Mar 6, 2011
In this series of articles related to the 2011 NFL Draft, we’ll take a look at the effects that the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine had–either positively or negatively–on well-known and lesser known draft prospects on both sides of the ball. These players demonstrated that they have the skills needed to potentially make an impact at the professional level. To be clear, the results of Combine tests and drills only go so far in determining future success. All we have to do is look at the professional careers of former top-five picks like Vince Young, JaMarcus Russell, Courtney Brown and Alex Smith to see that there’s no guarantee of future success. All these guys displayed drool-inducing abilities at the Scouting Combine, only to achieve very limited success or rather differing degrees of failure in their respective NFL careers. So while running the 40-yard dash in 4.35 seconds or recording a 44-inch vertical leap undoubtedly indicates the type of athleticism that would play well at the next level, the Combine is only the beginning. This article discusses the offensive prospects whose stock is on the rise after impressive showings at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine.
Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri Tigers
Some might think that including Gabbert among the “Risers” is a little odd especially when you consider that the Ballwin, MO native remains a somewhat unknown quantity after he opted out of Combine throwing drills. Gabbert, who posted a solid 40-time of 4.62 seconds, said that he’ll throw for scouts and team officials during Missouri’s Pro Day on March 17. By Interestingly enough, the decision not to throw allowed Gabbert to sit back and watch as Cam Newton, his only serious competition for first quarterback off the board in April’s NFL Draft misfired and overthrew ball after ball. Newton also has well documented character concerns that Gabbert does not. So even though he barely lifted a finger during the Combine, Gabbert may have passed Newton as the No. 1 quarterback on the draft boards of most NFL teams. That could change if Gabbert has a poor Pro Day workout. Gabbert should be just fine as long as he exhibits the skill set that enabled him throw 40 touchdown passes against 18 interceptions during his sophomore and junior seasons.
Gabbert’s NFL Comparison: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State Seminoles
Like Gabbert, Ponder’s stock rises to some extent on Newton’s shortcomings. That aside, Ponder also put on a show for scouts that alleviated concerns about his health that stemmed from arm and shoulder ailments that hampered his college career. He set himself apart from the pack during throwing drills, delivering a crisp, accurate ball on intermediate routes and hitting his receivers in stride on a pair of deep balls. Standing 6’2” and without remarkable arm strength, Ponder has his limitations, but his strengths more than outweigh them. He knows where to place the ball, has a quick release, runs the 40 in 4.65 seconds and is highly intelligent with natural leadership skills. Ponder came into the Combine as a projected second-round pick, but he left as a possible late first rounder for a team looking to install a high upside quarterback into a West Coast offense.
Ponder’s NFL Comparison: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills
Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama Crimson Tide
As the consensus top running back in the 2011 Draft class, Ingram only needed to avoid a disastrous performance at the Combine to maintain his position. The 2009 Heisman Trophy winner didn’t blow anyone away during last weekend’s workouts, running the 40-yard dash in 4.62 seconds, the 10-yard split in 1.53 seconds and the three-cone drill in 7.13 seconds. In recent days, some have claimed that Ingram’s somewhat underwhelming 40-time has exposed him as overrated. In reality, Ingram has never been a burner. He was a classic, between-the-tackles power runner in college and nothing about his showing at the Combine indicated that he’ll be anything less once he reaches the NFL. If you’re still not convinced that Ingram will excel at the next level, then consider this: Houston’s Arian Foster’s posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.73 seconds at the 2009 Combine.
Ingram’s NFL Comparison: Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons
Roy Helu, RB, Nebraska Cornhuskers
Helu’s couldn’t have had a better performance at the Combine than he did. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 and then 4.42 seconds, recorded a vertical leap of 36.5 inches and finished in the top-two in the 20- and 60-yard shuttles and the three-cone drill. At 5’11” and 219 pounds, Helu is one of only a handful of running backs in this draft who figures to have a legitimate shot at being a three-down back in the pros. The former Cornhusker did just that during his junior and senior years, when he compiled 2,392 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns. Helu is an explosive runner with good vision and game-breaking speed. He helped himself a great deal with a dominant Combine performance and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him go off the board in the second or third round.
Helu’s NFL Comparison: Joseph Addai, Indianapolis Colts
DaRel Scott, RB, Maryland Terrapins
Scott made his presence known when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.35 seconds, tops among running backs. One of the best big-play backs in the college ranks since he burst onto the scene in 2008, Scott capped off his often electrifying career at Maryland by turning 13 carries into 200 yards and two touchdowns. At 5’11” and 192 pounds, Scott probably isn’t cut out to be a feature back in the NFL, but he has the potential to evolve into a formidable third-down back and an occasional home-run hitter. Scott could very well end up being a steal for the team that scoops him up in the later rounds of the Draft..
Scott’s NFL Comparison: Justin Forsett, Seattle Seahawks
Julio Jones, WR, Alabama Crimson Tide
The Combine weekend of the former Crimson Tide wideout is a bit of a Catch-22. Jones ran the 40-yard dash in an incredible 4.39 seconds, then registered a broad jump of 11 feet, three inches. He also caught almost everything thrown his way during workouts. It came out after the fact that he performed with a broken bone in his foot. While the 6’3” 220-pound Jones couldn’t have looked any better, the fact that he’ll undergo surgery to insert a screw in his foot isn’t great for his draft value. Fortunately, the sum total of Jones’ awesome measurables, coupled with the Chuck Norris-like toughness he displayed, should add up to a plus.
Jones’ NFL Comparison: Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs
Edmond Gates, WR, Abilene Christian Wildcats
Other than being a smallish receiver with good speed from a small school, Gates was a largely unknown before Combine. However after watching him one up every wideout except Julio Jones, Gates has clearly put himself on the map for NFL teams and fans alike. At just under 6’ and 189 pounds, Gates put on a show during the Combine, netting a 40-time of 4.37 seconds (tied for the fastest among receivers), turning in a broad jump of 10 feet, 11 inches (second among receivers) and showing off a nifty pair of mitts during pass-catching drills. Skeptics point to his somewhat limited 30’3/4” arm-length, however there’s little doubt that Gates has the tools to carve out a highly successful NFL career. Gates isn’t a first-round pick, but he likely did enough to sway some receiver-needy team to peg him as a second rounder.
Gates’ NFL Comparison: Santana Moss, Washington Redskins
Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland Terrapins
Smith had the type of workout that could go a long way into closing the perceived gap between himself and the top two receivers of the 2011 Draft class–Alabama’s Julio Jones and Georgia’s A.J. Green. Smith ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds, posted a shuttle time of 4.13 seconds, put up19 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and recorded a gaudy 41-inch vertical leap. The 6’1”, 205-pound Smith may lack the physical stature of Jones or Green, but he’s got more than enough receiving ability to blossom into an elite NFL wideout. He’s also an adept return man. Smith returned 93 kickoffs for 2,389 yards and three touchdowns over the last two seasons. With more than a half-dozen teams in dire straits at the receiver position, Smith should go off the board within the first 10 picks of the second round.
Smith’s NFL Comparison: Steve Smith, New York Giants
Jordan Cameron, TE, USC Trojans
Although having the best Combine workout in one of the worst tight end classes in recent memory is a bit like being president of a one person club, Cameron had an excellent weekend and his star is definitely rising. Cameron, who measured in at 6’5 1/4”and 254 pounds, logged a 40-time of 4.59 seconds (second among tight ends), a shuttle time of 4.03 seconds and a three-cone drill time of 6.82 seconds (both first among tight ends). The tight end position has undergone a transformation in recent years. The days of big, slow tight ends who are excellent blockers and capable receivers are long gone. What’s in are long, speedy tight ends who can’t block worth a lick, but can use their speed to make plays downfield and even play wide receiver if necessary. Jordan most certainly fits the latter billing and he’s likely to be a first-day selection.
Cameron’s NFL Comparison: Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles
Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin Badgers
Carimi had a workmanlike effort at last week’s Combine, flashing the towering strength, lithe feet and quick first step that should propel him into being selected during the first half of the 2011 NFL Draft. Carimi recorded a 40-time of 5.27 seconds, a broad jump of 9 feet, one inch, and completed 29 reps of 225 pounds at the bench press. As a four-year starter at left tackle for Wisconsin, Carimi served as the top interior blocker for one of the more proficient rushing offenses in the country. Like Colorado’s Nate Solder, some scouts are sure to wonder whether the 6’ 7” 315-pound Carimi will be able to get low enough to engage the faster, more powerful NFL pass rusher. Based on his Combine workout, Carimi appears to have what it takes to be an impact player as a pro.
Carimi’s NFL Comparison: Michael Roos, Tennessee Titans
Mike Pouncey, OG/C, Florida Gators:
Pouncey is another lineman who saw his stock increase thanks to an excellent showing at the Combine. Pouncey ran a 5.28-second 40-yard dash and a 4.64-second shuttle, but he was at his best during drills where he got a chance to prove that his talents run deeper than what can be determined by a stopwatch. Pouncey, who measured in at an imposing 6’4” and 310 pounds, has outstanding upper-body strength, quick feet and good instincts. Draft followers know very well that there’s no such thing as a “sure thing” when it comes to a player making the jump from college to the pros. While Pouncey is probably not a future All Pro, he looks like a safe bet to be a valuable interior blocker for the next five years or more.
Pouncey’s NFL Comparison: Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh Steelers