By: Derek Havens
Over the past several days, 300 college athletes have come to Indianapolis to take part in the NFL Scouting Combine. All 32 NFL teams were present and looking to improve their rosters for the 2012 season. Here are a few observations I made throughout the process. –
– Andrew Luck has all but purchased a house in Indianapolis so far, but it was the Heisman winner Robert Griffin III who stole the Combine show to this point. The more I see of Griffin, the more I like and the way the Baylor QB carries himself, he makes it hard to dislike him.
Griffin ran a 4.41 40-yard dash and ESPN’s John Clayton said his Combine interview was the most impressive he has ever seen in his 20 plus years covering the event. Griffin seems a lock to go number two overall and St. Louis finds themselves in a great position.
– In almost any other year, USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil would be a top two pick. With Luck and Griffin’s reign over the draft this season, however, Kalil may fall slightly. He was smooth and athletic in each drill and, in my opinion, he is the best left tackle prospect since Joe Thomas; a true blue-chip talent.
– Even though there are several positions in this year’s class that are strong, both the tight-end and safety classes are very weak. Several teams across the league are looking for a Hernandez and Gronkowski type of duo for their offense, but there are only 14 tight-ends participating at the Combine.
The best safety in this year’s class, Alabama’s Mark Barron, may not even be able to workout before April’s draft since he is recovering from a double hernia operation. I’m not in love with any of the prospects at the safety position, but Barron’s injury could be a blessing on disguise for the Patriots. Nick Saban and Bill Belichick’s relationship could offer New England some inside information if they are looking to upgrade the position through the draft.
– I find it incredible how many legitiment prospects are small school defensive backs this year. There are several cornerbacks that have first or second round ability. One who stands out for me is Trumaine Johnson, a cornerback out of Montana. At nearly 6-foot-2 and 204 pounds, Johnson is a physical corner who loves to tackle and has the versatility to play safety. He could definitely be in play for New England in the second round.
– Michael Floyd really helped himself by posting a 4.42 40-yard dash, which seemed to answer all a lot of people’s questions about his speed. Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill was a true workout warrior in his drills. With the fastest 40-yard dash time for wide outs at 4.30, a vertical jump of 39.5″ and a broad jump of 11’1″, Hill was very impressive.
Baylor receiver Kendall Wright ran slower than many expected, but I still see him being selected to high for the Patriots. If the Browns do trade their 22nd pick for Griffin, however, maybe he slips to 27. Many Patriots fans are taking a nice, long look at receivers this year and this class offers a vast and diverse skill-set.
– Is Memphis defensive lineman Dontari Poe a man? I seriously doubt it after his Combine performance. At just under 6’5 and 346 pounds, Poe is an absolute monster. He is not just a 3-4 nose tackle, Poe is a versatile lineman who could be an absolute beast. The Memphis standout is an athlete too and he ran a 4.98 40-yard dash to back it up.
From a New England perspective, can you image Poe lined up next to Vince Wilfork? Those type of players on a defensive line could give Belichick some great flexibility with the defense.
– The past two years, I have fallen in love with an outside linebacker prospect that I hoped the Patriots would select. This year, I cannot seem to narrow down the list to one or two guys. Courtney Upshaw, Dont’a Hightower, Nick Perry, Andre Branch, Vinny Curry, Melvin Ingram and Mercilus Whitney have stood out at times.
To me, I am still looking for a player to separate from the pack. Again, from a New England perspective, I would like the team to add another linebacker next to Mayo and Spikes.What type of player the team adds, could be dependent on what base defense Belichick and the coaching staff use moving forward.
I will look into this group more in the coming weeks, as well as several other positions. In the mean time, do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me:@PatriotsHaven!