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By Jonathan Bales

2011 NFL Combine: 10 Things to Watch

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Jonathan Bales

This might seem incredibly stupid, but I am pumped for the NFL Combine to begin this weekend.  It isn’t that I put that much stock in the Combine, but rather it’s a chance to get a glimpse of all (or most) of the top prospects in one place.  For those of you who need a good reason to tune in, here are 10 things to watch. . .

As I discussed in my feature on Matthews, I think he’s extremely overrated.  He doesn’t possess very good athleticism and he gets overpowered often.  In my opinion, he should be a seventh-round pick or undrafted free agent.  He’s living off of his name.

When I’ve said that 40-yard dash times and vertical jumps don’t matter, that isn’t completely true.  In the NFL, you need to surpass a baseline of athleticism.  You can put a player with all of the heart in the world out there, and if he isn’t an athlete, he’s going to get killed.

Thus, the Combine drills are important in that they dictate whether a player has enough athleticism to play in the NFL.  If so, the “extra” athleticism is just gravy.  I’ll take a 4.4 receiver with great hands and route-running ability over Darrius Heyward-Bey all day.

A lot of you think Matthews possesses at least the minimum amount of athleticism needed to play in the big leagues.  I’m not so sure.  At his size, he better damn well run a 4.80 or better (and that’s really the minimum).  I haven’t seen that speed on tape, so let’s be sure to keep an eye on that and the fluidity (or lack thereof) he displays in his position drills.

I’m not horribly down on Amukamara, but I don’t see the elite coverage ability others have apparently witnessed.  I see a player who plays big against small competition, but folds versus the big boys.  Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon ate Amukamara apart.

The reason I still think Amukamara can be a successful NFL player is his potential versatility.  I envision him as a free safety.  He’s already tremendous in run support and I think his skill set would fit nicely at the position.

But is he only capable of playing safety?  His long speed has been in question for awhile, and if Amukamara has a horrible 40-yard dash time–4.6 or worse, let’s say–a lot of teams will view him as a safety or, at best, a Cover 2 cornerback.

  • Pitt WR Jonathan Baldwin’s short-shuttle time

Baldwin is a player the Cowboys probably won’t target, but he still intrigues me.  He’s enormous (6’5”, 235 pounds), and I’m not really high on receivers who are so big.  First, they are easier to jam (yes, easier).  More importantly, extremely tall receivers take such long steps that it is sometimes difficult for them to get out of their breaks.  Other than deep balls, I’m not sure Baldwin will be a great route-runner.  We know his 40-yard dash time will be good for his size, but his short-shuttle time will more indicative of his future success, in my view.

  • Villanova OT/OG Benjamin Ijalana’s position drills

I really, really want the Cowboys to take a long, hard look at Ijalana.  He possesses so much upside and his versatility could be huge for Dallas.  They desperately need a right tackle and two offensive guards of the future, so why not acquire a guy who could potentially play all three spots?

Ijalana’s position drills (i.e. his footwork, agility, and so on) will go a long way in dictating whether he can remain outside at tackle or should kick inside.

Those of you who saw my scouting report on Solder know I’m not high on him.  I think he’s a third-round talent.  He’s stiff in the hips and a really unnatural bender.  On film, he consistently got beat by the speed rush.

If Solder can’t stop the speed rush, he’d have a hell of a difficult time in the NFC East.  Ware.  Cole.  Umenyiora.  Tuck.  Orakpo.  Does Solder even possess the short area quickness to improve in pass protection?  We’ll find out.

We know Smith is an incredible athlete.  He’s right in the hunt to be the top offensive tackle on my board.  After concerns about his slight frame, Smith has reportedly gained 20 pounds (he’s at 305 now).  That’s still pretty small for an offensive tackle, but the game is changing.  If Smith is still a sub-5.1 guy at his new weight, he’ll probably be a top 15 pick.

  • Maryland WR Torrey Smith’s 40-yard dash time

This one’s just for fun.  The Cowboys have basically zero chance of drafting Smith, but he’s reportedly been running low 4.3′s on a regular basis during his Combine prep.  Times tend to be a bit slower in Indy, but Smith could light it up.

  • Pitt RB Dion Lewis’ short-shuttle time

I’m going to do a scouting report on Lewis in the near future because I love this kid.  He reminds me so much of LeSean McCoy, and not just because of the school.  Both players don’t time well and don’t really even have blazing straight-line speed, but their “game speed” is sensational.

I am a firm believer that football players need to be able to stop just as quickly as they start.  Players run straight for no more than 10 yards on about 95 percent of plays (Note: Although this site is all about stats, that one is completely made up).  Seriously though, straight-line speed isn’t nearly as important for running backs as the ability to make quick cuts.  The short-shuttle is a better indicator of future success (for most positions) than the 40.

I see Taylor as a top 10 talent.  The rarity of 335+ pound men with his quickness is extraordinary.  Taylor’s short-shuttle time will prove he belongs in the top 10-15 discussion.  He’s this year’s Tyson Alualu.  Here’s film from my feature on Taylor. . .

Wilson is a beast at 6’4”, 250 pounds.  Because of that (and his unique ability to rush the passer), many scouts apparently believe Wilson can play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme like that in Dallas.  I think Wilson is capable of excelling inside for a 3-4 defense, but his versatility certainly adds some upside.  Let’s see how fluid he looks during his pass drops at inside linebacker and what sort of explosion he displays as a potential rush linebacker.

———————————-

Note: You can see the official Combine schedule here.

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9 Responses to 2011 NFL Combine: 10 Things to Watch

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention 2011 NFL Combine: 10 Things to Watch | Dallas Cowboys Times -- Topsy.com

  2. Mont Seventeen says:

    Casey Matthews is always getting pub… If he sucks, who cares? No-one said anything ab Adam Archuletta’s draft position.

    Prince reminds me of Revis… The wannabe’s had know clue on Revis, if they did he would have been a Top 5 guy. According to Mayock, Prince’s game v. Blackmon is a misnomer. His 40 time may drop him out of the Top 10.

    Baldwin Big WRs are fun to draft, but they don’t play teams… So you have to take a flyer late. The Cowboys could use a Baldwin type if they let Roy go. He will need a nice 40 time bc no-one is going to ask him to run the entire tree.

    Ijalana has Ozzie Newsome written all over him… adding a first round lineman is a pipe dream with Jerry calling the shots. Also a sign Romo’s ability to avoid is slipping!
    Solder did He stand out at the Senior Bowl practice but his size alone will make him viable on the right side. The Olineman position drill is a joke but I guess to the trained eye its viable.

    Tyson Smith reminds me of Alex Barron, he will test off the charts and get drafted by the Raiders… I don’t see Jerry looking at Oline early.

    Torrey Smith Ralph Freigen always produce 1 stud out of MD… 40 time will make him money and would be a nice fit for a lot of teams like the Rams.

    Lewis This RB class reminds me of the 08 class. I wanna see RBs fluidity in the pass game, its guys like this you wish you could see the mental evaluating aspect of the combine.

    Taylor’s bag drill will be fun to watch… Dude is so big if he can move he will be unstoppable. The short shuttle will show his ability to close on the QB.

    Wilson 40 time will move him up the ESPN radar, so teams that don’t scout, like the Raiders, Bengals and Cowboys will also consider. His position drill will be fun to watch from a fans prospective.

  3. Vince_Grey says:

    I’ll take a 4.4 receiver with great hands and route-running ability over Darrius Heyward-Bey all day.

    4.4? Shoot, I’ll take a 4.6 guy, which is what Jerry Rice ran, or even slower, like Michael Irvin.

    Pure speed is overrated, even at receiver. Everyone drools over super-fast Mike Wallace types, but
    for every 4.3 guy like him who can actually play, there are several Pro Bowl level receivers running much slower than that.

  4. Chris stallcup says:

    I feel like I lost some iq points trying to decipher mont seventeen

  5. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Now that’s funny CS. I thought I had a lil football knowledge as well but got lost on a few (esp. the Romo mention)…

    Of all the above, Prince, Ijalana, Phil Taylor, Tyron Smith and Matthews are the guys I think Dallas will even look at – the others are in the “nice to have” category.

    Of all above, I like Taylor and Ijalana the most. In the case of Taylor, I think there’s actually better value in Kenrick Ellis or Jerrel Powe (Ellis is one of two guys from all HBCUs that’s been invited to the combine). If either is just a tad bit slower in the 40 and shuttle drills, a tad bit weaker on bench and/or worse a tad bit less athletic in the vert, I’d spend a 3rd on them before I used a 1st on Taylor. Remember, Eliis and Powe are both NTs, Taylor was a 3 technique DT in a 4-3.

    Ijalana was a beast but that was against non-elite competition. I’m interested to see how well his combine goes.

  6. Mont Seventeen says:

    what’s cpl more points, when your IQ is in jeopardy from a football message board with 5 posters… But, the great thing ab this site, draft day, tells no tales!

    Cam Newton spinning the rock at the combine is proof this guy is serious ab being a Star… Too bad he won’t have a star on his helmet.

    Christian Ponder lit up the Senior Bowl, I hope to see him spin the Rock as well!

    Von Miller’s 40 time will be the talk of ESPN.

    Houston from Georgia will light up the combine too, he is projected late first but will move up.

    The RB back from MD… Should make some money at the combine too…

  7. Pingback: Dallas Cowboys Potential Draft Pick in 2011: Ben Ijalana, OT/OG, Villanova | Dallas Cowboys Times

  8. Tyrone–You talked about Ijalana…I just posted my report on him. LOVE him. Top-15 on my current board.

  9. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Just read it. Thanks bro.

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