Draft Season Turns to Indy for Annual NFL Scouting Combine

February 23, 2010 | Glenn Clark

Welcome to the 5th installment of my NFL Draft profiles for 2010. If you missed my first 4 installments, I previewed players who participated in the East West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl; then recapped those performances in Orlando and Mobile, as well as those who participated in the Texas vs. The Nation game in El Paso.

Here are the players you can go back and read profiles of if you check my previous installments…

QB’s
Daryll Clark (Penn State), Sean Canfield (Oregon State), Max Hall (BYU), Jarrett Brown (West Virginia), Jonathan Crompton (Tennessee), Ryan Perrilloux (Jacksonville State)
RB Dexter McCluster (Ole Miss), Trindon Holliday (LSU)
WR’s Freddie Barnes (Bowling Green), Mardy Gilyard (Cincinnati), Verran Tucker (Cal), Blair White (Michigan State), Jeremy Williams (Tulane), Taylor Price (Ohio), Marcus Easley (UConn), Juamorris Stewart (Southern)
TE’s Andrew Quarless (Penn State), Richard Dickson (LSU), Jimmy Graham (Miami), Riar Geer (Colorado), Ed Dickson (Oregon)
OG’s Mike Iupati (Idaho), Jeff Byers (USC)
OT’s Vladimir Ducasse (UMass), Rodger Saffold (Indiana)
C John Estes (Hawaii), Kevin Matthews (Texas A&M)
DE’s Greg Hardy (Ole Miss), Brandon Graham (Michigan), Alex Carrington (Arkansas State), E.J. Wilson (North Carolina)
DT Travis Ivey (Maryland)
LB’s Ross Pospisil (Navy), Jason Beauchamp (UNLV), Sean Weatherspoon (Missouri), Daryl Washington (TCU)
S’s Kam Chancellor (Virginia Tech), T.J. Ward (Oregon), Myron Rolle (Florida State), Van Eskridge (East Carolina)
CB’s Devin Ross (Arizona), Brian Jackson (Oklahoma), Trevard Lindley (Kentucky), Javier Arenas (Alabama), Alterraun Verner (UCLA), Kyle Wilson (Boise State), Cornelius Brown (UTEP)
K’s Leigh Tiffin (Alabama), Hunter Lawrence (Texas)
P Brent Bowden (Virginia Tech)

Draft season now heads to “The Friendly Heart of the Midwest” as our buddy Merton would say, with the annual NFL Scouting Combine at LucasOil Stadium in Indianapolis. The hottest words around Draft season right now are “Will he or won’t he?”, with players deciding whether or not they will work out in Indy. It is mostly quarterbacks who choose to pass, but injuries could keep other players from taking part in the weekend.

The Ravens DID see some player movement since my last update (signing Donte’ Stallworth and releasing TE Quinn Sypniewski), but my team needs remain the same…

1-WR
2-TE
3-CB
4-OLB/DE
5-S
6-G/C
7-OT
8-QB
9-K
10-P

Here are the next 10 players worth taking a look at during the NFL Draft. Thanks to CBSSports.com, NFLDraftScout.com, The AP and Wikipedia for help in research, as well as the individuals  players’ respective collegiate athletics websites. Starting with this update, I will also include a brief note on the players involved from Joe Hortiz-Director of College Scouting for the Baltimore Ravens. I asked Joe to give me a Twitter-style (140 characters or less) statement about potential Ravens targets.

OT Bruce Campbell (Maryland)

campbell

I don’t know how many teams will have to protect their QB’s from rogue monster truck tires in pursuit, but the team that selects Campbell will be happy to know that he is all too capable of handling the job.

Terrapins strength coach Dwight Galt told ESPN.com last year that Campbell was “the offensive line version of Vernon Davis.” If that’s the case, NFL scouts watching Campbell this weekend should be prepared for a VERY impressive workout performance, as Indy was where Davis set himself up to be selected 6th overall by the San Francisco 49ers in 2006.

Campbell is a monster, measuring in at 6’7″, 310 pounds; and it’s almost all muscle. The obvious comparisons will be to current Ravens OT Jared Gaither, and no NFL source I’ve talked to about Campbell has felt the need to dismiss the comparison.

While some analysts believe he is a Top 10 talent, others say he’s only a borderline 1st round pick. The biggest red flag on Campbell’s resume is his health-he was able to start only 17 games during his career in College Park due to turf toe and a knee injury. Drafting Campbell would have be a sign that the Ravens can’t afford to keep former Terp Gaither in Charm City long term.

Joe Hortiz says: “Athletic kid, can function at LT. Health not a major concern. Tall, long frame.” Hortiz also felt that it was fair to compare Campbell to Gaither, and other OT’s with big builds.

What might hurt Bruce Campbell’s draft stock? He’s been known to keep some questionable company…..

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ve_as9k6PvI[/youtube]

TE Rob Gronkowski (Arizona)

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Like Bruce Campbell, Gronkowski departed school a year early, and the Combine will be very important as he was unable to participate in any all-star games. However, the Combine (and the rest of Draft season) will be even more important for Gronkowski, as he missed his entire junior season in 2009 due to back surgery. The man known as “Gronk” around Tucson has to prove not just that he’s healthy, but also that he’s ready, and that missing the entire season didn’t cause him to fall off in football ability.

He is part of football blood, as his brother Dan Gronkowski previously played for Maryland and is now with the Detroit Lions; and his brother Chris Gronkowski just finished his own Wildcats career after transferring from Maryland.

Gronkowski’s size is what immediately jumps out (no pun intended), as he measures in at 6’6″, 265 pounds and he turned plenty of heads during his two seasons with the Cats, making 75 catches for 1,197 yards and 16 TD’s. Some might compare him to Todd Heap when Heap came out of Arizona State-and while he might not be quite the big play guy Heap was early on in his career, he’s bigger and might be a more consistent target.

Joe Hortiz says: “Really good year as a sophomore, understood how to get open. Better than his brothers, and it’s probably not even close.”

WR Dezmon Briscoe (Kansas)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5x7WIGuBM4[/youtube]

The best thing about potentially drafting Dezmon Briscoe would be the opportunity for the Ravens to have him and David Tyree hold a helmet catching competition in Training Camp. I’ll go with Tyree, but Briscoe’s was pretty good too.

Briscoe’s decision to leave Lawrence following his junior season with the Jayhawks was a bit puzzling, especially considering he claimed it had nothing to do with Mark Mangino’s firing. That being said, Briscoe’s size (6’3″, 200 pounds) and numbers (218 catches for 3,240 yards and 31 TD’s) make him look a LOT like a player who is ready for the next level. The issue is his speed-as he’s projected to only run a 4.62 40.

With the acquisition of Stallworth not addressing the Ravens’ need for a big receiver, Briscoe could be the type of player available on Friday night (or even Saturday) with sleeper potential they could consider should they go elsewhere with their first few picks.

Joe Hortiz says: “Good speed, big guy. Had a really good year. Not a blow by you burner, but good stride.”

WR Riley Cooper (Florida)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuFI2X64YoQ[/youtube]

I have no reason to believe that Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta are looking for the ability to make circus catches in players they scout, but if they are-both the aforementioned Briscoe and Cooper would be solid choices.

Cooper is a tough case to fully understand, as he didn’t become much of a numbers guy in the Gators’ offense until 2009, when he grabbed 51 balls for 961 yards and 9 TD’s. However, his 6’4″, 215 pound frame always made him a potential redzone target for Tim Tebow in Gainesville, as he finished his career with 18 TD grabs.

Cooper is a hell of an athlete, as he was also selected by the Texas Rangers in the MLB Entry Draft, but he chose to pursue an NFL future instead. An impressive weekend in Indianapolis could help bump him up from the later rounds to a Thursday or Friday night selection. Much like Briscoe, he could be a value to the Ravens if they look at another position on Thursday night.

Joe Hortiz says: “Tough kid. Really good baseball player-a lot of upside from being able to dedicate himself to football.”

RB Toby Gerhart (Stanford)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjLh_yO41jw[/youtube]

There is no NFL team that will have as much information on Gerhart as the Ravens will, as John Harbaugh can turn to his brother Jim Harbaugh-who is of course the head coach in Palo Alto. Harbaugh’s father Jack Harbaugh was also Gerhart’s position coach for the Cardinal leading up to their loss to Oklahoma in the Brut Sun Bowl.

The obvious thing that jumps out about Gerhart is his size-as he measures in at 6’1″, 235 pounds; and uses every pound effectively in running the football. His tremendous senior season (1,871 yards and 27 TD’s) made him a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, which many Pac 10 and West Coast analysts felt he deserved to win.

Gerhart will inevitably be compared to former Tampa Bay Buccaneers back Mike Alstott, but multiple league scouts have told me they believe he deserves the chance to play a more natural running back position before being converted to fullback or a 3rd down/goal line specialist. Without a natural fullback last season (and with Lorenzo Neal having handled the position quite well in 2008), the Ravens could consider Gerhart as part of a bigger backfield alongside Le’Ron McClain should he stay on the board until late Friday night.

Joe Hortiz says: “Really good career-runs hard, needs to get lower. Doesn’t lose a lot of yards. Similar to Le’Ron McClain.”

RB Ben Tate (Auburn)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfBkonPBFGY[/youtube]

As much as it had to have pained a Crimson Tide legend like Ozzie Newsome to have selected Auburn OG Ben Grubbs in 2007, I think it is quite evident that the pick worked out. Now, should the Ravens choose to add Ben Tate to a backfield that includes Alabama’s Le’Ron McClain, there could be some awkward moments around Thanksgiving next year leading up to the Iron Bowl in the Ravens locker room.

If Willis McGahee’s future in Baltimore is in question, Ben Tate might be a similar running back for the Ravens do add into their backfield mix. Tate isn’t quite as big as McGahee (5’11″ to McGahee’s 6’1″); but he is a similar back in that he can both wear down the middle of a defense and then break out for yards to the outside.

Tate finished his SEC career with an impressive 3,321 yards and 24 TD’s; and he has respectable speed (he’s expected to post a 40 in the range of 4.50). He’s expected to be available Friday night or Saturday, and could be even more intriguing for the Ravens considering he lived on the Eastern Shore and played his high school ball at Snow Hill.

Fellow Auburn alum Joe Hortiz says: “Really good year (in ’09), between the tackles runner. Not game breaking speed.”

DE Derrick Morgan (Georgia Tech)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10cTyF6CxOE[/youtube]

Could Derrick Morgan slip to the Ravens at 25? Probably not. Could he slip a little bit and the Ravens move up to grab him? Maybe. It certainly worked out for the Ravens in their pursuit of Michael Oher a season ago.

The comparisons with Morgan will be to Michael Johnson-the former Yellow Jackets DE drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals a season ago. And while Morgan isn’t quite as big up and down as Johnson (Morgan is 6’4″, 272 pounds to Johnson’s 6’7″, 266 pounds), he has an even better motor.

Morgan was especially impressive during his senior season, posting 12 sacks and forcing 2 fumbles in helping the Jackets win the ACC Championship and advance to the Orange Bowl. However, Morgan will have something to prove in Indianapolis after struggling against the Iowa Hawkeyes’ O-Line in Miami during the final game of his college career, and not being able to participate in any other postseason events due to leaving Atlanta a year early.

Joe Hortiz says: “He’ll be gone early. Grinding player, works his ass off.”

DE Carlos Dunlap (Florida)

dunlap

While the bulk of the NFL scouts I’ve talked to have said they don’t think Dunlap’s DUI arrest prior to the SEC Championship Game will prevent him from being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft; many of the same scouts have admitted to me that they thought it would impact whether or not the team they worked for would select Dunlap.

Arrest aside, Dunlap is a tremendous football player. He’s a beast on the outside, measuring in at 6’6″, 290 pounds. He collected 18 sacks over the last two seasons (before leaving a year early), including 2 in a blowout win over Cincinnati in January’s Sugar Bowl. He is deceptively quick for his massive frame, and is a blocking nightmare for any team that faces him.

ProFootballTalk.com/NBC Sports’ Mike Florio recently mocked Dunlap to the Ravens, which makes sense considering the fact that the Ravens need to upgrade their pass rush in the offseason, preferably with an end that can excel in a Greg Mattison scheme that doesn’t rely on blitzing.

Joe Hortiz says: “Compares to (Arizona Cardinals DL) Calais Campbell. Great frame, really good athletic traits. Still had 8 1/2 sacks despite up and down season.”

WR Danario Alexander (Missouri)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfO3XOv0oEw[/youtube]

Alexander recently underwent a 4th knee surgery, which will keep him from working out at the Combine or his own Pro Day in Columbia. This is absolutely THE biggest red flag for a player that might otherwise be an interesting prospect for the Ravens. Alexander will still attend this weekend’s Combine even if you don’t see him working out during the televised portion of the Combine on NFL Network. He’ll be there to participate in interviews and to take the Wonderlic test, but clearly teams will be most interested in his knee.

The good news about this most recent surgery is that it will likely keep him on the board until Saturday of Draft weekend. The Ravens will be hard pressed to find any other 6’5″, 215 pound receivers that are coming off a season with 113 catches, 1,781 yards and 14 TD’s that late in the Draft.

At the Senior Bowl, the biggest knock on Alexander was his inability to change directions quickly. This often happens when players who are #1 receivers in college are forced to move into more flexible roles at the next level. If the knee makes Alexander tentative, this will only get worse.

Joe Hortiz says: “Knee is an issue. Good run after catch ability.”

WR Brandon LaFell (LSU)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xtix6FfAKuA[/youtube]

If not spectacular, LaFell’s career in Baton Rouge was certainly solid. He finished with 650 or more yards in each of the last 3 seasons, including a career high 929 during his junior year. He caught 23 TD’s during his Tigers career, including 11 as a senior.

The biggest question mark surrounding LaFell has to be whether or not it is worth spending a high draft choice (either a 1 or a 2) on a player who may or may not be a prototypical #1 receiver at the next level. This is an especially big question mark for a Ravens team that desperately needs a go-to #1 receiver. LaFell has the size (6’3″, 206 pounds) and appears to have the speed (he’s expected to post a 40 in the range of 4.54), but doesn’t necessarily have the pedigree to just be expected to assume a #1 role in Cam Cameron’s offense.

An inevitable comparison will be made between LaFell and former Louisiana State WR Devery Henderson. Henderson had another solid season for the New Orleans Saints en route to winning Super Bowl XLIV, but he has been by no means spectacular at any point in his career despite being selected in the 2nd round of the 2004 Draft. Same for Bucs receiver Michael Clayton (also from LSU). LaFell will hope scouts notice that he is more similar in size to Kansas City Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe, who has been better (numbers wise) during his NFL career, despite a down season in 2009.

Joe Hortiz says: “Would have liked to see him show up at the Senior Bowl. Not a burner, but he’ll get by you. One of the better route runners.”

-G

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