Ryan McCrystal

Losers from the Scouting Combine

2010 NFL Combine - Day Two

McCluster runs the 40-yard dash

Dexter McCluster – RB – Mississippi
Undersized running backs and receivers need to impress in the 40-yard dash to boost their draft stock and McCluster fell well below expectations. His 4.58 was roughly two tenths of a second slower than expected and certainly raises some concerns. A big part of his draft stock is his ability to contribute in the return game, which requires more straight-line speed than any other aspect of the game.

Dan LeFevour – QB – Central Michigan
LeFevour’s ego is no secret to those who have followed his college career, but it far exceeded expectations this weekend. Despite having a 2nd/3rd round grade at best, LeFevour opted not to throw in Indy, which angered more than a few scouts. It could be argued that he had the most to prove, as he would have been the most highly-touted prospect throwing at the combine. He blew an opportunity to move up the draft boards, and may have actually fallen down some boards without even picking up a football.

Dez Bryant – WR – Oklahoma State
Often times players hurt themselves more during the interview process at the combine than during the actual drills. Bryant would certainly fall into that category. He reportedly hasn’t impressed teams with his explanation for his suspension and has come across as very immature and not very intelligent. It doesn’t take a whole lot of brains to play wide receiver, so it shouldn’t end up impacting his stock drastically, but it could cause a couple teams to think twice.

Brandon Spikes – ILB – Florida
Spikes decided not to run in Indy, which didn’t come as a surprise considering he’s viewed as one of the slower linebackers in this year’s draft class. Even though it was expected, you hate to see a player back out for those reasons. It won’t kill his draft stock, but the decision certainly rubbed some teams the wrong way.

Rolando McClain – ILB – Alabama
McClain also elected not to work out in Indy, but his late scratch came as a surprise. His agent announced that McClain has been nursing a hamstring injury since the national championship game. The only problem with that excuse is that its the first time he’s mentioned it to anyone. Just recently he had stated that he was training in Florida, but made no mention of any injury. Whenever players make a last-minute decision to skip the combine it raises some concerns about their competitiveness. Sometimes its more the agent’s fault than the player’s, but the true competitors will get onto the field no matter what. Like Spikes, this won’t destroy his stock but it could certainly cause a few teams to knock him down a few spots on their draft board.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

Winners from the Scouting Combine

2010 NFL Combine - Day Two

Golden Tate runs the 40-yard dash

Golden Tate – WR – Notre Dame
Tate’s place in the draft was pretty much set in the late 1st/early 2nd round prior to the combine. No one (including Tate, himself) was expecting anything special in the 40-yard dash. But Tate wowed scouts with an official time of 4.42, – 4th best among receivers. Some scouts even timed him under the 4.4 mark. Tate’s game isn’t really about straight-line speed, but the impressive time should solidify his place somewhere in the top 40 picks.

Dorin Dickerson – TE – Pittsburgh
There was no question as to who was the most athletic tight end working out this weekend as Dickerson posted the fastest 40 time, the highest vertical leap and the longest broad jump at his position. And he further helped his stock by putting up the bench press 24 times – 4th most among tight ends. While he’s clearly an elite athlete, the fact that he only weight in at 6’1″, 226 pounds may necessitate a most to fullback. Regardless, he should come off the board in the top 100 picks.

Bruce Campbell – OT – Maryland
As expected, Campbell proved to be the most impressive physical specimen of the offensive linemen. One scout even went so far as to say he has the most impressive body he had ever seen. The downside to Campbell’s performance is that he’s now been slapped with the “workout warrior” label, which carries more negative connotations than positive ones. His collegiate production doesn’t warrant 1st-round consideration, but his workouts will likely land him a spot among the top 32 picks.

Trent Williams – OT – Oklahoma
While Campbell was the most impressive physical specimen among the offensive linemen, Williams may have been the most pleasantly surprising prospect. He was just .03 seconds behind Campbell in the 40, and actually out-performed Campbell in the vertical leap and the 20-yard shuttle. Entering the combine some had speculated that he may not have the athleticism to play left tackle. His performance should ease those concerns.

Jason Pierre-Paul – DE – South Florida
Due to his one year of experience at the D-I level, Pierre-Paul’s combine performance carried a little more weight than it does for most prospects. Since there’s little tape out there on JPP, scouts were looking forward to seeing how he stacked up amongst the more experienced linemen. He lived up to the hype, and appeared to have the most impressive blend of size and speed out of the defensive ends.

Tony Washington – OT – Abilene Christian
Washington was measured at 6’6″ with an arm length of 35.5 inches. Arm length is an underrated physical attribute that plays a key role in a lineman’s ability to keep defenders from getting into his chest, and Washington was among a handful that measure in at longer than 35 inches. Physically, he looks the part of an NFL left tackle. He further helped his stock with solid performances on the bench press and in the three-come drill. He comes with some character concerns, but physically he appears to have what it takes to succeed at the next level.

Tim Tebow – QB – Florida
I discussed Tebow’s performance at length yesterday, but its worth mentioning again. Most scouts expected Tebow to perform well and he lived up to expectations. If he plays quarterback, his workout numbers won’t matter much. But his performance definitely showed that he has the athleticism to play another position should he chose to go that route sometime in the future.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

Did Tim Tebow help himself at the combine?

I’ve tried not to talk too much about Tim Tebow this offseason. He probably won’t be drafted higher than the mid-2nd round and no prospect in that range deserves the attention that Tebow receives from the major media outlets. But I do feel the need to address his performance at the combine on Sunday.

2010 NFL Combine - Day TwoTebow elected not to throw in Indy, but I believe he still managed to  improve his stock.

One of the biggest questions surrounding Tebow is whether or not he could be used as wild-cat quarterback. His supporters point to his impressive athleticism. His detractors point to his mediocre speed.

While Tebow’s 4.72 40-yard dash wasn’t anything special, he showed off his athleticism in a number of other drills. I was most impressed by his 3-cone drill, which is actually a much better gauge of a player’s in-game speed and agility than the 40-yard dash. Tebow’s 6.66 time in the cones  was tops among quarterbacks by .3 seconds, and was the best time among quarterbacks dating back to 2000. For comparison sake, Jahvid Best, who led all running backs in the 3-cone drill, was timed a 6.75.

Tebow also impressed with a 38.5 vertical leap. While its not a drill that directly relates to his in-game performance, it does demonstrate his explosiveness. An impressive vertical usually translates to above average quickness, as Tebow demonstrated in his other drills.

While I’m still skeptical about Tebow’s future as a quarterback. I have to admit he just may find a role in the wild cat sooner rather than later. He has the size of a fullback, but his quickness and explosiveness is far more impressive than any of the NFL’s current short-yardage backs.

While Tebow still has hopes of playing quarterback, as well he should, after seeing him work out I definitely feel as though he has a future in the NFL at another position should he ever chose to go that route. Given his versatility, athleticism and intangibles, he should be a lock to come off the board in the top 100 picks regardless of how his new throwing motion looks at his pro day.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft 1 Comment

Dexter McCluster disappoints in the 40

Diminutive Ole Miss running back/receiver Dexter McCluster ran an extremely disappointing 4.58 forty-yard dash today. According to Daniel Jeremiah of the MoveTheSticks.com no one had him clocked at faster than a 4.57.

40 times rarely hurt a player significantly, but for a guy who measured in a 5’9″, 172 pounds, this is a huge blow to his stock.

2010 NFL Combine - Day TwoSome skeptics argue that the 40-yard dash is irrelevant because football players rarely run 40 yards in a straight line. But if there’s one position where it definitely does matter its return specialists. Part of the intrigue to McCluster is his potential as a kick/punt returner, potentially in the mold of a Darren Sproles. But few, if any, elite return specialists were timed below 4.5 in the 40-yard dash at the combine.

To be fair, there’s no question that McCluster plays faster than his timed speed. His 40 time was comparable to Toby Gerhart, but no one would argue that Gerhart has the same game-speed as McCluster.

It will be interesting to see how McCluster rebounds at his pro day on March 23. A sub-4.5 time would certainly ease the concerns about his speed, but its difficult to imagine a drastic improvement. Even if he does show a improve, he’ll then have to answer question about why he wasn’t prepared for the combine.

Following his impressive performance in the Cotton Bowl, I had been saying that McCluster deserved to be a 2nd round pick. He was rated at No. 60 on our pre-combine big board.

Its safe to say we’ll be dropping him to a 3rd round grade after his performance at the combine.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft 2 Comments

A closer look at Bruce Campbell

Well by now I’m sure you’ve all heard about the next great left tackle, Bruce Campbell. Fresh off his 4.85 forty-yard dash and 38 reps on the bench press, some have gone so far as to say he’s the most impressive physical specimen they’ve ever seen.

2010 NFL Combine - Day OneWe all thought Tim Tebow was going to be the most divisive prospect in this year’s draft, but it looks like that title may go to Campbell. At this point scouts either love him or hate. Depending on who you talk to he’s either the next Orlando Pace or the next Trezelle Jenkins.

In reality he’s probably somewhere in between, but I have to bet I’d lean towards Jenkins.

The issue I have with Campbell really isn’t with Campbell himself. Its with the media that heaps on the praise for meaningless workout numbers and with the team that will inevitably draft him far too high. Nothing in Campbell’s collegiate career says that he should be a 1st round pick. Despite the athleticism, he was a below-average left tackle at Maryland this past season. He struggles with basic assignments, he rarely finishes off his blocks and he’ll occasionally completely whiff on an attempt.

That said, there’s no denying his natural ability. His size and athleticism make him an ideal candidate to play left tackle in the pros. If he is placed in the right situation where he can sit and learn from NFL coaches and veterans he could certainly develop into one of the better linemen in the game. The problem is, Campbell will likely be selected in the 1st round where he’ll be expected to start from day one. Unlike quarterbacks and receivers, the expectation is that offensive tackles should transition seamlessly to the pros, as recent draftees Joe Thomas, Jake Long and Ryan Clady have done.

When players are thrown into the mix from day one, they either sink or swim. There’s no middle ground. A polished collegiate lineman can often learn more by playing than from watching, its just the nature of the position. But those with basic fundamental flaws like Campbell only have those issues reinforced by attempting to keep up with the pace of the NFL game.

A fair comparison to make here is with Tim Tebow. Like Tebow, Campbell has incredible physical tools. But he has some bad habits, not unlike Tebow’s throwing motion. If Tebow were thrown into a starting role from day one it would be next to impossible to fix the throwing motion while trying to survive on the field every Sunday. Breaking bad habits often requires taking a step backwards before taking two steps forward, and its difficult to force yourself to do that when you’re learning from in-game situations.

Campbell’s flaws aren’t as cut and dry as Tebow’s throwing motion but the same concept applies. He’s developed bad habits which he was capable of playing with in college because of his dominant size and strength. The average collegiate lineman can’t compete with an athlete of Campbell’s stature, regardless of his fundamentals. If forced into NFL action too early, however, he’ll continue those habits of not finishing off blocks, allowing defenders to get into his chest and using poor footwork.

Campbell needs to be taken aside and told to re-learn the position starting with the basic fundamentals. Ideally, a team could select Campbell in the 3rd round and develop him over the course of a few seasons. As a 1st-round pick, however, Campbell will be put in difficult situations far too early. NFL teams want to win now, and most head coaches don’t have the job stability to look three years down the road.

Its a sad reality, but teams are so focused on winning now that players like Campbell often aren’t given a fair opportunity to succeed.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

Dolphins meet with Golden Tate

According to the Miami Herald the Dolphins met with Golden Tate on Friday evening. Its highly unlikely that Bill Parcells would consider selecting Tate, or any receiver, with the 12th pick. But even if he fell to the 2nd round I’m not sure he’s a great fit for the Dolphins.

CFB: Notre Dame vs Pitt NOV 1What the Dolphins need is a true No. 1 receiver – a Larry Fitzgerald/Andre Johnson type. Even if Tate reaches his full potentially he’ll never be that type of player. He’s too small to be an elite red zone threat and not fast enough to stretch the field with consistensy.

Tate is essentially a slower version of Percy Harvin – a guy that can line up anywhere on the field and has a sense for finding ways to get open. Unlike most true No. 1 receivers, he does his damage after the ball is already in his hands, at which point he becomes a running back.

What the Dolphins need is someone who can get open on his own. They already have a guy to stretch the field (Ted Ginn), a possession receiver (Davone Bess) and a slot receiver (Brian Hartline). Now they need someone who can win the one-on-one matchups, especially in the red zone.

Tate can be a valuable asset for someone, but Miami just isn’t the right fit.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Dolphins Comments Off

A closer look at Anthony Davis

I’ve noticed more and more mock drafts have Anthony Davis placed in the top 10 lately. I certainly don’t dispute that it could happen, team’s have made far worse top-10 picks in the past, but in my opinion Davis is far from a top-10 prospect.

The New York Post ran a revealing story on Davis today, essentially detailing all the reasons I wouldn’t touch him in the top 10.

CFB: Connecticut vs Rutgers OCT 18The first issue with Davis is his weight. As a freshman he weighed in at 366 pounds. He has since cut down his weight, but it wasn’t easy. In 2008 he was benched when he came to camp over his targeted weight of 315 pounds. Today at the combine he weighed in at 323 pounds – not grossly overweight, but enough to raise some concern. Anytime a player doesn’t show up at the combine in the best shape of his life it causes some concerns. This is biggest job interview of the player’s life, if he can’t get motivated to get in shape now, when will he?

Another issue with Davis is his maturity level. Its tied to his weight issues, but it goes deeper than that. In 2008 he was suspended for violating team rules and was benched again later in the season for missing a team meeting. Now obviously these incidents aren’t enough to drag a player’s stock down too far, but it certainly raises some red flags.

Perhaps the biggest issue I have with Anthony Davis is the fact that he frequently looks lazy on the field. Take a look at the clips put together by ProDraftParty.com and you’ll see how he rarely finishes off his blocks. His size and strength should make him capable of dominating the inferior linemen he was facing in the Big East, but he rarely did.

On film he appears to take a lazy approach far too often. He gets a decent initial pop, but then sits back and allows the defender to recover. He was frequently going up against guys 50-75 pounds lighter than him. Getting beat on the outside by a speed rusher is one thing, but there were multiple occasions when inferior linemen beat him on an inside pass rush.

Add it all together and you get a very talented prospect with number of question marks. Personally, I wouldn’t touch him with a top-10 pick and probably wouldn’t select him in the 1st round at all. That said, teams are always looking for left tackles and Davis has the rare physical tools which could allow him to excel at that position. Based on potential alone, there will likely be someone out there willing to look past his shortcomings and take him within the first 32 picks.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft 1 Comment

“Longshot” that Anderson and Quinn will be back in Cleveland

On Friday Mike Holmgren said what we’ve long assumed: that either Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn will be traded or released this offseason. When asked if they’ll both be on the roster this season he responded:

“I think it’s a longshot, but never say never. But I’ve gone on record saying I don’t like quarterback competitions. They did that last year. And that didn’t work all that great.”

Steelers Forces Cleveland Browns QB Anderson to Fumble in PittsburghThe odd man out is likely to be Derek Anderson. He’s due a $2M roster bonus on March 19, making it unlikely that the Browns will keep him around. Unfortunately for Holmgren and the Browns, the roster bonus means it will be extremely difficult to trade Anderson. Teams know that the Browns don’t want to pay his bonus, so if they want him they can pick him up after he is released by the Browns.

What further hurts the Browns is the number of available quarterbacks on the trade market. Jason Campbell and the Eagles three-headed quarterback monster all appear to be on the trading block and all are better options that Anderson.

Anderson has a big arm, but that’s about it. During his 2007 Pro Bowl season he benefited from playing behind a dominant offensive line and from the Pro Bowl-caliber play of Braylon Edwards. He could certainly be a serviceable starter again, but its unlikely that a team will acquire him with hopes of making him their long-term solution at the position.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Browns 1 Comment

Schefter guarantees Rams will take Sam Bradford

ESPN’s Adam Schefter made a bold prediction on Thursday that has NFL buzzing.

“I would like to record something here, on February 24th.  Two months from the draft.  And tell you who the number one pick is gonna be right now… When all is said and done, that the Rams’ number one pick on April 22nd, two months from now, will be Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford.  I’m willing to take all bets on that one right now.”

I’ve had Bradford going to the Rams in my mock draft for the past two weeks, and for most of the offseason for that matter. I told a friend the other day that I think there is a 90 percent chance that the Rams take Bradford, 9 percent chance its Ndamukong Suh, and 1 percent chance someone else.

Normally I don’t put any stock in what I hear from TV’s talking heads in terms of draft rumors at this time of the year. It is far too early to make any definitive statements on the draft. However, I’m inclined to believe Schefter has some reliable sources on this report for two reasons:

1. Schefter rarely goes out on a limb. He isn’t always right (no reporter is) but he seems to do a much better job than some of his counterparts at sorting out the crap he’s fed from front offices from the legitimate stories. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard him make a statement as bold as this, meaning he must have a pretty good reason to believe he’s right.

2. The Rams are the only team capable of making a decision this early. I would dismiss a rumor connecting any other player to any other team in February, but the Rams have the ability to make their selection whenever they want. I’m sure the Rams will wait until Bradford’s March 25th workout before truly settling on him, but it isn’t unreasonable to think that they’re strongly leaning his direction.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Rams 1 Comment

Where will Brian Westbrook land?

The Eagles announced that they will part ways with veteran running back Brian Westbrook earlier this week. The move doesn’t come as a surprise, but it should make teams extremely hesitant to acquire the 30-year-old running back.

Philadelphia Eagles v Washington Redskins

Whoever signs Westbrook should be prepared for this scene to repeat itself

LeSean McCoy will be the feature back in Philly, but the Eagles lack a reliable backup. Behind McCoy on the current depth chart are Eldra Buckley, Dwayne Wright and Martell Mallett. The fact that the Eagles are willing to part with a veteran like Westbrook means they obviously don’t believe he can stay healthy and produce over the course of a season.

Westbrook’s career may very well be over, but because of his past success, there will undoubtedly be some teams that pick up the phone and give him a call. So where might Westbrook land? Assuming he’s healthy, here are some options:

5. Rams
The Rams probably aren’t Westbrook’s first choice, but given the serious concerns about his health he may not be sought after by the serious contenders. The Rams would like to limit Steven Jackson’s carries, but they don’t currently have an adequate backup. Westbrook’s ability as a blocker and receiver would make him a perfect fit.

4. 49ers
The 49ers are in the market for a change-of-pace back to pair with Frank Gore. They’re more likely to address this need in the draft, but Westbrook could be brought in for his veteran leadership on a team that’s trying to take the next step towards the playoffs.

3. Packers
The Packers are a legitimate title contender, which would be appealing to Westbrook. From the Packers standpoint, they would love to add a backup to share the load with Ryan Grant who has been workhorse over the past two seasons.

2. Steelers
Westbrook is a similar player to Willie Parker who is an unrestricted free agent and appears unlikely to return. The Steelers may decide this would be too much of a lateral move, but a healthy Westbrook would be the perfect compliment to Rashard Mendenhall.

1. Vikings
The Vikings may take themselves out of the running by re-signing Chester Taylor, but if Taylor departs Westbrook would be the perfect replacement. Brad Childress is familiar with Westbrook from his days in Philadelphia, which would give both of them a comfort level from day one. Westbrook’s ability as a receiver would make him the perfect compliment to Adrian Peterson.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Eagles, Free Agency, Packers, Rams, Steelers, Vikings Comments Off