Stretching the field is a must for the Bengals, and Tate's combine showing thrust him squarely onto Cincinnati's radar screen. He ran a 4.42 officially, though some stop watches had his 40 each faster, and his route running and catching skills earned him a thumbs up from personnel men across the league. Tate was ready for his close-up, and he now looks like first-round material.
Graham isn't the only collegiate defensive end who exited the combine looking ready to handle the move to a 3-4 outside linebacker slot. One of the biggest surprises in Indy was the strong work turned in by TCU's Jerry Hughes, who could sneak into the bottom third of the first round. But Graham's track record for making plays in the backfield still carries a lot of weight in New England, and his great motor and proven track record help to make up for his lack of ideal size.
The Packers could take a cornerback like Rutgers' Devin McCourty if they don't like their options at offensive line with this pick. Tackle is their position of greatest need, but Pouncey is the highest remaining offensive lineman, and he could probably easily transition to guard if need be. USC offensive tackle Charles Brown showed well at the combine and may continue to rise into Green Bay's field of vision.
Mays will make it three safeties in the first round, and that's quite a feat when you consider that only one safety (the Giants' Kenny Phillips) was selected in the first round the past two years combined. Of Mays, one scout told me: "Mays is such a freak athletically. He's not as good a player as Eric Berry and Earl Thomas, but all three will go in the first round. You have to ignore the tape a bit with Mays, but somebody will fall in love with him.''
I know it's hard to imagine the draft's top-rated receiver falling this far, but we could have said the same thing in 1998, when Randy Moss tumbled to the Vikings at No. 21. Bryant didn't impress NFL decision makers in Indy from a maturity standpoint, and he's got about seven weeks to overcome the perception that he's potential trouble. The Ravens will be thrilled if he falls to them. Baltimore isn't afraid of character-issue players and always feels it has the locker room/team structure to keep a wayward player in line.
The arrow continues to point up for Weatherspoon, who followed up his strong Senior Bowl showing with all the right numbers and a good workout in Indy. Adding some youth at linebacker is a priority for Arizona, and Weatherspoon is versatile enough to play outside or inside.
I'm trying not to over-think this one. The Cowboys need some youth at offensive tackle, and Brown seems deserving of a bottom-of-the-first-round grade coming out of Indianapolis. If Taylor Mays should last until No. 27, Dallas jumps all over him. But I don't see that happening post-combine.
The Chargers are likely in the market for not one but two running backs this offseason, especially if Darren Sproles signs elsewhere, as expected. Mathews ran a speedy 4.41 at the combine, and the feeling is he has moved ahead of everyone but Spiller in the running back grades.
I'm a bit stuck for good options for the Jets because they need more pass rush and a receiver, but would probably have to reach a bit here to fill either one of those needs. After that roasting by the Colts and Peyton Manning in the AFC title game, another cornerback would help too. We're giving them McCourty, the local kid/Rutgers product, who most scouts think deserves a late first-round grade. He ran well enough (4.48) in Indy and flashed solid athleticism in drill work.
Unless the Vikings have a high grade on any of the available cornerbacks (Virginia's Chris Cook, Alabama's Kareem Jackson and FSU's Patrick Robinson), finding the eventual replacement for aging defensive tackle Pat Williams makes the most sense. The value on the board is a nice fit for Minnesota's need, because both Odrick and UCLA's Brian Price should be available. There's a decent chance the Vikings target a cornerback in free agency. Perhaps Dunta Robinson?
The Colts are likely to beef up one of their lines with this selection, and Price's grade figures to be higher than the remaining offensive linemen, unless Florida center Maurkice Pouncey falls this far. If the choice is between Odrick and Price, the Penn State standout could get the nod.
The Saints' desire to upgrade their athleticism at outside linebacker dovetails nicely with the rise of Hughes, who opened some eyes in Indy with his fluid moves in coverage, his speed and his pass-rush burst. Even if strong-side linebacker Scott Fujita re-signs with New Orleans, Hughes would offer an upgrade over Scott Shanle on the weakside.
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