Seven-step drop: NFL combine

February, 23, 2009
2/23/09
11:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Here are seven NFL combine notes and observations as it pertains to the AFC North:

 
  AP Photo/Darron Cummings
  Why are the Browns interviewing USC quarterback Mark Sanchez?
  • An interesting name showed up on the list of players interviewed by the Cleveland Browns: USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. The Browns, with two young quarterbacks in Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn, are probably the last team interested in drafting a quarterback with the No. 5 overall pick. But this shows Cleveland could be willing to explore trade options for teams looking to move up. Sanchez is expected to be the second quarterback taken and there are a lot of teams in need of that position. Cleveland getting to know Sanchez in Indianapolis could give the Browns a gauge of the player other teams are coveting.
  • Everyone has major questions now about Alabama left tackle Andre Smith. When watching him play, he's a beast. But when it comes to the maturity of this draft process, he is making mistakes left and right. Smith didn't participate in the combine, basically admitting he wasn't in shape. He also left the combine early and was suspended for Alabama's bowl game. This brings up questions of his maturity, and with so much guaranteed money spent at the top of the draft, I no longer think Smith is a good fit for the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 6. His tape looks great, but the last thing the Bengals need is a player with question marks.
  • While we're on the subject of offensive tackles, Baylor's Jason Smith was impressive all week. He said the right things in his interview with the media and the workouts were solid, which included a 33-rep bench press of 225 pounds and a 5.22 run in the 40-yard dash. Obviously, his tape is off the charts, so this combination makes him an early candidate to be the top overall pick of the Detroit Lions.
  • Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew ran unofficial times of 4.85 and 4.97 in the 40-yard dash this weekend. He even was granted a third run and clocked a 4.87. None of Pettigrew's times landed in the top 10 of his position, which is disappointing for the projected best tight end in the draft. Pettigrew looked nervous and had false starts twice during his runs, He is a mid-to-late first-round pick and potentially a target of the Baltimore Ravens at No. 26.
  • But the Ravens have to be very happy with the speed they saw from the receiver position at this year's combine. A host of good prospects ran a 4.5 or lower in the 40-yard dash, including Florida's Percy Harvin and Darrius Heyward-Bey of Maryland. Baltimore will target a deep threat at some point in the draft, possibly in the first round.
  • Seeing energetic Arizona Cardinals strength coach John Lott run the bench press at the combine brought back great memories. Lott was a former strength coach of the Browns in 2005 and 2006 when I covered the team exclusively, and he was the most relentless assistant I've ever seen on the practice field. Banged up players for Cleveland would work out with Lott in practice. And it came to a point when it was better to practice hurt than get drilled by Lott for two-plus hours. I've heard Cleveland players describe Lott as "crazy" and "a maniac." But he's also a great strength coach. Said Lott at the combine, "I don't care what you did in your Wonderlic, and I don't care what your brain capacity is. All I care is what you bench press." You gotta love it!
  • Speaking of bench press, I was disappointed with the bench press results for Oregon center Max Unger, who recorded just 22 reps. USC place kicker David Buehler did 25 reps and is about 70 pounds lighter. The book on Unger is he is not very athletic, which is fine for a center. But the bench press was important in this process. If he is drafted in the AFC North, particularly for the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 32, he would have to push around big nose tackles such as Haloti Ngata in Baltimore and Cleveland's Shaun Rogers in 3-4 defenses. I just don't see it.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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