NFL Scouting Combine: What We Learned

NFL Scouting Combine: What We Learned

After four days of player interviews and talks with NFL and team sources, our team of writers from Scout.com learned a lot about the next group of rookies to enter the NFL. From the quarterbacks, the overall draft class, the surprises and disappointments, here is some of what we learned in Indianapolis.

The NFL Scouting Combine provides insight on many levels. From physical evaluations to gauging a player's personality through interviews, there are many ways to learn more about the next cast of competitors in the NFL.

Here is what some of the writers in Indianapolis from Scout.com learned about different areas over the last five days.

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ADAM CAPLAN, SCOUT.COM

What we learned at the NFL Scouting Combine: The landscape of free agency is likely to change because of the imminent uncapped year for 2010. There doesn't seem to be a lot of optimism that a new CBA will be agreed upon any time soon. We also learned that the NFL draft is probably more important than ever because of the uncertainty in free agency. It seems like many of the NFL personnel evaluators are spending more time on the draft process than ever before.

About the quarterbacks: Because some of the top quarterbacks didn't wind up working out, that opened the door to lesser-known players at that position, such as Fordham University's John Skelton, University of Mississippi's Jevan Snead and Oklahoma State University's Zac Robinson to impress NFL personnel evaluators even more. These players might have moved up a round or two because they performed well during Sunday's quarterback drills.

About the overall draft class: After talking to many scouts and NFL executives, this year's draft class appears to be one of the deepest in years at many positions. It seems that teams looking for defensive linemen, defensive backs, running backs, tight ends, and wide receivers will be able to find quality throughout the draft.

About the surprises and disappointments: The surprises were many during the Combine workouts. University of Louisville WR Scott Long probably helped himself more than any receiver in Indianapolis. He has drawn the comparison to Pittsburgh Steelers veteran WR Hines Ward. But Long may have more speed as shown by his outstanding workout. Long posted a solid 40-yard dash time of 4.46. He measured in at 6-foot-2, 216 pounds and had an amazing vertical jump of 41.5 to go along with 20 reps at 225 lbs. on the bench press. While many want to point to University of Notre Dame's Golden Tate as the receiver who really opened some eyes, it was probably Long who surprised scouts the most.

The disappointment, and it usually is, was three of the top quarterbacks not working out. Jimmy Clausen, Sam Bradford, and Colt McCoy didn't work out because of injury. And Tim Tebow didn't work out because he's having his throwing motion changed. It would have been nice to see him throw.

About the expectations for free agency: It looks like free agency won't be anything special because most of the top players that were scheduled to become unrestricted free agents will become restricted because of the lack of a CBA. This will make it a very top-heavy free agency, meaning the top UFAs should be gone quickly, then we could see a significant lull.



CHRIS STEUBER, SCOUT.COM

About the quarterbacks: The 2010 quarterback class lacks depth, but it intrigues me. If Oklahoma's Sam Bradford checks out medically and showcases the ability he had when he was healthy for the Sooners, he has a chance to be a Peyton Manning type of quarterback in the NFL. When I observed Bradford during his sophomore season and compared him to Manning when he was a senior at Tennessee, they graded out equally. Bradford has pinpoint accuracy and can be lethal to a defense. He's a special player behind center.

Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen also has franchise quarterback ability, and while there are concerns about his character he's proven over his three-year career that he's coachable and is willing to learn. The quarterback that I'm most intrigued with in this class is Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour. While I was shocked that he decided not to throw at the Combine, he has the attributes and intangibles that you look for in a quarterback. He's a poised, mentally tough signal caller who doesn't have the strongest arm but understands how to read a defense, and when he's in trouble he has the instincts and mobility to make a play.

When you add in the intangibles that Florida's Tim Tebow brings to a team, as well as the athleticism and upside that West Virginia's Jarrett Brown has shown this offseason, there is talent in this class. But it's talent that will take time to develop. From the outside looking in and when you break down the film, the quarterbacks in this class appear to be mediocre. But there are a lot of young guys who still have to grow as players, and I wouldn't be surprised if this class turned out some future stars.

About the overall draft class: It's one of the deepest draft classes that I've seen since I started covering the draft, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The only position that lacks depth is the quarterback position, but there are two signal-callers, Bradford and Clausen, that can develop into franchise quarterbacks. You know it's a rare class when two defensive tackles, Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy, could go No. 1 and 2 overall; that just doesn't happen. And when you mix in 53 underclassmen, most of which will be selected in the top two rounds, it creates tremendous depth, because some of the elite seniors will likely fall due to the underclassmen's presence. It generally takes three years to judge a draft class, but the 2010 crop is so special that I will give it an early grade of an "A."


Golden Tate's had golden speed.
Johnathan Daniel/Getty

About the surprises and disappointments: There were plenty of surprises at the Combine, including the 40 time (4.42) that Notre Dame WR Golden Tate posted, the bench press (20 reps) that Ole Miss RB/WR Dexter McCluster (5-foot-9, 172 pounds) managed and the vertical leap (38.5 inches) that Florida quarterback Tim Tebow generated. It was disappointing to witness the poor burst Georgia Tech RB Jonathan Dwyer displayed during drills and his lack of straight-line speed (4.59 in the 40). Kansas WR Dezmon Briscoe (6-foot-2, 207 pounds) appeared out of shape, disappointed in the 40 (4.61) and was only able to bench 225 pounds nine times. And while Alabama DT Terrence Cody showed up in Indianapolis at 6-foot-4, 354 pounds, 16 pounds lighter than he was at the Senior Bowl, he ran the second slowest 40 (5.64) at the Combine.

About our expectations for free agency: It's obvious that free agency is changing, and for that matter the entire league is changing with a potential lockout looming for the 2011 season. There are some interesting names that may become available in free agency, but most of the premier guys are restricted, not unrestricted free agents. The most recognizable name on the unrestricted list is Julius Peppers, who's going to command a huge payday from a team in need of a big-time pass rusher. Outside of Peppers, the 2010 free-agent class is underwhelming and doesn't come close to the excitement the 2010 NFL Draft class will generate this offseason.



JOHN CRIST, BEARREPORT.COM


Jarrett Brown continued to impress.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty

About the quarterbacks: Since none of the big-name QBs - Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen, Texas' Colt McCoy, Florida's Tim Tebow - threw in Indianapolis, we don't know that much more about the game's most important position than we did a week ago. But in terms of the second-tier talent available, Jarrett Brown of West Virginia followed up a strong Senior Bowl with an equally strong Scouting Combine, while Zac Robinson of Oklahoma State and Jevan Snead of Mississippi also helped themselves with quality workouts.

About the overall draft class: As advertised, this year's draft appears to be loaded with talent and incredibly deep at most positions, with the exception of quarterback. In particular, there are a ton of defensive linemen - nose tackles, three techniques, five techniques, pure pass rushers - that can potentially step in and help right away, both in the 4-3 and the 3-4.

About the surprises and disappointments: His workout was a little shaky, mostly because the signal callers throwing him the ball were a little shaky, but Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate ran better than expected - 4.42 seconds in the 40-yard dash - to secure himself for Round 1. However, another wideout previously given a first-round grade, LSU's Brandon LaFell, posted two below-average 40 times and also struggled running routes from start to finish.

About our expectations for free agency: Because most of the premier free agents out there are going to be restricted instead of unrestricted, there won't be nearly as much player movement since most teams - except the Redskins, of course - put such a premium on draft picks and won't want to surrender them as compensation. Elite defenders like defensive end Julius Peppers and linebacker Karlos Dansby will likely be snatched up quickly, but three- and four-star veterans may have to wait a while.




TIM YOTTER, VIKINGUPDATE.COM

About the quarterbacks: The pre-NFL Scouting Combine buzz was about a lack of depth in the quarterback class, and after witnessing the first of Sunday's two throwing sessions I completely agree. There wasn't a first-round quarterback throwing in Indianapolis, and there might not have been a second-rounder. Without Sam Bradford, Jimmy Clausen or Colt McCoy throwing, coaches and scouts saw a sometimes-erratic circus show of throwers. Don't expect too many second-round bidders in the QB class.

About the overall draft class: While the offensive side of the ball has some options, it's an especially deep draft on the defensive side, especially in the secondary and defensive line. Much of the chatter at the podium hosting coaches and general managers dealt finding the right player for the varying defensive systems, and there are plenty of good options to choose from in the first three rounds.


Jacoby Ford has NFL speed.
Al Messerschmidt/Getty

About the surprises and disappointments: If your team is looking for a quarterback and doesn't have a top-10 pick, it could be left trying to find a mid- or late-round developmental guy. The wide receiver class also is unimpressive after the top two – Dez Bryant and Golden Tate – but speedsters like Jacoby Ford and Trindon Holliday helped their stock. Defensively, the defensive tackle class is strong and there is a cornerback for any style in the first half of the draft.

About our expectations for free agency: Coaches and general managers have a ton of uncertainty about how the market will play out with an uncapped year, but there will be fewer options in unrestricted free agency. In a bad economy and with labor unrest, that could turn into limited spending, but it might also mean that more restricted free agents receive offers than they have in the past. The problem with that approach is it means giving up picks in what is considered a deep draft.

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