This is the first in a series of NFL Combine, unrestricted free agency and predraft reports Real Football Services is filing for newyorkjets.com:
A big piece of the NFL's evaluation of this year's draft class got under way this weekend at the Combine workouts. While scouts and execs continue to talk about how the majority of their grades for young players have to do with the football skills seen on film, they still place a certain importance on the athleticism on display and they value the interviews and medical information collected in Indianapolis each year.
The position drills will be important for several players as well, particularly at LB, WR and TE, where players get to show how their skills will fit in several different offensive and defensive schemes at the NFL level.
Players began arriving here on Thursday and workouts began over the weekend. Here are some of the players who stood out for one reason or another in the opening days.
Jason Smith, OT, Baylor — Smith may have emerged as a legitimate No. 1 overall pick with his showing at the combine. Weighing in at 309 pounds, he put up 33 reps at 225 pounds on the bench and ran a 5.22 in the 40. Coming in, he was already considered one of the best pass blockers in the draft, along with Virginia's Eugene Monroe. A converted TE, he is very athletic and an impressive physical specimen.
Aaron Curry, OLB-DE, Wake Forest — Curry weighed in at nearly 250 pounds, which only helped the high regard scouts had for him coming in. A natural playmaker, he has nearly 30 TFLs and three INTs returned for touchdowns over the last two seasons. He is also extremely versatile with the skill sets to play inside or outside LB in a 3-4 scheme or even line up as an OLB or DE in a 4-3. While he makes a lot of plays behind the LOS, he doesn't get a lot of sacks, which is of some concern for teams looking for a pure 3-4 pass rusher.
Darius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland — The former Terrapin ran the fastest 40 of any WR, turning in a 4.30. That backs up his reputation as a dangerous deep threat, but he also impressed during position drills during which he ran smooth routes and showed very good hands.
Brian Robiskie, WR, Ohio State — The son of NFL coach Terry Robiskie, the former Buckeye surprised scouts with an official 4.50 in the 40, though several unofficial times had him faster than that. He showed elite speed for a possession-type receiver. He's an excellent blocker and was a top performer in position drills at the combine as well. He's a polished receiver and a good fit for a West Coast offense or run-first system.
Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers — Britt put up excellent numbers, running a 4.48 and putting up 23 reps on the bench. An extremely productive player for the Scarlet Knights, he averaged over 17 yards per catch in 2008. He's a physical player with good strength to get his release off the LOS, and the 40 time helped his status. He could emerge as a late-first-round prospect.
Andre Smith, OT, Alabama — Before he ever got to Indianapolis Smith's stock had slipped slightly due to the fact that most NFL scouts see him more as a run-blocking RT than an elite LT at the next level. Then he showed up at the combine looking soft and out of shape, admitted he hadn't been working out, and allegedly bombed the interviews before declining to work out and then leaving Indy on Saturday. There are obviously now concerns over attitude, work ethic and maturity, and despite some stellar physical tools, he is in complete free-fall mode.
Herman Johnson, G, LSU — Johnson is a player in transition. He was playing at over 400 pounds a couple of seasons ago and was at 385 pounds at the Senior Bowl but still was soft. At that size, he doesn't have nearly the quickness or athleticism to combat pro DEs on the edge, so he will have to move inside at the next level. Scouts in Indy were impressed that Johnson had heeded advice from Mobile and dropped to 364 pounds. But teams don't know how the continued weight loss will affect his strength or where he will fit best in the NFL.
Derrick Williams, WR, Penn State — Hopes were high for Williams after a strong showing at the Senior Bowl, but he ran extremely slow and didn't stand out over the weekend. It was later revealed that he had the flu, but he will need to bounce back at his pro day. He was underutilized at Penn State, so his production was limited compared to his potential. He needs a strong postseason to improve his stock.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia — Moreno was slow off the line in his 40s and didn't record an official time. Unofficially, he recorded anywhere from the mid-4.5s to the low 4.6s. He weighed in heavier than expected, so that may have been an issue, but his versatility as a grinding runner (much like Thomas Jones) and a capable receiver will keep his stock up.
OTHERS OF NOTE
Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech — Crabtree's medical issues dominated the weekend's headlines, and his back-and-forth reaction to impending surgery concerned some teams. It should be noted he has played with the injury for some time without any problem, but NFL teams would feel better if he just had surgery now in order to be ready for minicamps. It appears that is what he will now do. He measured at just 6'1" upon arriving in Indy after being listed at 6'3" at Texas Tech.
Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas/Aaron Maybin, OLB, Penn State — Both players are garnering some close scrutiny by teams running 3-4 defenses and could be ideal rush LBs in that system. Orakpo doesn't have great burst off the line out of his three-point stance, so he may be helped by aligning as a standup rusher. Maybin did a nice job at the combine. He has added about 20 pounds, which has teams feeling better about his chances of playing DE if need be. It'll be interesting to see how he moves around in LB drills today while carrying the extra weight.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri — With Crabtree sidelined, Maclin had a chance to overtake him in the WR rankings. But while he didn't perform badly, he didn't stand out, and he was slowed a bit by a fall and a subsequent minor knee injury during position drills. He's still the second-best WR on the board, but he may have missed an opportunity to improve his stock and now an MRI is planned.
Mark Sanchez, QB, Southern Cal — Like Maclin, Sanchez had a chance to move up boards with Georgia's Matthew Stafford opting not to throw this weekend. Sanchez's quick release was on display and he showed good footwork, but his accuracy wasn't where it needed to be. While prospects Josh Freeman and Nate Davis didn't stand out, either, West Virginia's Pat White looked the strongest in passing drills — and he may not even be drafted as a QB.
Everette Brown, DE, Florida State — Brown has a lot of natural pass-rush ability, but he has struggled to keep his weight up, which will limit his ability to play DE at the next level. He did weigh in at 256 pounds, which was a positive for him. Coaches and scouts are sold on Brown's athleticism and physical tools, but he's a tweener who will have to show that he can drop in coverage and move in space as a linebacker before a team commits a high pick to him.
Chase Coffman, TE, Missouri — The Mackey Award winner suffered a broken foot at the Alamo Bowl that required surgery and was not able to work out. He was extremely productive at Mizzou, but a history of injuries and a lack of ideal timed speed leave questions. March 19, the date of his pro day workout, will go a long way toward determining his future.
Cornelius Ingram, TE, Florida — Ingram missed his entire senior season due to an ACL injury that required surgery. He's healthy now, though, and ran a strong 4.68. He's an extremely athletic TE who excels as a receiver in the mold of Dallas Clark or Vernon Davis. His stock is on the rise.