2010 NFL Scouting Combine

By Bill Smith

11 March 2010

NFL Scouting CombineCombine Journal--Final thoughts

Is the combine over-hyped?

What in our lives of instant communications and 24 hr a day news shows is not over-hyped? Not much. But I would say that the Combine is clearly an important part of the draft operation. The two parts that are the most important to most teams and GMs are the medical exam and the individual interviews.

The Med exams are critical because the standards are the same for every player and teams can get a reliable exam results for those players that are injured or have a history of injury.

The interviews are important as well. For most teams, this is the first chance management has a chance to see a player up close under pressure of their most important interview so far in their young lives.

The 40 times are also significant because they are electronically measured the same way on the same surface. Beyond that, the teams can see how the player reacts to a pressure situation off the field. That too is an indication of the likelihood of success in an NFL camp.

Beware of the work out warrior

Several players had eye-popping numbers at the combine.

OT Bruce Campbell Maryland and S Taylor Mays USC had outstanding combines. They both were much more impressive in the workouts than on the field during games. Both will be over drafted.

RB LeGarrette Blount ran a 6.85 3 cone drill but questions still remain about his ability to control his temper. He lacks the burst and top end speed. He has excellent strength and will break tackles but not the agility to avoid them.

Additional players that solidified their draft status

Ben TateRB Ben Tate Auburn At 220 he ran a 4.43 40, 6.91 3 cone, tied for 1st among backs with 26 reps in the weight room and ran a 4.12 20 yard shuttle. He is a down hill runner that shared the backfield duties. He has good quickness to the hole but needs to build his lower body to have the power of a 220+ back. His performance at the combine moved him from the late 3rd/early 4th into the second group of RBs in the mid 2nd to early 3rd.

RB Joe McKnight USC McKnight showed his toughness by getting back to the field after that horrible accident in the weight room. He ran a 4.47 40 and has the lower leg explosion to break tackles. He also was a leader of the RBs in the high and long jumps. He is a willing blocker and is tougher than his 198 weight would indicate. He went from a 3rd round to 2nd round prospect.

RB Toby Gerhart Stanford Gerhart is not a speed back but at 230 he has quicker than expected feet. He ran the 3 cone in 6.94, the 20 shuttle in 4.25 and was a leader in the jumps as well. He can play RB or FB and can be the work horse in a 1 back O. He is a solid 2nd round prospect.

WR Scott Long Louisville shocked everyone with his speed. He was fast in the 40 with a 4.46 and was the fastest WR in the 3 cone with a 6.45. He did well in the shuttles as well with a 4.09 20 and a 11.06 60 yard run. At 6-2 and 216 he is the big receiver that everyone is looking for. The only knock on him was his lack of deep speed. He runs faster in the 40 than he plays but still helped himself.

The effects on the top of the 1st round

The general wisdom is that players can only help themselves at the combine. That is hogwash. Here are a couple that were hurt by their performance and cost themselves a lot of money.

DT Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska) moved ahead of Gerald McCoy (Oklahoma) based on the combine. McCoy's poor showing in the weight room made some scouts wonder about his preparation. If he doesn't care enough to prepare for the combine the question becomes will he work hard enough to become successful in the NFL? In addition, Suh had a better overall performance.

CB Joe Haden (Florida) shocked everyone with his bad 40 times. He was generally thought to go to the Browns at 7. Mock drafts have moved him down as far as 18 to the Steelers. He is going to have to burn up the stop watches on his pro day to get back to the top 10.

3 March 2010

Combine Journal Tuesday

Who helped themselves the most?

Eric BerryEric Berry FS Tennessee Early 1st

Safeties usually fall to the 2nd round but not Berry. He proved that he has the speed to be considered at CB as well as S running a 4.47 (O) at 211 lbs. He had a long jump of 10-10 and had 19 reps lifting. He showed excellent fluidity in his hips and attacked the ball but fell once after the catch. He is not going to last past Cleveland at 7 and could go as high as 3 to TB.

Taylor Mays S USC 1st (pre-combine projection)

Mays wowed the crowd with what was reported unofficially as a 4.24 40 but turned out to be 4.43 when the official times were posted. Still at 230 pounds and 6-3, it was an outstanding effort. He had 24 reps lifting and looked fluid in the read and react drills. However, the difference between a good player and a bad player is simple. The good player is getting up from the bottom of the pile and the bad player is standing beside the pile watching him get up. Mays on tape is a watcher not the guy on the bottom of the pile. He doesn't make enough plays particularly big plays. His instincts are not close to his physical gifts. There will be a coach that convinces his GM HE is the guy that can turn the Workout Warrior Mays into a player. He will be a 1st round pick and could be the bust of the draft.

Earl Thomas CB/S Texas 1st

Thomas played most of the season at 200 but showed up at the combine at a solid looking 208. He ran a CB time of 4.44 (U) which will be at least 4.48 officially. Most teams had him at SS but he showed the flexibility to be considered at CB which pays better and gets drafted higher.

David Pender CB Purdue 7th FA

Pender was an after thought until he ran a 4.47 (O) he got some attention. He caught the ball well and showed enough fluidity in his hips to be considered a middle rounder. That is a huge move for him.

Chris Cook CB Virginia Late 2nd early 3

The one question about Cook was his catch up speed. The projection coming into the combine was around 4.54. However he ran a 4.46 (O) and was the 2nd fastest CB at Indy. He does have some issues with his hips. He should be a solid 2nd at this point.

Brandon Ghee CB Wake Forest Late 3 or early 4

Ghee was falling in most opinions but helped himself today. He ran well at 4.45 (O) had a long jump of 10-7 and came in at 192 a little over his weight at WF. The one issue he has is ball skills. He struggled catching the passes thrown his way. He should have gotten back into the 3rd round.

A.J. Jefferson CB Fresno State Not draftable

I liked what I saw in a limited look at Jefferson. But he ran a 4.43 (U) and had a long jump of 10-6. The long jump is significant for defensive players because it shows the power in the legs. He had just 13 reps lifting but that is just a little below average for CBs. He will be drafted due to his performance here and have a better than average chance to make a roster. He is still raw and needs work on his change of direction.

Myron Lewis CB Vanderbilt 5th

Lewis had a nice combine. He ran well at 4.44 (U) and showed decent hips and feet. He caught the ball and attacked it which got some notice. He could be a late 3rd pick.

The most impressive guy you have probably never heard of:

Akwasi Owusu-Ansah CB Indiana (PA) 4th

OA really caught the eye of the scouts with a 4.47 (O) 40. He also showed the ability to catch the ball at the highest point. He has good feet and OK hips. The only knock on him is the level of competition he played against. He could be a steal and may have worked his way to the late 2 or early 3rd round.

Who didn't help themselves?

Joe Haden CB Florida Early 1st

Does the phrase "I've fallen and I can't get up!" ring a bell? That is the kind of day that Haden had. First, he had a very slow 40 of 4.57 (U). He followed that up with an even worse 4.60 (U). He did well in the long jump at 10-5 but showed badly in the change of direction drills. He had an extra step that prevented him from getting around as fast as a top CB should. He will have to do VERY well at the pro day for the Vols to be the 1st overall CB taken.

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1 March 2010

Combine Journal Monday: Defensive Line and Linebackers

Defensive Line:

This is the fastest group of DL ever. That is a good thing. But it is also the lightest group of DL prospects in quite a few years. That means a lot of these guys are going to have to transition to LB in the NFL. Those guys have to show great athleticism to calm the fears of GMs about their conversion. There is always a risk converting to LB and the failure of Gholston Jets 6th overall pick 2 years ago shows it. No matter how athletic a DE is, there is a risk he won't ever become the LB you need.

Who helped himself the most?

everson-griffenEverson Griffen DE Southern California 1st round (pre-Combine rating)

Griffen solidified his 1st round rating by weighing in at 273 and running a 4.66 (O) 40. He looked athletic in the drills and did a respectable 32 reps in the weight room. He is one of the few of this group of college DEs that is not necessarily a conversion project to LB.

Ndamukong Suh DT Nebraska 1st or 2nd pick

Suh got a slight edge on McCoy by getting 32 reps in the weight room. He did OK in the other drills and showed his feet to be fine. He will move ahead of McCoy and be the 1st D player off the board.

Dexter Davis OLB Arizona State 7 FA

Davis is a ob candidate and showed the speed that it takes (4.56 U) and decent athleticism. He had 31 sacks at Arizona St and moved up on draft boards with his performance.

Thaddeus Gibson DE/LB Ohio State NL (not listed on most draft boards)

Gibson has not been on many draft boards but he will be now. He ran a 4.71 (U) at 244 pounds and showed his athleticism in the drills. Look for him to be a late pick.

terrance-codyTerrence Cody NT Alabama 3rd

Cody showed up at the Senior Bowl at 374. That was 20 pounds above the weight he was at the BcS Championship game. He looked like he could have played Tackle and End at the same time. But he weighted in at the Combine at 354. Nose tackles are valuable and not that common. His weight reduction has perhaps gotten him back into the bottom of the 2nd round.

The most impressive guy you have probably never heard of:

C.J. Wilson DE East Carolina 5th

Wilson ran a 4.83 (U) at 290 pounds. He had 32 reps at the bench press. He looked fine in the drills. He can be a DE in the 3-4 or a DT with a little more weight in a 4-3. With that speed, he is bound to

Who didn't help themselves?

Gerald McCoy DT Oklahoma High 1st round

Usually a bench press total doesn't raise a red flag but McCoy's 23 reps did just that. At 295, he was expected to be a lot stronger than that. It will make GMs wonder if he is willing to do the work it will take to become a guy worth the 2nd or 3rd pick in the draft.

Linebackers:

Given the number of DEs that will be converting to LB, this is the best group in a long time. In general they are fast and athletic.

Who helped himself the most?

Daryl Washington ILB TCU 2nd or 3rd

Usually OB are picked higher than IB. Washington moved into the discussion for OB as well as IB with his performance in the drills including his 4.66 (O) in the 40. He has very fluid hips and showed the ability to change direction quickly. He also was able to catch the balls thrown at him.

Eric Norwood OLB South Carolina 3rd or 4th

Norwood showed his athletic ability in the drills. He has fluid hips and quick feet. Despite also being only 6-1, he showed he is worth a mid round pick.

The most impressive guy you have probably never heard of:

Jamar Chaney LB Mississippi State Not listed

Chaney is 241 but only 6-1. He was off everyone's radar until he ran a 4.54 and did a good job with all the drills. He now is draftable and a lot of scouts will be looking at Miss St. tape again.

Who didn't help themselves?

Sean Lee ILB Penn State 3rd

Lee came from LB University and was expected to be a solid 3rd round pick. But he looked stiff and like he had lead feet. He stumbled in one drill and showed very little explosion that is required. He could slip a little. At the very least people will be reevaluating the tape on him.

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28 February 2010

Combine Journal Sunday

Quarterbacks

In general, I was impressed with the footwork of all the QBs. None of them stumbled going back and setting up. Clearly all of them had worked hard on footwork and the 3, 5 and 7 step drop.

Who helped themselves?

Sean Canfield QB Oregon State 7th prior to the Combine.

Canfield looked sharp in the 5 and 7 step drops and delivered the ball on time. He is still a little inconsistent in the timing but has a good delivery. He is close to getting into that 3rd group and up into the 4th or 5th round.

Tony Pike QB Cincinnati Late 2 early 3

Pike showed good footwork and an improved release. He was generally throwing on time but struggled a little with the out pattern to the left. He did enough that he will be solidly in the second group of QBs.

Jevan Snead QB Mississippi 4th

A lot of people including me wondered why he came out this year after a bad junior season rather than going back and trying to be the #1 QB in the 2011 draft. He came out and as a soph looked like a top QB in college ball. At the combine he looked quick in his drops and threw the ball well. He delivered the ball on time in the 2 move pattern and some QBs struggled with that. I would pick him in the late 3rd and bet that 09 was the adoration and he is the QB we saw in 08.

Tim Tebow QB Florida 2nd

Tebow did not throw but showed his athletic ability in the broad jump and high jump and the 40. He looked like he was campaigning by talking to all the big wigs. I would not be surprised if after his football career he became the Senator from Florida.

The most impressive guy you have probably never heard of:

Armanti Edwards QB Appalachian State 7th FA

Edwards looked as good as anyone in most of the drills. He was in a combo O at AS and had some experience with the drops. He was consistently on time with the ball on the 5 and 7 step drop but does not have great arm strength to hit the deep go route.

Thaddeus Lewis QB Duke FA

Lewis did a very nice job throwing. He looked smooth and poised in the drills. He threw on time and

was accurate on the majority of throws. He showed more arm strength that most thought he had.

Who didn't help themselves?

Dan LeFevour QB Central Michigan Late 2 early 3

LeFevour didn't hurt himself by not throwing but could have really helped himself since none of the QBs ranked above him were throwing. He missed what could have been a very good opportunity to jet up the draft boards of several teams.

Wide Receivers

Who helped themselves?

Jacoby FordJacoby Ford WR Clemson 4th

Ford moved into the 3rd round ahead of some other small WRs with a 4.28 40 and by showing solid hands in the gauntlet.

Golden Tate WR Notre Dame 1st

Tate solidified his 1st round rating with a 4.42 40 and good performance all around. He was unofficially timed at 4.36 but his golden shoes may have slowed him down.

Taylor Price WR Ohio Late 2 or early 3

Price was outstanding with his 4.41 40 and good performance in the gauntlet. He did drop a pass but had a nice day and moved into the 2nd round.

Arrelious Benn WR Illinois 2nd

Benn looked really good catching everything even close to him. Given his size (6-2 220) he had a great 40 in the 4.49 area. He really helped himself.

The most impressive guy you have probably never heard of:

Kyle Williams WR Arizona State 7th

Williams ran a 4.43 handled the ball in the gauntlet flawlessly and showed he could catch the bad ball. He may move up into the mid rounds.

Brandon Long WR Louisville FA

Long is 6-2 and 216 but caught the notice of everyone running a 4.46 40 and doing well in the other drills. He will be put on a lot of boards this week. He has had injury problems in the past.

Who didn't help themselves?

Mardy Gilyard WR Cincinnati 3rd

Gilyard is a small WR 6-0 187 and was expected to run well. He did not. He ran a 4.56 (U) 40. That will hurt him in the draft.

Running Backs

Who helped themselves?

Jahvid BestJahvid Best RB California Late 1st.

Best won the 40 yard contest with Spiller. He ran a 4.35. He looked smooth in the drills. He has probably moved into 2nd RB behind Spiller. He will be behind Spiller because of his history of injury.

C.J. Spiller RB Clemson 1st

Spiller ran a 4.37 and showed his athletic ability. He is a solid pick for the top RB.

Ryan Mathews RB, Fresno State: is a big back (5' 11" 218 lbs) and ran a very nice 4.45 forty. he is a possible first rounder at the point.

Ben Tate RB Auburn Late 3 early 4

Tate moved into the mid 3rd round or a bit higher with a time of 4.43. He was solid in the drills.

Joe McKnight RB Southern California 3rd

The fact that McKnight was able to come back in 09 after that accident is a testament to his commitment to the game. He helped himself further with a 4.47 40. He is a complete back at 200 but is tough enough to be a 3 down guy.

Who didn't help themselves?

Dexter McCluster RB/WR Mississippi 2nd

McCluster was expected to be very fast but he ran an 4.58 (O). He plays faster than that but the only way to survive in the NFL at 172 pounds is to be faster than the big guys. He may fall a couple of rounds unless he does a lot better on his pro day.

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27 February 2010

Combine Journal - Saturday

General thoughts:

The only people allowed in the stadium for the Combine are active NFL staff and members of the 32 teams. The NFL Channel people are relatively new to the process and don't show the drills that are the most significant to the scouts.

Saturday was a pair of the deepest positions in the 2010 draft. In general, players can only help themselves in the field drills unless there is a major gaff.

The Offensive Linemen

The experts are calling this group the best in a long time and maybe ever. That will be a lot to live up to for these guys. However, unlike in past years, teams should be able to get serviceable OL help in the middle rounds this year.

The bench press is very misleading. If you look at the top lifters for the last few years at the Combine you see that very few of them are still in the league. The reason is simple. It is easier for a guy with short arms to do more lifts at 225. But guys with short arms are at a disadvantage in the game because they can't keep the D Line's hands off them. The only thing that the O linemen need to prove to me is that they can do 20+ lifts.

Who helped themselves?

Bruce Campbell OT Maryland Late 1 or early 2 (Rating coming into the combine)

He ran a 4.85 with a 1.68 10 yard split time. That is outstanding. He also showed his athletic ability in the kick slide and the change of direction drills. He helped himself with a few teams like the Raiders but buyer beware. He is what is called a workout warrior. He has all the physical ability in the world but doesn't play like it. He lacks the mean streak you would like for a OT and started only 17 games. He struggles to get to block at the second level. He also will get to the outside on a sweep only to miss the block and let his guy make the tackle. There will be a coach that thinks he can make Campbell reach his potential. They will draft him in the first round and fail.

Selvish Capers OT West Virginia Late 3 early 4

Capers is a former TE and showed his great feet and fluid hips. He ran the 40 in 5.14 (official) and did very well in the kick slide and the mirror drills. The tape shows a guy with great potential that is green as baby spinach and just needs coaching and reps to become a top LT. He probably moved himself into that group below the top 4 and should be a late 2 early 3rd pick.

Russell Okung OT Oklahoma State #1 OT Early 1

Okung solidified his spot as the top OT. He has the strength, size and athletic ability to do the job. He will reach at times and hold because he needs to improve his footwork.

Bryan Bulaga OT Iowa Mid 1

Bulaga is the most pro ready guy but has shorter arms than you would like and may have less up side than the others. He had a decent time in the 40 at 5.26 and did particularly well in the mirror. All Iowa OL seem to be technically sound and have a high motor. He will be a solid starter but may never become a top guy.

The most impressive guy you have probably never heard of:

Rodger Saffold OT Indiana 3rd

Saffold started out the 09 season as a FA at best but played very well during the season against some of the better DEs in the Big 10. He looked outstanding at the Combine. He looked fluid and athletic with a 7.42 in the 3 cone. He did particularly quick in the kick slide and the mirror drills.

Who didn't help themselves?

Anthony Davis OT Rutgers Mid to late 1

Davis came in as a 1st round pick but I saw things I did not like about him. He labored in the 40. He popped up at the start. In the O line the low man/fast man wins due to the leverage necessary to push the Dline off the ball. He also looked a little stiff in the hips. He is a natural knee bender but on tape is very inconsistent. He may fall into the 2nd round.

The Tight Ends

This group has also been called the best in a long time but I am not sure that is the case. That is probably because the TE crop has been pretty weak for 4 to 5 years.

Who helped themselves?

Jimmy Graham TE Miami (Fla.) 3rd

Graham is the former basketball player that had only one season in fb in Miami. He is 6-6 260 with good hands and experience in screening off the defender. The success of Gates in SD has all the scouts looking at college power forwards for TE. Graham catches the ball well and looked smooth in the gauntlet and in the comeback and wheel routes.

Nate Byham TE Pittsburgh 5th

Byham is willing if not capable blocker and looked sharp in the gauntlet catching bad balls without losing concentration. He runs fairly crisp routes and looked very good in one wheel route but not in the second.

The most impressive guys you have probably never heard of:

Dorin Dickerson TE Pitt FA

Dickerson was not on many lists and was a WR in the all star game. He ran a 4.40 (O) but is only 225 lbs. He doesn't have the upper body strength but seems to be willing to block. He looked aggressive in the blocking drill. He is a match-up nightmare for Ds. He looks like a WR catching the ball but had concentration issues in the gauntlet drill. He runs crisp patterns and catches the ball with 9.75" hands. He should be a middle round pick that will shine in training camp.

Garrett Graham TE Wisconsin FA

Graham worked his way into the middle rounds with a very solid season with 50 catches and a very good Combine. He is a combo guy that can block a little and catch a little. He ran a 4.71 (U), looked fluid with sharp changes of direction and very soft 9.5" hands. In the blocking drill he hit low and looked like he enjoys blocking.

There are suspicions that he does not know what a block is

Who didn't help themselves?

Jermaine Gresham TE Oklahoma Late 1 early 2

He failed to put himself solidly in the 1st round at the Combine. He ran a 4.73 (U) but looked very average in the drills. He looked stiff in the gauntlet drill and rounded off the comeback route and struggled with the catch. Frankly he looks like he is only about 80% recovered from his injury that cost him most of the 09 season. We are going to have to judge him in 08 to have a good idea about how good he really is and that season had him in the middle of the 1st round.

Brody Eldridge TE Oklahoma 7th FA

Eldridge had suffered a hamstring injury and was struggling to participate. He did but was not effective. Give him credit for trying but not much for his performance.

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24 February 2010

What is involved in the Combine interviews and are they important in evaluating prospects?

One thing that even the NFL Channel is not allowed to cover is the individual interviews with players. These are critical in the ranking of a draft board and in determining who is not draftable. The interviews cover 4 basic areas for every player.

Knowledge of the game

Every team will want the player to go to the chalk board and diagram the basic O or D of his college team. Does he not only understand his job within the scheme but also the overview of the strategy? Can he diagram a play against different Ds or adjustments to different O sets?

The second test on the board that good teams require involves giving the prospect a couple of O plays or D formations from their own playbook and having him explain what he would do and what he would key on. This not only measures his football intelligence but also his ability to think on his feet. Some players that struggle with this part of the interview will struggle when things don't go right on the field. The league needs to have football smart players.

The Wonderlic test

The history of the NFL draft shows that every position has minimum Wonderlic scores that predict failure of the prospect. Some positions like QB require higher scores than others. However, the numbers are clear. There is a clear relationship between a players failure to make a minimum score on the test and the likelihood they will not be able to understand the playbook and become a successful player. Here are a couple of the test questions from ESPN Page 2 and the Wonderlic sample test site.

1. Look at the row of numbers below. What number should come next?

8 4 2 1 ½ ¼ ?

2. Assume the first two statements are true. Is the final one:

1. true, 2. false, 3. not certain?

The boy plays baseball. All baseball players wear hats. The boy wears a hat.

3. Paper sells for 21 cents per pad. What will four pads cost?

4. How many of the five pairs of items listed below are exact duplicates?

Nieman, K.M. Neiman, K.M.

Thomas, G.K. Thomas, C.K.

Hoff, J.P. Hoff, J.P.

Pino, L.R. Pina, L.R.

Warner, T.S. Wanner, T.S.

Commitment to the game

The key to a player working as hard as he needs to in order to become his best is his commitment to the game. Does he have an off season workout schedule? Does he have any long term plans that do not include football? A perfect example is Rolle S Florida St. He is a great kid and was a Rhodes Scholar. However, he want to be a doctor. Will he become a Robert Smith and quit after 5 or 6 seasons just when he is becoming most effective or will he focus on the NFL?

Personal Baggage check

The last but one of the very important areas of the interview is the baggage issue. If there have been any problems in the player's past the team needs to ask him the hard questions about what happened, and what has the player done to prevent those from happening in the future. Does the young man take responsibility for what happened? Has he changed his attitude or personal habits to help remove bad influences from his life? Is he likely to have the kind of problems that get players suspended and teams fined by the league?

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22 February 2010

Defensive Position Drills

Defensive Line:

The Ark drill

The point of the drill is to get round the bags and to the QB. Some scouts like the rip and swim drill but I have taught those techniques to green DLs. However, the dip and cut that the Ark drill demonstrates is much harder to teach. It is a skill that a player has or does not have. If not, he is not likely ever to be able to do it well.

What to look for:

The key is the hips of the D. Does he get low going around the bag? Does he bend his knees to increase speed to the QB? How effective is he at using his hands to move the bags?

Linebackers:

Pass Drop drill

This drill will let the scouts see if a player has the hips to be effective in pass coverage. The player begins to drop watching the coach who motions to have the player change direction often. The player must keep his feet without crossing over and then catch a pass to show his ball skills.

What to look for:

Watch the footwork of the player. Can he change direction without losing speed? Watch his hips. Does he look fluid as he changes direction? In particular, watch those DEs that need to transition to LB. If they can't open their hips in this drill they will likely never be 3 down LBs in the NFL.

Defensive Backs:

Speed Turn drill

This drill makes a DB backpedal for 10 yards then plant and run to the coach, then break as the ball is thrown. I like this drill because it shows the most critical 2 aspects of covering passes.

What to look for:

First, it shows how fluid the player is in changing direction. That is critical to keeping tight coverage against an NFL receiver. Second, it shows the ball skills. The player has to locate the ball and go catch it. The ability to knock down a pass is good but I would rather have a turnover. Does the player change direction without losing speed? Does he catch the ball cleanly by attacking it or let the ball come to him?

22 February 2010

Offensive Position Drills

Last time we discussed the general drills. Next time we will discuss the Defensive drills.

Position Drills:

Quarterbacks:

Passing drill

The scouts want to see the QB throw out of a 3, 5, and 7 step drop. Footwork is critical. Most college QBs worked out of a shotgun and never dropped back. The scouts also want to see them throw the route tree. That includes outs, ins, deep out, skinny post, and deep throw.

What to look for:

The scouts are interested in the speed and tightness of the release and how he carries the ball prior to throwing. One thing to watch is how long the period is between the time he decides to throw and the ball leaving his hand. The scouts are also interested in arm strength. Are long throws tight spirals and do they loft or are they more straight line paths to the receiver.

The scouts will be watching for the same things as as the QBs throw to WRs and TEs

Running Backs:

Off Tackle Reaction drill.

This drill shows the ability of the RB to make cuts and pick up his feet over a series of bags laying on the ground. Finally it shows the ability to cut off the action of the coach holding the bag. The RB cuts opposite of the direction of the bag moves.

What to look for:

Is there a burst of speed as the back makes the cuts? Is there any stumble over the bags? Does he lose speed as he makes the cuts?

Wide Receivers/Tight ends/Running backs

The Gauntlet drill.

The WR/TE catches passes from the right and the left then runs down a yard line the width of the field catching and releasing balls from each side. The drill ends with the player catching a ball at the sideline while keeping both feet inbounds.

What to look for:

This drill is critical because it forces the receiver to pluck the ball with his hands, and turn his head immediately to look for the next pass. Watch the hands. Does he catch the ball cleanly? Does he run the line and not wander all over? How aware is he of the sideline? It proves hand-eye coordination and concentration on the ball.

Offensive Linemen:

Kick slide drill

This is the key drill for OL particularly tackles. The drill starts with a DL 5 yards away from the OL in the position of a DE and a cone 12 yards behind them. The OL is tested both from a 3 point and 2 point stance. The goal of the drill is to test the OL ability to shuffle his feet quickly enough to stay between the DL and the cone.

What to look for:

Watch the feet and the hands. Look for the OL using his hands to punch the D away and if the O bends at the knees or at the hips. Scouts look for a natural knee bender that can drop his hips, stay underneath the D lineman and run the D lineman past the QB. This drill will be OL vs OL. Watch both the blocker and the rusher to see if they are hip benders or the much preferred knee benders.

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21 February 2010

What to Look For in the NFL Combine Results

In my opinion, there is way too much focus pu on the 40 yard dash. That is particularly true at the Combine. In recent years there has developed a term "workout warrior." That is a player that wows the coaches at the combine but can't play a lick. He may look like Tarzan but he plays like Jane.

So if that is the case, what good is the Combine and how should scouts and coaches use it? The results of the Combine should be used to verify what they have seen on the field. It can also cause them to look deeper into a player with outstanding numbers to whom they have not paid enough attention. It is also a legitimate use of the results to separate players that are extremely close on the board. For example if there are 2 corners that score out equally well on tape, the fact that one is a little faster or has a better 3 cone time gives him an edge over the other. That is it.

The next question is which drills are the most significant predictor of the ability to play?

General drills for all players:

1. The three cone drill. This is the most important to me because it shows the ability of the player to change direction without losing speed. To get a good speed the player needs to have fluid hips, bend at the knee, have quick feet, and good balance. A very good time for skill position players and DBs is 7 seconds. For O and D linemen 7.5-8 seconds. This drill is critical for WR, CB, S, TE, RB, OT, DE, OLB.

2. The short shuttle. This drill makes the player run 5, 10 and 5 yards in opposite directions touching the stripe at each position. The drill shows lateral speed, the ability to change direction and helps to separate the knee bender from the heavy legged waist bender. Good times for the DB, WR, and RB positions is 5 seconds. D and O line should be around 6.5.

3. The 40 yard dash. There are a couple of problems using this as a key decision measure for the draft. The drill measures straight ahead speed. But very seldom do NFL players need or use straight line speed in a game. A lot of track types have great straight line speed but lose speed when they change direction.

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