Scouting Combine Puts Focus On a Deep Draft


The NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis ended Tuesday and now the next phase of evaluating the rookie crop begins.

Reports are rewritten, draft boards shuffled and then the process kicks off again with the campus workouts that enable players who did not participate in drills at the combine to make up for it. For those who didn’t do well at the combine, there’s the opportunity to make a good second impression.

The draft, scheduled for April 22-24, looks to be one of the best and deepest in recent memory and maybe longer than that.

Charley Casserly, the former general manager of the Redskins and Houston Texans, now wears an analyst’s hat for a variety of media outlets and he compares this upcoming fest with 1983, when Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino were marquee selections of a first round that also included Cantonites Eric Dickerson, Bruce Matthews and Darrell Green.

It would be silly to equate the quarterbacks in this draft with those incredible achievers. Elway played in five Super Bowls and won the last two. Kelly led the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls. Marino simply rewrote the passing record book and reached one Super Bowl. This draft is not that draft.

This draft’s weight is in its weighty players – the defensive and offensive linemen.

Here’s a quick look at some of the risers and fallers:

Ndamukong Suh, the Nebraska defensive tackle, went to the combine as everybody’s No. 1 player, if not the overall No. 1 pick. Taking part in the workouts only helped him. Sure, his measureables were great (32 reps of the 225-pound bench press). It was his work in the drills that typified everything visible in his game tapes.

“He really makes everything he does look effortless and without a doubt is the nation’s overall top prospect,” according to Wes Bunting of the National Football Post.

Right behind him: Gerald McCoy, the defensive tackle from Oklahoma. Not as strong as Suh but a penetrator with great quickness off the line. If either of these two is not the first overall pick, it would likely be because the St. Louis Rams need a quarterback and could select Sam Bradford.

Less impressive: Carlos Dunlap, the long and lean defensive end from Florida. “Wasn’t real fluid,” Bunting said.

Bunting also did not like Texas defensive end/linebacker Sergio Kindle as anything more than a speed rusher. But NFL Network’s Mike Mayock compared Kindle favorably with the Redskins’ Brian Orakpo and Kindle, he says, would be a good fit for the Miami Dolphins, who pick 12th. Orakpo was the 13th overall choice last year, led all rookies in sacks and made the Pro Bowl.

Maryland offensive tackle Bruce Campbell looked lithe, athletic and put up great numbers. That helped him, given that he has only started 17 games. But that show of athleticism also raised questions as to why he was not more productive for the Terps.

Away from the big fellas, there were others who did not answer all the questions and some who helped themselves.

Cincinnati receiver Mardy Gilyard can return kicks but what about his skills in getting open and catching the ball?

“He has some work to do this off-season,” says Mike Lombardi of the NFL Network and National Football Post.

Southern Cal safety Taylor Mays saw his stock dropping until he ran the fastest 40-yard dash times of any defensive back. “An athlete of Mays’ ability is a rare find at safety,” says NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks.

That may not springboard him past Tennessee’s Eric Berry.

With Redskins fans so focused on offensive linemen and quarterbacks, it behooves us make note of some of those rankings. We do not predict the club will use the fourth overall selection on either position but there’s no question the offensive line needs a replenishing.

Quarterbacks stack up this way, according to NFLdraftscout.com:

Bradford of Oklahoma, Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen, Texas’ Colt McCoy, Cincinnati’s Tony Pike. Bradford did not throw at the combine. Clausen answered a lot of questions from clubs about leadership and the foot injury that hindered him last season. McCoy’s accuracy is unquestioned but arm strength remains an issue. Pike did not throw as well as many scouts had hoped.

Offensive tackles were ranked as follows by NFLdraftscout.com:

Russell Okung of Oklahoma State, Bryan Bulaga of Iowa, Trent Williams of Oklahoma, Rutgers’ Anthony Davis, Maryland’s Campbell. Okung seems to be universal top pick among tackles. Bulaga is a natural left tackle. Williams may be more suited to playing right tackle, which will knock him down just a bit. Davis appeared to lack upper-body strength (21 reps on the bench) but topped all offensive linemen with a 33-inch vertical leap. Campbell may require more time to develop.

About seven week remains for prospects to work out, visit clubs and burnish their credentials. Free agency might change some teams’ needs a bit and the passing of time will cause tweakings of the draft board.


Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for Redskins.com and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at Redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.

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