My impressions of the first 2 days of the NFL Combine.

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Fryingpan Sports

My impressions of the first 2 days of the NFL Combine.

By Bill Smith

Big winners:

Mike Thomas WR Arizona was not a player that got a lot of attention before the combine. But that all changed when he ran a 4.31 40 yard dash. In addition he caught everything during the combine WR field work on Sunday including the attention of every scout of a team that needs a WR. At 5-8 195 lb. he reminded everyone of Steve Smith the all pro WR in Carolina.

Photo of Brian Robiskie

Another WR that had a really good day Sunday was Brian Robiskie Ohio State. The 6-3 209 pound receiver ran a 4.49 40. Reportedly he did extremely well on the chalk board explaining coverages. He should because he is the son of Atlanta Falcons WR Terry Robiskie. Brian too did extremely well catching the ball including a spectacular one handed catch falling out of bounds on errant throw.

Photo of Darrius Heyward-Bey

Darrius Heyward-Bey WR Maryland ran the best WR time at 4.30 and had a 38.5 vertical jump. Because he is 6-2 210 he helped himself significantly. Heyward-Bey has moved up to the late first round.

Johnny Knox WR Abilene Christian ran a 4.34 which was third fastest in the group but pulled up in the pattern portion of the combine with what looked like a pulled muscle.

Photo of Beanie Wells

Photo of Knowshon Moreno

Big Losers:

A couple of highly rated running backs hurt themselves with very poor 40 yard dash times. Ohio State RB Beanie Wells ran a 4.59 and Georgia RB Knowshon Moreno had a 4.61. That is not good for a running back. Wells had said that he expected to run under 4.5 but at 235 pounds, 4.59 is not a draft killer. Wells did show his athleticism with a long jump of 10’8” the best for all RBs.

For Moreno, it is a different story. There are a lot 5-11 215-220 backs in the NFL but most that are major contributors run a lot faster than Moreno did. Moreno was listed by some experts as the top running back in the draft. That time will undoubtedly affect that rating.

Photo of Percy HarvinScratch your head award:

Percy Harvin ? Florida had a bit of a problem coming into the draft anyway because he has no real NFL position. While he played both RB and WR in college, he is too slight to be a RB in the NFL and has none of the developed skills of last year mini-might WR DeShawn Jackson. If Harvin is going to be considered a first or second round pick, he was going to have to show he can run crisp routes and understands how to get open in man, zone or combo coverages. To the surprise of everyone at Indy, he decided not to participate in the route drills at the combine. He will have a lot of teams at his pro day because he played at Florida. Had he played for the U of Michaelina, he would be a 4h or 5th round pick because no one would have seen his workout at the school.

Photo of Jeremy Maclin

The Hold your water award:

The second ranked receiver in the draft, Jeremy Maclin WR Missouri, is suffering from a hyper extended knee. That is more of a concern because as a freshman he suffered a very serious knee injury that caused him to miss the year. He will hopefully be able to perform at the pro day at school.

Photo of Michael CrabtreeCourage award:

In the physical exam as part of the Combine, Michael Crabtree WR Texas Tech has been diagnosed with a slight stress fracture in the 5th metacarpal of the left foot. He will have a minor operation to put a screw in the foot. The problem for Crabtree is that if the teams don’t have any 40 time, he could considerably fall 10-20 spots in the draft. That fall would likely cost him around 15 million in guaranteed money. He said Sunday that he will run the 40 before he has his operation but did not say when. The downside of that decision is that he will not be available for Organized Team Activities after the draft. Although it was not generally known, he said that he played with the problem the entire 08 season without pain.

Photo of Alex BooneBack from the dead—maybe.

Alex Boone Ohio State OL got his ticket to the combine late. It was lost in the Orange County Jail postal system. He weighted in at 328 which was a little heavier than expected but had a very solid showing in the 225 weight lifting with 33 reps which tied for 3rd among OL. He also had a respectable 40 time at 5.17.

Photo of Andre SmithMissing from action:

Andre Smith OT Alabama announced on Friday he would not participate in the combine and promptly disappeared. Now it is not easy for a 328 pounder to vanish but he changed his air flight to early Saturday morning and flew back home. The fact that he didn’t bother to tell anyone he was leaving was a concern. The fact that he was 328 pounds is a major issue.

Smith has been known as a very immature player and the latest episode doesn’t help him. He preformed well on the field and when he was suspended from the bowl game for violating an undisclosed team rule, the Tide gave up 8 sacks most of which came over the left tackle position. After last season, he was thought to be a candidate for the top choice overall. He was in the discussion at the end of the regular season for the top 5 draft choice. But we have seen players eat their way out of the league. That is a HUGE (excuse the pun) issue with Smith. NFL teams are going to be very hesitant to give a big contract with millions of guaranteed dollars to someone that does not have enough sense or work ethic to properly prepare for the combine.

His lack of preparation for the combine has cost him at least 15 million in guaranteed money and possibly as much as 60 million in his first contract.

My take: Given the fact that he was suspended from the second most important game for Bama in the last 15 years, this lack of maturity would make me take him off my draft chart or at the very least move him into the 3rd or 4th round.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits He has also published several novels on and edits .

My email is [email protected]

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To declare or not to declare—that is the question!

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Frying Pan Sports

To declare or not to declare—that is the question!

By Bill Smith

Every pro prospect junior and third year sophomore faces a critical question—to declare for the 09 NFL draft or wait until 2010. They have until mid January to make that decision. The problem is that they will have no idea what the NFL and the NFLPA are going to do about the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The ultimate form the CBA takes will have a huge impact on the rookie contract of the top players in the draft.

If things weren’t up in the air far enough, the sudden death of Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFLPA, last August made things not only much more complex but reduced the odds of avoiding a strike/lockout in the 2011 season. Upshaw was heavily criticized by some of his members but presided over the deal that gave the players the largest percentage of the league gross in any professional sport. He had the ability to get the players and the league to a point that they could agree and avoid work stoppages. Now, the NFL will have to wait for the power struggle to work its way to a conclusion before negotiations can even begin. Now if the NFLPA would have adopted the old Soviet Union model for resolving power struggles, we would already know with whom the league should deal.

As things stand now, there will be a draft in 09 and 10 with a salary cap in 09 but not in 2010. That would seem to give the rookies a reason to stay at college one more year. The top guys coming out of the draft will get the biggest advantage if there is no cap.

But in this world nothing is quite that easy. One of the high priorities of the NFL owners in any new agreement is a rookie salary cap. That is something that the players will readily agree to because it means if the rookies get less, the veterans will get more of the salary cap dollars. Besides many of even the earliest draft choices wash out but take their millions of guaranteed signing bonus money with them. The rookies have never played a down in the NFL and get much more than vets in the same position that have proven themselves for years.

If there is a rookie salary cap as part of a new agreement it will be effective in 2010. And that is the rub. Eligible players can come out now under no rookie cap but with an overall salary cap. They can wait and if there is no new agreement, rake in a bonanza in the uncapped year of 2010. Or they can wait, and end up with both a rookie and overall salary cap and lose millions of dollars in their first contracts.

Admittedly this only affects the top 25 draft picks or so but for those like Sam Bradford, Oklahoma QB (3rd year Soph), Matt Stafford, QB Georgia (JR), Colt McCoy, Texas (JR), Knowshon Moreno, RB Georgia (3rd year Soph) and Chris Wells, RB Ohio State (JR) the decision is critical.

There is another couple of factors that enter into a player’s decision to come out or not as well. There is always a risk of serious injury in a year of college football. While all the top players will likely get insurance to pay them if they are injured and unable to play pro ball, the amount is not anything like the money that they would make in an average length NFL career. That insurance is also expensive. Some of the top performers may not be able to afford the coverage.

There is also the question of how many top players at their position will be in a given draft vs. what the demand for that position might be. Right now there are at least 5 NFL teams that have QB as their first or second priority in the draft or free agency in 2009. With only one senior QB being graded as a first day (2 rounds) choice and just a couple of quality free agent veteran QB’s, things look good for the afore mentioned QB candidates to come out. But what if all three plus Tim Tebo come out in 09? At least one or maybe even two or three will be second round picks because teams are very hesitant to draft a QB high in the first round. Do the names of Tim “I’m now on the” Couch (Cleveland 1999) and Alex Smith (San Francisco 2005) ring a bell? Each was a first choice over all and both got the staff that drafted them fired.

The last risk is one of matching their level of performance. Prior to the junior eligible entry date for the 2008 draft, two tackles were viewed as possible first overall choices. One, Jake Long of Michigan, was the first overall selection of the Dolphins. The other was Alex Boone LT of Ohio State. Boone decided to stay another year to see if the team could win a national title. I honor him for his loyalty but he played most of the year like he was running through wet concrete. The current grade on Boone is the middle of the third round and he is falling like the stock prices on Wall Street. He contributed to his draft grade demise by calling out his fellow players publicly but ignoring his own obvious short comings. Bad move, Alex. It cost you about $5,500,000 in signing bonus and another 10 million is salary and bonuses over the life of the first contract. For him, staying was extremely expensive.

It is likely that some will make the mistake of not coming out. But more will make the mistake of coming out when they would have been so much better off to stay and get one more year of seasoning. Every year around 60 football players that have eligibility left in college declare for the NFL draft. Every year about 50 percent of those players are not drafted or are very late 7th round choices. Everyone of that group would have been better off staying and getting another year to build their value. If my son was going to be a top 20 draft pick as a junior, I would tell him to come out and grab the cash. If he was projected to be a 3 round or later choice, I would encourage him to stay in college for another year.

In the last few years, the NFL has done a great thing by giving players a place that they can go without an agent to find out where they are ranked in the draft. The NFL has gathered a group of former GMs and personnel people to evaluate the player and give them a rough idea if they will go in the first round or well down in the draft. Unfortunately, there are agents that will tell a kid and his parents anything to get them to sign a representation agreement. Once a player does that, he loses his eligibility and has no choice but to enter the draft.

We will all be interested in seeing who stays and who goes. Either way. we wish the kids that have given so much effort for a sport we all love the very best no matter what they do.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits He has also published several novels on and edits .

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