Lou: KFFL.com is providing Draft King with a series of articles direct from Indianapolis, the site of the 2008 NFL Combine. Enjoy!
February 25, 2008
NFL Draft Grapevine: NFL Scouting Combine
By: Cory J. Bonini, KFFL.com
The 2008 NFL Scouting Combine has offered much to talk about this year. The league's annual meat market has players finding themselves poked and prodded to the hilt, but let's take a look at who stood out for right or wrong.
Matt Ryan, Boston College: The consensus No. 1-rated quarterback of this year's class, Ryan opted to not work out at the combine. Instead, he will perform at B.C.'s March 18 Pro Day. Some feel that Ryan has done his best to avoid showing what he has so far, partially due to him skipping workouts in Indianapolis and not participating in the Senior Bowl. Ryan, who appears to be the best of a mediocre quarterback class, is likely the top option by default.
Joe Flacco, University of Delaware: Once thought to be a raw prospect with a huge arm, Flacco has risen at a nearly meteoric pace in the past few months. He has solidified himself as the second quarterback to be drafted after Ryan goes on some draft boards, but University of Michigan quarterback Chad Henne probably will own that distinction given his pedigree in a major program. Flacco struggled with consistency on out and corner routes, often sailing passes high over the receiver's head.
Joshua Johnson, University of San Diego: Talking about flying up draft boards, Johnson has done just that in recent weeks. His interview table at the combine was as packed as any, and he surely helped himself by running a 4.55 official time (4.44 unofficial on some watches). His rail-thin frame lends to some question about his durability and whether or not he is even a quarterback at the next level (think San Francisco 49ers running back Michael Robinson). He wasn't very impressive at the combine, according to sources in attendance. Either way, based on sheer athletic ability, Johnson could hear his name called during the middle rounds of the draft. Most impressively, Johnson's decision-making ability is superb; he tossed just one interception to 43 touchdowns last year.
Colt Brennan, University of Hawaii: The controversial Brennan's draft stock is all over the place, depending up on who you ask, of course, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot of intrigue surrounding a player that threw 58 touchdowns two years ago. Brennan is often criticized for many reasons, primarily his lack of size, past legal troubles, immaturity, nonchalant attitude, awkward delivery and the notion that he may be nothing more than another system quarterback, but that didn't stop Brennan from displaying a tremendous amount of confidence when we talked with him. The one thing he improved, which may help his draft stock the most, was adding 22 pounds to his slender frame. At the Senior Bowl, Brennan weighed in at a slight 185 pounds, but his combine weight was 207, which is still small by NFL standards, but it shows dedication on his part. He said that he lost a lot of weight due to an illness prior to the Senior Bowl. Brennan credited the weight gain to a proper diet, the use of supplements and the occasional trip to "In-N-Out Burger."
Chad Henne, University of Michigan: Henne showed off his arm strength by all accounts, but his accuracy was questionable when working sideline routes and post throws. Nonetheless, he is likely to be as the second quarterback chosen come draft day.
John David Booty, University of Southern California: The fluid Booty, who makes for an ideal fit in a West Coast offense, looked good with his footwork but was errant with several throws, according to several in attendance. His draft stock is probably on the decline in the eyes of most scouts, but he could prove to be a solid second day selection for a West Coast team.
Darren McFadden, University of Arkansas: All the draft fervor of this year's combine was summed up with the loud roar from the media room when the NFL Network showed McFadden's unofficial 4.27 40 time. McFadden's official time was 4.33, only behind East Carolina University's Chris Johnson (4.24 official) for running backs. McFadden is a very special athlete, but many questions remain as to how this will translate to the pro level on the field. Some see him as the next Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, while KFFL's take is that he is closer in line to New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush - a tremendous specimen that doesn't equate to being a full-time back in the NFL. The median opinion abound is that McFadden will be special in the NFL and is the best prospect available in the draft. We won't go that far, but he is an exciting athlete that will undoubtedly bring enthusiasm to whichever team drafts him.
Jonathan Stewart, University of Oregon: Stewart, 5-foot-10 1/2, 235 pounds, was the leader in the 225-pound bench press among true tailbacks, registering 28 repetitions. Stewart opened a few eyes by running a 4.48 40-yard dash, which was good for 10th-best for all running backs. Tenth-best doesn't sound like a great number, but when you consider some of the impressive times other backs put up and Stewart's size, 4.48 is very strong. KFFL views Stewart as the top running back in the draft class, although most services prefer McFadden.
Chris Johnson, East Carolina University: Wow ... fast! It was no secret that Johnson's strong point was his blazing speed, but when he burned a 4.24 40-yard dash, jaws were on the floor. The 5-foot-11, 197-pounder is coming off a strong season in which he scored 23 total touchdowns (17 rushing). His hands are strong, and speed to burn is what scouts look for. While he isn't likely an every-down back in the NFL, Johnson is one of several backs that fill the complementary role that the NFL is big on. Running at 4.24 is what separates him from the rest of the change-of-pace backs, and Johnson's stock is on the rise.
Jamaal Charles, University of Texas: Charles posted an impressive 4.38 40 time and could find himself elevating on some draft boards. He is a nifty open-field runner and can make a lot of people miss. His durability on the NFL level is of some concern, but he should be a nice change-of-pace back in a two-back tandem approach. Look for Charles to come off the board in the third round and no later than the middle of the fourth.
De'Cody Fagg, Florida State: Attempting to stay inbounds along the sideline on an out route, Fagg (knee) caught his toe and suffered a serious knee injury. Reports range from a dislocated knee cap to a fully blown-out knee, and recent talk says the injury is expected to end Fagg's bid to be an NFL player. Arguably no better than a sixth-round pick before the injury, his stock is effectively nil at this point. If Fagg is able to return from the injury, he will face nothing but a steep battle to make an NFL roster.
Will Franklin, University of Missouri: Franklin, who I actually had the pleasure of sitting next to on my flight from Indianapolis to Phoenix, surprised a few by running a 4.37 40-yard dash. Franklin was expected to be in the mid-to-high 4.4s, so he helped himself some in that event. He has quality hands and catches the ball away from his body. He is best suited to excel in the slot role of a West Coast offense, where his talents after the catch would make him a great fit on shallow routes.
Mario Manningham, University of Michigan: Disappointing? Perhaps, but game film shows how talented Manningham is. His sad 40 times (4.59, 4.68 unofficial) hurt his draft stock, especially since he isn't large in stature at 5-foot-11 3/4, 181 pounds. He frequently dropped passes in key situations while with the Wolverines, but he reportedly turned in a quality workout at the combine. How much his draft stock has slipped is yet to be determined, but may not have slipped as far as many believe given his overall portfolio of work at Michigan.
Devin Thomas, Michigan State: There is some buzz surrounding this lesser known prospect after he posted a respectable 4.40 40 time. Thomas has quality hands, and those in attendance at the workouts noted how fluid he looked when catching the ball. Some folks have Thomas pegged as a second- or third-round pick, and we have even seen some believe this may have pushed him into the first round. While anything is possible, it seems quite unlikely for him to be that high of a pick. There is a huge need at the position this year in the first round, and many players grade out well ahead of Thomas. Either way, he should still be a quality selection for any club in the late second round or early third.
Andre Caldwell, University of Florida: Caldwell didn't disappoint by running a 4.37 official time in the 40. He posted quality stats with the Gators, has an NFL bloodline (brother Reche is an NFL receiver), and Caldwell is about as close to a lock of a second-round pick as you can get.
Limas Sweed, University of Texas: Sweed (wrist) did not take part in any drills at the combine. He said his wrist is 100 percent healthy, but his range of movement is only about 65 percent of where it needs to be.
Malcolm Kelly, University of Oklahoma: Kelly did not take part in any drills, citing personal reasons. He will work out at the school's March 11 Pro Day.
Early Doucet, Louisiana State: Doucet (hamstring) suffered a hamstring injury at the Senior Bowl and elected to not participate in any drills at the combine. He is expected to work at LSU's March 26 Pro Day.
DeSean Jackson, University of California-Berkeley: Despite coming up three inches shorter than what the school lists him at, the 5-foot-9, 169-pound Jackson opened the eyes of scouts, according to sources in attendance. Impressive in the return game, Jackson adds a dimension to his game that may help justify a first-round pick for someone of his size. Oh, it didn't hurt that he ran a 4.35 official time in the 40-yard dash!
John Carlson, Notre Dame: A physical specimen, Carlson grades out to be the top tight end in the draft. He lost 17 pounds in eight days due to an illness, but he was able to regain a good portion of that he said. Ranking third all-time in Notre Dame history for receiving yardage by a tight end, Carlson figures to be a low-upside pick in the second round.
Jermichael Finley, University of Texas: Finley is climbing up some draft boards due to his fluidity in the receiving game, but he is a bit undersized as a blocker. He will need work in that department, especially coming from Texas' spread offense.
Dustin Keller, Purdue: Keller posted a strong 4.55 40-yard time. His short shuttle was run in 4.14 seconds, and Keller's 38-inch vertical jump is impressive. He may have boosted himself into the No. 2 tight end spot in the eyes of many scouts, but for now it is safe to view him as no worse than the No. 3 player at his position.