A heaping helping of notes and quotes that remained in my notebook after a four-day stay at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, an event that seems to grow exponentially larger each and every February ...
• One longtime league personnel evaluator I know had an insightful comparison about the rise up the draft board that is projected for Illinois running back
"He reminds me so much of
Mendenhall took his predraft buzz to a new level Sunday with a superb workout at the RCA Dome, which was capped by his 4.45 showing in the 40-yard dash, a great time for a back his size (5-10, 225 pounds). While Mendenhall still may be the second back taken, behind Arkansas'
• Thanks to the Giants' Super Bowl success -- don't ever forget that imitation is the highest form of flattery in the NFL -- the "hot'' position in the league at the moment is speed-rushing defensive end. Everybody's on the lookout in this draft for the next
Rest assured that the rest of the NFL saw what constant pass pressure did to the vaunted Patriots' offense. Generating pass rush has always been important, but now that so many offenses like to spread the field and flood the field with receivers, pressuring the passer is more critical than ever.
Fortunately this year's draft looks fairly rich in speed rushers. At defensive end, the names to know are Virginia's
Gholston, another potential outside linebacker in the 3-4, probably helped himself at the combine as much as any other defensive lineman. The junior ran a 4.67 40, did a whopping 37 reps, and had an impressive workout Monday that seemed to cement his top 10 status. Gholston had a three-sack game against Michigan last season, and one of them came against the Wolverines' standout offensive tackle
"I love playing defensive end,'' Gholston said at the combine. "I love getting after the quarterback and affecting the game that way. If you've got a front four that can control the game, you're destined for championships. That was proven the way [the Giants] were able to take advantage of their speed and get to the quarterback.''
• Although NFL sources I talked to downplayed any real concerns about the lingering effects of a 2006 right tibia injury suffered by LSU defensive tackle
Ellis was more impressive than any other player at the Senior Bowl last month, and some would not be surprised if the 6-0, 309-pound fire hydrant of a run-stuffer -- who can also generate inside pass pressure -- winds up in serious contention for Miami's No. 1 overall pick. The Dolphins, under
If the Dolphins pass on Ellis, he still could be attractive to No. 2 St. Louis, No. 3 Atlanta, No. 4 Oakland -- where he would be
Ellis's short but stout stature could be a plus in terms of getting leverage on taller offensive linemen. "A lot of people like taller tackles but I think my height is just great,'' he said. "You get these big 6-5 linemen and I can get up underneath them and uproot them out of what they're trying to do. Leverage works to my advantage a lot.''
It's just a gut, but I have a feeling that before draft season is done, Ellis is going to climb over Dorsey and be the top-rated defensive tackle available.
• It happens every year to a handful of players, but in my eyes nobody has fallen further faster than Kentucky quarterback
But not much has gone right for Woodson since, and he followed up his poor Senior Bowl showing by electing to not throw at the combine due to a tender hamstring. Woodson said he'll throw for NFL scouts at Kentucky's pro day on March 5 in Lexington.
Even in the quarterback-starved league that the NFL is, questions about the accuracy of his arm and his decision-making figure to keep Woodson from being drafted any higher than the fourth round.
• Speaking of Kentucky area quarterbacks, Louisville's
Rather than playing for Petrino in a proven offensive system as a senior, Brohm at times appeared to be outside his comfort zone last season. He struggled behind an offensive line that at times exposed his arm as less than top-notch in terms of strength and accuracy.
The other way that Brohm was hurt by Petrino's coaching moves came in December, when the first-year Falcons coach resigned after 13 games in order to return to the collegiate ranks, at Arkansas. The quarterback-needy Falcons were thought to be a logical landing spot for Brohm in the first round if Petrino remained in Atlanta.
Brohm had a solid workout for scouts Sunday in Indianapolis, but his lack of superior arm strength showed up on deep patterns, and one AFC personnel man told me that it's entirely possible Delaware's
• The Panthers put the franchise tag on offensive tackle
Gross is said to have turned down an offer Carolina felt was substantial, an indication to the Panthers that he intends to play out 2008 at the $7.45 million franchise tender and try to re-enter free agency next year. Carolina, of course, could choose to re-apply the franchise tag to Gross in 2009.
• On another Panthers' personnel front, the Carolina source said the team feels pretty comfortable at quarterback with the rehabilitation of
Delhomme, 33, is said to be doing well and on schedule to recover in time from the elbow injury that ended his season in September. He underwent
As for Moore, he looks like he's firmly in Carolina's backup slot for now, with
• While I still expect someone -- and the Eagles and Saints appear to be the most likely suitors -- to give free-agent cornerback
As one longtime NFL personnel man said at the combine: "Samuel is a good cornerback, but he's one of the biggest guessers in the league. He guesses a lot, and he can look great when he guesses right. But he really needs a pass rush to help him. You can't leave him out there in coverage too long, because that's how a cornerback who guesses can look bad. He has guessed right a lot with New England, but usually when the Patriots were able to put some heat on the passer.''
• I loved
"I've heard it said that one of the best theories in free agency is to survive the first week,'' Reinfeldt said. "The first seven days, just sit back and watch things happen, because that's when all the foolish things happen. At the same time, if you find a unique individual you think fits your needs perfectly and there is only guy out there, then you should not be afraid to jump in and get that guy.''
• Virginia's Long, the son of NFL Hall of Fame defensive lineman
Tennessee State cornerback