NFL combine (cont.)
Another Ryan Leaf in the making?
If size and arm strength was the whole deal, Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett would be a clear-cut first-round pick. But there's more to it than that, and this weekend will start to unpeel the onion that is Mallett's pro potential. He's 6-6, 238 pounds, with a gun for a right arm. And he played in a pro-style offense with the Razorbacks. But Mallett is maddeningly inconsistent, and teams have reason to question his maturity and commitment level. A recent story alleging that rumors of drug use by Mallett in 2009 discouraged him from entering the 2010 NFL Draft hasn't helped is cause in terms of off-field issues.
It all makes Mallett one of the most scrutinized prospects in Indianapolis, and his interviews with teams could help determine whether he cracks the first round or tumbles into the second. The quarterback Mallett has been compared to some of late is Ryan Leaf, and that's not a good development, even if they were merely talking about his first name.
"Here's what Ryan Mallet is,'' Mayock said. "Ryan Mallett has unbelievable, God-given ability to throw a football. And when he has clear pocket and clear vision, there is nobody in the game better. Comes from an offense where you can see him drop back under center, you can see him play action. But every time I get excited, he does something from a decision making or an accuracy perspective that bothers me.
"The common denominator is when he goes bad it's because of pressure in the pocket. When he can't step up, when he can't see, when he doesn't have clear vision, I believe his production goes way down. Having said all of those things, I would be very concerned about taking him in the first round. It's not about him throwing in shorts. It's more about what he does at night in the meetings and whether or not he can convince the NFL people that he understands the game.''
Bookend tackles are well-matched set
It's pretty clear by now that there isn't a Joe Thomas waiting to be plucked in the upper reaches of the first round. There are five or six offensive tackles who could be among the top 32 picks, but there's absolutely no consensus on who's the best of them. Some favor Colorado's Nate Solder, he of the 6-8 height and impressive wing span. Some like the solid play of Boston College's Anthony Castonzo. Some think the fastest riser and best of the bunch will wind up being USC's Tyron Smith. And Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi, Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod, and Villanova's Ben Ijalana have their fans, too.
"There are some good tackles, but I don't see any great ones available this year,'' one scout said. "Everybody likes something a little different about every one of them. It's not the year to take one real high in the first round.''
Is it me or is this draft full of first-round prospects who were better players in 2009 than last season? Statistically speaking, Washington quarterback Jake Locker, Missouri defensive end-outside linebacker Aldon Smith, Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn and North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn (who didn't even play in 2010) were all much more dominant play-makers in 2009 than last year. Which player will they really be in the NFL? The old one, or the newer less-appealing version?
Keep an eye on players like Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget, Temple defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson, USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith, North Carolina's Quinn, Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt and Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith this weekend. They're all guys who could benefit from a strong combine and see their draft stock soar in the weeks ahead. Several of those players are juniors, and juniors often use the combine as their launching pad.
"There's more work to be done on a lot of those guys,'' one scout said. "But there's always volatility with juniors. They can take a hit here sometimes, but after you get to see them here and start to know them a little bit, it can flip and go the other way for them. There are some outstanding juniors that teams are really starting to like, but that fans and the media don't know a whole lot about yet.''
Everybody loves a burner at the combine. Especially Al Davis. Players who are expected to torch the playing surface at Lucas Oil Stadium with their 40-yard dash times this week include Maryland receiver Torrey Smith, Abilene Christian receiver Edmund Gates, and Troy receiver Jerrel Jernigan. Personally I'm rooting for Nevada linebacker Dontay Moch, the non-receiver in the group. Moch reportedly ran in the 4.2's last year and is said to be motoring in that accelerated time frame once again.
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