2012 Scouting Combine awards
Brandon Weeden deftly handled questions about being a rookie QB at 28 years old
Needing a good combine to save his draft stock, Vontaze Burfict didn't deliver
Dontari Poe opened teams' eyes by showing off a blend of size, speed and skill
The awards season might be over for the movies now that the Oscars have wrapped, but the dog and pony show known as the NFL's scouting season is just getting started with the week-long NFL Scouting Combine over in Indianapolis.
Trade the red carpet for an expanse of green FieldTurf, the elaborate dresses for those skin-tight workout togs, and we could pass out our own collection of shiny trophies for the over-hyped proceedings we just witnessed. In fact, I think we will. Call them the "Combies,'' the "Mamulas'' or the "Indys,'' all that really matters is that we call them winners. The envelopes, please:
Lifetime Achievement award -- Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State: Relax, we're just having a little fun with the 28-year-old Cowboys QB. He's not really all that old. And the former minor-league Yankees pitcher did score some points by referencing late-career quarterback stars like Roger Staubach, Kurt Warner and Rich Gannon in his remarks to the media, shrewdly touching only briefly on the less-than-helpful Chris Weinke comparisons.
So what if Weeden would be older as an NFL rookie than Green Bay quarterback and current league MVP Aaron Rodgers, who's entering his eighth season? It's a proven fact we all mature at different stages in life.
"It used to kind of get under my skin, but there can be a lot worse things I can be answering questions about,'' Weeden said of the age issue. "I think I've got a lot left in my tank. Those guys played into their late 30s. A 10-year career in the NFL is a great career, and I think I've got every bit of that.''
The Most Interesting Man in the World award -- Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: Having interviewed him during Super Bowl week, I knew the league was going to swoon over the poised, polished and engaging RGIII. But the crushes that developed in Indy were perhaps unprecedented. Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli opined that he'd be thrilled if either Griffin or Andrew Luck married his daughter. The media fell under Griffin's spell in a 12-minute Friday afternoon press conference and really didn't care to talk to anyone else the rest of the weekend. And Kansas City head coach Romeo Crennel walked away from his 15-minute chat with Griffin saying, "we could have talked to him for an hour.''
Griffin didn't pick up a football all weekend, of course, but he did snap off a 4.41 in his 40-yard dash -- the fastest by any quarterback at the combine -- and he measured in at an impressive 223 pounds at 6-foot-2 and three-eighths, a bit taller than he was thought to be. I certainly hope he can play, because he's going to leave a trail of broken hearts if he turns out to be more Andre Ware or David Carr than Cam Newton or Aaron Rodgers.
Career Self-Destruction award -- Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State: Burfict had a nice week. He proclaimed himself the "best linebacker in this draft,'' blamed everyone else but himself for his shaky 2011 season, defended his decision to "swing on'' a teammate in a locker-room fight last year, and then ran a disappointing 5.09 and broad-jumped just 8 feet, 7 inches. This is a guy who came across to the league as having blind spots the size of, well, the Grand Canyon, which coincidentally is in Arizona.
Burfict thinks he's a misunderstood first-round talent. The league is more likely to give him an underachiever's third-round grade. And factoring in his winning personality and personal baggage, don't be surprised if you don't hear his name called on draft weekend until the third and final day.
Mike Mayock Says You "Killed It'' award -- Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech: There's helping your draft stock with a strong combine showing, and then there's hitting the motherlode of a draft riser's dream scenario, having NFL Network draft analyst Mayock drop into a little scouting vernacular to describe your weekend of work.
What passes for killing it these days? Glad you asked. Hill ran a 4.36 in his 40, tying for the combine's fastest showing, and for good measure, he broad-jumped a combine-best 11-1. He turned in what my colleague Peter King described as the catch of the combine in Sunday's workout, laying out to nab a long bomb by Arizona quarterback Nick Foles. And to make sure everyone got the memo, Hill's 39.5-inch vertical leap was fifth overall among combine jumpers.
The 6-4, 215-pound receiver sometimes looked like a spare part in Georgia Tech's triple-option offense last season, but he might have just vaulted himself into strong consideration for the bottom of the first round or top of the second.
What Took So Long award -- Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: I knew RGIII's favorite target had run slower than expected when the scouts put away their stopwatches and took out their sun dials for his second attempt at the 40. Wright wound up running a sluggish 4.61, which was 0.2 seconds slower than his Heisman-winning quarterback. And it was Wright who was supposed to be the Bears' speed threat.
After Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, many scouts before the combine had Wright as the draft's second-best receiver. But he didn't exactly nail that spot down, leaving the door wide open for Notre Dame's Michael Floyd to climb into the No. 2 slot. Floyd ran a sub 4.5 40, dispelling any concerns about his speed, and his size (6-3) and jumping ability (36.5 vertical) really stood out.
Don't Want to Grow Up award -- Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State: This was a new one for most of us. Osweiler measured more than an inch shorter than he was thought to be, and was thrilled about it. Why? Because there's no history of success in the NFL for extremely tall quarterbacks, and Osweiler's listed height of 6-8 set off alarm bells for those scouts old enough to remember 1991 first-round bust Dan McGwire of Seattle, who was 6-8 and ran like a baby giraffe -- all gangly legs and a lack of coordination.
Well, lo and behold, Osweiler checked in at the combine at just 6-6 and seven-eights, having had two vertebrae removed from his back in a desperate attempt to be shorter (just a joke, we can't verify anything). Alas, the measuring was the only good news of the weekend for Osweiler, who didn't throw or run at the combine due to a foot sprain he suffered during training this winter. So scouts still don't know much about the one-year ASU starter except he has been able to ride every ride at Disney World since he was 8 or 9.
I Wanna Be a Star award -- Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin: We media types love a good quote. But there's something a little off-putting about a guy who tells you he's a good quote before he ever says anything quotable. In his media session in Indy last week, Konz seemed to be trying a bit too hard to get a jump on that post-playing broadcasting/acting career.
"My major is radio-television-film,'' he said. "I love it. I love attention! I don't know. As a kid, my mom would put on Brett Favre interviews and loved how he didn't talk about, 'We played a great game. We gave 100 percent. We respect the other team.' I wanted to break that cycle. I wanted to be that guy to say, 'You know what? I've got a personal story. I've got more tied into this game than somebody else might have.''
Which is fine and dandy, and I hope he gets to see his name in lights some day. But Konz might have endangered his status as the only center with a first-round grade by managing a meager 18 reps on the bench press, calling into question his strength and weight-room dedication. Last I checked, Hollywood still hasn't been granted an NFL franchise.
Didn't Know You Had It in You award -- Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: Uh, oh. Could it be that Luck is about to get unfairly typecast as an athletic quarterback, the NFL's latest version of Kordell "Slash'' Stewart? I mean, what's with Luck running a 4.67 in the 40 on Sunday? That's Cam Newton territory. And a 36-inch vertical, which was an inch better than the old entertainer/icon who wowed everyone as a rookie in Carolina last year? What could Luck have been thinking?
Luck didn't throw in Indy, so he probably got bored and decided to work on his athleticism while he was killing time in his hotel room. Those crazy Stanford kids. Always tinkering with the wheel and trying to make it better. Fortunately, Luck can get back to chucking the football at his pro day next month and stop messing around with his moves. Somebody needs to tell him it's statistically proven that you can't improve your draft stock when you're a 100 percent lock to go first overall anyway.
Alligator Arms award -- Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa: Maybe it means the fear is that Reiff will never pick up a check throughout his entire NFL career -- and what organization would want that kind of guy around? -- but you seem to hear about a short-armed offensive lineman every year at the combine. And it's one of the more ridiculous things that NFL scouts ever babble on about. For example, Reiff's arms measured 33 and one-quarter inches, which is viewed as less than ideal for a left tackle. But less than ideal is another way of saying not perfect, and I would submit we're all kind of in that category in some form or fashion.
If you're a receiver and you short-arm it -- think Dwayne Bowe of the Chiefs, late in that loss to the Steelers last season -- it's not good. It speaks to your lack of willingness to go all-out for the ball. But there have been plenty of quality offensive tackles with less than ideal arm length, and some of them even make the Pro Bowl: Joe Thomas and Michael Oher, to name two. So let's go a bit easy on Riley, the stubby-armed ex-Hawkeye. If he can buckle his chin strap, tie his own shoes, and give a proper high five, he has every right to play in this league.
Sexy and I Know It award -- Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis: I don't think you get to pick your own music yet during the combine drills, but Poe was probably humming the song in the title, with its signature riff: "I work out.'' But he need not remind us, because his results in Indy did the trick nicely. Where to begin? At 6-4, and a cool 346 pounds, Poe did a combine-best 44 reps on the bench press, and ran a 4.98, making him the World's Fastest Largest Man. In addition, he vertically jumped 29.5 inches, and that's the equivalent of fitting at least 10 phone books between him and the floor.
Before the combine I was rooting like heck for Poe to slip some in the first round and last all the way until No. 29 Baltimore -- Poe, a Raven, alas, nevermore -- but it is not to be. He came out of Indy as a top 15 pick, and it's not out of the question that someone in the top 10 could fall in love with him. In the NFL, big, fast and good is a very intriguing combination.
In All Honesty award -- Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama: Rarely have I seen a combine prospect enter the media work room and open a vein for reporters quite like Jenkins did Sunday afternoon in his 10-minute interview session. I'll say this, Jenkins is no Ryan Mallett, the Arkansas quarterback who took the stage in the 2011 combine and defiantly refused to shed any light on the rumors of collegiate drug use in his background. Jenkins turned the spotlight on his own behavior and filled in all the blanks. In detail. If the first step toward overcoming mistakes is acknowledging them, Jenkins is well on his way.
Jenkins, the ex-Gators star, talked about his three arrests, two of them for marijuana possession. He talked about his bar fight arrest. His failed drug test at Florida. Being kicked off the team by new Gators head coach Will Muschamp last spring and winding up at Division II North Alabama. And his four children, all age 3 and under. It was a remarkably revealing Q&A, and he struck just the right tone of remorse and responsibility throughout. No Vontaze Burfict, he.
On Tuesday, Jenkins went out and dazzled the scouts on the field, running a blazing 4.46 in the 40, broad-jumping 10-1 and looking smooth and athletic in all the defensive back drills. He's a first-round talent, and he may have earned himself a fresh look from a handful of wary teams with his stellar combine performance.
Good Bloodlines award -- Drew Butler, P, Georgia: We're all out of linebacking Matthews brothers to chew on, and the "Matt Kalil, brother of Ryan Kalil" storyline has well been chronicled at this point. So I'm going with Butler, whose father, Kevin, was the successful and pouty-faced Chicago Bears kicker and recipient of one of the greatest nicknames in NFL history. I'll let the chip off the old block, his son Drew, tell it:
"Dad was called 'Butthead,' '' the younger Butler said, with obvious pride. "Everybody just calls me 'Butt.' I don't know what the deal is with that. But it's just Butt for me.''
Ah, fathers, sons and a game that creates those special bonds between them, tying together the generations in a family. A family of Buttheads.
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