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 ***OFFICIAL 2009 Combine Thread*** 
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Pat Kirwan wrote:
Combine notebook: Fast WRs, short QBs and prospects on the rise
By Pat Kirwan | NFL.com
Senior Analyst

INDIANAPOLIS -- Sunday marked the middle of a combine week of drills and evaluations for draft-eligible players.

The wide receivers tore up the 40-yard dash, but top prospects were rocked by an injury, a disappearing act and -- in the case of the quarterbacks -- some questions. The television coverage of the combine has some teams re-thinking whether they should watch it in person or stay home. And a number of players jumped out at me as NFL-ready.

Here's a look at what's going on, the ripple effect of some issues and a peak ahead at the combine's final few days.

1. Man, these guys are fast
The wide receivers lit up the 40-yard dash Sunday, hammering home the point that there are some full-fledged burners in this draft. Receivers with 4.3-second 40 times also might have inspired another group of players who could hit the 4.3 mark and must be considered deep threats in their own right.

The cornerbacks I spoke with took it as a challenge to match the wide receivers' numbers, and I expect players such as Connecticut's Darius Butler, Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins, Illinois' Vontae Davis and Vanderbilt's D.J. Moore to demonstrate that they have the speed to cover the likes of Florida's Percy Harvin, Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey and Missouri's Jeremy Maclin. Keep your eye on the cornerbacks' 40 times Tuesday.

2. Top prospects have issues
Every stage of the player-evaluation process stirs up the pot again. Season-ending bowl games shift perceptions of players, the Senior Bowl provides another look at them and the combine throws in another twist. This year is no exception.

Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree might still be a top pick, but his foot injury could change teams' plans early in April's draft. One general manager told me it will make no difference in his evaluation of Crabtree, but another GM said he wouldn't risk a top-three pick on a wide receiver with a foot injury.

Then there was the questionable departure of Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith. One GM said "this latest decision by Andre just reaffirms his immaturity and why I wouldn't take him in the top 10 spots."

Georgia's Matthew Stafford and USC's Mark Sanchez, the top two quarterback prospects, both measured less than 6-foot-3 and ran the 40 in the 4.8-second range. Right now, the projected top of the NFL draft is more in flux than it was a month ago.

3. Working from home
I ran into two head coaches who said they might consider not coming to the combine next season. Nothing against the whole process, but excellent TV coverage by the NFL Network allows most player observations to be done from home.

As for the personal interviews, these coaches said the typical canned answers given by overly prepared players offer very little insight. With free agency just days away, some of the coaches believed their time would be better served at home.

4. My favorite interviews
As usual, many players I had a chance to talk with really impressed me this week. I might add that between the Senior Bowl and my daily radio show on Sirius, I already have interviewed close to 100 draft-eligible players.

Sunday's first interview was with Larry English, a defensive end from Northern Illinois. English is a focused young man who oozes toughness and an intensity that will make any coach want him on his team.

Andre Brown, a running back from North Carolina State, jumps out at me as a guy who has it all. He's big (224 pounds), catches the ball well and runs fast. He told me with his quiet confidence that he would deliver a sub-4.5 40 -- and he did.

Alex Fletcher, a center from Stanford, isn't on every team's radar screen, but his 30 repetitions on the bench press and his good effort in the running events was only outshined by how he handled himself in interviews.

Darius Butler, a cornerback from Connecticut, has a confidence and an ability to talk about technique and scheme that made me feel like he has the FBI (football intelligence) to make it in the NFL.

5. Concerns at QB
Quarterback is starting to emerge as a position of concern. The top three prospects -- Stafford, Sanchez and Josh Freeman -- are all underclassmen, which was a yellow flag before the combine started. Then the top two prospects, Stafford and Sanchez, were measured under 6-3, and another yellow flag went up.

There is growing sentiment among teams that it might be time to rethink taking a quarterback in the first round and instead look to a later round for a guy who can develop. The quarterbacks who might be mid-round picks, based on how they looked Sunday, include Michigan State's Brian Hoyer, Purdue's Curtis Painter and Ball State's Nate Davis.

6. What to do with White?
West Virginia's Pat White is a fine athlete who worked out at the combine as a quarterback and was relaxed in doing so. White is such a talent that teams are discussing what to do with him and when he should be drafted. He could be a No. 3 quarterback with a chance to be a No. 2, but he also can run the Wildcat, play slot receiver and return punts and kicks.

As one GM said, "I want him on my team, and now I just have to figure out where I have to take him."

7. No longer flying under the radar
A few players who weren't household names emerged. Ohio State wide receiver Brian Robiskie had a great day. USC wide receiver Patrick Turner didn't run the 40, but he looked good catching the ball, especially in the gauntlet drill.

Nevada wide receiver Marko Mitchell, who measured close to 6-4 and 218 pounds with 10¼-inch hands, caught a number of balls behind his back and grabbed the attention of a few coaches. Kory Sheets broke 4.4 seconds in the 40, and he played in a Purdue offense that prepares running backs for the pro game. Sheets jumped out at scouts during his drill work.


A couple of points stand out. No. 5 regarding the quarterbacks... the more information we get regarding the no. 1 prospects the more it's less of a slam dunk to go QB. I'm looking for something to make me comfortable with a Stafford pick. I already have the early-entry yellow flag, now the shorter than 6'-3" is another yellow flag. So Stafford or Sanchez aren't quite prototypical sized anymore... but that shouldn't be the biggest deal. It should be the throwing. Sanchez had a good day... but not a great day to make you feel like giving him 30 million guaranteed. Stafford too was as good as not there. He didn't wow in any of the non-throwing drills or have any jaw-dropping measurables. I was like, come on Matt, show me something! Surprise me! But nope, nothing. I know no more about him after the combine than I did before. Except maybe he likes Salmon and Asparagus.

The other thing is I'm really starting to like Pat White a lot. I thought he was the best QB in the senior bowl. And he also looked like the best passer in the combine. His throws are darts, tight spirals, accurate. His form is picture perfect. If this guy were five inches taller... I would be willing to bet the farm that he'd be the no. 1 overall pick. If he were 2 or three inches taller, he'd be in the discussion. Can a 6'0 QB survive in the NFL? Originally I thought he was stubborn and I would say, "let him go have his fairy tale career somewhere else," but he's slowly turning me into a believer, to the point where I would like to see him try his made-for-the-movies story in Detroit.

Darius Butler, cornerback, sounds like a Schwartz guy. I know we don't have a profile for one. But any time a player is called, 'intelligent' I automatically think of Schwartz.

Point 3, I don't think is valid. I respect you Kirwan, but the Combine on tv, being as great as it is, doesn't show every single prospect in every single drill. So I doubt any banter about teams staying home to watch the combine is more wishful thinking than serious conjecture.

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February 24th, 2009, 4:23 am
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phunnypharm wrote:
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Physically... he reminds me of another MLB who really didn't ever play MLB in college either. That would be Brian Urlacher. Then again.... I think Curry is a little thicker in the lower body!!!


What's funny is wasn't Urlacher basically a safety coming out of college? A linebacker/safety hybrid as a matter of fact.


February 24th, 2009, 7:44 am
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faulkn22 wrote:
phunnypharm wrote:
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Physically... he reminds me of another MLB who really didn't ever play MLB in college either. That would be Brian Urlacher. Then again.... I think Curry is a little thicker in the lower body!!!


What's funny is wasn't Urlacher basically a safety coming out of college? A linebacker/safety hybrid as a matter of fact.


That's right. Urlacher played what was called the "Lobo" position at New Mexico.....what was commonly known as a Rover, Monster or Wolf in other similar defensive schemes.


February 24th, 2009, 9:01 am
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MLive wrote:
Aaron Curry will help his family with NFL payday
by Tom Kowalski
Tuesday February 24, 2009, 12:20 AM

ALLEN PARK -- Based on past events and future projections, the first pick in the NFL draft can expect to make about $32 million in guaranteed money.

When you're forking over that kind of dough, you would like to know the maturity level of the player you're dealing with and whether instant wealth is going to change that player.

If the Detroit Lions select Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry with that No. 1 pick, there is absolutely no question there is going to be significant change in his life. Perhaps, in the best way possible.

At one point during his junior season in college, Curry made a trip back home and was met with some pretty tough news.

"My mom told me that we were being evicted and we didn't have anywhere to stay," Curry said. "At that point, we didn't have the funds to get into another house, and those are the moments that you think about in the fourth quarter when there's a play that needs to be made and you know you have the opportunity to provide for your family for the rest of their lives."

The love of football motivates Curry, but he won't hide the fact that financial security is a driving force as well.

"To know that at any given moment, anything can be just stripped from you like that, and that was one of the biggest turning moments of my life -- where I realized that I had to do something and football was it,'' said Curry, who watched his family scatter to find shelter. "I stayed with one of my best friends, my brothers stayed with their friends and my mom stayed with my great-grandma until we got things together."

Curry thought about leaving college early to bring immediate funds into the family budget, but he just got another slap in the face.

"When I asked for a (draft advisory) report, they told me I had a third-round grade, and that's another day that burns in the back of my mind," he said. "But I'm glad they gave me that grade. I returned back to school and worked even harder. I improved so many small things about my game, and that really helped me elevate myself."

The decision to return to school for his senior season wasn't an easy one -- even a third-round pick gets a nice-sized contract.

"That was a big issue for me as a junior. I talked to my mom and told her I was concerned about our financial situation and whether we could make another season, whether she could make another season, and she gave me her word that she could. She told me that my senior season would be the best one for her to enjoy and for me to play in. She was able to maintain, and she's doing great now."

She will be doing even better when Curry gets drafted.

"The first thing on the list is whatever mom needs -- house, car, anything she needs," he said.

If Curry doesn't get drafted by the Lions, he's not going to stay on the board for long.

Draft analysts Mike Mayock (NFL Network) and Mel Kiper (ESPN) have called him the "safest pick in the draft." Curry solidified his status as the top defensive player in the draft by running a time of 4.54 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine.

"I believe a safe pick means I can come in and instantly make an impact on anybody's defense," Curry said.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz agreed.

"He's big, strong and athletic. We could probably find a lot of places for him," Schwartz said. "He played SAM (strong side linebacker), but it was interesting at Wake because he played an on-the-ball SAM linebacker which not many people play anymore. You've got to be really strong to be able to do that.

"But they also, when they had slot formations, put him out in space, almost like a nickelback. Those are almost two mutually exclusive skill sets, but they had trust in him to do both and that spoke a lot about him."

http://www.mlive.com/lions/index.ssf/20 ... _fami.html


February 24th, 2009, 9:49 am
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Vontae Davis apparently ran in the mid 4.3's and Malcolm Jenkins ran in the mid 4.5's. There's talk of Davis leapfrogging Jenkins now. Overrating the 40 a little I think but I'd be happy with either guy at #20 if this causes Jenkins to slip.


February 24th, 2009, 1:46 pm
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inheritedlionsfan wrote:
Vontae Davis apparently ran in the mid 4.3's and Malcolm Jenkins ran in the mid 4.5's. There's talk of Davis leapfrogging Jenkins now. Overrating the 40 a little I think but I'd be happy with either guy at #20 if this causes Jenkins to slip.


Jenkins is a top ten talent... but I hope his 40 time makes people weak at the knees and he falls to use at 20. He will be a top CB very quickly.

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February 24th, 2009, 1:53 pm
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People put WAAAAAY too much stock in 40 times for a CB. They tend to forget that a CB is going backwards most of the time. How did Jenkins compare in other tests regarding the coverage, change of direction skills (3 cone), and how did he fare in the 10 yard split?

I've said before that Davis is better physically than Jenkins. But Davis also has the reputation of being difficult to handle and somewhat of a lonewolf on the field, preferring to do things his way rather than the way he was coached. Either one would be an upgrade over what we have, but both will be gone by #20, I fear. Take your pick between Alphonso Smith and D.J. Moore.


February 24th, 2009, 2:56 pm
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inheritedlionsfan wrote:
Vontae Davis apparently ran in the mid 4.3's and Malcolm Jenkins ran in the mid 4.5's. There's talk of Davis leapfrogging Jenkins now. Overrating the 40 a little I think but I'd be happy with either guy at #20 if this causes Jenkins to slip.



The official number for Davis is 4.49 huge drop from a 4.3 unofficial time. If both are gone at #20 I think we can look all over the board. If we can't get a corner at #20 I hope Macho Harris falls to us at #65.


February 24th, 2009, 4:02 pm
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m2karateman wrote:
People put WAAAAAY too much stock in 40 times for a CB. They tend to forget that a CB is going backwards most of the time. How did Jenkins compare in other tests regarding the coverage, change of direction skills (3 cone), and how did he fare in the 10 yard split?

I've said before that Davis is better physically than Jenkins. But Davis also has the reputation of being difficult to handle and somewhat of a lonewolf on the field, preferring to do things his way rather than the way he was coached. Either one would be an upgrade over what we have, but both will be gone by #20, I fear. Take your pick between Alphonso Smith and D.J. Moore.


Hey... we all know that NFL coaches are reading what we say for advice, why do you gotta go and tell them things like that!

Jenkins may not be as physically talented as Davis, but he sure makes up for it with his height and coverage ability. He is a natural for the position.

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February 24th, 2009, 4:03 pm
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Honolulu_Blue wrote:
The other thing is I'm really starting to like Pat White a lot. I thought he was the best QB in the senior bowl. And he also looked like the best passer in the combine. His throws are darts, tight spirals, accurate. His form is picture perfect. If this guy were five inches taller... I would be willing to bet the farm that he'd be the no. 1 overall pick. If he were 2 or three inches taller, he'd be in the discussion. Can a 6'0 QB survive in the NFL? Originally I thought he was stubborn and I would say, "let him go have his fairy tale career somewhere else," but he's slowly turning me into a believer, to the point where I would like to see him try his made-for-the-movies story in Detroit.


I have to preface this by stating that I'm a WVU homer and a big Pat White fan. However, I've been very doubtful about White's NFL prospects at QB and was convinced he'd be a WR/KR type. I'm now a believer in him as an NFL QB. He was easily the best passer at the Senior Bowl and easily the best passer at the Combine, including Sanchez. Sanchez and Stafford are both 6'2" so they don't have a huge advantage over White in terms of height. And Drew Brees is 6'0" so we know NFL QBs don't have to be 6'6" anyway. White has a better arm than Sanchez, although not as strong as Stafford. However, with his combination of speed and passing skills, I think he's the best QB in the draft. There, I said it.

On top of that, you couldn't get a guy with a better attitude, a better teammate, a better competitor, or a better winner. He could run for governor in WV and he might win. I'm glad folks around the country are starting to realize how special this kid is.


February 24th, 2009, 4:33 pm
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I was pretty happy to see McGee's performance during the combine. Unfortunately he spent most of his time in the option and when he did get to play in a more pass oriented offense he hurt his shoulder. If he's still there in the 5th I'd take him if I were in the Lions War Room. He didn't get a lot of chances to make plays with his arm in college but he has shown he can make them going back to his high school days. He's also a heart and soul of the team type of leader at the QB position. He took some vicious hits running that option offense and would get right back up and jaw back at the defenders. I think he would be a good prospect for Linehan to mold into a NFL QB.


February 24th, 2009, 8:14 pm
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I'm glad Curry did well, and I would love to see him go to the Lions. Will it happen? I can't see it unfortantely. I still think he'd be a huge upgrade for us as I would contend that our LB's were the weakest position group on the entire team, and that's really saying something.

Stafford, depending on his pro-day, could make him a lock at #1. I guess I could stomach it if he was the Lions pick. I think Jason Smith made himself a lot of money at the combine unlike Andre Smith. This makes me happy too. There was just something about Andre Smith that didn't feel right.

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February 24th, 2009, 9:26 pm
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You know what I love about the combine? It gave viable alternatives for the no. 1 overall pick. I was never really comfortable with the QB's with all the question marks.

But guys like Aaron Curry, Jason Smith, BJ Raji, Eugene Monroe really helped themselves as qualified no. 1 picks for the Lions. A few weeks ago, I didn't think anybody in the draft deserved to go no. 1. Now I'm convinced. The only ones who shouldn't be taken no. 1 overall are the quarterbacks.

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February 25th, 2009, 7:05 pm
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http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/football/bears/chi-22-pompei-scout-mar22,0,7151782.story

I posted this elsewhere, but it is relevant here. Wonderlic test results. It is not comprehensive, but some highlights:

Matthew Stafford: 38 (exceptional score, 99th percentile)
Sanchez: 28 (pretty good, won't hurt him)
Freeman: 27 (same as above)

Rey Maualuga: 15... Ouch! Below average (10 is considered literate). This is a red flag for a MLB.
Cushing: 23
Clay Matthews: 27

Andre Smith: 17 Borderline
Eben Britton: 31 Very good
Monroe: 24
Jason Smith: 23
Oher: 19

Crabtree: 15
Harvin: 12 Barely literate?
Heyward-Bey: 14
Hakeem Nicks: 11

Louis Delmas: 12

You can argue the merit of the test, but you can't argue with Stafford's score here. Seriously have to question Rey at 15. You'd like a higher score at MLB- the guy calling defenses.

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March 21st, 2009, 10:23 pm
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Quote:
STAFFORD POSTS HIGH WONDERLIC SCORE
Posted by Sheil Kapadia on March 22, 2009, 10:25 a.m.

Georgia’s Matthew Stafford did not throw during the Scouting Combine, but he stood out among quarterbacks taking the Wonderlic test.

According to Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune, Stafford scored 38.

The other top quarterback prospects fared well also. USC’s Mark Sanchez scored 28, and Kansas State’s Josh Freeman scored 27.

Last year, Matt Ryan reportedly scored 32, and Joe Flacco posted a 27.

Among receivers, Missouri’s Jeremy Maclin stood out with a 25. The other top prospects were not as impressive. Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree scored 15. Maryland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey posted a 14. Florida’s Percy Harvin a 12. And North Carolina’s Hakeem Nicks an 11.

At offensive tackle, Alabama’s Andre Smith scored 17.

Linebacker Rey Maualuga posted a 12, while his USC teammates fared better. Clay Matthews scored 27, and Brian Cushing 23.

At defensive back, Maryland’s Kevin Barnes posted a 41, while Western Kentucky’s Louis Delmas scored 12.


PFT messed up and has a 12 for Rey when the article they took the scores from shows a 15. Still pretty low as ILMP pointed out.

Look at Barnes' score from my alma mater, a 41! Go Terps! (Probably was coached up a lot on the test but still)

He's a guy I was interested in with our later third round pick if we haven't taken a CB by then. I think he is a 3-5 round prospect so we probably could trade down from 82 and land him mid 4th. He's 6'1 and runs around a 4.5 40.

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March 22nd, 2009, 11:31 am
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