Every year someone goes crazy at the combine and comes away with an incredible performance. While not all of the drills are directly correlated to success on the field, perhaps one of the more appropriate tests for a defensive tackle is the bench press. For a measure of pure strength, it is at least partially representative of a player’s ability.
Certainly there is much more that goes into making a great defensive tackle in the NFL, but every elite NFL tackle possesses great strength. Today, Oregon St. DT Stephen Paea made history on the bench press at the NFL Combine with an astonishing 49 reps. The young man came very close to knocking out an even 50 and he broke the record by an amazing 4 reps.
Who knows what this man will develop into on the NFL gridiron, but for one day he made some serious noise in the NFL!
Here is the video of Stephen Paea’s record breaking Bench Press test.
Ryan Mallett may have the best arm in the entire NFL Draft, but questions about his character and specifically drug use are significantly devaluing his draft stock. Mallett was incredible statistically for the Arkansas Razorbacks after transferring from Michigan, but he came up consistently small in big games. That, coupled with the questions of drug use and abuse are causing NFL coaches, scouts, and executives to have serious concerns about the young man.
Brian Bilick is currently doing analysis for the NFL Network and when asked about Ryan Mallett he had some troubling comments. Billick actually went so far as to compare Mallett to Ryan Leaf and Billick questioned the whispers of drug abuse throughout Mallett’s collegiate career.
The NFL Network also played the media session that Mallett had and USA Today wrote about the media session as well. The very first question posed to Mallett was about his rumored drug use/abuse and Mallett took a Mark McGuire-esque approach providing this as his response:
“First one, huh? I’m not gonna talk about that right now.”
He was repeatedly asked about the alleged drug use and he repeatedly rebuffed reporters by saying that he would be happy to address these questions with NFL teams and that he had already spoken with some teams about the allegations.
“You can talk man to man, and that’s important for all of us.” He also added “I would say I’m a great person, but ask the coaches.”
I certainly do not want to allege anything regarding a young man that I don’t know anything about, especially that he has used, abused, or may have been possibly addicted to drugs, but there are reports of just that. Tony Softli of 101 ESPN in St. Louis reported that “heavy rumors of drug use and possible addiction kept him (Mallett) from coming out for the 2010 draft.”
Some reports allege use of marijuana and other unspecified, “harder” drugs but nothing concrete has been thus far reported. To my knowledge, Mallett has never failed a drug test in college or for the NFL Combine.
Unfortunately, in today’s age of media, it is probably irrelevant that Mallett has never failed a drug test or that there has been no concrete evidence to suggest that he has a drug problem. At this point, there is smoke and the rumors only appear to be gaining strength and comparisons to Ryan Leaf will do nothing to help Mallett’s draft stock.
I have no idea if there is any truth to the whispers and allegations of drug use, but I know that NFL teams will uncover every rock and do everything they can to determine the truth. While the rumors are creating a media firestorm for Mallett, I hope for his sake that the NFL teams do their job and base their decision on the facts they uncover rather than media allegations and innuendo.
Here is the video of Mallet’s media session at the combine:
You may remember the war of words between Seattle Seahawks QB Matthew Hasselbeck and New York Jets CB (for now anyways) Antonio Cromartie a few weeks back. Cromartie, as is the norm, was experiencing some diarrhea of the mouth and was speaking out against the players union as it relates to the current labor strife. Hasselbeck took a shot at Cromartie on his twitter and then deleted the following tweet:
“Somebody ask Cromartie if he knows what CBA stands for.”
Cromartie, of course, responded in a way only he can:
Well, based on Cromartie’s twitter feed over the weekend, he and Hasselbeck appear to have kissed and made up. Cromartie posted the following comment and picture showing the two spending some quality time together:
I don’t know about you, but those look like some forced, fake smiles! I would be that someone from the union got ahold of these two and talked them into “kissing & making up” to help the union appear to have a united front as they approach the end of the current CBA on March 3rd.
Much has been made of the trade between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Clippers which sent Mo Williams and Jamario Moon to L.A. in exchange for controversy-laden and Donald Sterling nemesis, Baron Davis. But for the Cavaliers, the crux of the trade surrounded the Clippers unprotected 1st round pick.
In the NBA, teams can trade their draft picks which can be fully unprotected as in this instance, or protected. In the case of a protected pick, teams can determine the terms of the protection so that if the pick ends up being a lottery pick, a top 5 pick or the #1 overall pick, they are able to keep the pick and the team which acquired it in a trade misses out.
The Clippers’ pick that was sent to Cleveland was projected to be the #8 overall pick at the time of the trade but can be no worse than the bottom of the lottery. For the Cavaliers, who will likely possess no worse than the #3 overall pick assuming they remain the worst team in the NBA (seemingly a pretty safe bet), this is an extremely valuable trade in order to speed up the rebuilding process. For a team that is unable to bring in big ticket free agents, having two lottery picks is invaluable to the rebuilding process.
There may be a slight hitch in the savvy trade pulled off by the Cavaliers (and the penny-pinching trade executed by the Clippers), however. Roto World has reported that Lisa Dillman of the L.A. Times has confirmed that Baron Davis failed his outgoing physical with the Clippers and is expected to fail his incoming physical with the Cavaliers due to his “gimpy and swollen right knee.” This also explains the delay in Davis’ reporting to Cleveland.
This news is not expected to hold up the trade, however, as for the Cavaliers, the trade was all about that #1 pick. They won’t say it publicly, but anything Baron Davis does to help the Cavaliers is just a bonus. If he never stepped foot onto the floor at Quicken Loans Arena they would still be thrilled with the trade.
Publicly, head coach Byron Scott (who has had an extremely bumpy relationship with Baron Davis during their days in New Orleans) will tell you that Baron can still be a top-flight point guard and that he expects him to eventually start for the Cavs. This is likely “coach-speak” intended to motivate Davis and get his full effort if and when he arrives. Many fans and local sportswriters question that strategy as young point guard, Ramon Sessions has made significant progress and shows a great deal of potential.
Baron Davis was originally reported to be extremely unhappy with the trade to Cleveland and many questioned his attitude and dedication he would show once he arrived. Davis tweeted during the Cavaliers victory over the Knicks, however, that he was excited to play alongside J.J. Hickson. By all accounts he and Byron Scott have patched up the relationship, but it may be a moot point due to this report.
Technically, if Baron fails his physical the Cavs could ask for additional compensation or even void the trade. It’s possible that they will ask for additional compensation, but even if they are denied I don’t see a scenario in which they will void the trade and forfeit the coveted unprotected 1st round pick.
As we enter Saturday and Sunday of the 2011 NFL combine we finally start to see position drills, athletic tests, and the ever “important” 40 yard dash. Savvy NFL scouts and analysts will be quick to point out that the combine tests are only a very small portion of the equation when evaluating NFL prospects but that doesn’t stop us from freaking out about a ridiculous 40 time or incredible combine showing does it?
So who are the most intriguing prospects to watch in the combine over the weekend? I’m not necessarily going with who I think will have the best performances, but I’m looking at overall aura of a player, what they have to gain and lose, and some lesser known prospects who can catapult into the early rounds with a good showing.
10. Robert Sands, Safety:
Sands is a junior safety for West Virginia who possesses rare size and athleticism for the safety position. He is 6′ 5″, 221 pounds (according to the official combine measurements) and can run. His size reminds many scouts of Taylor Mays and Sean Taylor and if he’s able to test well over the weekend he could climb draft boards very quickly. This draft lacks depth at safety that we saw in last year’s draft with Eric Berry, Earl Thomas, Taylor Mays, T.J. Ward and others and NFL scouts will absolutely drool over this kid if he’s able to run anything in the 4.5 range or better.
I don’t think he can move into the 1st round, but there is a real chance that he could be considered the best safety prospect with a great showing.
9. Von Miller, LB:
The stud LB from Texas A&M measured in at 6’3″ 243 pounds in Indianapolis and his play on the field has established him as one of the premier players in the entire draft. Now, nearly regardless of what he does this weekend, he will be a top 5 pick as his production on the field speaks for itself. But from what I’ve seen in limited spots, he has the ability to be the best NFL player in the draft.
I’m curious to see just how good this kid is and I want to see how he tests out this weekend. If he can demonstrate athletic ability and speed anywhere near Patrick Willis (who many say Miller reminds them of), he will assuredly be a top 5 pick or better and he will become one of the most coveted players in the draft. With the right defensive system in the NFL, this guy could be a perennial All-Pro. I can’t wait to see him run this weekend.
8. Jimmy Smith, CB:
Smith measured in at 6’2″, 205 pounds at the combine which is enormous for a CB. He is projected as having the ability to run a sub 4.4 40 which would put him in rare company with players like Antonio Cromartie. For a CB in the NFL to have the incredible size at 6’2″ and to be able to run step for step with the fastest WRs in the NFL, it places them in high demand.
Smith isn’t just a freakish athlete, he was a standout at Colorado and with a great showing this weekend at the combine he could jump into the first round. While there is likely nothing he can do to jump Patrick Peterson or Prince Amukamara, he can position himself to be the 3rd CB selected and you never know, there’s a chance that someone like the Raiders could be so enamored with his rare size and speed that they reach for him early in the 1st round. If he runs a 4.5, he’s a JAG (just another guy), but if he can run a 4.35 as many believe he can, he becomes one of the incredible freaks and most intriguing prospects in the draft.
7. J.J. Watt, DE:
The monster DE from Wisconsin measured in at 6’5″, 290 pounds at the combine. He was an absolute beast on the field for the Badgers and while he isn’t getting the hype that the other DE’s and defenders are, he has tremendous potential in the NFL. He is eerily reminiscent of Jared Allen in terms of size and ability and while it would be foolish to say that he will be the same player that Allen is at this point, he has great potential.
If Watt is able to perform favorably to the other top DE prospects in Quinn and Bowers, he could jump into the top 10. Some already project him in the top 10 but a great weekend will move him up draft boards all across the NFL.
6. Patrick Peterson, CB:
Peterson is considered by all to be among the top 5 to 10 prospects in the draft and is projected to be at worst, a top 10 pick. There have been questions by some NFL scouts, however, that while Peterson is an elite talent, that he is best suited at safety in the NFL. Peterson is listed at 6’1″, 211 pounds according to the combine results which reminds many of Pro Bowl CB, Nnamdi Asomugha.
The issue for Peterson, though, is if NFL teams select him with intent to play safety, there is a significant difference in contracts as opposed to cornerback. Who knows how the new CBA and potential rookie wage scale will affect this, but all things being equal, Peterson wants to demonstrate that he can be an elite CB in the NFL.
To do this, he will need to perform well over the weekend and run well in the 40. Recent history shows us that the 40 doesn’t necessarily make or break the draft for CBs. Look to Joe Haden’s sub-par 40 time in the combine last year which was thought to scare off some teams. He was selected at #7 overall by the Browns and had an outstanding rookie year. Peterson will not want to leave anything to chance, however, and if he’s able to run in the low to sub 4.5 range, he will secure his position as the #1 CB selected and will likely be a top 7 pick at the very least.
5. Cam Newton, QB:
I list Newton only because of the ridiculous level of intrigue and interest and not based on his ability to help or hurt his stock. Sure, an absolutely awful showing at the combine wouldn’t be good for the QB from Auburn, but it wouldn’t be a deathblow. The biggest and most important part of Newton’s combine experience is the interview process and the way he handles the media. He has already mis-stepped significantly with some of his comments leading up to the combine. As you may have already heard, Newton displayed diarrhea of the mouth by saying that he not only wanted to be a good athlete, but he wanted to be an “entertainer and an icon”.
With that said, however, if Newton is able to run a ridiculous 40 in the 4.5 or 4.4 range, the ridiculous hype surrounding him will only grow. He has already jumped up many mock drafts into the top 5 and in some instances in the top 3 and an incredible showing over the weekend will only help to feed the hype machine. His official measurables from the combine were 6’5″, 248 pounds which puts him in rare company as far as pure physical size and athleticism.
4. Mark Ingram, RB:
Ingram had an incredible collegiate career winning a Heisman and a national championship, but he is rarely thought of as a great prospect. The fact that he’s not flashy or considered a ‘game-breaker’ causes the media to neglect him nearly completely. I doubt NFL scouts are forgetting about Mark Ingram though. While not flashy, he is an uber-talented, durable running back. Ingram is a little undersized, however at 5’9″ and 215 pounds, but he compares favorably to current players like Rashard Mendenhall.
Even without a great weekend, I believe Ingram will be just fine in the draft and have a great NFL career. But if he’s able to dispel some of the perception that he can’t run and get into at least the mid 4.5 range, I really think he will skyrocket in the coming weeks heading into the draft. If, on the other hand, he runs a 4.8 like Maurice Clarett, it will scare off at least some NFL scouts and executives.
3. A.J. Green, WR:
I’m not listing A.J. because he needs to perform well in order to solidify his status or draft position, but he is one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft. Some consider him the best overall player in the draft and at 6’4″, 211 pounds with the ability to get separation and attack the ball in the air, I see why. Regardless of his combine tests, Green will be a top 5 pick, but if he’s able to put together incredible times in the 40, the shuttle and in the vertical, he will solidify himself as one of the most coveted prospects in the draft. For Green, if he’s able to run anything in the 4.4 range, he will be one of the most hyped WR prospects in recent years.
He’s roughly the same size as Randy Moss, but he is said to lack the breakaway speed of Moss or Calvin Johnson. Hell, everyone lacks the breakaway speed that Moss possessed coming out of college, but if Green can demonstrate that he can flat out run by NFL defenders, he automatically becomes one of the most dangerous and coveted weapons in the draft.
2. Da’Quan Bowers, DE:
While Bowers is already projected by many to be the #1 overall pick, he has the opportunity this weekend to solidify that position. Bowers measured 6’3″ at the combine, a full inch shorter than he had been listed previously. Perhaps not that big of a deal big picture, but we all know that NFL scouts pick every single thing apart when evaluating talent. At 280 pounds, the Clemson standout has shown rare athleticism and speed for a man of his size.
If he’s able to run in the 4.6 or even 4.5 range and demonstrate great agility over the weekend, scouts will continue to swoon over the monster DE. If he doesn’t run well, however, and with questions about his drive and dedication starting to sprout up, there is a chance that he could fall. Bowers needs a great showing to maintain his position on NFL draft boards.
1. Robert Quinn, DE:
Robert Quinn entered the NCAA season as one of the most talented, ferocious, and coveted NFL prospects in all of college football. Unfortunately, he missed the entire season due to NCAA violations (yet Cam Newton was allowed to play and thrive). Because he was absent for the entire season, players like DaQuan Bowers, Von Miller, and Nick Fairley stole the spotlight and catapulted to the top of the draft.
As we approach the draft, however, Quinn is gaining more attention and scouts are remembering what makes this guy special. Quinn is projected to run in the 4.6 or better range and possess an incredible vertical leap. He should perform very well in the agility drills and if he’s able to test as well as he’s projected, he has the ability to make the biggest move in the draft.
Yes, Quinn is already projected as a top 7 pick by all accounts (and that’s the worst case). But with his size (6’4″, 265) and athleticism, coupled with his incredible production on the filed, he has the ability to jump to top of the draft. With no consensus #1, players from Bowers to Fairley, to Newton. Quinn has a rare combination of size, speed, and power and he could demonstrate incredible versatility with the right system in the NFL. While much of the hype has gone to Cam Newton, Quinn has a real shot at stealing the show over the weekend and for years to come.
The Detroit Lions have finally begun to turn the franchise around and recover from the Matt Millen era, but reports that came from the Detroit Free Press today will make that recovery just a little bit harder. The NFL has determined that the Lions violated the league’s anti-tampering rules with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Specifically, this ruling will cost the Lions a 7th round draft pick and they will be forced to trade spots with the Chiefs in the 5th round which will cost them 14 spots in that round. The news is surprising to me as I had seen no previous reports that they were under investigation or that a ruling was imminent.
According to the report, the findings stem from comments made by Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham last February to the Detroit Free Press about pursuing unnamed Chiefs players in free agency. Cunningham also coached for the Chiefs. The Lions are also allegedly guilty of having impermissible contact with safety Jarrad Page and/or his agent.
Cunningham’s comments that landed the team in this situation are as follows:
The Chiefs “keep wanting to dump players. I would like to be there to catch a lot of them, because I know a couple of those guys.”
Head coach Jim Schwartz was understandably upset with the NFL’s ruling and said “I believe firmly in our case, and I think we’ve reached the wrong conclusion in that. We still have some more options that we can pursue in that case.”
When asked if he would appeal the decision he added “That’s one of the options that we’ll consider. Like I said, we probably spoke a little bit too much about that case for something that should be confidential. And I think I’ll just leave it there with that.”
Now I don’t know about you, but Cunningham’s comments seemed awfully benign and certainly don’t warrant tampering charges in my opinion. I can’t speak to the contact the Lions had with Page or other players, but when you compare it to what Pat Riley, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat did in their pursuit of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, this is NOTHING!
Could you even imagine what would happen to the Heat if they were subject to the NFL tampering rules? They might even be forced to sell the team if the Lions had to forfeit a draft pick for this innocent of events!
For the Lions, who need all the draft picks they can get to continue to rebuild, this is the last thing they need. Schwartz agreed saying “It means that we have to do well on the five picks that we have. No different than if we had one or we have a dozen. It really doesn’t change.”
Yes, you can’t afford to miss on your picks and you have to have a great overall draft each and every year, but it certainly changes things for the Lions. 7th round pick or not, they need all the help they can get!
CBS Sports reports that the Sacramento Kings have filed for and received an extension to consider moving the team to Anaheim. As the Kings continue to struggle and the Maloofs who own the team are experiencing financial difficulties in one of their Las Vegas casinos, rumors have swirled about the possibility of the Kings moving from Sacramento.
Rumors have included Las Vegas but more plausibly, Anaheim. NBA Commissioner David Stern recently acknowledged discussions about a possible relocation and the Kings have requested additional time to consider the move. Despite the issues, the Maloofs have maintained that they will not sell the team but are open to the possibility of relocation.
According to this report, the NBA also wants time to review the potential move to Anaheim as they are “not sold” on Orange County. Some believe that the Maloofs are trying to apply pressure to Sacramento in order to obtain a new arena.
By all accounts, the Maloofs are willing to move the team unless a new arena is provided in Sacramento which will be a tough sell for voters.
The Cleveland Browns have multiple holes on their roster but two of the most glaring are wide receiver and defensive front seven. The Browns hold the #6 pick in a draft that is front end loaded with impact defensive lineman. The top part of the draft includes only one impact wide receiver, A.J. Green.
Many in Cleveland believe the Browns will target one of the impact defensive linemen such as Von Miller from Texas A&M, Nick Fairley of Auburn, Marcell Dareus of Alabama, or Da’Quan Bowers of Clemson. Also lurking out there is North Carolina standout Robert Quinn and stud defensive back Patrick Peterson from LSU.
Obviously, the Browns’ selection will be dependent upon other teams’ selections ahead of them, but it is certainly logical with the incredible depth on the defensive line that the Browns would fill that need with one of the many players who are worthy of the #6 selection.
Mike Holmgren may have other thoughts, however. Holmgren, who arrived in Indianapolis for the combine yesterday, told the media “I’m also looking for a home-run hitter.”
Now it wouldn’t be an NFL Draft without posturing, smokescreens, and flat out misinformation being spewed by each and every team in the NFL. There is no question though, that Holmgren has a unique affinity towards the offensive side of the ball. He fired a solid coach in my opinion in Eric Mangini largely because of the differing philosophies. Holmgren is intently focused on implementing his version of the West Coast Offense in Cleveland. So much so, that he handpicked surprise Head Coach Pat Shurmur due to his experience in running the offense under Andy Reid.
So even though you can never read too much into pre-draft comments, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Mike Holmgren stepped in and personally selected A.J. Green at #6. While Tom Heckert is charged with running the draft and developing the roster, Holmgren stepped in and personally selected Colt McCoy in last year’s draft.
Holmgren also added “We do have a lot of work to do on defense and it is a good draft for defense. But I think you have to be a little careful of thinking too much about needs so that you reach. I don’t want to do that. So our philosophy is to take the best player on our board once it’s set up. Now, if you have two guys that are really close, then we’d have a discussion on which to take.”
Many draft experts rank A.J. Green among the top overall players in the draft but I wouldn’t consider any of the defenders discussed above as a “reach” at #6. What Holmgren is saying, however, is if Green is their top rated player they will likely take him despite having glaring holes on the defensive front seven.
Again, it’s the draft and you can’t really listen to anything anyone says publicly so I wouldn’t put a lot of stock into these comments. But it does raise an intriguing issue because it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Holmgren fell in love with A.J. Green and made a move to get him should he be available at #6.
I know, I know. The big news last night was Carmelo Anthony‘s debut at Madison Square Garden and he didn’t disappoint. But Knicks fans have something else to be excited about after watching last night’s game. Chauncey Billups, Mr. Big Shot himself, was largely dismissed and discussed as basically a “throw-in” player in the blockbuster deal that sent ‘Melo to the Knicks.
Most consider him an aging player with diminishing skills and while he may not be the player he once was, he can still get it done! For a piece of the trade that was mostly written off as just a throw-in, he has the potential to be a huge part of the Knicks success this year and next. I know, most Knicks fans and male groupies don’t care until Chris Paul comes to the Garden, but Billups is a very solid piece to the puzzle.
There is no doubt that he’s a playoff proven, clutch player and he has tremendous experience playing with ‘Melo from their days in Denver. For a team with 4 new starters, that continuity and leadership cannot be overstated. Even in a drama filled first half in Denver this season he managed to average 16.5 ppg. He was even more impressive last night adding 21 points and 8 assists in the Knicks win over the Bucks.
Is Chauncey Billups the sexy addition that Chris Paul or Deron Williams would be? Of course not. But he’s a much better player, and a better immediate fit, than anyone has given him credit for since the trade. The Knicks, as any team that makes a move like this including the Heat, have huge holes to fill. But Chauncey removes one of those massive holes with a veteran, clutch, and capable point guard to lead the team.
Just ask the Heat how badly they would like to have a point guard with Billups’ skills for their playoff run. The Knicks aren’t going to win an NBA championship this year, but with Billups, they can do some serious damage in the playoffs.
While the NBA All-Star weekend was mostly entertaining, there was a certain dirty feeling associated with the weekend’s events. Especially that of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest which appeared to be more scripted and pre-determined than a cheesy WWE Pay-Per-View event.
Despite pulling off what appeared to most to be superior dunks, Serge Ibaka and DeMar DeRozan were swept under the rug in an effort to put the Golden Boy, Blake Griffin into the finals to allow him the chance to perform an average dunk over a Kia (official sponsor of the NBA mind you).
With Griffin playing in L.A. for the Clippers and the obvious attempt by the NBA to build Griffin into their next mega-star, there was little chance that anyone other than he would walk away victorious. The degree by which the event appeared to be scripted and pre-determined, however, was much more than I expected.
So much so, that Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan said that he is now finished competing in the Slam Dunk Contest unless the props are eliminated, this according to the Washington Post. I personally, have been adamantly against the use of props to aid in the dunk contest as I think it takes away from the true athleticism and creativity of the players. But who am I?
DeRozan, as a current NBA player and past performer (a very good one at that), however should carry a little more weight on the topic. When asked today if he thought he was robbed in the competition he said “I think so. I’m a dunker. Dunk contests, you go out there and dunk. I’m not into all the props and everything. I try to come out with a creative dunk and do it and go from there. My fans liked it and you can see the reaction from a lot of people afterward. If there’s a dunk contest next year I’ll do it. But not no prop dunk contest.”
Now, I wholeheartedly agree with what DeRozan is saying here but it must be pointed out that he is rumored to have planned perhaps the most elaborate and ridiculous ‘prop dunk’ for last weekend’s event. Just as rumors flew out about Griffin jumping over a car, rumors and pictures came out that DeRozan was planning to use a trampoline and a man in a chicken suit for one of his dunks.
Sure, he can still be against props and know that he had to use them in order to compete and win, but it’s worth pointing out.
DeRozan wasn’t the only one who was robbed in the contest as far as I’m concerned as Serge Ibaka had the best “foul line” dunk in the history of the contest. Hopefully, the NBA can get it right and do away with all the props and significantly reduce the number of missed dunks. While JaVale McGee had some incredible dunks, most were after 15 or so misses which made them far less impressive. The contest would be much more exciting if they enacted a “3 strike” rule to only allow contestants 3 misses before being disqualified for any given attempt.