Quarterbacks get scrutiny

After all the Twitter hype around quarterback hand sizes, the real business of evaluating the college quarterbacks has started at the NFL combine. This position dominates draft discussions, as the concept of “best player available” really doesn’t apply to the quarterbacks versus other positions. Teams that need a quarterback have a much different approach in the first round versus teams already set at the position.

This year there are three guys everyone sees at the top of the QB class, but further scrutiny is starting to affect how each of them are perceived. Here’s Pat Kirwin, one of the best commentators in the business, on what he is seeing so far.

We all arrived in Indianapolis believing there were three quarterbacks set for the top five picks. However, one GM said, “I’m glad I don’t need a franchise QB this year. … too many questions [are] starting to surface on this group.”

An example: Teddy Bridgewater told me Saturday he was going to run but never did. The same GM said of Bridgewater: “He beefed up to 214 to appear bigger, but he better not think he can drop the weight to run at his pro day. We don’t fall for that one.”

Johnny Manziel is 5-foot-11 3/4, not 6-foot as he had been listed. One coach told me “[Manziel] keeps trying to portray the image of the next Russell Wilson and I’m not buying it.”

I liked Bortles the best of the three, but time will tell if the teams at the top of the draft think so. I left Indianapolis with the impression that the real QB work was about which guy to take in the second or third round.

He makes the point that many teams are taking a hard look at the offensive tackles and that these players are moving up draft boards. That position seems to offer much less risk at the top of the draft, and guys like Jake Matthews, Greg Robinson, Taylor Lewan and Zach Martin have been impressive at the combine. Robinson in particular stunned with his 40 time.

It’s still early, but this year predicting the order of the top ten seems particularly difficult, and so it will be hard to predict the QB decisions that will affect teams for next year. So if you like betting NFL futures when you use your Bet365 offer code, keep in mind that the odds can change dramatically once these QB decisions play out.

Houston in particular is a tough one to predict. A pro-ready quarterback like Teddy Bridgewater could make them a playoff team again overnight. Opinions on Johnny Manziel vary dramatically, but if he thrives in the NFL he could turn around a team like Houston very quickly. Meanwhile, Bortles might be the best pick in terms of long-term potential, but he’s a real project. Unless Houston gets a good veteran to play in front of him, they would likely struggle with Bortles starting right away as he has so much to learn.

On the other hand, they could draft Jadeveon Clowney as a bookend to JJ WAtt on that defense, and all of a sudden they could be dominant on that side of the ball again. Give them a veteran QB and you suddenly have a real team again.

So good luck making picks at this stage of the game.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Could Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick wind up going in the first round?

If someone had suggested three months ago that Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick could go in the first round of this year’s draft, that person would have probably been laughed at. In fact, ‘No way!’, ‘You’re an idiot!’, ‘I hate your face!’ would have likely been some of the typical responses.

But times have changed.

About a week ago, NFL Network’s Albert Breer was the latest to suggest that Kaepernick could merit first-round consideration. Granted, he did say late first-round consideration, but first-round consideration nonetheless.

Breer isn’t alone either. Kaepernick’s combination of size, athleticism and arm strength has garnered some attention over these last couple of months and it appears as though the former Wolfpack is steadily rising up draft boards. According to FOX Sports, he’s “scheduled to take 13 trips” to meet with NFL teams before the draft, with another three “in the works.” A few more teams are also reportedly set to come out to Reno to watch him workout as well.

That said, the biggest challenges that Kaepernick faces are that 1) he played in the pistol offense at Nevada and therefore has never ran a pro-style offense, and 2) he may have to adjust his unorthodox throwing motion when he gets to the next level. Granted, he’s not a work-in-progress like Tim Tebow was last year but he’s not Philip Rivers either in terms of his release (even though the ball does come out of his hand quickly).

Depending on how far guys like Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett and Christian Ponder fall, Kaepernick will likely go somewhere in the middle rounds (i.e. 2 through 4). It still seems like a stretch that he would go in the first round, although it’s certainly not as big a stretch as it was three months ago.

Report: Bowers “really struggled” at Pro Day

We knew that Da’Quan Bowers’ Pro Day on Friday was important after several reports have come out this month indicating that teams are worried about his knee. Unfortunately for Bowers, it doesn’t appear as though he put those concerns to rest.

According to Pro Football Weekly, Bowers “really struggled” at his workout on Friday.

He clearly looked fatigued, and left evaluators strongly questioning whether he will be ready in his first season. One evaluator in attendance estimated that Bowers’ knee appeared to be 70 percent healthy, at best.

“If he falls to us, we would have to discuss it,” said one evaluator, whose team holds a pick in the back half of the first round, “and I’m not sure we would pull the trigger. We’ll listen to our doctors. He had a real difficult time bending. I question whether he will be ready.”

Another evaluator added: “He’s not ready. He was hobbling around out there. The shuttles were bad. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. He cost himself millions of dollars.”

Ouch. Once regarded as a top-5 pick, it appears as though he’ll fall considerably at the end of the month. There’s always a chance that teams are sending out negative vibes about him in hopes that he’ll fall, but there hasn’t been one positive report about his knee since he had it scoped following the 2010 season.

Making matters worse for Bowers is that this year’s defensive end class is deep. North Carolina’s Robert Quinn, Missouri’s Aldon Smith, Cal’s Cameron Jordan, Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn, Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward, Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt, Georgia’s Justin Houston (considered to be a “tweener”) and Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan are all regarded as first round picks. It would be easy for a defensive end-needy team to simply move Bowers down and one of those prospects up, causing Bowers to fall. Of course, depending on how far he drops, he could also be considered a major bargain. (Assuming his knee does eventually heal, of course.)

We’ll see. There’s still a month before the draft and that means a month of recovery more of recovery for Bowers. This news is certainly disappointing but who knows what teams are thinking at this point? His draft fate will be decided soon enough.

Report: Clemson’s Bowers removed from two draft boards

ESPN’s Todd McShay is reporting that two teams have already removed defensive end Da’Quan Bowers from their draft boards.

From Rotoworld:

“I already know of two teams that have failed him,” McShay said on Thursday morning’s SportsCenter. “He’s off their board.” McShay’s statement is eerily similar to Peter King’s in Monday Morning Quarterback. We’ll give McShay the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn’t rip the info off King. Either way, McShay makes it sound like Bowers’ knee problem is a big concern in league circles. Many in the media have tried to downplay the injury.

Dear Lord, are there any good reports on this poor kid? Every time I find an article on Bowers’ pre-draft status, it’s always negative.

There’s no doubt about it: his Pro Day on Friday is crucial. There’s one way for him to put rumors to rest and that’s by going out and proving to teams that his knee is fine. If he struggles, then there’s no telling how far he could fall in late April.

Two months ago this was a prospect that was seemingly guaranteed to be selected in the top-5 and now he might not even crack the top-10. We’ll have a good idea on Friday just where his draft stock really is. If Bowers slides, it’ll be interesting to see how far prospects like Von Miller, Julio Jones and Cameron Jordan will rise.

What is a “pegged” cap and why should you care?

DeMaurice Smith, NFL Players Association Executive Director, makes a statement after negotiations collapsed between the National Football League (NFL) and National Football League Players’ Association (NFLPA) in Washington on March 11, 2011. The last real hope for a quick end to the dispute ended when the union representing the players (NFLPA) filed a court application to dissolve itself after failing to reach an agreement with league and owners over a range of issues. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS)

The latest scuttlebutt out of the NFL labor non-negotiation negotiations is the idea of a “pegged” cap, which was reportedly brought up by the players. A pegged cap is a stable salary cap that is based on revenue projections and goes up at a set amount each season. The last CBA had a salary cap based on actual annual revenue that could go up or down each year depending on which way the wind was blowing.

Why does this matter?

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio explains…

If the actual numbers come in lower, the players still get paid. One major area of dispute has arisen from the question of whether and to what extent the actual performance exceeds the projected revenue growth. The owners’ offer of March 11 omitted that wrinkle; the players want to share in the upside.

The players, we’re told, prefer a “pegged cap” approach to expense credits because it entails simpler auditing and fewer disputes.

I’m on the players’ side in this debate, but if they are getting guaranteed pay no matter how the league is actually doing, then they can’t really demand a substantial share of the upside. If they have no downside, why should they get considerable upside?

Of course, it all depends on the projections used to create the pegged cap. If they’re conservative, and revenue is very likely to be greater, then the players do deserve a share. If the projections are aggressive, then the players should be happy they have stable salaries with no downside and forget about trying to get a piece of the additional revenue.

Florio continues…

As of right now, the two sides are $10 million apart per team on the the “pegged cap” approach, which is driven by projected revenues. The owners have offered $141 million per team in salary and benefits, and the players have requested $151 million. If they can bridge the gap and devise a procedure for handling any excess growth, they should be able to do a deal fairly quickly.

Well, that’s awfully optimistic given the current status of the negotiations, which are at a standstill. The two sides need to get talking again, but that is unlikely since they’re waiting on the courts to decide the fate of the lockout.

Tick-tock, people! (Don’t they know I have fantasy football rankings to put together?)

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