Daily Cavalcade - Big Combine Offense Stories

Posted Feb 23, 2009

What are the big stories and issues after the offense had their days at the 2009 NFL Combine? Pete Fiutak gives his thoughts after the first two days of the offense workouts.

Fiu's Daily Cavalcade of Whimsy

The Silliness Of Recruiting ... Feb.

a.k.a. Frank Costanza's Festivus Airing of the Grievances ... or the obvious attempt to keep readers coming to the site on a regular basis during the off-season.
By Pete Fiutak   
What's your beef? ... Fire off your thoughts  

Past Whimsies:  
- 10 Tidbits From Recruiting Season
- Making peace with recruiting
- The NFL announcers
- The Mark Sanchez situation
- The NFL Playoffs vs. The BCS
- Why Florida really is No. 1
- The Jagodzinski situation
- Auburn's big coaching moves
- 10 Reasons Why Fla Will Win
10 Reasons Why OU Will Win
- The Andre Smith suspension
- NFL Mock Draft (top 10 picks)
- Holiday Wish List For All 119 Teams

- Chizik, Gill, & the Race Card
- Why Paterno isn't too old

Past Whimsies

- 2008 Season
2008 Preseason Cavalcade
- 2007 Season
2006 Season

"I met him in a hotel lobby in New York City and he came in just from the gym and I was sitting there and I was, like, wow. And I pretty much saw everything. The whole package." ... I love the NFL Combine, and I'm not going to apologize.

I told a few people over the last week that my weekend, and following Monday and Tuesday, was going to be centered around Indianapolis and the annual comparing and contrasting of bulging young men running around in tight spandex ... a.k.a. the NFL Combine. I was generally greeted with the same reaction: "You have to sit through all of that?"

While the world will watch a show centering around morbidly obese bags of jiggle who run around trying to see who can lose the most weight, has-been celebrities who dance, or mediocre karaoke singers competing to be the next hit on WMOM, I like watching the workouts of some of the worlds most elite athletes.

And yes, these workouts do matter to the real world of the NFL.

Here are some interesting tidbits and observations on what actually happened over the first two days (more on this to come when fun is over on Tuesday night).

1. You say Andre Smith, I say Curtis Enis
Andre Smith isn't just some prospect for the offensive line. This is one of the top high school prospects of all-time who lived up to the billing, came up with a brilliant junior year, and then slipped. If you remember, Curtis Enis was the wonderful Penn State running back who was suspended just before the 1998 Citrus Bowl (a loss to Florida) for accepting a suit from an agent. The Chicago Bears didn't care and took Enis with the fifth pick in the draft, which turned out to be a bizarre disaster. Smith missed the 2009 Sugar Bowl after having contact with an agent, and his strange actions at the Combine have sent up more than a few red flags. Smith will be coached on how to spin this and will turn out to be fine when it comes to the payday, but the chance of being taken in the top ten is probably gone now. Remember, this guy was being thrown around as a possible No. 1 overall pick. He was my top ranked tackle based on his production, but now he has to slip to third behind Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe; if not further.

2. The million-dollar Michael Crabtree foot
Work with me here. The Texas Tech star's injured foot might have actually saved him millions of dollars. No one's questioning whether or not Crabtree can play, the college production is unparalleled, but the big question mark before the foot injury was his speed. The names Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson were being thrown around when comparing Crabtree, but the former Red Raider isn't anywhere near the athlete Johnson is and he's not the receiver Fitzgerald is. Remember, Johnson blazed a 4.31. Fitzgerald put up a respectable 4.53 and was clocked under 4.5 in private workouts. There was a rumbling that a fully healthy Crabtree was going to come in around the 4.6s, and there were some who privately expected a total disaster. This was a fast class with almost all the receivers coming in at under 4.6. Had Crabtree been able to run, and if he had put up Dwayne Jarrett-like Combine numbers, all of a sudden the stock would've plummeted. Crabtree is expected to run at his pro day in late March, but if he's not coming in under 4.6 in private workouts, don't be shocked if he's unable to run for anyone before the draft. Without a workout, Crabtree still might be a top ten pick on game tape, size and character. But he needs to clock in the 4.5s to prove he can be a No. 1 target at the NFL level.

3. Speed really does matter
Why does an offensive lineman have to run a 40? Really, what does the 40 time mean for a quarterback? It's simple, and it's obvious. Take a quarterback prospect like Stephen McGee. The Texas A&M Aggie won't have the game tape, but he has the size, he has the athleticism, and he has the wheels. Only Pat White ran a faster 40 time among quarterbacks, with McGee running a 4.66. That time makes McGree draftable, when he was nothing more than a free agent before. If it comes down to him and, say, Hunter Cantwell, a good bomber who ran a 5.25, there's a chance McGee would be the pick only because an offensive coordinator can get creative with him. For an offensive lineman, if you run well, it shows you've been working. The 40 isn't a natural act for an offensive lineman, so for a prospect like Xavier Fulton of Illinois or Jamie Thomas of Maryland to run solid times even at well over 300 pounds, it shows work ethic as well as overall athleticism.

4. Speed really does matter, part 2
This isn't the NFL of ten years ago and it's certainly not the same league it was 20 years ago. It's much, much faster with much, much better trained athletes now. If you're a wide receiver and you can't get in the 4.4 range. you have to be able to do everything else well, be a big specimen like the 6-6 Ramses Barden out of Cal Poly (my sleeper star of the draft), or you have to be an elite player like Michael Crabtree. If you're in the 4.6 range, thanks for the effort. Macy's has a nice junior executive training program. How harsh is the criticism and analysis when it comes to speed? Oklahoma's Juaquin Iglesias, a tremendous playmaker throughout his college career, ran a 4.51 and is being thrown into the possession receiver trash heap. Jeremy Maclin ran a 4.4 and, even though he tweaked his knee and everyone knew it, the time was considered a disappointment. On the flip side, if you're not really on the radar, that can change in a big hurry if you throw up a 4.34 like Abilene Christian's Johnny Knox did.

5. People will make excuses for guys they like
Ole Miss OT Michael Oher didn't have a disastrous workout, but it wasn't good. His 21 reps of 225 pounds was a big problem, and while he showed excellent quickness and athleticism, he looked like a player in need of some work during the basic drills. However, he shows so much promise, and was so good at times in college, that everyone seems to look for positives to ignore the glaring weaknesses. Watch and see how many times the excuse of having long arms is given when it comes to a poor bench press. There isn't that much of a difference in arm length among the top tackles.

6. The interview process is overrated
But the medical evaluations aren't. The on-field drills are important to compare and contrast the top prospects, but the real reason to get everyone in Indianapolis is to have the doctors yanks things and pull parts. These players might look like the healthiest, most robust people in the world, but they're all beaten up. It's up to the doctors to determine how much life is in these young bodies. Meanwhile, the interview process (from all accounts) is predictable. Every coach is looking for "passion" and "desire." Breaking down film is vital, the coaches want to see what the player sees, but the entire job interview part of the equation gets thrown out the window if the guy can't work out well.