So I want to start with two quick digressions. The first is a quick apology for my lack of posts so far this off season, I was finishing my college degree and now that that has been accomplished and I will be posting regularly again. The second is that I am not an NFL draft analyst and do not even play one on TV, so these are just my quick observations about what I saw when watching the offensive players workouts. Feel free to leave a comment or find me on twitter for my opinion on the defensive workouts.
I was very excited to see this combine because of the skill and athleticism of the QB class with Blaine Gabbert being the only one to not throw in the positional drills. After the drills were completed, I was left wanting more because almost all of the QB’s seemed to struggle with their accuracy and consistency. After re-watching the workouts I realized that a fair amount of this is not the fault of the QBs themselves. When throwing at the scouting combine, the QBs are told to throw to a spot… NOT to complete the pass. This is a difficult thing for players to do because it goes against what they have done their entire lives. Also, the receivers make the QBs look bad. In a few drills, the receivers were running bad routes and this is what I believe led a lot of people to heavily criticize Cam Newton’s throwing performance.
Speaking of Cam, as I am a native Buffalonian and most of the mock drafts released have placed Newton with the Bills at the third pick, I paid close attention to what Cam was able to accomplish this past week. The first thing that stood out to me was that he beat Tim Tebow’s broad jump and 40 yard dash times from last year. Cam posted a 4.58 forty yard dash to go with his 10’6” broad jump and really demonstrated his explosiveness and acceleration off the line. Also, in his 3-cone drill, he covered 5 yards in just two steps which further demonstrates his explosiveness when he decides to run. For the reasons discussed above, I do not discredit Cam due to his inaccurate throws, because the 2 or so truly errant balls were balanced by the touch and placement he showed me on some of his deep throws. I have not made up my mind whether I want him leading my team or if I think he can be successful at the pro level, but that should become clear in his fast approaching pro day.
Jake Locker quietly had an outstanding day as many of his measurables actually matched up very well against Cam who was thought to be the most physically gifted of the class. Ricky Stanzi was the biggest winner of all the QBs at the combine however, because of his incredible performance throwing the ball in the on-field drills. He seemed to be by far the most prepared and the only one that was actually throwing to a spot as he was instructed. On the 10 yard out routes, he released the ball when his back foot planted and did not wait for the receiver to make his break. He did what the scouts wanted to see, delivered an accurate ball on a timing route to a spot where it would not be intercepted. Most all of his passes fell incomplete, but again that is not his fault and his new team will be able to find receivers that can get to where they are supposed to be. Stanzi has plenty of inconsistencies in his game, but he looks like a pro QB and if he can spend a few years behind the right tutor… we should see this guy as a starter in the NFL.
The breakout player of the receiving corp is a no brainer and I suspect you have already heard plenty about his day in Indianapolis. Julio Jones had an absurd day. WITH a broken foot, Julio had an 11’3” broad jump and 4.39 forty yard dash. These numbers were not expected from a healthy Jones and while he did not pass AJ Green on many people’s draft boards because of a good shorts and t-shirt work out, he did ensure that he will be a top 15 pick and personally I think he will go to St Louis with the 14th pick at the latest. Other very real possibilities before the 14th selection are Cleveland or Washington if Green does not fall to them as both are in dire need of a top receiver.
Jonathan Baldwin from Pittsburgh is a big and physical receiver who was not expected to run exceptionally fast, but with a 4.5 forty yard dash he showed that he has the ability to separate from defensive backs as well as out jump them. He will develop into an NFL caliber player and he reminds me a lot of Hakeem Nicks. Another guy who improved his stock this past week was Randall Cobb. While watching the workouts I heard the comparison to Brad Smith and while I wouldn’t go that far… I will say that he is a very versatile player and will certainly be used by a creative offensive coordinator somewhere. Honestly, I think he compares better with Joshua Cribbs, who never really turned into a quality wide-out… but is one hell of a kick returner.
Apart from Mark Ingram, this year’s running back class is pretty shallow. Ingram did nothing to hurt his draft status in my eyes at the combine, but I was a little disappointed with his forty yard dash time. He more than made up for his average time with an incredibly fast 10 yard split and he also displayed an aggression in his running style that solidify him as the only clear-cut first round running back. Dion Lewis was the biggest winner among RBs as his acceleration and lateral burst were on display during on-field drills. Another quick back that made a splash was Jacquizz Rodgers, who had a weak 40 yard dash time. While each of these backs are unlikely to get taken in the first round, they will be a value deeper in the draft and able to make an impact for their new teams in the return game as well as being a change of pace runner.
There was one very interesting player that is not likely to be taken early at all but has a TON of upside, despite not being often talked about and that is Allen Bradford from USC. Bradford was an after thought for the Trojan’s offense until the last game of his college career, when he saw 28 touches for 212 yards. He is a big back at over 240 lbs, but actually ran a faster forty than Jacquizz at 4.56 seconds and lifted 225 lbs 28 times. Look for a team to take a late-round flyer on him after the impact that LeGarrette Blount (another quick yet big RB) had as an undrafted rookie.