Ten things I learned about the draft this week:
1. Rising prospects: Colorado corner Jimmy Smith, Baylor guard Danny Watkins and TCU quarterback Andy Dalton. The Bengals will have had five contacts (interviews, workouts, meal) with Dalton before the draft.
2. One quarterback coach I know told me: "It's getting very hard for [Cincinnati offensive coordinator] Jay Gruden to hide how much he loves Andy Dalton.''
3. Falling: Alabama running back Mark Ingram (running backs are so cold), Temple defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson and Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett. Mallett might go 15 (Miami). He might go 49 (Jacksonville).
4. Someone who knows Bill Belichick well told me the other day his MO for this draft will be like it's been for many others: Approach a pick like he wants to trade it, wait until there's a minute left on the clock, and if he doesn't have a good offer, turn in a name to pick. This person said he thinks this could be the case at number 28, with Mark Ingram on the board. He'll have Ingram in his back pocket -- the Patriots love him -- and if they don't get a good offer from a team moving up (probably moving up for a quarterback), Belichick could say, "Turn in the card for Ingram.''
5. Talked to one team Sunday that has scratched Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor (foot) from its draft board and two others that haven't. I could see him going as high as 21 if the Chiefs think his foot's OK, or as low as the middle of the second if there are sincere doubts about it. This week is when lots of team set their boards. It's a big money week for Mr. Taylor.
6. Ryan Mallett's mobility is becoming a big concern. It always has been. But as one scout told me this week: "He's going into a league where every defensive end chasing him will be faster, and a lot of the tackles. Look at Marcell Dareus -- he's half a second faster in the 40 than Mallett.'' Well, that's mostly true. Dareus, all 319 pounds of him, ran a 4.93. Mallett ran 5.37.
7. Houston loves Patrick Peterson. Capital L. I smell a trade-up.
8. I think Bears assistant Mike Tice, who loves Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi, might have his heart broken late in round one. Carimi's not likely to last 'til 29, coach.
9. Seattle wants to trade down so bad from 25 that John Schneider can taste it.
10. The Panthers have put a nice lid on Cam Newton news emanating from their building. Looks like they'll take him number one, but no one can swear to it.
And one other thing: Adam Schefter was right this week when he said, in essence, Minnesota and Donovan McNabb. Perfect together.
Now for the maestro of film study you may not know, but need to.
Greg Cosell, the executive producer of the long-running "NFL Matchup'' show, is one of the best NFL talent evaluators I know -- and he doesn't even work for a team. He works for NFL Films, and it is in that capacity that he has studied tape of the best college football players in the country in preparation for the draft later this month. His job as executive producer is to know as much as he can about every prospect so he can act as consultant for Merril Hoge, Ron Jaworski and others who will need to be conversant on draft prospects for the weekend of draft coverage.
Because I feel he's so prescient, I asked him if he would be good enough to take 10 intriguing players in this draft and analyze them for Monday Morning Quarterback. His insight is not full of cliche. It's full of facts, some of which you can't find anywhere else. For example, of the highly regarded Purdue defensive end, Ryan Kerrigan, Cosell says: "In many ways, Kerrigan is a glorified try-hard player. In three games I broke down, I did not see one explosive or dynamic move.''
That's why I'm airing out the film study of Cosell today. I want you to know the truth. Off we go. I'll list the player, the area of the draft I estimate him to be taken, and then Cosell's review:
Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado (late-first round): The most confident press-man corner in this draft. Physical and patient. Loose hips. Smooth change of direction in off coverage. Only potential negative: lack of explosive speed. Physical prototype for NFL press corners. Has the mindset of a man-to-man corner, and mindful of Darrelle Revis when he came out of Pittsburgh a few years ago.
Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson (mid-first round): Quick athletic feet, but not explosive or sudden. Naturally strong with powerful hands. Tendency to play upright and lose leverage and power. More of a power rusher than a pure speed rusher. Don't see comparable athleticism and movement to Julius Peppers. Good closing speed, but not explosive off the edge like Dwight Freeney or DeMarcus Ware. Didn't strike me as the number one pick, but a strong upside.
Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa (late-first round): A top athlete for his position. Has the feet of a smaller man -- athletic and light. Quicker and more sudden than Bowers. Struggled at time with the initial strength of Wisconsin LT Gabe Carimi. Strong and active, with hands that never stop working. Liked his playing personality -- consistent motor. Didn't show sudden moves against Missouri. Will be a polarizing player in some draft rooms. Intense competitive energy whose play is at times erratic.
Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn (high-first round): Watched him play three-technique and nose against Mississippi State. Explosive off the ball with natural leverage and power. Flashes of lateral burst and explosion. Strong. Difficult to move when he plays with leverage. Consistent effort a concern. Translates to a three-technique DT in the NFL. Better combination of speed, quickness and explosion than Gerald McCoy. He has the movement of a good defensive end. Plays tackle like an athlete. Saw him make a sack against Alabama from a two-point stance, out of a linebacker position. Consistent effort a concern against Alabama too.
Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama (high-first round): Saw him play DT and DE in four-man line, and DE in 3-4 front. Very good athlete. Good initial strength with violent and active hands. Stronger and more explosive than Oregon State's Stephen Paea. Works hard against double-teams. Like his effort. Strong player with consistent ability to shed blocks. Quick and explosive enough to play the three-technique in the NFL, with good closing speed as a pass-rusher.
Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State (high-second round): Showed a strong arm against Oklahoma, with good juice on intermediate throws. Seems similar to Mark Sanchez. Good feel for the timing of the drop-back passing game and should transition well to the NFL. Reads coverage well, and can stick throws into a tight window, essential for an NFL quarterback. Needs to work on manipulating the secondary and eye discipline, and on recognition of safeties on deep throws. Must get quicker with footwork on his drop. A little uncomfortable in a muddied pocket. Feet have to calm down under pressure. More of a touch passer than a fastball pitcher. Comfortable throwing the ball to the outside with timing.
Ricky Stanzi, QB, Iowa (late-second round, or high-third): Has elements of Matt Schaub when he came out of Virginia -- slightly above average arm strength but understands the subtle nuances of the position. Ran an NFL offense at Iowa. Rhythmic and balanced -- comfortable in pass drops from center. Average arm strength. More of a touch passer. Good command of the pocket. Saw him against Arizona, and he consistently found the single coverage on the outside. Didn't drive the ball; not much velocity on the intermediate throws. Calm and poised, and understands check-downs. Showed excellent play-action command against Michigan. Against Ohio State, threw a big-time TD against a corner blitz. In the bowl game, he picked up his tempo when he read blitz. Has a chance to be a solid NFL starter with time.
Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama (late-first round, or high-second): Naturally strong running. Powerful, with good downhill instincts. Excellent balance and body control, with deceptive lateral agility and explosiveness. Good feet in the hole. There's a toughness about his running style that's impressive. Workmanlike, naturally powerful. Not fluid or overly patient, but a very workmanlike professional runner. Needs a lot of work on his blitz pickup. No physicality as a blocker. I don't see the comparisons to Emmitt Smith -- not as shifty or laterally explosive.
Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech (second round): Dynamic change-of-direction running with burst and acceleration. Can get to the perimeter well. Can move safeties and run through initial contact. Tough and physical. He has a chance to be a dynamic NFL back with a big-play mentality but needs to develop a sustaining mindset. Not a true, home-run speed burner, but that's way down the list of necessary attributes for a quality NFL back. I think he has the skill set of a good starting NFL back. Interesting: I see him as a better back than Knowshon Moreno, who was the 12th player picked in the '09 draft, but certainly won't be drafted in the top 15, or maybe not even in the first round.
Anthony Castonzo, T, Boston College (mid-first round): BC runs a lot of pro sets, which will transition well to the NFL. Against North Carolina State, his tenacity was evident from the first snap. Physical presence, both as a run-block and pass-protector. Good balance and body control -- essential for a pass-protector. Needs to pass-protect with hands and arms more as weapons. Against Florida State, struck and moved defensive linemen. Aggressive and relentless. Struggled a few times against the inside spin moves against FSU. Tendency to overset and give up the inside, which can be corrected with coaching. Similarities to Jake Long, but may be better in pass-protection. A complete left tackle, better than Colorado's Nate Solder.
NHL playoff preview: New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers
NHL playoff preview: Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks