As combine hype machine revs up, two players have lots at stake
So we're at the official beginning of draft season, with the annual Scouting Combine starting later this week in Indianapolis. Here's what we know as the 333 college prospects pack for the Heartland:
You'd probably have to go back to 1997 to find a draft like this one. That's the year Peyton Manning eschewed the prospect of going to the Jets first overall to play for Bill Parcells and returned for his senior year at Tennessee. One quarterback (shaky Jim Druckenmiller, 26th) picked in round one. Two backs (Warrick Dunn 12th and Antowain Smith 23rd) in round one, and four receivers in the first: Ike Hilliard seventh, Yatil Green 15th, Reidel Anthony 16th and Rae Carruth 27th. Yikes! What a horrible draft for point-producers. One star, Dunn, out of seven first-rounders.
That could repeat this year. It's likely Alabama's Eddie Lacy will be the only running back taken in round one. Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson leads the muddled pack at wide receiver, but how sure can you really be of junior-college transfers who play one year of major-college football, which is Patterson's profile?
The quarterbacks are a total mish-mosh at this point. One GM interested in acquiring a quarterback this offseason told me over the weekend, "I expect more attention on the quarterbacks throwing this year than on any other single thing at the Combine.'' Some think Geno Smith of West Virginia will go first overall to quarterback-needy Kansas City; one personnel man who studied all the top quarterbacks for a team in need of one last fall told me, "There's not one quarterback, including Smith, I would take in the first round."
Two points about that. If you need a quarterback, you can talk brave in February, but when reality sets in around draft day, and you haven't picked up a quarterback in free agency, all of a sudden the zits on Smith, Matt Barkley and other others don't seem as bad. And we're nine and a half weeks from round one. There's no way that Andy Reid and John Dorsey, the coach and GM for Kansas City, know what they're doing now. They need time to investigate and to watch tape on the eight or 10 quarterbacks.
But in some ways, 2013 should be a catchup year for the other positions. Opening day 2013 could feature 12 starting quarterbacks drafted in 2011 and '12; that's far, far above the norm in a game that values veteran arms at the position.
Now for a couple of notes about players at the Combine.
Ogletree and agent Pat Dye were smart to come out and beat the police blotter to the punch. As for the damage done by the arrest, Ogletree, who is a speed demon for an inside player, the kind of player who, if right, would be a perfect fit as a rare three-down inside linebacker for any team, has to convince teams they shouldn't be worried about a player who has tested positive, been suspended, and gotten a DWI in the span of about nine months.
Some GM is going to stake his reputation on Ogletree in the first round, most likely. Which GM? It would have to be a secure one. Green Bay's Ted Thompson or de facto GM Bill Belichick of the Patriots or Baltimore's Ozzie Newsome, all down near the bottom of the round.
No men have more on the line, off the field, at the Scouting Combine than Ogletree and Te'o.
Finally, three players I'll be watching at the Combine, three with question marks and debatable upsides:
The NFL opened a three-day coaching symposium, the third-annual NFL-NCAA Coaches Academy for 60 coaches and coaching prospects, with a keynote speech by Carolina head coach Ron Rivera. The roster of participants includes 28 former NFL players and nine current players. And though the symposium is open to all coaches with fewer than eight years of professional experience, the league certainly hopes to be able to use programs like this one to improve a recently poor record of adding minority coaches to the coordinator and head coaching ranks.
"This was a younger group, with a lot of guys just getting into coaching,'' said Rivera after his speech to the coaches. Rivera is Hispanic. "My message to them was pretty simple: Keep preparing yourself. I interviewed nine times before I got an offer. You see others get jobs, and you wish it was you. But you have to stick with it, and I did, and I got an opportunity.''
Rivera believes symposiums such as this one are important to develop long-term plans for young coaches. He also thinks -- as do many minority coaches, such as Cincinnati assistant Hue Jackson, the former Raiders head coach -- that interacting with owners in social settings is important, and something the league should do.
"One thing I really felt was important, and I shared this with the coaches tonight, is learning how you did after you went for the interview,'' said Rivera. "I remember sitting with Roger Goodell after I'd had a couple of interviews, and he asked me how the interviews had gone. I'd talked to Pittsburgh, Detroit, St. Louis and Dallas. And [Detroit president] Tom Lewand walked by, and Roger asked him to come over and he said to Tom, 'Tell Ron what he needs to do to improve.' And Tom told me a few things that I needed to hear. So I felt one of the things that was important to me advancing in the process was being able to debrief a team after I didn't get the job. I told that to the guys tonight -- find out what you can do better the next time.''
It's a great idea for the league to put former players into situations like this conference. Some interesting names are attending: former corner Terrell Buckley, now an assistant at Akron; Pitt receivers coach Bobby Engram; and longtime NFL defenders Cato June and Levon Kirkland, both high school head coaches. The NFL has to keep thinking of ideas like this one to make coaching an attractive career alternative for players leaving the game.
Quote of the Week I
"There is no quarterback where personnel guys can definitely say, 'He's a first-round pick.' There were so many inconsistencies in the collective group. There was not one guy that stood up and said, 'I'm the guy in the position this year.' There are too many technical flaws, scheme flaws. There are so many different variables that there are a lot of people all over the place on naming the top four or five guys and who those guys would be."
Quote of the Week II
"He's going to play it outdoors in New York."
Don't you get the feeling that, whenever possible, David Stern likes to put the needle into the NFL?
Quote of the Week III
"He was awful. He tells us he works out, but we didn't see it. He wasn't in shape."
Stat of the Week I
On draft day they could. For the past few seasons, the Patriots have led the league in moving and shaking around on draft day, using extra picks to move up and down and to acquire even more extra picks the following season. But now Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio could be passing the ownership of draft weekend to Trent Baalke and the 49ers.
2013 draft picks as of today: San Francisco 14 (including three projected compensatory picks), New England 5.
The Niners will have eight picks in the first five rounds and six in the final two -- including a compensatory in either the third or fourth round, and two in the seventh. The Patriots have three picks in the first five rounds. They lost their fourth-rounder to Tampa Bay in the Aqib Talib deal, their fifth to Washington in the Albert Haynesworth deal and their sixth to Cincinnati in the Chad Johnson deal. Ouch: Neither Haynesworth nor Johnson played in the NFL last year.
Two potential advantages to the Niners, who didn't have much use for either of their first two picks last year because of a roster clogged with talent: They may be able to do what they did last year in the draft and deal current picks for better future ones; the Niners acquired extra third-, fifth- and sixth-round picks in draft deals last year. And they may have the ability to deal multiple picks for a player (Darrelle Revis?) or pick (way up in the first round, for a Dee Milliner). The Niners are going to be a very interesting team to watch come April -- the way the Patriots have been for years, or at least until this year.
Stat of the Week II
Money raised for pediatric cancer research by Penn State students over the long weekend through the annual 46-hour THON dance marathon: $12,374,034.46.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
According to the
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week
So American and USAirways are merging. Good deal. I don't like either one -- well, that's not really fair; I really dislike USAirways and am ambivalent (but try to avoid) American.
Here's my rating of some of our air carriers, apropos of nothing. My criteria are selfish ones; if an airline treats me great and I hear horror stories about it, I love it. If an airline lost my luggage, I hate it. I used to hate Delta; now I love Delta. So, basically, these ratings are utterly worthless. To anyone but me. So here goes.
I didn't include others I've flown, like British Air and Korean Air. I even flew an airline called Suckling Airways in Europe about 10 years ago. I didn't think they were relevant, and in some cases, I've flown them only once, so it's tough to judge them.
Fourth annual Scouting Combine Tweetup! It's happening at 6:30 Saturday night at the Emmis Communications headquarters on Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis.
Over the years, many of you have asked what a Tweetup is. It's very complex, but I'll try to simplify it. Football fans come, football journalists stand there, fans ask questions, we answer them, and, hopefully, we all have 12 ounces of beer along the way. (Maybe more, if you behave.)
I'll be there. The Tweetup in Indianapolis has been ably organized, as usual, by veteran local scribe Will Carroll, and this year we'll have
Tickets are necessary, but free. They can be picked up (along with an excellent beer) at Sun King Brewing starting Thursday at 5 p.m. and stretching though the day on Saturday.
Will tells me: Do not come to Emmis without a ticket. Follow
Looking forward to seeing several of you there Saturday night.
Tweet of the Week I
"There is no defense being played. This is a disgrace! They should cancel the nba all-star game!"
Tweet of the Week II
"One of those stories you don't imagine coming, but we don't really know these people we deify. We really don't."
Tweet of the Week III
"BREAKING: Pope Benedict steps down February 28. March 1, checks into Miami anti-aging clinic."
Tweet of the Week IV
"There was just a proposal at Seton Hall-Syracuse. Her initial reaction was what you'd expect for a woman proposed to at a Seton Hall game."
Ten Things I Think I Think
Why is it an issue now? Because I'm sure Dimitroff has told Gonzalez he'd like a decision before the draft (and probably before free agency begins on March 12) because the tight end is so important in the Atlanta offense that the Falcons can't afford to just go bargain-basement shopping on July 15 if Gonzalez waited that long to give them a decision. My sense is Gonzalez is probably feeling out his TV opportunities -- he'd be a natural -- and trying to see if there's a good TV job that would allow him to begin his conversion to the real world in 2013. But the situation is fluid, at least, now.
a. We'll find out the truth about the Oscar Pistorius murder rap in due time. But I re-read the
I recall being at the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 what a big gun culture it was, with so many citizens worried about home invasions, and then, reading about how many weapons Pistorius kept in the house, along with a baseball bat and a cricket bat. For a man with what is appearing to be a notorious temper, the marriage of all those weapons and Pistorius was not a good one.
b. Speaking of guns, I loved seeing the families of the six murdered Newtown teachers and administrators honored by the president the other day. Never forget Newtown.
c. Somehow I've caught a virus that I can't shake, and so the two weeks since the Super Bowl -- even including three days away doing nothing but reading -- I've been fairly out of it. Sorry for the shorter columns the last couple of weeks. Feels like it's all I can do to get this much out.
e. Also polished off a Grisham effort that I'd somehow missed:
f. A day late wishing a happy 50th to Michael Jordan (somehow, I don't think he reads this column), who I'll always remember as the freshman carrying the film projector and the eight canisters of film on the New Orleans airport the morning after his 16-footer from the left elbow won the National Championship for North Carolina over Georgetown three decades ago. As teammate Matt Doherty told me: "The freshman always carries the film and the film projector."
g. Thanks, Greg Bedard, for catching my gaffe on the film review of the Super Bowl. I said only the Jim Harbaugh timeout took away the opportunity for Colin Kaepernick to have one chance to run for the go-ahead touchdown inside the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter. But as Bedard pointed out, the back judge came running in to whistle a delay-of-game call on the Niners on the play. So even without the timeout, Kaepernick wouldn't have been able to run the ball left ... and maybe into the end zone. I watched the tape again, and Bedard was right -- the official in the last half-second before the camera comes off him runs into the picture and begins to signal for a delay.
h. Coffeenerdness: Took my recyclable Starbucks cup in for a latte the other day, and the guy at the register wrote down my order on a regular paper cup. "No,'' I said. "I've got the recyclable cup." The guy said he understood, put the paper cup inside the recyclable one, and the barista made the drink -- inside the recyclable cup -- and then threw the paper cup away. "That's ... not ... exactly ... what I had in mind when I bought this recyclable cup,'' I said, but the barista had nine more drinks to make, and so I just walked out. Learned my lesson a couple days later -- had the barista write in permanent marker my usual order on the side of the recyclable cup. And that, truly, is a coffeenerdy note.
i. Beernerdness: Red Stripe. On a warm day, in the middle of the day, when you're not feeling great ... I mean, I could do a commercial for Jamaica's finest.
j. Strongly recommend you find time to watch
The Adieu Haiku
The Scouting Combine, in Indianapolis: Rev up, hype machine.