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2009 NFL Combine, Thursday: Oline kicks it off



NFL Combine Media Transcripts will be linked HERE

INDIANAPOLIS -- Andre Smith said he hasn't decided yet whether to work out this week at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. Michael Oher said he "doesn't care" who portrays him in a movie about his life, and added, "I don't know any actors."

It was that kind of day at the combine for two offensive tackles that could have a wide range of opinions about them in the days leading up to the April 25 draft.

Smith left Alabama with eligibility remaining and didn't play in the Sugar Bowl against Utah because of apparent dealings with an agent. However, Smith said he hasn't worked out very much leading up to the combine.

And why was that?

"I just picked my agent [Alvin Keels] like two weeks ago," he said. "I haven't been down to API [Athletic Performance Institute] for three weeks, maybe four weeks."



Still, he insists, "my perspective of me is I'm a hard worker."

The perspective NFL teams have of him will be paramount when the decision is made of where he will be drafted. The feeling of some is that there is all-world talent, but many other questions.

How much does he love the game? How much passion is there? That's what NFL evaluators want to know, and they wonder if there are those playing this game simply for the paycheck. Smith might have raised a red flag when he was asked about the story of how he once asked his father about the highest-paid position in the NFL, and was told left tackle.

Said Smith, "I asked my dad when I was in the sixth grade, going into seventh -- that's when I really started playing football -- what was the highest-paid position? He told me. The ball got to rolling after that."

Then, there was his strange answer when asked if was able to see Miami's Jake Long play this past season. Smith said, "One of my teammates from college competed against Jake Long in a minicamp and told me how really good he is. He told me to keep up the hard work and I'd be where he is."

When asked who the teammate was, a player he must have played against in practice, Smith said, "I forgot his name that fast."

Then, there is Oher, who had a childhood that featured frequent homelessness until a wealthy family brought him to their home. In a move being made, based on the book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game about his life, Sandra Bullock has been cast to play the mother in that family.

Oher appears unaffected by it all and claims to have not read the book.

When asked how good the book was, Oher said, "I haven't read it, but hearing what a lot of people say about it, I think it was fairly accurate. I think it was a good look though."

So, why haven't you read it? Said Oher, "[author Michael Lewis] talked to me about a lot about the stuff, and went over a lot of things, and I felt I didn't need to read it."

Then, when asked who he wants to play him in the movie, Oher said, "I have no idea and don't care. I don't know any actors."

Jason Smith, a three-year starter for Baylor at left and right tackle, is the least known of the group of four tackles that are potential top 10 picks, but earned scouts' respect throughout the season with his athleticism and tenacity on film. Smith might be a converted tight end, be he's not a finesse blocker.

Smith admitted to taking pride in "physically assaulting" his opponent. His confidence was also evident, as he told people to just watch his film and they'll see he's the best tackle available. Although Smith chose not to play at the Senior Bowl last month, he expects to run and perform position drills this week.

Meanwhile, Eugene Monroe will follow former Virginia teammate and current Kansas City Chief left tackle Branden Albert, who played guard because of Monroe's presence in Charlottesville, into the NFL. His soft-spoken personality reflects his game. Monroe's athleticism in pass protection is unquestioned, but he's not likely to physically dominate his opponent. Teams were also not impressed by his undefined upper body build during the weigh-in.


Lions tipping their hand?

New Lions coach Jim Schwartz said early in his news conference that it was "way too early to make any decisions on which way we're going [with the No. 1 overall pick]."

But he may have tipped his hand about where he's focusing his attention.

"I've said before, we're going to build the team like it's an outdoor team," Schwartz said. "When you look at Tennessee and other places I've been, if you're strong on the offensive and defensive lines, you'll be consistent from week to week. That doesn't leave you. You can have a dominant skill player but he might get hurt one week or the wind might be blowing, like it was in Buffalo when New England played up there, and you can't throw the ball. Or the footing might be bad and the running back can't make his yards. But offensive line and defensive line will make you consistent from week to week."

While Detroit's defense -- ranked last in the NFL last season -- is certain to get attention, the fact that the club has invested so much money in the offensive line already has led many to speculate the Lions couldn't afford to invest more money on blockers, despite an extraordinarily rich tackle class.

Detroit designated left tackle Jeff Backus as its franchise player in 2006. Backus has another three years remaining on his deal and has started all 128 games of his career at left tackle. The Lions selected right tackle Gosder Cherilus with the 17th overall pick last year and signed right guard Stephen Peterman to a five-year deal this week.


Slow build-up

The few NFL scouts walking the halls of the Lucas Oil Stadium were eager for the action to pick up Friday. Thursday is a slow day for the scouts here, as the first athletes to arrive -- the offensive linemen and tight ends -- are shuttled through for measuring, comprehensive medical testing and media interviews, but did not yet work out.

Scouts hope to get the results of the X-rays, blood work and drug testing as early as next week, and the on-field work at the combine begins Saturday.

The medical testing is the least talked about, but most important aspect of the combine process for scouts, with some players spending as many as seven hours under the microscope. Florida tight end Cornelius Ingram, who missed the 2008 season with a torn ACL, was among those kept longest.

"I got in at 7 this morning and came here to talk to you [media] once they let me out," Ingram said once he met the media at 3 p.m.


Tight end talk

Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew returned to school despite speculation after his junior season that he'd be a top 60 pick. Pettigrew missed three games with an ankle injury as a senior, but is fully healthy for drills at the combine.

Pettigrew said he's "a lot faster than NFL scouts" think he is and will run a great 40 time with his position group to prove it on Saturday.

"I'm telling myself I'm going to run a 4.4," said the 6-5, 263-pound Pettigrew, NFLDraftScout's top-rated tight end.

To prepare for the event, he trained with former Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson.

"The Michael Johnson. He's Michael Johnson. He knows what he's doing," Pettigrew said.

"You can't really teach speed, but you can teach form. I don't think my form was great when I first got there. But I know it's a lot better now. I focused on my starts as opposed to just running the 40."

Missouri's Chase Coffman is expected to be the second tight end off the board, as long as he's able to prove he recovered from the broken fifth metatarsal in his foot he suffered in the Alamo Bowl. Six weeks removed from surgery, Coffman will not work out in Indy as he aims for his March 19 Pro Day.

Lack of great timed speed and a history of injuries -- including a turf toe last season and bone spurs the year before -- are the two red flags scouts have regarding Coffman.

"Two of the four years I played I had a couple of problems, but I played through those," he said. "I missed a couple of games because of them. But that's just one of those things that unfortunately happened. I'm going to keep working hard to get stronger and faster and more flexible and whatever I can do to be injury-proof."


Simply noting

Running back LeSean McCoy could be limited in some workouts this week because of a bout with the flu. McCoy has reportedly lost weight and is planning to run the 40-yard dash, but possibly not participate in the bench press.

California center Alex Mack injured his ankle in a Feb. 16 workout and won't participate in drills at the combine. "While preparing for the combine on [Feb. 15] with my trainer, I suffered a sprained ankle," Mack said. "The injury isn't serious, but unfortunately, it is going to keep me from working out this week in Indianapolis. No one is more disappointed than me, as I have been working tirelessly to further prove myself as a first-round pick. However, I don't want to perform at anything less than 100 percent." Mack's Pro Day is March 18.

Rams GM Billy Devaney said he pays little attention to the workouts at the combine. "Only if it's an extreme," Devaney said. "Extremely good; extremely bad. Ninety-five percent of our evaluation is going to come off of watching the game tape. What you look for are extremes. If a receiver runs really, really slow, you want to find out why. Is there an injury? Is he sick? Maybe he's not as fast as you gave him credit for. You look for extremes in all of the events whether it's the vertical, the 40, the bench press. The numbers are important to a point but there's also a story behind the numbers which you have got to find out."



Rob Rang and Chad Reuter are Senior Analysts for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange. Howard Balzer and Jeff Reynolds contributed to this report.






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