Combine Is Another Piece to Draft Puzzle


The NFL Scouting Combine is complete and Redskins coaches and scouts have returned from Indianapolis to digest all that they saw from draft prospects.

Including the college football season, the Senior Bowl and college Pro Days, the combine is another piece of the puzzle as team officials continue to put together their draft board.

Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III generated the most post-combine buzz, but there were plenty of other strong performances and storylines that could impact the Redskins’ draft preparations.

ANOTHER QUARTERBACK EMERGES

Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III did not throw at the combine, and that opened the door for another quarterback prospect to emerge. Hello, Kirk Cousins.

Cousins, a Michigan State product who stands at 6-3 and 205 pounds, reportedly showed good touch and accuracy in passing drills. He could have elevated himself into the second round with his performance.

At Michigan State, Cousins completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 66 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in his career.

"I want to be in the right fit," Cousins said of his draft prospects during the Senior Bowl. "I have no idea what is going to be the best fit for me, but whatever it is, that's where I want to be. I don't care if that means falling in the draft or if it means not being drafted at all, I just want to be in the right situation."

With Cousins, Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill and Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, the Redskins could have decent options in the second round if they decide to address a position other than quarterback in the first round.

Remember, Redskins coaches had good things to say about Weeden at the Senior Bowl in January.

GOING WIDE?

Two wide receivers helped themselves at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd needed to run a 4.5 or better in the 40 to solidify himself as a top 20 pick. He ran a 4.47, a good time for a 6-3, 224-pound receiver.

His size makes him a threat catching the ball in traffic and now he has shown good speed as well. A three-year starter for the Irish, Floyd caught a career-best 100 passes for 1,147 yards to go along with nine touchdown grabs last year.

Floyd’s last step is to convince teams that his alcohol-related citations and arrests are in the past.

Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill, 6-5 and 215 pounds, wowed everyone with a 4.36 in the 40 and he could emerge as a late first-rounder or early second-rounder.

Hill was an under-the-radar player before the combine. He played in an option offense at Georgia Tech and grabbed just 28 passes for 820 yards and five touchdowns last season.

“Coming out of that option offense, he’s hard to evaluate,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said at the combine. “You have to do your homework on this kid and he’s kind of pushed himself right up in the forefront of this wide receivers class.”

The Redskins have a need for offensive playmakers, so the more wide receiver options – especially in the later rounds – the better.

ON THE RUN

Alabama’s Trent Richardson did not work out at the combine due to a knee injury, so that left a slew of running backs to battle it out for the second-best in the draft.

And in this running back draft class, second-best could mean second-round.

Give a win to Miami’s Lamar Miller, who impressed with a 4.40 40-yard dash despite a 5-10, 212-pound frame. That’s an impressive combination of size and speed.

Last season, Miller rushed for 1,272 yards and nine touchdowns on 227 carries. He also added 17 receptions for 85 yards.

The Redskins seem set at running back with Roy Helu and Evan Royster returning, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the team added speed back to the mix.

Florida’s Chris Rainey logged a 4.45 40-yard dash and reportedly showed great explosiveness in drills. Redskins coaches worked with Rainey at the Senior Bowl.

In addition to his skills as a running back and receiver out of the backfield, Rainey touted himself as the draft’s top special teams player: he averaged 8.8 yards on punt returns and 25.8 yards on kick returns as a senior last year.

TIGHT END REVOLUTION

With the emergence of New England’s Rob Gronkowski and New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham, big, athletic tight ends have become a critical part of offenses.

This year’s tight end class is surprisingly weak in terms of quality. Stanford’s Coby Fleener is regarded as the top prospect, but he did not participate in the combine due to an ankle injury.

One prospect keeps opening eyes, though.

Louisiana-Lafayette’s Ladarius Green ran a 4.53 at the combine and reportedly looked fluid catching the ball in passing drills.

Green, who the Redskins coached at the Senior Bowl last month, stands at 6-6 and 230 pounds and will need to bulk up in the NFL, but he could have the potential to be another Gronkowski or Graham.

He caught 51 passes for 606 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Since he played at a smaller school, scouts say he is still developing as a receiver. And he needs to work on his blocking skills as well.

The Redskins may have an interest in drafting a tight end depending on Fred Davis’s free agency status and the health of Chris Cooley.

BIG MEN

Among defensive linemen, the big combine winner was Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe.

He weighed in at 6-3 and 346 pounds, and then ran a 4.98 40-yard dash. That’s remarkable speed for a man that size.

(I know, I know, if a defensive tackle is running 40 yards in a game, then something has gone terribly wrong on the play. But it does highlight a prospect’s athleticism and potential.)

For good measure, Poe recorded a combine-high 44 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press.

Poe may have pushed himself into the top 15 with his combine performance, likely ahead of Penn State’s Devin Still.

He could now rival LSU’s Michael Brockers, the No. 1-rated defensive tackle prospect and a projected top 10 pick.

It seems unlikely that the Redskins would select a defensive lineman high in the draft, but this year’s defensive tackle class has great depth. Poe would appear to be a great fit as a nose tackle in a 3-4.

A NEED AT INSIDE LINEBACKER?

Prior to the combine, Mike Mayock suggested that Boston College inside linebacker Luke Kuechly needed to run a 4.7 to secure a top 15 pick in the draft.

Kuechly did better than that.

He ran a 4.58 in the 40. He also posted the third-best vertical leap at 38.0 inches and reportedly showed fluidity in all of the linebacker drills during the combine.

Kuechly stands at 6-3 and 237 pounds and his studious appearance in his Boston College head shot would not suggest he’s an elite NFL prospect.

Could he be in the Redskins’ future? If they are unable to re-sign pending free agent London Fletcher, a need is created at inside linebacker.

Kuechly, like Fletcher the last 13 seasons, has been a tackling machine, recording 532 tackles at Boston College the last three years. He also logged 35.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks and seven interceptions.

WHAT HAPPENED AT DEFENSIVE BACK?

The cornerbacks and safeties generated very little buzz at the combine, which was a mild surprise. They typically thrive at the combine.

It could be unfortunate for the Redskins, who may have needs at both positions depending on what happens in free agency.

LSU's Morris Claiborne is regarded as the top prospect. He turned in a solid performance at the combine, running a 4.50 in the 40, but overall he didn't generate any buzz.

Claiborne should still be a top 10 pick. Some mock drafts have the Redskins taking Claiborne at No. 6.

North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins showcased good speedn with a 4.46 40, but character concerns put his first-round status in doubt.

Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick is an intriguing cornerback prospect due to his 6-2, 192-pound frame. He ran a 4.51 in the 40.

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