Scouting combine preview

February 21st, 2013 | Written by Rob Staton

You’re going to hear a lot of people say the scouting combine doesn’t matter. For me, it’s one of the best events in the football calendar.

A case in point… did anyone know a great deal about a running back from East Carolina until he showed up at the combine in 2008? He ran in the 4.2’s and suddenly was being talked about as a possible first round pick. That guy was Chris Johnson. The fact he ran such a blistering time wasn’t enough exclusively to qualify him as a first rounder, but it motivated a heck of a lot of people to go and find some East Carolina game tape. And it just so happens he looked the part. It’s no surprise he recorded a 2000-yard season even if he’s since gone a bit off the rails. The combine raised Johnson’s profile and everyone was better for it.

Some drills like the gauntlet (where receivers are actively encouraged to catch and drop a series of passes) are completely pointless and waste everyone’s time. That aside, how often do you get an opportunity to put some of college football’s best players together and compare them side by side?

You might have two talented edge rushers with similar grades on your draft board. What if one runs a significantly faster 10-yard split at the combine? That’s vital information there.

We get to measure and test the players specifically, receiving crucial information via measurements, speed and physical prowess. How many times has a school exaggerated on a players height or weight? How many times has a prospect boasted about being able to run a specific time but then failed to live up to expectation?

And most importantly it gives the teams the opportunity to conduct mass interviews with multiple players. We don’t get to hear most of the detail there, but a few bits and pieces will be leaked to the media. It always happens.

Yes, tape will always be the most important factor in judging these players, but the combine is here to stay and that’s a good thing.

The schedule and groupings remain the same as previous years. The different positions are split as follows:

Arrived on Wednesday: Group 1 (kickers, special teams, offensive linemen), Group 2 (offensive linemen), Group 3 (tight ends)

Arrive today: Group 4 (quarterbacks, wide receivers), Group 5 (quarterbacks, wide receivers), Group 6 (running backs)

Arrive on Friday: Group 7 (defensive linemen), Group 8 (defensive linemen), Group 9 (linebackers)

Arrive on Saturday: Group 10 (defensive backs), Group 11 (defensive backs)

Each positional group goes through the following schedule:

Day one: Registration, hospital pre-exam and X-rays, orientation, team interviews

Day two: Measurements, medical exams, media interviews, team interviews

Day three: NFLPA meeting, psychological testing, bench press, team interviews

Day four: On-field workouts

It basically means the special teams players and offensive lineman work out on Saturday. The quarterbacks, receivers and running backs on Sunday, the defensive lineman on Monday and the defensive backs on Tuesday.

You can see a complete list of the participants here.

The offensive linemen and tight ends were weighed and measured today. D.J. Fluker showed up 16lbs lighter than the Senior Bowl (339lbs vs 355lbs). He was probably told by many teams to drop weight. Even though he pulled off 355lbs without too much excess weight, if he wants to play tackle in the NFL he has to get lighter. The one thing Fluker struggles with is the speed rush, which is exactly what he’s going see time and time again at the next level. He has to get lighter on his feet to play tackle, or he’ll have to kick inside to guard.

Chance Warmack was a more  modest than expected 6-2 and 317lbs, while fellow top-15 guard prospect Jonathan Cooper came in at 6-2 and 311lbs. According to Tony Pauline, several teams have Cooper rated above Warmack: “He’s much better blocking in motion compared to Warmack and a natural fit for a zone blocking scheme.  Teams have referred to Cooper as ‘special’ and they feel in time he can add weight, which will only improve his run blocking.” Neither Cooper or Warmack is going to last very long. Top-15? Probably.

Luke Joeckel (6-6, 306lbs), Lane Johnson (6-6, 303lbs) and Eric Fisher (6-7, 306lbs) all have textbook size to play the left tackle position. They could be all gone by San Diego at #11.

Zach Ertz measured at 6-5 and 249lbs. If he runs as well as expected on Saturday, he could go in the top-20. There’s been some hand-wringing about the length of his 34-inch arms, but considering he’ll be more of a receiver than an in-line blocker, I’m not too concerned here. Tyler Eifert (6-5, 250lbs) and Gavin Escobar (6-6, 254lbs) both look the part. Jordan Reed is shorter and smaller at 6-2 and 236lbs but it’s worth noting how similar he is to another former Gator — Aaron Hernandez (6-2, 245lbs). Reed will feature in the same role as Hernandez and won’t be used as an orthodox tight end.

Joseph Fauria came in at 6-7 and 259lbs with nearly 11-inch hands. Them’s some big hands. Travis Kelce measured at 6-5, 255lbs.

Injury news

We already knew Keenan Allen, Kawann Short, Matt Barkley and Eddie Lacy wouldn’t work out, but nobody expected Jarvis Jones to bail. Jones suffers with spinal stenosis, an issue that ended his time at USC — not to mention several promising careers in the NFL. Apparently he’s going to focus on his pro-day on March 21st and no reason has been given for his unwillingness to perform at the combine. I can’t see this going down particularly well. Meanwhile, Dee Milliner will undergo shoulder surgery after the combine. He’s suffering with a torn labrum.

John Schneider speaks

The Seahawks GM conducted a press conference at the combine today. You can see all 17:08 minutes of it by clicking here.

Here are a few things to keep an eye on regarding Seattle’s more prominent needs…

Receivers/tight ends

Without any big name receivers guaranteed to go in the top ten, there could be a lot of jostling for draft position this weekend. Cordarrelle Patterson has the chance to propel himself into the top-15. He’s technically quite poor, takes bad angles when trying to catch the ball and hasn’t got the greatest hands, but he’s one of the more dynamic players to enter the league in the last few years. If he runs a 4.3-4.4 or even faster, he’ll be rising on many boards. He’s incredibly elusive on tape, it’ll be interesting to see if that translates to superb straight-line speed.

I think Steadman Bailey will run a quicker time than people expect — probably a quicker time than team mate Tavon Austin. Bailey could be a legit 4.4 guy. Austin needs to prove he’s quick given his complete lack of size. I remember Dexter McCluster running a surprising 4.58 in Indianapolis and despite going in round two, he hasn’t had an impact for the Chiefs. Austin could run a similar time, don’t rule it out. And if he does, there could be some concern he’ll just end up being another undersized ineffective player who needs manufactured production.

At West Virginia, they were constantly trying to find ways to get him the ball in front of the defense. His best quality isn’t speed, it’s elusiveness and the ability to make people miss. He wasn’t a great deep threat for the Mountaineers — that guy was Steadman Bailey. In the end they just put Austin at tailback, something that isn’t going to happen at the next level. I doubt he runs a 4.35 like DeSean Jackson. And given his size, a lack of pure speed will be concerning. Fun player to watch in college, but will his game translate?

DeAndre Hopkins won’t shine and will probably run a 4.5. This isn’t his forte though and he deserves to go in round one regardless of anything happening this weekend. Terrance Williams lacks Hopkins’ technical qualities, but he’s a burner. He should run an electric time. Markus Wheaton has track speed and even beat Oregon’s D’Anthony Thomas in a recent 100m sprint. He will clock a fast time. Robert Woods needs to prove he can fly but I’m not optimistic he’ll do a great deal to help himself this week. Da’Rick Rogers will be a fascinating test case, both in terms of what teams think of his interview technique and his ability to flash as an athlete. Chris Harper at Kansas State is a bit hit and miss on tape, but he’s another player I’ll be watching.

There are three tight ends who should perform very well — Ertz, Escobar and Reed. Ertz proved he can get downfield against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and will look the part running in shorts in Indianapolis. Escobar will run well for his size and could be a first round pick himself. Reed has maybe the biggest opportunity to get his name out there. I remember one catch he made against Texas A&M where he turned on the jets and exploded up-field. I’ve not seen a guy with his size move like that before. How fast can he run? 4.4’s? Keep an eye on his forty yard dash.

Linebackers

Really we’re looking for guys that run above average times and flash plus agility and cover skills. The Seahawks want speed in the front seven. Presuming Leroy Hill isn’t re-signed, they’re probably going to draft a WILL at some point. I suspect Sio Moore, Zaviar Gooden and Jelani Jenkins will all perform well enough to be in contention as mid-round options.

Gooden is the one I’m most interested in. He really looked the part at the Senior Bowl, flying around the field yet still managing to show solid instincts. He looks like a supreme athlete. Who knows where his stock will be if his momentum continues to build. Right now he’s the player I’m focused on the most if the Seahawks don’t draft a linebacker in the first two rounds.

Alec Ogletree will put on a clinic. I have no doubt about that. He’s a naturally gifted athlete and should test well in every department. He also needs a big show to make up for the off-field concerns that continue to linger. So while people are lining up to declare he’ll drop out of round one, I think he’ll do enough in Indianapolis to convince one of Tampa Bay, Cincinnati or St. Louis to take a chance.

For the Seahawks, I’ll be keeping close tabs on Khaseem Greene and Arthur Brown. Both players are athletic enough to impress and flash the necessary speed to be a possible first round WILL. Greene is thicker set and won’t get into the 4.4 range, but he should run a solid 4.5. After all, he has the same bloodlines as Ray Graham. Brown could edge Greene for straight-line speed but is he quite the same kind of impact player? He also had to switch from the WILL back to MLB at Kansas State because he felt more comfortable inside. He was also quite homesick during his time in Miami, provoking his move back to Kansas. Greene on the other hand will be a day one leader and should wow anyone who interviews him in Indianapolis.

Defensive lineman

Depending on how healthy he is, Dion Jordan could put on a masterclass. It’ll be interesting to see exactly how much he weighs — there have been some concerns that he played as low as 230lbs this season at 6-7. He needs to hold his weight and still flash the kind of physical upside that makes you salivate watching tape. Chip Kelly for some reason had him dropping into coverage so often. He’s not bad at it, it’s just you’d like to see him rushing the passer pretty much every down. It certainly impacted his production with just five sacks in 2012. He could be one of the stars of this years combine. I think he’s a top-ten lock.

Ziggy Ansah will be right there alongside Jordan ready to bolster his stock. He’ll test brilliantly in every drill. Ansah is technically raw but he’s a beast. This should be fun to watch.

Barkevious Mingo needs a big weekend. I watched four LSU games over the last few days and came away bitterly disappointed with his tape. He’d flash every now and again, but where’s the spark? The consistency? He doesn’t dominate enough despite playing on a solid LSU front line. His production was poor in 2012 and he’s not an obvious scheme fit at 3-4 OLB or 4-3 end. He might ‘only’ be a LEO. He needs a super-quick ten yard split.

Bjoern Werner won’t test particularly well but shouldn’t see his stock hampered too much — he’s still a pure 4-3 end and should look to re-gain the weight he lost last summer. Damontre Moore’s stock has dropped a bit since the end of the season and he needs to recapture some momentum. Alex Okafor, Margus Hunt, John Simon, Datone Jones, Corey Lemonier… the defensive end groupings will be unmissable. There’s so much to be gained or lost this weekend. Keep an eye on the all-important ten-yard splits, not just the forty yard dash times.

It’s hard to get much out of watching the defensive tackles work out. Again, the ten-yard splits are vital. But the rest? Not so much. I suspect Sheldon Richardson and Sharrif Floyd will both have work-outs that confirm their standings among the top-ten picks. Richardson in particular might run a faster than time than any defensive tackle in recent memory. Monitor the big guys to see how they move — Montori Hughes, Brandon Williams, Sylvester Williams, Johnathan Hankins, Jonathan Jenkins, Jesse Williams. The Seahawks might want to keep size along that defensive line if they don’t re-sign Alan Branch, but whoever they draft will need to be an upgrade on what they already had. That means better athleticism and pass rushing potential.

On Jesse Williams, it’s been suggested he could be this years bench-press specialist. He won’t run particularly well and might struggle in some of the movement drills, but he always looked strong on tape. Let’s see if he’s this years answer to Stephen Paea. That’s the player he compares most to.

Cornerbacks

In each draft so far, the Seahawks have taken a corner later on. This will no doubt be the case again this year. They just seem to like stock piling secondary talent. Look out for any tall, lean defensive backs who run well and appear to be able to play physical. I’m going to monitor Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Dee Milliner, Xavier Rhodes, Leon McFadden, Robert Alford, Will Davis, Terry Hawthorne, Tharold Simon, Greg Reid and Johnthan Banks.

Out of the group, Mississippi State’s Banks looks like the most likely ‘Seahawks’ type corner. The only problem is, he’s a possible first or second round pick. And I’m not convinced the Seahawks will draft a corner that early, especially given their success rate without spending high picks at corner. It’s almost certain they’ll take one at some stage, though.

The other positions

Menelik Watson could be the offensive lineman who benefits the most this week. He’s got a little Bruce Campbell to his game, but he’s a lot more technically polished despite how relatively new he is to the game. Expect the three big name tackles to impress — Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel and Lane Johnson. Jonathan Cooper is a big time athlete. Watching the running backs perform in the forty yard dash is always entertaining. Eddie Lacy won’t compete and this year lacks the ‘star’ power of previous seasons. Still, it’s a decent crop of runners and I’ll be keeping a close eye on Montee Ball, Andre Ellington, Giovani Bernard, Stepfan Taylor, Joseph Randle, Zach Stacy, Ray Graham, Rex Burkhead, Jawan Jamison and Jonathan Franklin.

Small school prospects

A few unknown types put themselves in the public eye during the combine and it shouldn’t be ignored. A case in point — guys like Mark LeGree didn’t do a great deal in the pro’s, but a good combine placed him on Seattle’s radar. John Schneider and Pete Carroll appear happy to take on the occasional project from a smaller programme. It’s difficult for us amateurs to identify those players due to limited access to live coverage and game tape. But you never know who might emerge in Indianapolis. Kip made a post highlighting some potential targets earlier in the week.

42 Responses to “Scouting combine preview”

  1. Leonard says:

    I’m not sure if he got an invite or not but I will be very interested to see how LB Phillip Steward from Houston runs. Might have to wait for his pro day. He just screams Carroll to me. 6-1, 230lbs and a 78″ wing span. Looks very fast and agile. Looked pretty good covering the slot in nickle defense. Great stats too. 128 tackles, 23 for loss, 12 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 3 interception (6 interceptions in 2011) and 3 passes defended. If the Hawks don’t get Greene then Steward might be a good mid to late round alternative.

    • Rob Staton says:

      The issue I have with Steward is the regularity with which he was asked to blitz. It’s pretty much every play. And if that’s his basic outlook, it means he might be pretty limited overall. Nice athlete, impact player in college, but he won’t be blitzing on the majority of his plays in the NFL… he’ll have to be savvy and instinctive.

      • Leonard says:

        The only game film that I could find on him was the UCLA game and he seemed to be playing nickle back as much as he blitzed. Pretty even between the blitzing, base OLB and nickle back actually. I understand that was only one game out of fifty so for all I know that was an anomaly. 11 career intercetption and 18 passes defended seem pretty impressive though. His 6 INT’s in 2011 led all linebackers too. That’s got to say something about his instincts.

        • Snoop Dogg says:

          I love Phillip Steward! I trust John Snchieder no matter what, but I would still be so much more pleased with the value of taking a Zavier Gooden or a Phillip Steward later in the draft. Great value pick up!

  2. Stuart says:

    Rob, thanks for the update. I wonder with TE Jordan Reed weighing under 240 and with a real fast 40 time if he becomes a higher priority for the Hawks? In the first round I hope we pick somebody that is a first round pick…JS does great in rounds after R-1 save 2010 draft at 1.6 and 1.14. Dont get too cute, dont over think it, trade down if they have to…

    I am not buying Bruce Irvin had to be picked at #15. We will never know but if he was the man PCJS wanted, they could have traded lower in the first, recieved more picks and still got Irvin. The fact was at the time of the draft Irvin was (still is) a one trick pony and had baggage plus his age was older too. Those of you will argue on behalf of Irvin, have at it. The fact is we are still looking for a LEO, my 2 cents…AKA SENIOR ANALYST LOL

    • Zach says:

      Do we know for sure that Irvin would have gotten past #20?

    • Rob Staton says:

      I think Carroll may have had his heart set on Irvin just due to their previous history (tried to recruit him to USC). It definitely seemed like a Pete pick rather than a John pick.

      • SunPathPaul says:

        From what I remember from Draft day last year is that someone was pissed Irvin went off the board. They wanted him either the next pick, or soon after…

    • Robert says:

      I hope we pick up Brandon Williams in the 2nd and put him next to Brandon Mebane. Together, they will collapse the pocket. Bruce Irvin will spend the season chasing flushed QB’s with his freak speed. That’s what I think PC envisioned last year, but they never consistently got the push up the middle. Irvin should have much improved hands, technique etc.

  3. Clayton says:

    Three questions: 1) Tyrann Mathieu is probably going to blow up at the combine. If he does impress, will Seattle overlook the off the field stuff and draft him, say, in the fourth? 2) Any chance Seattle will have shot at drafting Desmond Trufant? 3) Gerald Hodges is a converted safety much like Khaseem Greene. Is he possibility for the WILL?

    • Rob Staton says:

      1. I’m not convinced Mathieu will impress all that much at the combine and neither am I convinced Seattle will show much interest given his background. I think he’ll be a Bengal.

      2. Trufant is a first round lock according to reports and I don’t see them going for a corner in round one.

      3. Possibly… I’ve not spent a ton of time studying Hodges although I have Penn State tape. If he impresses at the combine I’ll go back and check him out.

      • jake says:

        I think honey badger (Mathieu) will prove everyone wrong. He may not have all the attributes size wise to play cb, but he does have the instincts and ball skills. He may be a 2nd rounder, but the guy will be playing with a big time chip on his shoulder. He’ll be a steal.

  4. Michael says:

    With all of the modern technology available, why is it somehow still impossible to hear the questions being asked by people at a press conference? It is so frustrating trying to put answers into context without knowing exactly what was asked…

  5. Sam Jaffe says:

    I think Ertz just fell out of the first round because of his 31″ wingspan. If Seattle takes a TE in the 1st, it’s now down to Eifert, Escobar and Reed.

    • Snoop Dogg says:

      Why is no one talking about Vance McDonald? He just weighed in at almost 6’4″ 270 lbs. with long arms and big hands. He also is supposed to be really fast. He also is supposed to have done really well in the Senior Bowl.

      Basic point is that he seems like the perfect 2nd round reach pick if we want a potential All-Pro at tight end.

    • Rob Staton says:

      I highly doubt the arms issue will lead to that kind of drop. Compare it to the other receivers in this class, because Ertz isn’t an orthodox TE.

      • Sam Jaffe says:

        You’re probably right that he won’t drop out of the first. He looks so great on film that some team will be glad to get him. But I still think that Seattle just lost a lot of interest. They value catch radius so highly. Of course, he could run in the 4.4 range and all of a sudden he’s back into the top 15. On another note, I think Levine Toilolo’s 40 could be the most critical aspect of how he get’s drafted. He looks as slow as you would expect a 6’8″ tight end to look in games. Combine that with his tendency to drop the ball and you’ve got a fifth rounder or later. But maybe he’s faster than he looks. If he has a stunning 40 time, then people might start grouping him in with Ertz, Eifert, Reed and Escobar.

  6. Colin says:

    I’d really love it if this team traded back into round 1 or two to get an additional playmaker. Maybe Greene in RD 1, Datone Jones in R2 and maybe a receiver in RD3, I would be a really happy man.

    • John says:

      I like Jones but I just have a really hard time seeing where he would fit. I don’t think he has the speed to be a LEO and he’s 25ish pounds heavier than Clem and Bruce. Do we kick him inside as a 3 tech? I don’t know about that seeing as Pete has stacked the line. If they have a plan for him, I’d be down and wouldn’t be disappointed with the pick. I just have a hard time seeing the scheme fit.

      • Colin says:

        He’s strictly a pass rusher IMO. I don’t think he can start simply because I believe they’ll bully him in the run game.

      • chavac says:

        He would rotate between end and DT based on down/yardage/team. DT on passing downs and end against certain looks, essentially Jason Jones. He’s definitely no LEO but his initial burst and technique in my opinion make him the best speed/skill rushing DT, even if he’s too undersized to be a 3 down player there.

  7. John says:

    Rob, you and Kip have mentioned Corey Lemonier a little bit. Do you think Seattle would add him in the mid rounds (Pauline has him rated in 4th) to compete with Bruce for that spot. I get the feeling Pete and John are gonna try and bring in someone to compete since Clem’s unlikely to be ready to go at the start of the season. Back to Lemonier, he has similar measurables as Clem and Bruce (6-4, 245) and after watching him I think he has some upside and would at least bring some depth to that position. But what are your thoughts on the guy?

  8. Rich says:

    Rob-

    You mentioned Jesse Williamson and his brute strength and how he possibly compares to Stephen Paea. I remember being intrigued about Paea as a pro and had also watched him in college a bit. Do you have any sense of how well regarded he is now? I believe he was a second rounder and Jesse may fall that far too. I’m just really curious as to how that pick is turning out for the Bears….Appreciate the site as always.

    • Rob Staton says:

      Paea has really worked out… great run defender, strong. Good compliment to Henry Melton. I’d be open to Williams in a similar role… but really only if you put him alongside a better pass rusher. And what do you do with Mebane?

  9. Hawksince77 says:

    Rob,

    I have been meaning to ask what you think about Da’Rick Rogers. The last time you were asked about him (if memory serves) you hadn’t seen any tape on him. Has that changed?

    He got some love over at Field Goals in the following mock:

    http://www.fieldgulls.com/nfl-draft/2013/2/19/4004408/2013-nfl-mock-draft-da-rick-rogers-seahawks-combine

    Here is the summary for the pick:

    Da’Rick Rogers is an extremely gifted receiver with a sky-high ceiling. On talent alone, he could be a top 15 pick any year. His game is built more on strength than speed, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run in the 4.5 range.

    He’s experienced with nearly every route on the tree, and he runs them with precision, particularly across the middle, where he shows no hesitation in going after the ball and securing the catch. I’ve seen him take some huge hits in the middle of the field, and he always pops up with the ball. He has large strong hands and a big catch radius, as he uses his powerful frame to box out defenders.

    After the catch, his strength and agility isn’t far from Cordarrelle Patterson. He’s got great open field vision and isn’t afraid to run people over. He has good balance and the burst to pull away from all but the fastest defensive backs. He’s actually a lot like both Michael Crabtree and Julio Jones, though he almost surely won’t run in the 4.3s like Jones did.

    So what’s the downside? He has character issues. He was initially signed by Tennessee in 2010, where he played opposite Justin Hunter. They formed a fearsome duo until Hunter was felled by a knee injury in 2011. Rogers took over and led the SEC in receiving for the year, with 67 catches for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns. He was expected to push for a high first-round selection this year, but he hit a speed bump.

    Back to me. This sounds much more like a Seahawk pick: considered a reach by most of the community (ranked 77th overall by CBS, 11th at the position). Big, strong outside WR, like a young and fully motivated BMW. A potential steal, if he’s all that Matt (the mocker above) says he is.

    What do you think?

    • Troy says:

      I like him but only as a late 2nd-3rd RD value

    • Rob Staton says:

      It’s hard to get too excited. The guy basically devised his own downfall at Tennessee and it’s impossible for me to say that he’s changed or not. Teams will interview and investigate the heck out of him. I can only guess on what the outcomes of those reports will be. Clearly talented, but not much use if he wastes his talent. And my big concern with guys like that isn’t that he’ll fail individually, it’s whether he’ll bring others down with him in the process.

      Seattle has an inside scoop with their WR coaches ties to Tennessee, think he was involved in recruitment of Rogers. Everything I’ve heard about him is nightmarish regarding his time in Tennessee though.

  10. jake says:

    Datone Jones is best pick for hawks and another LB and a big X receiver in round 3 . Very versatile and can contribute to disguising front into multiple looks. Decent pass rusher too. I also see DE, and TE going very quickly in this draft.

  11. Stuart says:

    Ertz has only 31″ arms? Wow, that is a shooker for a man who is 6’5″. Who is the next TE to go after then and in what round?

  12. jlkresse7 says:

    I really like Greene but since the hawks have been more successful on the defensive side of the ball in the later rounds what are the odds of the hawks double dipping in the playmakers. Say they go ertz or Escobar in the first and Bailey in the second that way we get a big red zone target and a speed guy and then we can focus on the defense the next three rounds. What do you think?