Combine wraps up: ILB Watch, CB risks, QB options for the Packers
From the great Tyler Dunne, Journal-Sentinel
~Green Bay — The NFL scouting combine is over. Which means it’s a Mike Mamula kind of week. Surely, you’ve been inundated with highlights and overanalysis already.
Jameis Winston throwing. Byron Jones jumping. J.J. Nelson running.
This year’s combine averaged 314,000 viewers over four days of coverage on the league’s network.
Exactly 20 years ago — training specifically for these events, revolutionary at the time — Mamula blew up the combine with 4.58 in the 40, a 38.5-inch vertical and 28 reps at 225 pounds at the bench. To this day, his name still serves as a cautionary tale. All teams must tread carefully in Indianapolis. The difference between “40 speed” and “football speed” is no exact science and drills mean different things to different players.
So, that being said, here are a few final takeaways from this year’s scouting combine.
And in case you missed it, be sure to check out Bob McGinn’s annual February draft outlook here.
— The Packers want an inside linebacker. At the podium, coach Mike McCarthy said inside linebacker “could probably be compared to where we were last year at the safety position.” Last year, they landed Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. This year, which players could be available? We examined a few possibilities here. UCLA’s Eric Kendricks may be the most complete. Miami’s Denzel Perryman may hit the hardest. Mississippi State’s Benardrick McKinney may have the best size.
One other name to track? Clemson’s Stephone Anthony. The 6-foot-3, 243-pounder ran a 4.56 in the 40 (third-best amongst linebackers) and his 4.03 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle was second-best.
Teams questioning how Perryman will fare in coverage may still have questions, too. He benched 225 pounds 27 times, yet ran a 4.78 and had a 32-inch vertical. The former QB McKinney, already 6-4, 246, probably turned heads with his 40.5-inch vertical. He’s come a long ways since serving as an athletic, running quarterback at Rosa Fort (Miss.) H.S.
Finding an imtimidator who also can cover won’t be easy.
— The age-old, risk-reward debate could come into play at cornerback for Green Bay. Free agency will dictate which positions the Packers need more than others. Possibly, the Packers lose both Davon House and Tramon Williams in free agency. Either way, it’s a premium position and a few intriguing prospects may trickle down to No. 30. One butted heads with coaches at Washington but is the aggressive cover corner-type teams seek, Marcus Peters. Another suffered a severe knee injury and might not be ready by the 2015 opener, Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.
And another (who may be more of a second-round option) played four years of point guard on the basketball court at Miami (Ohio) before switching to football, Quinten Rollins. His coach spoke about this switch earlier. The 4.57 at the combine doesn’t help Rollins’ cause, but few defensive backs in college football possessed his ball skills. In Indy, those football discussions picked up in formal interviews.
After the long hiatus, Rollins says he’s curious himself what his upside is. In Demetri Goodson, the Packers already have one college point guard on the roster.
“Even though I’m a fast learner, I’ve got a lot of learning to do,” Rollins said. “The NFL coaching at the Senior Bowl was great, and I’m just ready to go to an organization and learn their schemes and get some of their coaching and keep continuing to build from there on out.
“In five years, hopefully I’ll be on a second contract and then be one of the household names in the NFL.
— Beware of team meetings. The Packers, and all NFL teams, chat with countless prospects. An all-star game. The combine. During that prospect’s season. You get the idea: at some point prospects talk to practically every team. And the Packers are often coy, too. The only two Top 10 picks in Ted Thompson’s tenure here — linebacker A.J. Hawk and nose tackle B.J. Raji — had no idea the Packers were so interested.
— Major QB decisions are elsewhere in the division — Bears coach John Fox offered a lukewarm support of Jay Cutler. But the Packers do have a decision ahead themselves, behind Aaron Rodgers. Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn are both unrestricted free agents. Again, the draft offers developmental options. UCLA’s Brett Hundley may be the third-best in the draft. Former Oregon QB Bryan Bennett and South Alabama’s Brandon Bridge are dual-threat options.
Then, there’s Bryce Petty. He put up ridiculous numbers (61 touchdowns, 10 interceptions last two seasons) in Baylor’s spread offense but some scouts are unsure how he’ll project to the pros.
In throwing drills, Petty’s natural throwing motion was impressive.
“We were in the spread but at the same time I feel like I am a pocket passer,” Petty said. “I want to extend plays, extend plays within the pocket. That might be a little bit different than most spread quarterbacks who want to run it out of the pocket. For me, I feel like my game can translate easier in that and the fact that I want to play within the pocket and I want to extend plays within the pocket and beat you doing that.”
— Green Bay might not find a better TE here than what it has. Maxx Williams had a so-so 4.78 in the 40; Clive Walford finished at 4.79. Will the Packers add another tight end? Probably. But one scout believes taking Williams in the first round is an “overreach.”
And true, Williams enters the NFL as a redshirt sophomore. He’s 20. Maybe he’s not a substantial upgrade in 2015, but would be down the road.
“I would say my biggest weakness is my strength,” Williams said. “Being only 20 years old knowing that my body’s not fully developed into what it could develop into is a strength. But I feel like my biggest weakness could turn into one of my strengths, as I turn 21, 22, and get those years and experience in the weight room developing my body.”
— The Packers’ 2011 first-round pick at offensive tackle, Derek Sherrod, started one game in four years. If they lose Bryan Bulaga in free agency, the Packers might need to try again in 2015. Pittsburgh’s T.J. Clemmings is an intriguing option. As noted in McGinn’s rundown, Clemmings could’ve played basketball at Providence and Seton Hall. He played three seasons at defensive end before moving to tackle the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
The 6-4 ½, 309-pounder realizes he’s raw.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Clemmings said. “If that is what they feel then that’s fine. I only had two years on the offensive line under my belt and that’s not going to change from now to the draft. I need some work in some things and I am not afraid of that. I am ready to work on things that people feel I need to work on.”