As the entire NFL community congregates in Indianapolis for the second time in three weeks, draft prospects around the country are preparing for the biggest job interview of their lives: the National Scouting Combine. What players are generating the most buzz as we head to the proverbial football meat market? We talked with draft experts from around the country to get the inside scoop on each position.
Quarterback (Shane Hallam – Draft Countdown):
Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden has a lot of buzz right now after a very productive senior season and a solid week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL. Weeden will turn 29 this year, so many teams may sour on him as a long-term option but a team that is in "win now" mode could get a steal in the second or third round of the draft. Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler's big arm and basketball backgorund has been causing some buzz as well as he moves up draft boards and gets ready for the Combine later this week. In Indianapolis, he will have the chance to showcase some of the physical talents that NFL teams could fall in love with.
Our Take: Weeden was considered by many to have had the best week of practice in Mobile among the quarterbacks (though Michigan State's Kirk Cousins may have something to say about that). How will Weeden’s arm strength match up against the likes of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Osweiler in Indianapolis? That answer could go a long way in determining where Weeden comes off the board. Osweiler caught my eye during film study because of his exceptional arm strength. He's a player who's stock I would greatly expect to see rise after this weekend.
Running Back (Doug Lancy - NFLDraft101):
One of the hotter names from the running back position on people's lips lately is Boise State's Doug Martin, who had an impressive Senior Bowl. Martin is a solid back who has the power to run between the tackles combined with the quickness to get to the edge. He's the type of one-cut runner who is attractive to many NFL teams and his strength makes him hard to tackle. Martin's great hands make him a threat out of the backfield on passing plays, and he’s also shown the ability to pass protect as a blocker. Although not the fastest back in the draft, Martin does have enough speed to break long runs. He is definitely a top 50 player and some scouts have been rumored to have him pegged as a first-round talent. Martin's a guy to continue to watch as he makes a push up draft boards.
Our Take: Martin is one of the rare all-purpose back's in this draft class, and that will go a long way toward improving his draft status in April. One thing that's always been a question with him is whether he has the elite athleticism to be a true impact player at the position at the next level. He can answer all of those questions with a strong performance this weekend.
Wide Receiver (Joe Everett – Rookie Draft):
Brian Quick of Appalachian State has the scouting community buzzing with his tremendous size/speed, leading some to believe he can be a potential No. 1 receiver. At just over 6-3, 222, Quick has a basketball background and brings the skillset to match his athleticism with a great vertical leap and the ability to win jump ball situations with ease. With Quick's explosive athleticism and ability to break tackles after the catch, don't be surprised to see the former division 1-AA standout find his way into the second round of the draft after a good week of tests in Indianapolis.
Our Take: Going into the Senior Bowl, the buzz around Quick was that he was a big, strong, athletic prospect on the outside but was raw as a receiver; that report held true during practice. Quick struggled catching balls during drills, but it was very clear that he had the physical makeup to be a star in the NFL. Assuming he does well in the physical drills, Quick could really help himself in the position-specific portion of the Combine, and he's a player we'll all be sure to watch in the future.
Tight End (Chad Davis – Draft Breakdown):
In a tight end position that’s not generating much draft buzz due to lack of depth and top-flight talent, two prospects to keep an eye on are Louisiana-Lafayette’s Ladarius Green and Louisville’s Josh Chichester. Green, 6-6, 237, is a likely Day Two pick who displays the type of athleticism and playmaking ability that fits the new breed of tight end in the NFL. Can he handle the jump in competition from the Sun Belt conference to the NFL? That's a big question that Green will look to answer this week in Indianapolis. Chichester, a converted wide receiver, is much less known and is a likely late-round pick or undrafted free agent, but at 6-8, 240, he caught my eye this past season at Louisville. He has the ability to turn into a nice red zone target in the NFL, but will need to add bulk to his lanky frame.
Our Take: Green proved in Mobile that he is one of the more natural receivers in this tight end class, displaying the soft hands and savvy route running throughout the week that he showed on film. Chichester is an intriguing prospect because of his dimensions, unfortunately we will have to wait until his Pro Day to see how he times as he was not invited to Indianapolis. Regardless, he's a big target with the ball skills and athleticism to make an NFL roster this fall.
Offensive Line (Lou Pickney – Draft King):
After having to sit out the first five games of the 2011 season at Ohio State due to NCAA rule violations, Mike Adams made an immediate positive impact for the Buckeyes upon his return, particularly with the team's rushing attack. He's a huge prospect who measures in at 6-7 320, and carries the weight well. Adams also helped himself tremendously at the Senior Bowl in Mobile last month, impressing in practice all week long as well as in the Senior Bowl
game itself. Adams looked crisp in pass protection, overcoming doubts that some had about his ability to neutralize elite pass rushers. He alsoimpressed many observers with his football IQ.
Our Take: As good as Adams looked in shorts at weigh-ins on the first day in Mobile, he looked even better in pads out on the practice field. A huge man with long arms and quick feet, Adams is easily one of the top lineman in this draft class. He will look to build on his strong second-half performance of 2011 and solid showing at the Senior Bowl with an equally good outing in Indianapolis. If he can do that, expect him to hear his name called in the top half of the first round.