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Measuring up

Draft gains definition after NFL scouting combine

Posted: Thursday February 28, 2008 12:20PM; Updated: Thursday February 28, 2008 12:58PM
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The just-completed NFL scouting combine is by no means the end all, be all in terms of the draft-evaluation process. But don't let anyone kid you, in a league where most scouts and personnel decision-makers instinctively look to defend and justify their draft grades (i.e., cover their butts), all the measurables gathered in Indianapolis help construct the framework of their arguments.

While I find the over-emphasis on speed at the combine a little more misguided every year, there were plenty of prospects who used their strong showing in Indy to improve their standing in the eyes of the NFL. In our third attempt to mock out the draft's first round, new names abound. The hottest of those making their mock debuts include Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco, Purdue tight end Dustin Keller and Michigan State receiver Devin Thomas. (Send comments to siwriters@simail.com)

Mock NFL Draft No. 3
Pick Team Pos. Player College Class Ht. Wt.
1 DE Chris Long Virginia Sr. 6-3 266
Long only enhanced his chances to go first overall with an impressive showing at the combine. With the draft still two months out, he remains the most sensible choice from this vantage point. But I came away from Indianapolis with increased respect for USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, and his strong work at nose tackle in the Senior Bowl could tempt a Dolphins team that seems certain to transition to a 3-4 defense. Don't discount Ellis, because a dominant nose tackle is so pivotal in a 3-4. At the moment, I'd say the arrow is pointing down on Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan's chances to be the Dolphins' pick, but we still don't know their verdict on John Beck's potential.
2 OT Jake Long Michigan Sr. 6-7 309
The Rams could take Chris Long if Miami goes for Ellis, or they could jump on either Ellis or LSU's Glenn Dorsey given their need in the defensive line's interior. But that's probably over-thinking the situation. Jake Long addresses their crying need at offensive tackle, and St. Louis had to be impressed with how well he burnished his reputation in Indy.
3 QB Matt Ryan Boston College Sr. 6-5 221
Winning their coin flip with the Raiders at the combine likely gives the Falcons a clear path to take Ryan and thereby address their nightmare at quarterback. It may be something of a no-brainer for a franchise struggling for stability, but that doesn't mean Ryan is a slam-dunk prospect in the eyes of all NFL talent evaluators. His 19 interceptions last season are a cause for concern, and some scouts think he's set off their overrated sensor. Still, he's likely too attractive a package for the beleaguered Falcons to resist.
4 DT Sedrick Ellis USC Sr. 6-1 308
The money-conscious Raiders are the most likely team to try and auction off this pick as the Darren McFadden draft slot, hoping to avoid having to pay a costly top-four pick for the second year in a row. Barring a deal with, say, Dallas, I'm giving them Ellis over Dorsey because I feel like the draft-season momentum is headed the ex-USC star's way. Ellis has played tackle in both a 4-3 and a 3-4 and looks comfortable no matter the technique a team employs. In Oakland, he'd be a disruptive, playmaking replacement for the retired Warren Sapp in the Raiders' 4-3 formation.
5 DT Glenn Dorsey LSU Sr. 6-1 310
Despite the Chiefs' rough recent track record of drafting defensive tackles -- Ryan Sims ring a bell? -- Dorsey is too enticing to overlook in favor of selecting the draft's second-best offensive tackle, be it Boise State's Ryan Clady or Vanderbilt's Chris Williams. Again, if McFadden remains on the board, the Chiefs may have trade options. Although reports surfacing at the combine had at least one team red-flagging Dorsey's health, that seems to be a distinct minority view from a league-wide perspective.
6 DE/LB Vernon Gholston Ohio St. Jr. 6-4 255
Here's where things could really interesting. Gholston had a boffo showing at the combine and solidified himself as a top-six prospect. The Jets would love him as speed-rushing 3-4 outside linebacker, and they probably surmise that their hated division rivals, the No. 7 Patriots, would too. Not wanting to play twice a year against Gholston, New York takes him, bypassing the tempting McFadden. To repeat ourselves: A trade out of this spot with a team trying to get the Arkansas running back is also a possibility.
7 * RB Darren McFadden Arkansas Jr. 6-2 212
OK, relax. I know it's a long way out to be calling for a top-10 trade, but I can't leave McFadden on my board any longer and it's a good bet the Patriots would rather vacate the top 10 than use the No. 7 pick that they acquired from San Francisco in last year's draft. I think the Cowboys would be better off sitting tight with their two first-rounders (22 and 28) and taking the best receiver and running back available in those spots. But Jerry Jones is a risk taker, and McFadden has a chance to be this year's impact rookie. He and Marion Barber would make quite the tandem.
8 CB Leodis McKelvin Troy Sr. 5-11 186
Giving the Ravens' a first-round cornerback is the safe pick, and McKelvin seems as clean as any corner in a crop that lacks a consensus No. 1 at this point. But I'm tempted to consider a quarterback in this slot, either Louisville's Brian Brohm or the hottest name at the combine, Delaware's Joe Flacco. The top 10 would appear to be too rich for Flacco, but some believe he's destined to climb into the bottom third of the round. Boise State offensive tackle Ryan Clady is another option.
9 DE Derrick Harvey Florida Jr. 6-4 250
With Ellis and Dorsey gone, the Bengals miss out on the defensive tackle they desperately need. Harvey is either the draft's third or fourth best defensive end, depending on whose rankings you believe, and with Justin Smith leaving via free agency, Cincinnati adds some pass rush potential to its always struggling defense.
10 CB Mike Jenkins South Florida Sr. 6-0 200
With Jason David proving to be more of a nickelback than a starter, and Mike McKenzie suffering a late-season ACL injury, the Saints are desperate for help at cornerback in this draft. New Orleans would love to see McKelvin fall to 10th, but Jenkins gets a solid first-round grade as well. Cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Brandon Flowers are other possibilities, but their stock took a bit of a hit at the combine when they both struggled in some of the drills.

Mock Draft Continued