The NFL’s annual Scouting Combine features roughly 325 collegiates, including 45 underclassmen, all of whom are going through drills testing straight-line speed, raw strength, change of direction skills, intelligence, and physical fitness.
As is often the case this time of year, the debate at the top of the draft is whether a quarterback with “red flags” is worth the No. 1 choice. Matt Ryan’s 19 senior-year interceptions at Boston College naturally led to questions about his decision making. Arguments against Georgia’s Matthew Stafford include his 56.9 career completion rate and the staggering history of underclassman quarterback busts.
Stafford is expected to bypass the Combine in favor of working out at the Bulldogs’ March Pro Day. Ryan took the same approach last year and still went No. 3 to the Falcons. However, Ryan was projected to go first in numerous pre-draft projections and Brady Quinn tumbled to No. 22 overall after sitting out the Senior Bowl and most of the 2007 Combine. All three quarterbacks are represented by agent Tom Condon. Only time will tell if Stafford’s absence results in a draft-day plunge.
Solidifying Second Place
After Stafford, three underclassmen fall in line as quarterback prospects two through four. USC’s Mark Sanchez, Kansas State’s Josh Freeman, and Ball State’s Nate Davis all boast impressive arm strength and mobility. Perhaps the most striking physical QB specimen since JaMarcus Russell, the 6-6, 250-pound Freeman could make a run at Sanchez to be the second QB taken.
Anyone who’s seen Freeman play knows he has a cannon, and Davis won the distance throw in January’s ESPN college all-star event. Sanchez might be the finest on-the-run passing prospect since Carson Palmer. Accuracy is the most vital characteristic for a successful quarterback, but arm strength improves draft stock. Without bulky shoulder pads or knee braces, the Combine provides a level playing field to gauge pure throwing power. Some separation should be created between the next three quarterbacks.
How Big Is Harvin, Really?
Like arm length for a tackle and hand size for a quarterback, height is always a key measurable for a wideout. Percy Harvin will never be big, but he’ll struggle to go in the top 20 picks if he measures 5-9. Florida is famous for exaggerating a player’s size, and it’s hard to imagine Harvin living up to his 5-11, 195 college listing. It does help Harvin that weigh-ins are on the first day. He’ll burn up the track later in the week and leave a strong impression.
A Weightier Issue
Some news broke last week regarding a pair of college defensive ends teams are looking at as 3-4 outside linebackers. Everette Brown of Florida State and Penn State’s Aaron Maybin are both underclassmen with size question marks.
Maybin, who graduated from high school weighing 220 and was listed at 6-4, 236 by the Nittany Lions, plans to report at 6-4, 250 on February 18. The 20-year-old third-year sophomore will be put through cover drills at the Combine. On top of his Big Ten-best 12 sacks, Maybin flashed the ability to drop into a zone from a three-point stance last season. But will the added weight affect his agility? Whereas a good showing could secure Maybin a place in the top nine, he could fall into the 20s if he struggles.
A 21-year-old fourth-year junior, Brown was possibly the nation’s most explosive defender in 2008. Using a Dwight Freeney-esque spin move and scintillating up-field speed, Brown was unblockable by single teams at Florida State. He led the ACC in sacks (13.5) and tackles for a loss (21.5). But it was revealed that Brown played his final college game at 225 pounds after being listed as 6-4, 252 by the Seminoles. Brown could be bumped down draft boards by teams that employ four-man fronts if he reports to the Combine under 240.
Differing Opinions on Iowa’s Greene
Early entrant tailback Shonn Greene started only one season at Iowa, but showed starting-caliber NFL ability with 1,850 yards on 307 carries (6.0 average) and 20 touchdowns as a junior. The 2008 Doak Walker Award winner is considered the best blocking back available, may be the draft’s finest pure power runner, and possesses Marshawn Lynch-like tackle-breaking ability. But opinions differ on the 5-11, 235-pounder, who at 23 is a shade older than the usual underclassman.