The NFL Scouting Combine started on Saturday with the hopes and dreams of hundreds of athletes riding on the results. Nearly every coach, general manager, and scout of every NFL team is in Indianapolis to see the top prospects for this year draft run, jump, throw, and catch. Most of the evaluation process is still done by watching the game tapes of the players, but it's a good chance for the scouts and GM's to see the kids up close, and see if what they saw on film, matches up with the athleticism they see in person. Offensive lineman never run 40 yards on a sprint during a game, so some of the drills aren't as critical depending on the position, but each one does unlock a piece of the puzzle that is the potential of each player.
Players that either were born or played college football in Texas were among the big-time players participating this weekend; here's a look at how they did.
Robert Griffin III - Baylor University (HS Copperas Cove, Texas)
The Colts will take Andrew Luck, but RG III continues to make the decision extremely tough. It started on Saturday with an impressive interview session with the media. That may not seem like a big deal, but the ability to handle a 15 minute media session without any slip-ups points to a players intelligence, communication skills, and if he can't take charge and command an interview, it may point to a lack in leadership. John Clayton of ESPN said of Griffin's media session, "it surpassed any combine interview I've witnessed in 24 years covering this event."
Griffin also won on the field with an official 4.41 40-yard dash time and a 39-inch vertical jump, showing that he may be the best athlete ever drafted (better than even Vick) to play quarterback in the NFL (as a track star at Baylor he placed third in the NCAA in the 400-meter hurdles and qualified for the 2008 Olympic trials). The one remaining test is to see Griffin throw at his pro day because he decided not to throw at the combine; which is the norm. Griffin, Luck, and nearly every big time QB prospect chooses to throw at their pro day instead of the combine, because it gives them the best chance to impress by throwing in a stadium and to receivers they've worked with before. Griffin showed the ability to make every throw in college, so I don't expect his pro-day to disappoint. If he does pass that last test, he should be drafted no lower than #4 overall to the Cleveland Browns.
Case Keenum - University of Houston (HS Abilene, Texas)
Keenum went into the combine needing to shake the image as a system quarterback with a weak arm; that perception likely is now a fact in many scouts’ minds. Arm strength for QB in my opinion is overrated (see JaMarcus Russell), but there is a minimum level required to throw the deep outs and post routes, and it can even affect your accuracy. According to Russ Lande of the Sporting News, ”His passes lacked zip and were too slow getting to receivers. Too often his passes would dip before getting to the target. Receivers often had to slow up and wait for the ball." There is a lot to like about Keenum with his accuracy and poise, but there are even more question marks with his size, arm strength, and inexperience under center running an NFL style offense. If he doesn't throw better at his pro-day, he'll be a 6th round pick at best.
Andrew Luck - Stanford (HS Stratford High School in Houston)
Like RG III, Andrew Luck decided not to throw at the combine, but still impressed scouts. Luck may not possess the track speed of RG III, but he tied the 40-yard dash time of Cam Newton and beat Newton's vertical jump mark; so athleticism is not a problem.
Luck has been groomed to be the #1 pick for a long time. His father Oliver Luck was an NFL quarterback; he put up big numbers and led his Stratford High School team deep into the playoffs, and took Stanford to new levels along with a couple top 5 Heisman finishes. The one question on Luck is his arm strength, but it's not thought to be bad enough to effect his status as the likely #1 pick. He has the size and frame of a QB that could get stronger, and now that he's working with QB coach George Whitfield who did wonders for Cam Newton; those questions could be over after his pro-day. Despite the hype for RG III recently, I don't see any way that the Colts pass on him at #1.
Ryan Tannehill - Texas A&M (HS Big Spring, Texas)
The quarterback turned wide receiver, then turned back to quarterback during his final two years at Texas A&M has a chance to be the 3rd QB drafted behind Luck and RG III, but he'll have to wait to impress scouts until his pro-day. Tannehill injured his foot preparing for the Senior Bowl back in January and wasn't able to participate in any drills during the combine. He has the size, arm strength, and mechanics of a 1st round quarterback; but questions remain with experience. He struggled reading defenses and threw into coverage too much last season, but those problems can be coached. What can't be coached up is his athleticism and the experience he gained as a receiver (112 receptions, 1,596 yards, 10 touchdowns at Texas A&M). In theory, that should speed along his development. If he throws well at his pro-day, he'll be a mid-to-late 1st round pick.
Kendall Wright - Baylor University (Born Mount Pleasant, Texas)
Wright was Griffin's go-to guy at Baylor and should also go in the 1st round. However, after Wright showed up heavier than he was at Baylor and ran a painfully slow 4.61 40-yard dash time; he may slip into the late 1st round. Not only did he post a slow 40-time, but according to Doug Farrar of Yahoo Sports, also ran sloppy routes.
"He has a tendency to round off his routes, or start and stop instead of slamming a speed cut. He had another stutter-step on the 13-yard dig, though he made a good adjustment catch. He had decent speed on the deep route on the numbers, but couldn't catch an overthrow by Kellen Moore. Wright looked okay on the 10-yard out-and-up, but he was sloppy off the blocks on the 13-yard dig in. The second cut was better than the first, and he had a nice catch on that drill."
Wright has been compared to Victor Cruz as a super-quick, slot receiver, but his combine results open him up to some questions. Does he have the work ethic and desire to be a top-flight NFL receiver? He'll also need to work hard on his route running to dismiss the notion that he's a one-trick pony on the go/fly route. Wright had been slotted as the 2nd receiver drafted after Justin Blackmon, but with the excellent combine workouts from Michael Floyd of Notre Dame and Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech; Wright needs an excellent pro-day workout to stay in that spot.
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