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2011 NFL Draft - Combine Final Thoughts
Auburn DT Nick Fairley & Alabama DE Marcell Dareus
Auburn DT Nick Fairley & Alabama DE Marcell Dareus
Posted Mar 3, 2011

Cam Newton got the headlines, Julio Jones was the star, Patrick Peterson was a stud, and there was plenty of buzz over the speedsters, but the real story coming out of Indianapolis was that two of the likely top four picks, Auburn's Nick Fairley and Bama's Marcell Dareus, were awesome. That and more in the Final Thoughts on the 2011 NFL Combine.

2011 NFL Post-Combine Buzz

Final Thoughts

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2011 NFL Post-Combine Draft Rankings
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2011 NFL Combine Position Analysis
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- DEs | DTs | ILBs | OLBs | Ss | CBs

2011 NFL Combine Results

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2011 Post-Combine Buzz
- The Julio vs. A.J. Battle
- Cam The Entertainer
- The No. 2 RB Is ...
- The No. 3 WR Is ...
- The Slow Little Guys
- The Small School Stars
- The No. 1 OT Is ...
- The Mark Ingram Workout
- The Mediocre Tight Ends
- The New Wave Of Athletic QBs

- Yeah, I watched the whole thing. Yeah, I had to, but I'm unapologetic about it, and you should be, too. What else is there, the Real Housewives of Duluth?

2011 Pre-Combine Buzz
- The Tebow Issue
- The Luckless quarterback class
- Cam Newton is expected to do it all
- The star defensive tackles
- All the North Carolina talent and what they'll do
- Where have all the good running backs gone?
- The lousy tight end class
- The 40 star speedster will be ...
- The three players everyone will be talking about
- The offensive tackle pecking order
- The strongest position is ...
- Da'Quan Bowers' knee
- Breaking Down the 2011 NFL Combine
- Stop making a big deal, or any deal, out of Cam Newton only completing 11-of-21 passes in Indianapolis. While there weren’t any defenders to go against and the passes were supposed to be easy, the misfires didn’t matter a lick. All anyone wanted to see was Newton’s throwing motion and his mechanics, and after working and tweaking a bit over the last few weeks, he looked just fine. There might be several issues and concerns about Newton, but physically, he was everything everyone wanted to see. However, the whole entertainer and an icon thing is another story.

- The No. 1 cornerback, by far, is Patrick Peterson, and he’s being considered by some now to be the top prospect in the draft after a phenomenal combine. Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara is the No. 2 corner and is all but certain to go around the 20. And the No. 3 cornerback? Aaron Williams worked out like a corner, but his slow 40 time makes him a free safety. Miami’s Brandon Harris had a nice workout, but he didn’t do enough to get into the first round. The corners are a bit thin, but the position isn’t nearly as bad as …

- The safeties. This is an all-time miserable year for safeties with no one worthy of coming close to the first round and most of the top prospects iffy at best. Players like West Virginia’s Robert Sands have a world of talent, but still need work. UCLA’s Rahim Moore is the best of the lot, and he’s hardly a killer and he’s not worth reaching for when there’s so much talent at other main positions. There will be decent value picks around the third round, but no one is standing out.

- Please, Under Armour, for all of us who sit through this thing every year, politely ask the R&D department to work on a pair of spandex shorts that don’t show what religion the prospects are. One receiver ran a 4.6, but his junk crossed the tape in 4.4.

- It’s time to make this more functional. The ball drills are absolutely useless considering they’re happening in open space and with no resistance, defenders/receivers, or pressure. More short drills would be better to show the overall athleticism.

- NFL Combine types, if you really want to know what you’re getting with these prospects, don’t let anyone know what the drills are going to be and change them up by position. That way, those who are Combine Coached for a specific drill might be exposed.

- NFL Network, show the bench press. For those who enjoy falling under the hypnosis of watching the drills, the bench is the most intriguing and most impressive aspect of the workout next to the 40.

- There’s no reason for a quarterback to not throw. The quarterback drills are so ridiculously easy that any high school bomber can look good making the rudimentary passes. The idea is to see throwing motion and look at any flaws and hitches, but if you’re Blaine Gabbert and technique isn’t an issue, not throwing makes it look like you’re hiding something while Cam Newton stepped up and competed.

- The NFL Network did a better job of highlighting the first ten yards of the 40; the ones that actually matter. This was particularly important for the running backs, especially Mark Ingram, who came up with a glacier-slow 40 time but blew everyone away in the first eight steps. No scout cares about Ingram’s 4.62, but they all love how he exploded out of the blocks.

- In a format like the Combine, every mistake and every slip is magnified. So a guy drops one pass or missteps on one play … it ends up being a big deal to some, and if it didn’t, they wouldn’t run the drill. Every prospect is so coached and so trained that there’s no excuse to not be perfect on all the drills now that the event has taken on a life of its own.

- Why is everyone so hot on making Von Miller some sort of a complete outside linebacker? I know he doesn’t have the size to be a regular 4-3 defensive end at the next level, but he’ll be at his best as a specialist whose job it is to get into the backfield and screw things up. This isn’t a knock on the Texas A&M star in any way, and he’s absolutely a top ten pick. When there’s a guy who can rush the passer like Miller can, you make that his focus and his job. Dropping into pass coverage should be nothing more than a bonus.

- Run scrimmages. No pads, no hitting, and no real blocking, but no-hitting seven-on-seven drills would show far more and would highlight the players so much more. Too many of the drills are worthless.

- It’s amazing, AMAZING how in shape all the prospects were. You don’t come to Indianapolis unless you’re ready, and there weren’t any big controversies this year when it came to effort and fitness.

Throw Da’Quan Bowers into the mix, and the biggest debate over the next several weeks, like the Ndamukong Suh vs. Gerald McCoy argument last year, will continue to be Marcell Dareus vs. Nick Fairly in the pecking order for the top end of the draft. Both of the SEC stars came up big in Indianapolis and solidified themselves as top prospects, and while there’s plenty of talk about a quarterback going with the No. 1 (or anywhere from the top pick down to around 12), the surest things appear to be for the defensive line.

When the mock drafts first kicked in across the board, Fairley was battling Bowers for Carolina’s pick, but Dareus has come on in a hurry with notables like Mike Mayock making him the best of the lot. The former Alabama star was fast, with a 4.92 40; he was quick, looking smooth and speedy in the short drills; and he was strong, with a solid 24 reps on the bench. While he measured 6’3” and 319 pounds, he moved and ran like a much smaller player and he proved he can play anywhere on the line.

Fairley didn’t do anything to drop with a fantastic workout of his own. The only issue is his weight, measuring in at 291 pounds and missing the beef of Dareus to play on the inside. However, the 4.87 was the fastest of the 40 times for the defensive tackles and the 9’5” broad jump was explosive. He was lightning quick, getting around the cones in 7.19 compared to Dareus’s 7.83, and he showed he’s the prototype three-technique tackle. With his athleticism, in a pinch, he could even work on the outside as an end. He was that explosive.

All the while, Bowers is trying to get back to 100% after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery back in January, and he might be slipping a bit. It’s not an out-of-sight, out-of-mind thing, but if it’s splitting-hair time between the No. 1 overall pick and the three or five, Bowers not being able to work out at the Combine, while Fairley and Dareus rocked, will be a big deal on the draft boards.