Sheil Kapadia, Philly.com
It's once again time for five questions with draftcountdown.com's Scott Wright.
This is our third installment. If you missed the first two, click here and here.
This week, Wright talks about the possibility of the Eagles taking a running back with their first pick and breaks down the NFL scouting combine taking place in Indianapolis.
Q: It has been reported that Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree won’t run the 40 at the Combine. How much do you think this will affect his stock?
A: It probably won’t affect his stock much, if at all. Crabtree would have hurt himself a lot more if he ran at the Scouting Combine and put up a bad number. Now he will have a little more time to recover from that ankle injury and prepare before running at his Pro Day workout. Nobody expects Crabtree to run a 4.3 but as long as he can register a 4.5 it will likely secure him a spot in the Top 10 overall and perhaps even the Top 5. For a prospect who has so much riding on that 40 time it was probably a good decision by Crabtree to wait.
Q: Name a couple players who you think will generate some buzz with their workouts at the Combine.
A: Well, a lot depends on who opts to participate because as we all know many of the top guys wait for their Pro Day. I think Florida WR Percy Harvin has a chance to put up this year’s best 40 time if he’s healthy and chooses to participate. Maryland WR Darrius Heyward-Bey needs to have a strong showing to justify his status as a first-round pick. There has been some buzz that Ohio St. RB Chris “Beanie” Wells might run a lot faster than people expect and if he does the Top 5 could be a possibility. Hopefully the three DE / OLB hybrids will all take part so we can start to separate Brian Orakpo of Texas, Everette Brown of Florida St. and Aaron Maybin of Penn St. Maybin in particular is intriguing because word has it he’s added about 20 pounds to his slight frame, and if that’s true we’ll see if he’s been able to maintain the speed and quickness that made him such a great pass rusher for the Nittany Lions. Georgia Tech DE Michael Johnson also has a lot riding on this weekend because everyone expects him to test through the roof. Most saw Johnson as a Top 10 overall pick heading into his senior season but the film from 2008 was not very impressive and he opted to sit out the Senior Bowl, essentially putting all of his eggs in the Combine basket. Another guy to watch out for is San Jose St. DL Jarron Gilbert, whose stock is already soaring. How fast Ohio St. CB Malcolm Jenkins runs will likely determine if he’s a Top 5-10 pick or a Top 10-15 pick. Keep an eye on Utah DB Sean Smith too because if he runs the 4.3 that has been rumored at 6-2 and 210 pounds, he will put himself in the first-round mix. Unfortunately, a bunch of those guys I just mentioned will inevitably decide not to work out this weekend.
Q: What happened to Andre Smith’s stock? I remember during the season he was mentioned as the top overall pick. Now some don’t even have him as the top tackle.
A: I am not sure Smith’s stock has dropped all that much, and there are still some who feel he is a Top 3 pick. However, count me amongst the critics when it comes to Smith. There is no denying that he is an impressive athlete for a man that size, but I have some major concerns. First of all Smith doesn’t have the prototypical height you look for in a left tackle at a shade under 6-4. Secondly, he weighed in at about 330 pounds in 2008 but he battled the bulge early in his career so that is a concern. Smith also has some character concerns, and he basically hung his team out to dry when he was suspended for the Sugar Bowl after reportedly taking gifts from an agent. Finally there are some questions about what position he will play at the next level and while he is capable of holding down the fort at left tackle there are many who feel he is best suited for the right side, or perhaps even guard, and you don’t take those guys in the Top 5 overall. Smith will ultimately be a Top 10 pick but he could slip a little bit on draft day, and personally I have him as my No. 3 rated offensive tackle behind Eugene Monroe of Virginia and Jason Smith of Baylor.
Q: Last week, you talked about the interviews being an important aspect of the Combine. What players do you think will wow teams in the meeting rooms?
A: One guy who needs to excel in the interviews is Southern Cal QB Mark Sanchez. Because he only has one year of college starting experience Sanchez will have to prove to teams he can handle the X’s and O’s. The interviews are especially important for guys with checkered pasts and if a prospect has off-the-field issues or has run into some legal trouble, the coaches and decision-makers will want to hear what happened in the player's own words.
Q: Eagles GM Tom Heckert said last week he wouldn’t rule out taking an RB in the first round despite the team’s draft history. You have the Eagles taking Beanie Wells in your most recent mock. What kind of back is he, and what current NFL players does he compare to?
A: If Beanie Wells did fall into the Eagles' laps, they should be very grateful because he is a legit Top 10 talent in my book. At 6-1 and 237 pounds, Wells has excellent size and is a physical runner, but he has also shown the ability to be a big play threat and his career yards per carry average of 5.8 is awfully impressive. Of the guys currently in the league, Wells probably reminds me of a Larry Johnson or a Steven Jackson. Wells would give Philly a great insurance policy for Brian Westbrook, providing them with a “Thunder & Lightning” attack and also shoring up their issues in short-yardage situations.
Sheil Kapadia, Philly.com
Last year, I had the opportunity to follow the path of an NFL draft prospect, from the end of his senior season all the way to draft day, through a series of articles I wrote with friend and recruiting guru Matt Bracken.
The player we followed was Joey Haynos, a tight end from the University of Maryland.
Haynos went undrafted in the 2008 draft, but was signed to the Packers' practice squad. Late in the season, he got a call from Miami, and was added to the Dolphins' roster. In Week 15, everything came full circle, as Haynos scored a touchdown against the 49ers.
So why am I telling you all this?
The NFL combine begins today in Indianapolis. Last year, I kept Haynos on the phone for about an hour, asking him every detail of his experience in Indy. I thought I'd share some of the things he told me here:
** Prospects train extensively for the combine. For Haynos, that meant a camp in Florida with renowned strength and speed coach Tom Shaw. Agents generally pay for their clients to attend these camps, which focus on the different tests like the 225-pound bench press and the 40-yard dash. Shaw's camp also emphasized becoming a better player on the field, not just excelling in the tests.
** A lot of people focus on 40-times and the on-field workouts, but an important part of the combine is the interview process. On his first night in Indy last year, Haynos said he was in a huge meeting room, that was basically like a job fair. After three hours, he had met with 20 teams -- coaches, scouts, personnel guys. All asking him about his background, asking him to diagram plays. One even asked for Haynos to tell him a joke.
** The days are extremely long. Haynos, like many others, had to catch a flight very early at 4 a.m. the first day. The interview process didn't end until about 11:30 that night. The next day, he had to get up at 4:45 a.m. for a drug test and weigh-ins. "It was quite an experience," Haynos told me. "We were like cattle. It was like a meat market."
** The amount of medical testing that goes on is unbelievable. Haynos said he went through eight different physicals. If there are any problems, the players are sent to the hospital for an MRI. "At one point, I had a doctor on my left ankle, right knee and both of my shoulders," Haynos told me. "I was literally being pulled in every direction."
** There is always some talk about the famous Wonderlic test. The prospects have 12 minutes to answer 50 questions. Most players take some version of the Wonderlic before the combine. Haynos said he had taken it twice. The questions start easy and then get more difficult, dealing with algebra, synonyms and antonyms, almost like the SATs. I asked him for an example of an easy question:
What number month is December?
** While on NFL Network, we see all the on-field activities, Haynos had been in Indy for 48 hours before he had engaged in any football activities.
Those are some of my notes from speaking with Haynos last year.
"It really is one big interview," Haynos told me. "These teams are investing a ton of money in players and want to be as thorough as possible."
Click here to read more about Haynos' combine experience.
Editor's note: I will be out of town on vacation from Thursday morning to Monday morning. Be sure to check our philly.com's Eagles section for the latest news from the combine. I'll be back next week to gear up for the start of free agency.
Sheil Kapadia, Philly.com
Once again, we are joined by draftcountdown.com's Scott Wright for this week's five draft questions.
Click here if you missed last week's post. Scott talked about the Senior Bowl and outlined some of the players the Eagles could be looking at. He will be answering five questions for MTC every week until the draft. Feel free to e-mail me if there's something specific you'd like answered.
Q: Is Georgia's Matthew Stafford far and away the No. 1 quarterback, or is there someone out there who could possibly rise to the top? How does he compare to Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco from last year?
A: In my opinion Matthew Stafford is far and away the No. 1 quarterback in this draft and while there are some who prefer Mark Sanchez, they are in the minority. Not only does Stafford have all the physical tools you look for, including one of the strongest arms in football, but he also earns high marks in the intangibles department and has been a three-year starter in the SEC. The top four quarterback prospects I have ever graded are Peyton Manning, Brady Quinn, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, and while Stafford isn't quite in that class, he's just a notch below. I have Stafford rated as the best player in this draft, regardless of position, and he is a legitimate No. 1 overall pick.
Stafford isn't as polished as Matt Ryan was coming out (few are), but he has better physical tools, more upside and is also almost three years younger. He's also considered to be a much better prospect than Joe Flacco was last year.
Q: Who are the top tight ends on your board? In your most recent mock draft, you had the Eagles taking Jared Cook in the second round. Tell us a little about him.
A: The only tight end who carries a first-round grade this year is Brandon Pettigrew from Oklahoma St., who could be an option for Philadelphia at No. 21 if he lasts that long. He isn't a dynamic receiving threat like Kellen Winslow or Vernon Davis, but he is a very good all-around tight end who can contribute as both a pass-catcher and blocker. After Pettigrew, there is a group of six tight ends who are all known more for their receiving skills and should be taken in the second, third or fourth round, with the order still to be determined by the Scouting Combine and Pro Day workouts. They are Jared Cook of South Carolina, Shawn Nelson of Southern Miss, Chase Coffman of Missouri, Cornelius Ingram of Florida, James Casey of Rice and Travis Beckum of Wisconsin. Cook in particular is a very intriguing prospect. He actually began his college career as a wide receiver and if he works out as well as expected (4.4's at 6-6 and 242 pounds?), his stock could soar. Nelson really helped himself with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl while Ingram is a wild card because he missed his entire senior season with a knee injury. Most feel that overall tight end is one of the strongest positions in this draft.
Q: Is there a player in the first round who you think stands out in terms of a guy teams might be willing to trade up for?
A: I always caution that trades are really hard to consummate these days because those second- and third-round picks are just so valuable that most teams aren't willing to pay the price to move up. With that said there are a handful of prospects who could elicit trade offers on Draft Day and at the top of the list are two quarterbacks: Sanchez and Josh Freeman. When it comes to quarterbacks there aren't many exciting options available on the free agent market this year, and after you get past the top three in the draft, the talent level really drops off. I don't foresee Sanchez getting out of the top 10 overall, and I think Freeman will wind up going in the top 25, but don't be surprised if teams like the 49ers, Jets, Bears, Buccaneers or Vikings get aggressive in their pursuit of a young signal-caller. The bottom line is if teams miss out on Stafford, Sanchez and Freeman, they probably won't come out of this draft with a starting-caliber quarterback, and they know it.
Q: The combine starts next week. How much stock do teams put in that event?
A: I know it's popular to say the Scouting Combine is overrated and rave about how 40-times don't matter, but the bottom line is they do matter. Do some go overboard and put too much of an emphasis on workout numbers at times? Absolutely. However, as I always say, I'll take my receiver who runs a 4.4 against your corner who runs a 4.6 every day of the week. The Scouting Combine is simply another piece of the puzzle and a way for teams to gather the information they need to make the best decisions possible on Draft Day. A fast or slow 40-time shouldn't overshadow four years of game film, but there is a reason the NFL spends all that money to bring hundreds of prospects to Indianapolis for an entire week. It's actually pretty rare for a player to make a quantum leap up draft boards based solely on what he did in Indy, but the Combine is a valuable tool in the evaluation process. An overlooked aspect of the Scouting Combine is the interviews, and in many cases how well a prospect performs in meetings with NFL coaches and decision-makers can have more of an impact on their stock than anything they do on the field that week.
Q: Is there an NFL player that Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree compares to? Do you think he can make an instant impact in the NFL?
A: Larry Fitzgerald. Andre Johnson. Terrell Owens. Brandon Marshall. I know those are some big names, but those are the types of comparisons Crabtree is drawing. The big question mark with him right now is his speed and ability to separate, but other than that, he appears to be the total package. Size, hands, ball skills, body control, ability to run after the catch, etc. Most consider Crabtree to be one of the premier prospects in this draft and a top five overall pick, but worst-case he won't get past the Oakland Raiders at No. 7. As far as instant impact goes, it usually takes wideouts two or three years to adjust to the NFL, but Crabtree has as good of a chance to defy those odds as anyone.
Sheil Kapadia, Philly.com
I'm pleased to announce a new weekly feature here at MTC.
Starting today, and continuing every week until the NFL draft in April, we will do five questions with Scott Wright, draft analyst and founder of draftcountdown.com.
Scott's Web site has a ton of information for draft junkies, including mock drafts, rankings, interviews and more. And unlike some of the other sites out there, it's completely free.
Each week, Scott has agreed to answer five questions via e-mail for an MTC post. We'll touch on the latest news, talk about the rise and fall of certain players, and see if we can get a hint as to who the Eagles like.
If there are certain issues/players you'd like me to ask Scott about, feel free to e-mail me.
Before we get started, please be aware that Scott sent these questions back to me a week ago. However, the Jim Johnson news broke and I didn't think it was appropriate to post them. This past week, with the Trotter/Houshmandzadeh/Dawkins/Boldin posts, MTC had one of its most-read stretches over so we thought we'd save the draft post for the weekend. Going forward, I'll likely post Scott's answers on the same day every week.
Q: You were just down at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. What were the two or three biggest things you came away with from your trip?
A: The biggest revelation for me was San Jose St. cornerback Coye Francies. He wasn't as impressive as [Cardinals cornerback] Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was last year but he still moved up at least a couple of rounds and I think you can make the case that he is as talented as any senior cornerback in this draft not named [Ohio State's] Malcolm Jenkins. I was also very impressed with Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas, but it wasn't necessarily his physical abilities that caught my attention. Delmas was the player I thought he was but he also showed incredible leadership skills, which is something you can't always evaluate by watching game film. Early in the week Delmas acted as the quarterback of the secondary, directing his teammates and getting them into position. However, later in the week when he was hurt and in street clothes he still stayed involved, encouraging guys as they came off the field. The final thing I'd point out is how I was finally able to see up close what everyone has been so concerned about with Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher. The guy definitely looks the part and for most of the week he was absolutely dominant in practices, appearing to be a top five overall caliber prospect. However, there were a few lapses where he let mid-round pass rushers get the best of him in 1-on-1's and he also really struggled in the game. For the most part I have been a huge Oher fan and to a degree I still am, but I no longer scratch my head in amazement when I hear people talk about him potentially dropping a bit. Still, if he falls out of the top half of round one, he'll be a steal for someone.
Q: There has been a lot of talk about where Pat White will go and what position he will play. What are your thoughts on the West Virginia QB?
A: For a wide receiver Pat White is a pretty good quarterback. In all seriousness White was an amazing college quarterback and you can't take anything away from him in that regard but I highly doubt he will be able to stay under center at the next level. I actually spoke with White and he is pretty determined to remain at quarterback but when push comes to shove I imagine he'd rather be a wide receiver in the NFL than a quarterback in the CFL. Personally, I think it would have been in White's best interests to at least get a little work in at wideout down in Mobile but he was exclusively a quarterback all week long. Coming out of high school he had offers to play other positions at big-time SEC schools but he chose West Virginia because they were willing to let him play quarterback. I suppose his mindset is that he proved everyone wrong once and he can do it again. However, Rich Rodriquez is at Michigan and nobody runs a spread offense in the NFL. At one point I thought White had a chance to go as high as round three or four as a wide receiver if he embraced the move and showed well at events like the Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine. However, since he is obviously extremely reluctant to play anywhere other than quarterback he will probably be a late rounder.
Q: This is probably going to be a weekly staple. The Eagles have two first-round picks. What is your early read on what their options might be? Are there specific names fans should frantically be Googling?
A: I think the Eagles top priority is going to be offensive tackle since both Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan are in their mid-thirties [and free agents] and Winston "I'm Still Having Nightmares about Osi Umenyiora" Justice hasn't shown he can be a starter in the pros. Eugene Monroe, Jason Smith and Andre Smith will all be off the board by the time Philly is on the clock, although with two first-round picks they do have the ammo to move up. The guy I'd keep an eye on at No. 21 is Michael Oher, who is arguably the most talented blocker in this draft. Options at No. 28 could include Arizona's Eben Britton and Connecticut's William Beatty. I think Philly could also consider a defensive back in round one, with Louis Delmas, William Moore of Missouri and Rashad Johnson of Alabama as options at safety and Alphonso Smith of Wake Forest and D.J. Moore of Vanderbilt being possibilities at cornerback. As a darkhorse keep an eye on the top three running backs too (Chris "Beanie Wells of Ohio St., Knowshon Moreno of Georgia and LeSean McCoy of Pittsburgh) because Brian Westbrook always seems to be nicked up and they could use an insurance policy.
Q: What player’s stock could rise or fall the most between now and draft day?
A: That's kind of relative because guys can go from late-first rounders to mid-first rounders, late-round picks to mid-round picks, etc. With that said here are eight guys who I think could shoot up boards as the draft nears:
Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas St. - Prototypical pocket passer with great size (6-6, 250) and a strong arm. Could interest teams like Chicago, Tampa Bay and Minnesota in the late teens or early twenties.
Jason Watkins, OT, Florida - A very good athlete with a great frame (6-6, 315) who could emerge as one of the top second-tier offensive tackles in this draft and a legitimate second round pick.
Sean Smith, CB, Utah - Hasn't gotten a lot of national attention yet but his combination of size (6-3, 214) and speed (4.4) could send this former wide receiver's stock soaring in the next month or two.
Clay Matthews, OLB, USC - Has already improved his stock as much as anyone in the country this year but there is still a chance he could work his way into the first round before all is said and done.
Jarron Gilbert, DL, San Jose St. - A bit of a DT / DE 'tweener at 6-6 and 280 pounds but had a monster senior season (22.0 TFL | 9.5 Sacks) and really opened some eyes at the East / West Shrine Game.
Jared Cook, TE, South Carolina - This former wide receiver has some question marks but he should blow people away in workouts and could emerge as the No. 2 tight end prospect in this draft.
Paul Kruger, DE, Utah - This redshirt sophomore really burst onto the scene in 2008 (16.5 TFL | 7.5 Sacks) and at 6-5 and 265 pounds he has the size to be a true 4-3 defensive end.
Bradley Fletcher, CB, Iowa - Is coming off a very impressive showing at the East / West Shrine Game and has the triangle numbers (6-2 | 200 | 4.50) to catch the attention of scouts in workouts.
Q: We often hear experts say drafts are deep in certain positions. Are there any positions that are or aren’t deep as you see it?
A: There are always positions that are deeper than others and as always the underclassmen helped to address some deficiencies at quarterback, running back and wide receiver. The strongest position in this draft is probably linebacker and in addition to Aaron Curry, Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing, James Laurinaitis, and Clint Sintim there are also a bunch of college defensive ends who will likely project to outside linebacker at the next level, namely Everette Brown, Brian Orakpo, Aaron Maybin, Larry English. And that's just the likely first rounders! This is also one of the best groups of centers we've seen in quite some time. I would probably say safety is the weakest position just because there isn't a sure-fire first rounder at this point, although there should be some value and depth later on. Also, after you get past the top five quarterbacks the talent level really falls off the cliff.