combine workout, he may have moved himself into the late first round.

Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Griffin made the Rams very happy with his 4.41 forty time, which bested all quarterbacks at the combine. He was a top 5 pick heading into Indianapolis but he may have just upped his asking price with his impressive performance. The Rams seemingly want to deal the No. 2 overall pick and after Griffin shinned in Indianapolis, they should have plenty of trade suitors come April.

Luke Kuechley, LB, Boston College
Teams were well aware of Kuechly’s productivity (he finished with 532 tackles at Boston College), instincts, toughness, and I.Q. before the combine. But after he posted a 4.50 forty and a 38-inch vertical leap, he cemented his status as a top-20 pick. He looks like one of the safer first-round prospects in this year’s draft.

Josh Robinson, CB, Central Florida
Robinson blew scouts away when he ran unofficial forty times of 4.31 and 4.29, respectively. Those times made him the fastest prospect at this year’s combine and he also posted the best broad jump among the defensive backs with a mark of 11-foot-1. He’s a raw underclassman but after compiling 10 interceptions at Central Florida, Robinson has the speed and ball skills to merit a second round selection.

Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Kalil is a monster at 6-foot-7 and 306 pounds and is the younger brother of Panthers Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil. He posted a 4.99 forty, was excellent in the three-cone drill, and also did 30 reps on the bench. He cemented his status as the top left tackle in the draft and he may have guaranteed that the Vikings will select him with the No. 3 overall pick in April.

Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
Glenn shocked observers by running a 4.96 forty and proved that he’s quick enough to play either right tackle or guard at the next level. He’s a massive run blocker at 6-foot-6 and 345 pounds, yet he stood out in the 10-yard split by clocking a 1.76. He also posted 31 reps on the bench press and cemented his status as a top-20 pick.

Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Behind Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill, Floyd was the most impressive receiver in Indy this year. He quelled some fears about his ability to separate from defenders by clocking a 4.47 forty, and at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds he has prototypical size for a receiver. While some scouts remain skeptical about his on-field speed, Floyd definitely improved his draft stock this past weekend.

Nick Perry, USC, OLB/DE
Perry was highly impressive in most of the drills at the combine, posting a 4.50 in the forty, a 38 1/2 –inch vertical leap, 10-foot-4 broad jump, and 35 reps on the bench press. He looks like an ideal fit as an edge-rusher in a 3-4.

Mychal Kendricks, LB, California
I included Kendricks in my “Spotting defensive value” article last week and he didn’t disappoint at the combine. At 5-foot-11 and 239 pounds, there are questions about his size, which is why he was projected to go in the fourth or fifth round before last week. But he posted the fastest forty in the linebacker group with a time of 4.47 and is a violent, explosive hitter from his inside linebacker position. I think he has a spot on a NFL roster and will make some team extremely happy in the fourth round.

Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri
Egnew was one of the top performers at the tight end position in the three-cone, broad jump, short shuttle, and vertical jump, and also posted a 4.6 forty. Some believe his game speed isn’t as fast as his forty would suggest but he nevertheless looks like a solid “Y” or slot tight end at the next level.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State
Cousins was arguably the most impressive quarterback in passing drills last weekend. Granted, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin II and Ryan Tannehill didn’t throw but that shouldn’t take away from the natural skill set that Cousins possessed in the three and five-step drop drills. Before the combine, Cousins was projected to go in the third round but he may have jumped into the second with his impressive performance.

Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Gilmore posted a 4.37 forty, which highlighted his excellent speed. Considering he’s also 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, teams will be just as intrigued by his size as they are with his speed. He looks like the third best corner in the draft and is ideal for a zone scheme.

Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina
Brown is a former track star and after running an unofficial 4.4 forty, teams will love his potential as a weak-side linebacker. He’s an ideal fit in a Cover-2 scheme that will allow him to track down ball carries in the open field. Look for him to be drafted in the late first or early second.

Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Ingram was already viewed as a first-round pick coming into the draft but he may have guaranteed that he’ll be a top-15 pick with his performance at the combine. He clocked an unofficial 4.66 forty and a 1.65 10-yard split, and teams could fight over his versatility and athleticism come April.

NFL Scouting Combine Thoughts: Quarterbacks

The quarterbacks performed throwing drills at the NFL scouting combine on Sunday and below are some quick-hit thoughts on how each of them fared. (Thank you NFL Network for broadcasting the scouting combine for those of us who are unable to go to Indianapolis, or have a restraining order that mandates we stay 500 yards away from Rich Eisen, whom all I wanted to do was party with.)

– For those that were concerned with the way the ball comes out of Cam Newton’s hand, there’s no need. Unlike Tim Tebow last year, Newton doesn’t have a flaw that needs to be fixed when it comes to his delivery, which is important seeing as how he played in the spread option under Gus Malzahn at Auburn.

– That said, Newton was awfully inconsistent on Sunday. His passes on the out route sailed on him and he also overthrew his receiver on one of his post-corner throws. His footwork is still a work in progress but hey, he’s learning. He has to transition from being a spread quarterback to a conventional drop back passer in the NFL, so it’s going to take time. At least at this point he has better mechanics than Tebow and Vince Young when they were preparing for the draft.

Ryan Mallett was really impressive. He has a cannon attached to his right shoulder and the ball comes out of his hand rather effortlessly. He has the best physical tools of any quarterback in the draft and at 6’6” and 238 pounds, he has the size that scouts drool over. Of course, his physical tools have never been in question. His attitude and character are what some are concerned about. Personally, I think he has Oakland Raiders written all over him. He could thrive in a vertical offense and Al Davis can’t even spell character.

Christian Ponder had himself a great day as well. He outshined Newton and all other quarterbacks in the second group, displaying very good accuracy and decent arm strength. I can’t see him going any higher than the third round, but he looked healthy and confident on Sunday. Depending on what team he winds up with, he could be a player to watch in a couple of years.

– For those who followed him at Washington, it’s not surprising that Jake Locker ran one of the fastest 40 times (4.52 seconds) of any quarterback in combine history. The guy was blessed with a ton of athleticism and he looked good throwing the ball, which had been a concern heading into the combine. He was a little inconsistent with his accuracy when throwing the dig route, but it’s hard to complain about his performance. Of course, most quarterbacks perform well when there are no defenders in their face. When teams watch film of him from last year, there will be plenty to pick apart.

Ricky Stanzi, Jerrod Johnson and Andy Dalton all struggled with their accuracy. I don’t think anyone is surprised with Johnson, but I thought Dalton would put on a better performance. Of course, where he wins teams over is with his leadership, his football IQ and his instincts. You can’t measure those things in throwing drills. I will say this about Stanzi though: the kid throws a nice deep ball (at least when he’s not facing any DBs).

NFL Offseason Notes: Rice, Jacobs, Hillis, Bush & combine QBs

Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis (40) is stopped by Miami Dolphins Tim Dobbins (51) after a short gain in first half action at Sun Life Stadium in Miami on December 5, 2010. UPI/Michael Bush

What’s the deal with Rice’s hip?
There have been conflicting reports about the status of Viking receiver Sidney Rice’s hip. Said coach Leslie Frazier on Friday: “Our medical staff has assured us that he’s going to be fine…productive for years to come.” He also stressed that Rice is a high priority and the Vikings want to sign him to a long-term deal. But Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Sid Hartman reports that “close friends” of Rice claim that he’s dealing with an arthritic condition in his hip after playing hurt last season. If you’re looking to choose a side in this race, I’d go with the head coach over the beat reporter. But that’s just me.

Shurmur likes the idea of Hillis and Hardesty teaming up
New Browns coach Pat Shurmur told the media on Friday that he likes the idea of a two-back tandem featuring bulldozer Peyton Hillis and second-year back Montario Hardesty. I don’t know why he wouldn’t. Bill Walsh used Roger Craig and Tom Rathman together in his version of the West Coast Offense when the Niners won the 1988 Super Bowl. The book is still out on Hardesty, but Hillis proved to be a one-man wrecking crew at times last year and showed that he can catch the ball out of the backfield, too. Good coaches use the weapons they have and it would be a shame for the Browns not to incorporate some two-back looks with both Hillis and Hardesty lined up in the backfield.

Coughlin admits Jacobs needs to carry the ball more
It’s assumed by many that the Giants will dump running back Brandon Jacobs and his $4.65 million salary this offseason. But after hearing the comments coach Tom Coughlin made on Friday, maybe the G-Men plan to keep Jacobs around next year. “As you look at everything at the end of the year, Brandon was fresher than he’s ever been, healthier than he’s ever been and probably needs to carry the ball a little more,” said Coughlin, who also said that Jacobs has “a lot of gas in the tank.” Considering Ahmad Bradshaw is a free agent, Coughlin’s comments are rather interesting.

Bush not expected to be released
Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune doesn’t expect the Saints to release Reggie Bush before the end of the league year on March 4. Triplett writes that the team will probably wait and work on a “possible extension or restructure.” I find it hard to believe that the Saints would pay Bush the $11.8 million he’s owed next season, so he’s going to have to take a dramatic pay cut if he wants to stay in New Orleans. As of right now, it seems like he is willing to do that.

Newton “physically imposing,” Mallett…not so much.
Wes Bunting of the National Football Post is at the scouting combine this week and was there when the quarterbacks weighed in on Friday. Cam Newton checked in at 6-5 and 248 pounds, while Ryan Mallett was nearly 6-7 and 253 pounds. According to Bunting, Newton looked “physically imposing” and has an “impressive” athletic build, while Mallett “had a bad body” and seemed “soft.” For those who have seen photos of Tom Brady at his combine weigh-in, these comments could mean very little. (That’s not a knock on Bunting, who is an excellent draft analyst. I’m just pointing out that Brady didn’t look like an extra from the movie “300” when he was drafted and he’s gone on to win three Super Bowls.)

NFL combine notes: Orton, Henne, Shockey and crazy ‘ol Al Davis

Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton (L) is about to get sacked by Arizona Cardinals Clark Haggans (R) during the first quarter of the Cards Broncos game at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ December 12,2010. UPI/Art Foxall

Here are a couple of interesting tidbits from team press conferences Thursday at the NFL scouting combine.

Fox names Orton his starter “right now.”
New Broncos head coach Jon Fox told reporters that Kyle Orton and not Tim Tebow is his starting quarterback as of right now. Fox said that he’s interested to see how Tebow looks but noted, “As far as I’m concerned, (Orton) is under contract and he’s the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.” It’s not surprising that Fox would side with the more seasoned quarterback, seeing as how he refused to give up on Jake Delhomme in Carolina until the bitter end.

Titans don’t plan on meeting with Shockey
New Titans head coach Mike Munchak said that the team has no plans to speak with free agent Jeremy Shockey about coming to Tennessee. As I wrote the day the Saints released him, I see Shockey winding up in Miami to play under new OC Brian Daboll (who loves to use his tight ends, almost to a fault sometimes).

Henne is still the Dolphins’ starter
Speaking of Miami, GM Jeff Ireland referred to Chad Henne as his starter during his press conference on Thursday. It looks like Henne is the clear-cut favorite to enter the 2011 season as the Dolphins’ starting quarterback, although don’t rule out Miami taking a flier on someone like TCU’s Andy Dalton or Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi in the middle rounds.

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