Here’s your Top 10 Notes to take to the NFL Combine:
10. Quarterbacks on the Cardinals’ radar.
With Carson Palmer on his final legs as a NFL player, the Arizona Cardinals will strongly consider the position based on who might fall to them at certain points in the draft. And Cardinals general manager Steve Keim believes Palmer would welcome the opportunity to mentor a young quarterback. Could Arizona draft a young passer with the 13th pick? And if so, which one? Based on Bruce Arians’ criteria for the position, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson sure stands out.
“You look at every aspect of the quarterback,” Arians said. “Mental aspect, the heart and head. Those are the hardest things to evaluate. I can see arm strength, I can see his feet, I can see him jump, but the two things he plays with, his brain and his heart, they’re very hard to evaluate.”
9. When drafting a quarterback, don’t make the same mistake as the Panthers.
In the 2010 NFL Draft, many expected Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen to be a first-round pick, possibly even a top-10 pick. But he dropped down boards and the Panthers scooped him up in the second round. The problem with that situation was then-head coach John Fox never saw him play in college. Clausen obviously didn’t work out in Carolina, but it worked out OK as the Panthers earned the No. 1 overall pick the following year and drafted Cam Newton.
Now the head coach of the Chicago Bears, Fox quipped: “I can say now I would hope we draft someone that I’ve actually gotten a chance to watch.”
8. Meet the Press, Kizer edition.
I am confident that there will be teams who have Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer as the No. 1 quarterback on their draft board. But first, he’ll need to answer a few questions: Why the losing season for the Irish in 2016? Why did your production take a nose dive after such a promising 2015 campaign and down the stretch last year? While his answers will likely be more elaborate during his individual meetings with NFL teams, Kizer should have some interesting things to say. It will be interesting to see how he handles the media in this type of setting.
7. Forrest Lamp took arm growing pills over the last month.
One of the top offensive line prospects in the 2017 class, Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp disappointed at the Senior Bowl when his arms measured 31 1/8-inch long, which all but guaranteed a move inside to guard or center. But during his weigh-in at the Combine, Lamp measured 32 1/4-inches, over one foot better than a month ago in Mobile.
Lamp’s agent also weighed in on social media on Wednesday, tweeting that “during one of Forrest Lamp’s team meetings last night they measured his arms again (as I have personally) and they were 32 1/2-inches.” Regardless, Lamp is ideally suited to move inside to guard at the NFL level, but the better arm length will give teams comfort that he can kick out to tackle in a pinch.
6. Other discrepancies between Senior Bowl weigh-ins and Combine weigh-ins.
For offensive linemen, arm length is extremely important. NFL teams are looking for certain thresholds and Lamp wasn’t the only prospect with inconsistent numbers from Mobile to Indy. Temple’s Dion Dawkins now at 35-inch arms (3/8-inches more than Mobile). Bucknell’s Julie’n Davenport now at 36 1/2-inch arms (1/2-inch more than Mobile). Troy’s Antonio Garcia now at 33 3/8-inch arms (1/2-inch more than Mobile). Garcia also came in at 302 pounds, a nine-pound improvement from his 293 weight at the Senior Bowl.
5. Measurements for top-rated junior offensive linemen.
For seniors, most teams have verified measurements from fall visits or all-star games. But for the underclassmen, teams are eager to get the exact numbers for several of the top-rated junior line prospects. And several passes the test. Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk came in a 6-feet-6 and 310 pounds with 33 3/4-inch arms and 10 7/8-inch hands. Alabama’s Cam Robinson measured at 6-feet-6, 322 pounds, 35 1/2-inch arms and 10 1/2-inch hands. And then Utah’s Garett Bolles, who came in at 6-feet-5, 297 pounds, 34-inch arms and 9 3/8-inch hands.
4. Speaking of Cam Robinson …
Offensive linemen will face the media spotlight on Wednesday, including Robinson, who enters the NFL with some off-field character questions. Last May, he was arrested and charged with possession of a stolen gun and marijuana, however, the district attorney decided not to pursue prosecution so Robinson didn’t miss any playing time as a junior. His explanation to the incident and his overall character will be interesting.
3. Pumphrey gains the weight.
In my Combine preview, I noted that San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey was one of the players with a lot on the line with his weigh-in after weighing just 169 pounds at the Senior Bowl. He is expected to test well so scouts were hoping to see him achieve those numbers while in the 175-180 pound range. And today, Pumphrey came in at 176 pounds, an improvement of seven pounds, a positive step for him.
2. Christian McCaffrey tips the scale at 202 pounds.
Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey is one of the best pure talents in the 2017 draft class. But the main question is can he be the feature back in an offense with his 202-pound skill-set? In my opinion, yes, but the definition of “feature back” needs to change a bit. McCaffrey shouldn’t be carrying the ball 25-times per game, but you do want to see him touching the ball 25 times per game with 17-18 carries and 6-7 targets — similar to a Brian Westbrook role. McCaffrey can line up in the slot or outside and run better routes than several other wideouts on the roster. That is where he can excel.
1. Thirty-pound difference between the draft’s top two backs.
In the eyes of many around the league, LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Florida State’s Dalvin Cook are the top two running backs in the 2017 draft class and both should hear their name called in the top-20 picks. Anyone who has watched the two ultra-talented backs understand they are different styles of runners, but the weigh-ins only confirmed that as Fournette tipped the scales at 240 pounds while Cook measured at 210 pounds.
While slightly different than their listed weights in college, neither was much of a surprise. The “bigger” running back is a dying breed, but Fournette doesn’t belong in that category. He is naturally big-boned, carries his weight extremely well and will still excel during the agility drills. Fournette is simply a specimen. The main negative working against Cook is the medicals and long-term durability, specifically with his shoulders. And while 210 pounds for a running back is enough to get the job done, his lack of ideal body armor is something that could scare teams from drafting Cook as high as his talent warrants.
(Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange)