'The NFL Beat': Scouting Combine Preview
'Chron' sportswriter reports from Indy
By Alex Dunlap, 9:56PM, Fri. Feb. 24, 2012
Wherever you are. Whatever spot you have found yourself in. Somehow, you are in a place where you find yourself here. It is imperative that you understand two critical elements of our newfound relationship before consenting to treatment: This is "The NFL Beat" and I am sick about the NFL Scouting Combine.
I am writing this article from the East Ballroom of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy. I’ll be at the combine this week to report to you, my loyal constituents of NFL diplomacy and fandom. For me, this event is about affirmation. What I mean by that is: I’ve watched film. All I am looking at is whether or not the prospect I have studied is “who I think he is” as far as measure-ables. Some players may stand out in drills, and I will take note – but I know who I like, and that likely won’t change much regardless of combine performance.
I’ve largely ignored family members and loved ones to acquire and scout game film on these players. I’m not sure I still have a fiancée; but I know that Bobby Wagner (OLB Utah State) loves Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and has a mild case of pneumonia this week.
My thoughts going in to the event:
Defensive tackle is by far the deepest position in this draft. Separation among the top players at the position will depend largely on various teams’ schemes and needs. The consensus here at Lucas Oil is that Michael Brockers (LSU) is probably going to be the first DT selected. Remind me not to stand too close to him.
Speaking of defensive linemen, one of our favorite players from the Senior Bowl, both as a prospect and a person, is Mike Martin (Michigan). Martin is a former wrestler who uses his leverage like an anchor and is a prospect that I believe many people will know of sooner than later. He told me in Mobile, Ala., that he is aiming to break the NFL Combine record for reps on bench press. That would be 50 reps of 225 pounds.
RB Trent Richardson (Alabama) is largely considered the best prospect at the running back position since Adrian Peterson. One of the most appealing things about Richardson is that he was able to play behind Mark Ingram for most of his college career and does not have the tread on the tires that many elite RB prospects have coming out of bell-cow duty as a collegiate athlete. That optimism regarding his prospective durability was quelled somewhat this week as his agent, Jimmy Sexton, told Jason La Canfora of the NFL Network that Richardson would not be participating in combine drills due to a “minor” orthoscopic knee procedure he has recently undergone. Even minor procedures throw up a small red flag during this all-important draft season, and teams have plenty of solid options later in the draft.
Speaking of injuries (don’t my segues seem so natural and fluid?), let's talk about a few local prospects. I caught up with the agent of QB Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M) last week regarding the injury that kept him from participating in this year’s Senior Bowl. He sustained the fracture of his fifth metatarsal (a weight-bearing bone in the foot) training at IMG in Florida and is currently undergoing aggressive rehab with the Tampa Bay Bucs’ medical staff. The surgery was performed by Dr. Anderson in Charlotte, N.C., who is a well-known and trusted surgeon in NFL circles. He will be ready to participate fully at Texas A&M’s Pro Day in late March. WR Kendall Wright (Baylor) had an ankle injury that prevented him (like Tannehill) from playing in the Senior Bowl, but I was told by a key member of his representation team that he will be able to run all of the drills in the NFL Combine. I’ll be in Waco in late March to cover Baylor’s Pro Day featuring such future NFL prospects as Wright, Robert Griffin III, and Terrance Gannaway among others.
Buzz around the complex here is that scouts are swooning over WR Rueben Randle (LSU). The word is that he is the real deal, and could be a Top 15 pick if he runs well. Personally, I have not been impressed with his tape, but his physical stature is undeniable. He was the No. 1 receiver in the nation coming out of high school, and many think he was held back substantially by mediocre (at best) QB play during his time at LSU.
Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith told the media yesterday that the Chicago would be focusing their offseason activity around building the pass rush, adding a receiving weapon, and making sure to get RB Matt Forte re-signed. Unfortunately, Smith is not the GM and cannot make those sorts of personnel decisions, but this is an interesting public vote of confidence from a coach who did no such thing during last season when Forte was clamoring to restructure his deal prior to his week 13 season-ending injury.
Speaking of the Bears (I am the segue king), I’m hearing some interesting buzz around the building on former Texas RB-turned-DE Henry Melton, who is now a starting defensive tackle for the Chicago Bears. They call him “Hen-Mel” and the Bears have very, very high hopes for him. Sources close to the team say it is not often you can find a 295-pound DT that can run a sub-five-second 40-yard dash. I was surprised to learn that Melton had the second-most sacks of any DT in the entire NFL in 2011. What is even more intriguing about this story is that while at Texas, word is he got in Mack Brown’s doghouse for off-the-field issues and perceived lack of work ethic. Former Texas defensive coordinator and current Florida Head Coach Will Muschamp was said to have approached Coach Brown regarding his plans for Melton, who was at the time buried on the running back depth chart. Muschamp told Brown that he saw potential for Melton on the defensive side of the ball. Brown basically told Muschamp to go for it. Looking back, Muschamp is directly responsible for Henry Melton’s success in the National Football League.
[Alex Dunlap is the host of RosterWatch on 104.9FM ESPN Radio Austin, founder of Rosterwatch.com, and a featured expert contributor to the FantasyPros.com network. He is also an NFL draft analyst for PlayTheDraft.com.]