Granted... looks may be deceiving... but the combine is a display of phyical ability, raw talent, and frumpy looking college seniors.
The combine is fun. It isn’t overhyped like National Signing Day, it isn’t shoved down our throats like Media Day… it’s a nice little gig on the NFL network (highlights available on ESPN of course) and for those of us who aren’t satisfied with the two bridge-the-gap sports of hockey and basketball, it can be a nice little topic to geek out on. The top college talent compete in events that most of us are familiar with, and that helps us to marvel at their abilities.
The combine is important because most NFL coaches are looking for raw talent and skill that they can mold, not someone who had 70% of their statistics against far lesser opponents than themselves. Even the most elite college teams play a bunch of scrub teams that affect their game stats for the better.
Players find ways to elevate their draft status, either buy benching the most reps and blazing the quickest 40 time… and some get creative by performing super-human feets. Adrian Wilson jumped over a 68 inch bar and landed on 2 feet and most recently, San Jose State DE Jarron Gilbert jumped out of the shallow end of a pool up onto the ledge.
At first glance, he makes it look so easy that you don’t really understand how much power is needed to complete the stunt… so I tried it. I made it up to my stomach and was bleeding from both shins.
Now, the fact that I am writing this article before any Cassel moves needs to be taken into consideration. The Patriots already have 3 picks in the top 60 (23, 47 & 58) and don’t really need much. The most obvious concern is the lack of depth (and talent, height, speed and aggressiveness) in the defensive backfield. The Pats have carried that problem for a couple years running now so I won’t be surprised to see a DB selection with the 47th overall pick.
The kid DOES look like a footballer. And footballers look mean.
Assuming that Belichick has gotten all of his first round TE’s out of the way in Graham and Watson, we’re likely to see an offensive lineman selected with the Pat’s 1st round pick. If James Laurinaitis (ILB, Ohio State) slips out of the top 20 it may be hard to pass on him. The knock is that he has a lot of trouble shedding blockers and as the size and speed of the people blocking you increases exponentially from Saturdays to Sundays it will be harder for him to rely on his sub-4.6-40-time in the NFL. That being said, had he been eligible last year, the Patriots were likely to have positioned for him in the top 10, though they did strike gold on defensive rookie standout Jarrod Mayo.
Should the Pats slate an interior lineman for their first pick, they may either go with a Center to move over to guard (Cal’s Alex Mack is in the upper echelon of intelligent Centers in a deep draft for that position) or an explosive tackle for the right side. Virginia’s Eugene Monroe is a beasts of his trade but you won’t see him slip past 5th overall. Should the Patriots choose to move DB to top priority, they could shoot for an DJ Moore style corner from Vanderbilt with the 23rd pick and hope either Max Unger (Center from Oregon) or Oklahoma’s Duke Robinson (Guard) are available at 47.
Terrence Wheatley hauls one in at the 2008 NFL Combine.
Vandy’s DJ Moore gives up the height advantage, measuring a mere Dustin Pedroiaish 5’9”… but his 4.36 40-speed is blazing. If selected in the 1st round, he will be Vanderbilt’s first round one selection since Jay Cutler in 2006… and before that, some guy named Will Wolford went 20th in 1986.
The Patriot’s first pick will give us an indication of how they feel about their 2nd & 4th round corners of 2008, Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite, both of whom looked promising before going on IR with injuries. None of the Patriots systems are easy to learn, so it would seem that the two players who have been with the team for a season are at a decided advantage over a rookie.
All this being said… we still have about 25 million dollars worth of Quarterbacks and a coach that loves to build from the draft. Everyone is looking forward to the Cassel deal, whenever it may come and whatever it may be for.