Posted on: March 9, 2012 7:34 pm
STILLWATER, Okla. -- When Justin Blackmon didn't run the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, questions about his speed persisted.
With 62 representatives from all 32 NFL teams watching him at his pro day, Blackmon erased any lingering doubt about his timed speed in roughly 4.45 seconds.
Oklahoma State listed Blackmon's 40 time as a 4.46 Friday. Scouts attending also had him running in 4.44 seconds.
"I was trying to shoot for a 4.45," Blackmon said. "That was kind of in my head, anywhere between there and 4.5.
"I felt pretty good when I ran it. My time was there. It says everything it needs to say."
In other drills, Blackmon touched 35 inches in his vertical jump, ran 4.36 in the shuttle and jumped 10-feet-3 inches in the broad jump. Satisfied with his 14 reps in the bench press from the NFL combine, he decided to skip that drill.
Blackmon caught 14 of 16 passes from quarterback Brandon Weeden during pass-catching drills. He did have two drops, both on out routes, but made two 50-yard catches on which he made adjustments to the ball in midair.
"Brandon put the ball on the spot," Blackmon said. "I had a couple of drops, but overall it went well."
Most of Blackmon's catches occurred either within 10 yards on the left sideline or past 20 yards on the right sidelines. He did not run any routes to the right side within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Some of the teams drafting early in the first round sent top coaches to Oklahoma State's pro day.
For the Cleveland Browns, head coach Pat Shurmur and offensive coordinator Brad Childress were on hand. Shurmur and Childress stood to the left of Weeden as they watched Blackmon in the receiving drills.
The Minnesota Vikings, with the third overall pick in the draft, had four members of their staff in attendance, including coach Leslie Frazier. The Vikings staff had a meeting scheduled with Blackmon immediately after his workout.
Frazier said he thinks there is a good chance Blackmon will be available for the Vikings at the third pick if his team decides it wants to select him. Andrew Luck of Stanford and Baylor's Robert Griffin III are widely expected to be the first two picks in the draft, but the Vikings drafted quarterback Christian Ponder in the first round of the 2011 draft.
"He's a terrific young player," Frazier said. "He didn't do anything to make you wonder if he was a different person on tape. He really solidified some of the things you saw on tape."
Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith and Denver Broncos coach John Fox were the other coaches in attendance. Fox was flanked by vice president John Elway and general manager Brian Xanders before hurriedly hitting the airport, where they boarded a jet bound for Denver with Peyton Manning as a passenger.
The Broncos, though, were likely scouting Weeden and other participants more than Blackmon.
After declaring for the draft, Blackmon's initial goal was to participate in as few drills as possible at the pro day. A minor hamstring injury during the week of the combine forced him to skip the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis, raising doubts about how fast he was projected to run.
For Blackmon, he felt relieved to post a convincing time of 4.46, which should stand up to any bristle about a "fast track" in Stillwater.
"It was a process to try to knock it all out at the combine, and things popped up and I couldn't," Blackmon said. "I'm glad I got to come out and perform today and glad I got to knock it out."
In the weeks leading up to the pro day, Blackmon had to adjust his training to allow his hamstring to rest.
"I didn't do everything running wise I could (have) to better myself," Blackmon said. "I had to cut down on the runs and coming in and out of breaks. I did a lot more upper body things."
Blackmon's focus turns to private workouts with teams. Todd France, Blackmon's agent, said his client had workouts scheduled with multiple teams, but France would not disclose which teams will be hosting Blackmon.
Contributed by James Poling
Posted on: February 14, 2012 9:12 am
Edited on: February 14, 2012 10:48 am
Prior to the development of Tim Tebow as the most talked about quarterback in Denver since John Elway, the Broncos were looking at another versatile, Heisman-winning passer as a possible first round target for the 2012 draft -- Baylor's Robert Griffin III.
Rated behind only Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and Southern California offensive tackle Matt Kalil among the elite prospects in the 2012 draft by NFLDraftScout.com, Griffin is likely to earn a top-five selection come April. That would almost surely keep RG3 out of Denver's reach, as the Broncos would have to package several picks -- including their current first round selection (No. 25 overall) to move up to get him.
Steve Wyche of NFL.com reported Tuesday, however, that the Broncos were closely scouting Griffin this season.
"At a certain point this season,” Wyche said “with conversations I had there, they were really doing their due diligence on RG3 because of some of the things he can do to the offense.”
Blessed with extraordinary foot speed and touch on the deep ball, Griffin is a multidimensional threat who appears perfectly suited to taking the NFL by storm. He's also entering the league at precisely the right time. The immediate success by Cam Newton will be used by some as evidence that Griffin, too, can make a quick transition to the NFL.
Considering his unique talents, the fact that the Broncos were closely scouting Griffin is no surprise. Frankly, it would be a surprise only if they didn't scout Griffin (and every other highly regarded prospect) closely. Teams don't just scout the players at perceived positions of need. Each team works hard to do their "due diligence" on every prospect who could potentially help their team.
While the Broncos aren't likely to be among them, there are several teams looking for help at quarterback. As owners of the No. 1 overall pick, the Indianapolis Colts, of course, will have the first option of taking Griffin. Team owner Jim Irsay mentioned RG3 by name when predicting who his Colts might take with the first pick.
“With [Robert] Griffin and [Andrew] Luck and the way it’s shaping up at the top of the draft, [it] could very likely go one and two like with Peyton and Ryan Leaf ," Irsay said.
Besides the Colts, the Cleveland Browns (No. 4, No. 22 overall), Washington Redskins (No. 6), Miami Dolphins (No. 8 or 9*) and Seattle Seahawks (No. 11 or 12*) are teams thought to be keenly interested in Griffin. *The Dolphins and Seahawks' final draft slot won't be determined until a coin=-flip held at the Combine will break their tie with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs, respectively).
If Mike Holmgren and Co. want Griffin in Cleveland, they may be able to wait for him to land in their laps at No. 4, overall. Considering the extra first round pick they have due to Atlanta's trade up for Julio Jones last April, they also have the ammunition to move up, if needed. Miami, Washington and Seattle do not have an extra first round pick this year but with enough talent on their rosters to potentially emerge as serious playoff contenders with better play at quarterback, one (or more) of the clubs could be willing to pony up several picks in an effort to move up for Griffin.
All of which is music to the ears of the St. Louis Rams, owners of the No. 2 overall pick and their own young franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford. The Rams, my CBS colleague Clark Judge argues, should auction off the pick to the highest bidder.
Posted on: December 28, 2011 1:22 pm
If there was any questions about the talent and immediate impact ability of the 2011 draft class they may have been answered yesterday when it was announced that three rookies were voted Pro Bowl starters.
The rookies, who incidentally were selected with the second, fourth and fifth picks overall were Denver pass rusher Von Miller, Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green and Arizona cornerback/returner Patrick Peterson.
Miller, NFLDraftScout.com's highest rated senior prospect last year, currently has 64 tackles and 11.5 sacks for the Broncos. While Tim Tebow and the Broncos' dominant run game has garnered most of the hype this year, it has been Miller and the Denver defense that has been just as critical in turning the Broncos from one of the league's worst teams into the possible AFC West champions. Miller's success comes as no surprise as his speed off the edge, when coupled with that of Elvis Dumervil's, gave me reason to predict in August that the former Texas A&M Aggie would win this year's Defensive Rookie of the Year.
As impressive as Miller was making plays on the defensive side of the ball, it isn't difficult to understand why NFLDraftScout.com rated A.J. Green as the best offensive pro prospect in the draft. Green leads the Bengals with 63 catches, 1,031 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Though Calvin Johnson might beg to differ, statistically speaking Green has been the best big play wideout in the NFL this season, havihttp://rob-rang.blogs.cbssports
g caught 11 passes for 35 yards or more, thus far.
Peterson, who I ranked as the top overall prospect in the 2011 draft, proved to be every bit the playmaker on special teams that his fellow rookies were on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Peterson tied an NFL record with four punt returns for touchdowns this season. He's struggled at times in coverage for the Cardinals, but has gotten better as the season has gone on, recording 60 tackles, 13 passes defensed and two interceptions. Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic asked star wideout Larry Fitzgerald about Peterson and his selection to the Pro Bowl. Fitzgerald's response is sure to make Cardinals' fans excited about Peterson's future.
It should be noted that as good as these three were, one could make the argument that several other top ten picks from the 2011 draft could have been honored with a trip to Hawaii. Quarterback Cam Newton, who of course was drafted No. 1 overall by Carolina, defensive lineman Marcell Dareus (Buffalo, No. 3 overall), wide receiver Julio Jones (Atlanta, No. 6 overall) and pass rusher Aldon Smith (San Francisco, No. 7 overall) each made huge impacts for their respective clubs as rookies.
Posted on: November 9, 2011 4:32 pm
For the first time in his two seasons as a Denver Bronco, Tim Tebow was allowed to function in the spread option offense that he helped make famous while at the University of Florida.
The result was a surprisingly dominant running game (299 rushing yards, two touchdowns) against the Oakland Raiders Sunday. The victory made Tebow 2-1 in his three starts this season and shockingly enough put the Broncos only a game behind first place in the AFC West.
Coaches have long argued that the option offense would not work in the NFL as defensive players at the professional level are simply too fast. The same, however, was said about the spread offense and while I'm not about to suggest that June Jones or Steve Spurrier's current schemes would work against the Baltimore Ravens' defense, the proliferation of a shotgun-based offense has helped make the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots (to name a few) some of the league's most lethal passing attacks.
Quite frankly, I am among those who do not believe the option (or spread option, in this case) is going to be consistently effective against NFL teams. However, I do believe that whatever time and effort a team can force an opponent to specifically game-plan against them is energy well spent.
After all, this is the primary reason why many have suggested that Paul Johnson's triple-option offense has been successful at Georgia Tech (and previously at Navy, Georgia Southern). It isn't that his Yellow Jackets boast elite talent. Since he took over at Georgia Tech, only wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (ironically enough, also a Bronco) has been taken higher than the fourth round after playing on the offensive side of the ball for Johnson. Simply put, few NCAA teams are capable of mastering defense of the option with only one week in which to prepare for it.
The same could wind up being true for the Denver Broncos.
One thing is certain. The Kansas City Chiefs will have prepared for Tebow and the spread option much more than the Oakland Raiders had. Whether Denver is successful running this offense or not, the fact that they've forced the Chiefs to devote time to game-planning for their unique attack gives Denver an advantage (albeit maybe only a slight one) heading into a key divisional game.
Posted on: October 26, 2011 4:06 pm
It has been a rough season for head coach Rick Neuheisel and his UCLA Bruins. It got tougher Tuesday evening with the news that one of Neuheisel's best players -- senior strong safety Tony Dye -- will miss the rest of the 2011 season due to a neck injury.
Dye, who shared MVP honors last year with outside linebacker Akeem Ayers (the 39th overall pick in 2011 by Tennessee), entered the year ranked as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 2 senior strong safety. Considering that this appears to be the second consecutive weak crop of senior safeties, Dye's injury is potentially a significant blow to NFL teams needing help at the position.
Dye has not used a redshirt and thus could elect to petition the NCAA to gain a medical redshirt and return to the Bruins next season.
Dye entered the year having already started 26 games over his career. While viewed as one of the better open field tacklers at his position, he has not proven to be a big playmaker. Over his career, including the four games in which he played this season (three starts), Dye has only one career interception. He led the team in tackles (96) and passes broken up (nine) last season and was a more consistent player than his more hyped teammate Rahim Moore, a free safety whom the Denver Broncos invested the 45th overall pick into last April.
Dye suffered the neck injury early in the season and originally attempted to play through it. He's struggled with nerve damage since, however, as too often he's lost feeling in his arms as he attempted tackles.
Neuheisel told the media following Tuesday's practice that he knew Dye may consider taking time to heal the injury and elect to pursue the NFL. He advised against it, however.
Said Neuheisel, "Tony and his family will continue to look for maybe another way, but I just don’t think it’s the prudent thing to do. I think Tony need to get himself 100 percent healthy and hopefully come back and play for us next year."
Posted on: October 18, 2011 9:06 am
Today is the NFL's trade deadline. All deals must be reported to the league offices by 4 pm Eastern.
Some believe there will be a small flurry of trades. Most likely, this year there will be few, if any, last minute deals.
It isn't difficult to understand why.
Besides the complexities of today's salaries and contracts, teams simply are unwilling to package draft picks for veteran players -- even for those with a proven track record in the league.
Yesterday's deal between the St. Louis Rams and the Denver Broncos is a prime example. The Rams, desperately in need of a reliable set of hands to help young quarterback Sam Bradford, sent a conditional late round pick (officially a sixth, which can be escalated to a fifth) for the rights to wide receiver Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd, 30, led the league last year with 1,448 receiving yards in a Pro Bowl effort. He had the same quarterback this season (at least early on) in Kyle Orton (another veteran rumored to be on the move), but clearly wasn't the same wideout in Denver's current run-oriented offense. Last season, the veteran journeyman receiver enjoyed career highs in receptions, yardage and touchdowns. In St. Louis, he'll get Bradford and, more importantly, be reunited with former head coach and aggressive pass-caller Josh McDaniels.
For a late round pick, the Rams would appear to have found a player that can provide immediate dividends.
Now I ask you, what are the odds that St. Louis' 2012 sixth (or fifth, for that matter) would do the same?
Certainly I have to concede that at 30 years old Lloyd may not have as many years in the league left in him as whatever rookie the Rams would have selected. However, given that the average NFL career spans only three seasons that may not be true.
Also, what makes Lloyd an effective receiver -- his savviness as a route-runner, body control and sticky hands -- aren't the characteristics likely to suddenly be lost due to age, like speed or explosiveness.
The deal makes sense for both clubs. The Rams needed help. The Broncos are clearly moving in a different direction and would love to acquire the draft picks needed to aid them in doing so.
But a late round pick for a Pro Bowl receiver who, not surprisingly, is "excited for the move," should prove once again the NFL continues to overvalue its draft picks in relation to proven veterans.
Posted on: October 11, 2011 7:17 pm
About two months ago, as news broke that 2010 first round pick Tim Tebow had slipped to No. 3 on the Denver Broncos' depth chart, a national writer who I respect very much essentially asked me to explain what went wrong.
I argued that nothing had gone wrong, which was counter to what virtually everyone else was saying -- and probably why my comments weren't part of his article.
Now that Tebow has given an opportunity to start for Denver again, I fully expect critics to again rise up and bash the move. And again, I will preach patience.
I have never considered myself to be a Tim Tebow apologist. If I were running an NFL franchise I would not have selected him in the first round. That said, he does possess some extraordinary skills that can, if complimented correctly, lead to success as a quarterback in the NFL. I believed it then. And I stand behind my 2nd round grade for Tebow now.
Anyone who watched any of the second half of Denver's game Sunday against the Chargers saw the immediate spark Tebow provided. The fans were more excited. Teammates were more excited. Had Brandon Lloyd not dropped what was a very accurate pass from Tebow for the tying two-point conversion in the closing minutes, the Broncos' coaching staff would have no choice but to be excited.
Instead, today feels as though the Broncos' staff are throwing their collective hands up in the air and saying, "Ah, what the hell, let's give this Tebow guy a try."
Tebow serves as a classic example of how the high expectations of a spectacular collegiate career can quickly turn to disappointment when similar success isn't immediately gained in the NFL.
Tebow started three games as a rookie, leading the Broncos to one of their four victories (Houston) last year. He threw for 651 yards in those three contests, including passing for four touchdowns against three interceptions. He also ran in a touchdown in each of the three games. Were his name not Tim Tebow, one might argue that a rookie quarterback scoring seven touchdowns against four turnovers (he fumbled against Houston) and leading his team to 25% of his team's victories despite only starting 5% of the season might have done enough to earn more playing time.
Instead, because of the fact that he'll never be the prototypical spread passer so en vogue in today's NFL, he's already being characterized by some as failure whose only chance at NFL success is at a different position.
In reality, Tebow's size, ability to throw on the run and intangibles continue to make him a fit in an offense geared around the running game -- which is precisely what Denver is attempting to do with John Fox.
Fox, and team president John Elway, clearly would not have picked Tebow had they been with the Broncos in April of 2010. The fact that they are giving him an opportunity, however, is acknowledgment that he did bring a spark to this team on Sunday.
My job as a talent evaluator asks me to grade the measureables. Heights, weights, 40-times, completion percentages, they are all part of the gig. Tebow, perhaps more than any other quarterback I've scouted (though Jake Locker is close) has a toughness and competitive spirit about him that defies a numerical grade.
I've watched too many quarterback with marginal accuracy, arm strength and mobility have success in the NFL when an offense is tailored around their individual skill-set. Under Fox, the Carolina Panthers did precisely this for Jake Delhomme, recognizing that his ability to lead his teammates could result in wins, despite his lack of ideal tools.
Thus far this season, Denver's starter, Kyle Orton, has completed 58.7% of his passes 979 yards, eight touchdowns, seven interceptions and two fumbles lost.
Orton's numbers aren't impressive. Even less so is Denver's record (1-4) during that time. I am not claiming that Tebow's touchdowns or completion percentage will be better.
But give Tebow five games. Don't be surprised when the team "miraculously" has a higher winning percentage with him at quarterback -- just like it did last year.
Posted on: September 22, 2011 11:27 am
The Cincinnati Bearcats host the North Carolina State Wolfpack tonight (8 pm ET) in an interesting Big East/ACC showdown.
There are a number of pro prospects worth watching in this game, but the two prospects scouts will be paying the most attention to will actually be squaring off one on one on many occasions, making the matchup all the more intriguing.
The hosting Bearcats boast one of the top -- if relatively anonymous -- running backs in the country in senior Isaiah Pead. Pead, a 5-10, 200 pound speedster led the Big East in rushing last season (1,029 yards) despite missing two games with a bruised knee. Don't think he's just a back capable of chewing up yards against "weak" competition. The Tennessee Volunteers found out just how explosive Pead is just a few weeks ago when he ran for 155 yards and a touchdown against them. Pead only rushed the ball 14 times, meaning he averaged 11.1 yards per attempt on the road against a quality SEC defense. Pead currently ranks as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 2 senior running back prospect and our No. 9 running back potentially available for the 2012 draft.
Pead will be facing one of the active linebackers in the country in NC State's Audie Cole, however. The 6-4, 239 pound Cole played strongside linebacker throughout most of his career, but was moved inside this season to help make up for the loss of Nate Irving -- a third round pick by the Denver Broncos (No. 67 overall).
Cole is athletic and generally recognizes the action quickly. This can lead to a lot of splashy plays at or near the line of scrimmage. Last season, however, he was prone to over-running the play, leaving cutback angles to backs with good vision and burst. He also had a tendency to hit ball-carriers, rather than wrapping them up securely. This is precisely why Pead could spring a big play or two on the Wolfpack.
Not surprisingly, Cole leads NC State in tackles for loss (5.5 in only three games) and is a close second to safety Earl Wolfe in total tackles (Wolfe has 28, Cole has 22). Cole has also racked up 1.5 sacks and has already forced and recovered a fumble this season. The versatile Cole currently is graded as an inside linebacker by NFLDraftScout.com and rates as our No. 4 senior at the position.
Looking for others to watch in this game? NC State has an interesting senior tight end in George Bryan. The 6-5, 265 pounder earned First Team All-ACC honors after each of the past two seasons. Scouts question whether he has enough athleticism, however, to enjoy similar success in today's pass-heavy NFL.
This game will be televised by ESPN.