AFC West: 2011 NFL Combine

Von Miller is doing his part to get in the conversation for the No. 2 overall pick by Denver.

There was a lot of chatter in Indianapolis in the past few days that the pass rusher from Texas A&M could force his way into Denver’s debate with a strong combine performance. He might have accomplished it.

Miller ran a stunning 4.46 40-yard dash Monday at his combine workout. He stood out at the Senior Bowl last month, and now he is shining at the combine.

Denver has greater needs on the defensive line and will likely look there, but if Miller keeps impressing, Denver might have to take notice.

Miller is considered a perfect fit for San Diego. But the Chargers have no way of getting him at No. 18. The only way San Diego could get to Miller is through a trade. Now that he ran this fast time, San Diego, which has extra picks in the second and third rounds, will have to go all the way up to No. 5, at least, to hope to get a crack at the fast-rising Miller.

Here's looking at No. 2

February, 28, 2011
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The Denver Broncos have the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft. The Broncos were was last in the NFL in total defense and points allowed in 2010 and are expected to take a defensive player with the pick.

Denver has been examining the top defensive players at the NFL combine for the past several days. Here is a look at the players who could be considered with the choice:

Da'Quan Bowers, defensive end, Clemson

Known for: He is a pure pass-rusher and led the nation with 15.5 sacks in 2010.

Why he should be the pick: He would give Denver a dominant, classic defensive end and would form a good pass-rushing pair with Elvis Dumervil.

Why he shouldn’t be the pick: Bowers is not considered a sure thing. He had only one productive year of college football.

Deciding factor: Bowers, along with Nick Fairley and quarterbacks Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert, could be taken by Carolina with the No. 1 pick. If he gets past Carolina, Bowers could be the choice in Denver. I think the Broncos will seriously consider taking Bowers, who reminds many of Julius Peppers. Peppers was the first pick taken by new Denver coach John Fox in Carolina.

Quotable: “I think I can bring a lot of good things to the team. You can get a pass-rushing defensive end, a humble guy, a guy with great character, a guy who is going to work hard, a guy that is going to go about things the right way and a guy who is willing to compete with anyone anywhere.” -- Bowers

Marcell Dareus, defensive tackle, Alabama

Known for: He is a stout 4-3 defensive tackle who is coming from a winning program.

[+] EnlargeMarcell Dareus
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesMarcell Dareus is expected to be a top-10 pick in April's NFL draft.
Why he should be the pick: Some scouts feel like he is more of sure thing than Fairley. He seems like he will be a productive player for 10-12 years.

Why he shouldn’t be the pick: He may not be the most spectacular player available and could potentially slip to the 5-6 range.

Deciding factor: If Denver decides to take a defensive tackle, it will come down to Dareus or Fairley. So, he must grade out higher on Denver’s board than Fairley.

Quotable: “I look at it like, if you go back in the history of watching football, before the game was started, it started up front. Some people were scared and backed up off the ball, but the real bulls stayed up front and played the game." -- Dareus

Nick Fairley, defensive tackle, Auburn

Known for: He was a dominant force for a national championship winner.

Why he should be the pick: Fairley has a chance to be the best player in the draft and would be an immediate impact player.

Why he shouldn’t be the pick: There are questions about Fairley’s ability to transition to the NFL and he may have the riskiest character of all the potential picks.

Deciding factor: If Denver falls in love with Fairley, he’ll be the pick. I think he’ll be one of the top players on Denver’s board. There’s a chance Denver will be too intrigued with his ability if he gets past Carolina.

Quotable: “Fairley is really a true three-technique and he is a disrupting guy nonstop throughout the game. He beats linemen all day, every game.” -- Broncos general manager Brian Xanders

Von Miller, linebacker, Texas A&M

Known for: He has the most potential of any player on the board and is a natural pass-rusher. His stock has been rising lately.

Why he should be the pick: He could possibly be a perennial All-Pro who could become the face of the franchise.

Why he shouldn’t be the pick: He might be available a few spots lower and he may not be the highest value pick.

Deciding factor: If Miller -- who owned the Senior Bowl -- blows away scouts at the combine and his pro day, he may be too tempting to pass up.

Quotable: “First and foremost, I’m going to be a great teammate. I’m a team guy. That’s how I play football. That’s how we were able to win the games that we won at Texas A&M. We didn’t have all the talent in the world, but we had a great team. We had great chemistry in the locker room. I’ll be a rookie, whatever those guys want me to do, I’ll be happy to do it. Just find my way, find my role. Whatever it takes to get on the field, that’s what I’ll do.” -- Miller

Patrick Peterson, cornerback, LSU

[+] EnlargePatrick Peterson
Icon SMIWill Denver forsake its needs on the defensive line and draft Patrick Peterson to bolster the secondary?
Known for: The big, strong, fast Peterson is considered one of the best cornerback prospects in years. He could be the next Champ Bailey.

Why he should be the pick: Peterson and Bailey, who just signed a four-year contract extension, would be one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL right away.

Why he shouldn’t be the pick: Denver has greater needs on the defensive line. Taking Peterson wouldn’t help Denver’s most pressing issue.

Deciding factor: I think it would take a lot for Denver to take Peterson because of the reality of the team’s needs. The only way Peterson is the pick is if Denver decides he is far and away the best player on the board.

Quotable: “He is a great athlete and not only as a [defensive] player, but as a returner. He is special as a returner. He is a guy that can do a lot of different things for you. Athletically, he is as good as anybody in the draft. He can run and he has good size for a corner -- he is 205, 210 pounds. He has good size and is a guy that can make some big plays. I think especially at the cornerback position, you like those guys that can make those plays, because those are game-changers.” -- Broncos vice president John Elway

Robert Quinn, defensive end, North Carolina

Known for: He could be the best player on the board, but he missed the entire 2010 season because he accepted gifts from an agent.

Why he should be the pick: He may be the highest value pick. In five years, he could be dominant.

Why he shouldn’t be the pick: He is only 265 pounds and missed valuable playing time in 2010.

Deciding factor: It’s all in Quinn’s hands. If Quinn has an unbelievable combine and pro day, the Broncos may have no choice but to take him. Still, that may be a long shot.

Quotable: “I feel like I've got a never-ending motor. I feel like I'm the fastest guy on the field and I try not to let nobody's hands get on me. A weakness, a 6 technique within the tight end, sometimes my eyes get to going back and forward and [I] take a bad step that may hurt me. I try to do little things to make sure I take straight steps every time.” -- Quinn

Better ball skills than Asomugha?

February, 27, 2011
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Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith is not afraid to put himself in elite company.

Sunday, Smith -- who could jump into the first round -- was asked if he thought he was comparable to Oakland free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Smith took the comparison and ran with it.

“I like the comparison, he’s a shutdown corner in the NFL. I mean, I like the comparison a lot. I think I have better ball skills than he does, though.”

Really?

Smith’s claim isn’t as offensive as Cam Newton’s “entertainer and icon” remark, but the kid should be careful. There is no way he is better than Asomugha at anything at this point, so he should just stay quiet. Confidence is one thing, absurdity is another.
It looks like the San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs will have to trade up if they want a chance to draft Alabama receiver Julio Jones.

According to Todd McShay of Scouts Inc., Jones is having a tremendous NFL combine. McShay reported that Jones ran a 4.39 40-yard dash and delivered a silly 11-foot, 3-inch broad jump.

It appeared to be a long shot that Jones would be on the board past St. Louis at No. 14. This terrific showing only cements his draft status.

Both the Chargers and the Chiefs could have a use for Jones. San Diego picks No. 18 and Kansas City at No. 21. San Diego appears to be a more likely candidate to move up than Kansas City. The Chargers -- who moved up 16 spots last year to get Ryan Mathews -- have extra picks in the second and third rounds.

It now seems certain if the Chargers want a crack at Jones, they better dig into their stash of draft picks.
Several big-name quarterbacks threw Sunday at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, with mixed results.

The biggest name to participate was Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. He reportedly did not perform well. He struggled with his accuracy. No AFC West team is in line to take Newton (Denver will be looking for defense at No. 2), however Newton’s status does affect Denver. There has been talk Carolina would take Newton at No. 1 if he had a good workout season.

If the Panthers take a quarterback, Denver will have the entire defensive board to choose from. Carolina could take defensive end Da’Quan Bowers or Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley with the top choice. So, Denver is rooting for a quarterback to go to Carolina. Newton didn’t help his or Denver’s cause Sunday. Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert is the other quarterback who potentially could go No. 1. He didn’t throw Sunday.

Oakland is the only AFC West team that could potentially take a quarterback early. The Raiders saw prospects Ryan Mallett of Arkansas and Jake Locker of Washington redeem themselves Sunday with good performances. That could keep both players above Oakland’s first pick, which is No. 48. However, other prospects, TCU’s Andy Dalton and Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick were not tremendous Sunday, so they could perhaps fall to the second or third round and entice the Raiders.

Sunday’s performance doesn’t put anything in concrete for any prospect, but it is a good indication of what range each player will be drafted. Each player will have a pro day in the coming weeks that will either help or hurt his draft cause.
INDIANAPOLIS -- We caught up with Todd McShay of Scouts Inc. at the NFL combine and we asked him one draft-related question about each AFC West team. Here goes:

Denver Broncos

What would you do with the No. 2 pick?

“I think its front seven is mess and there is a lot of help there. They could go with [Clemson defensive end] Da'Quan Bowers, [Auburn defensive tackle] Nick Fairley. I really like [LSU cornerback] Patrick Peterson if they want to go for a cornerback. The big question is [North Carolina defensive end] Robert Quinn. If he has a good combine, he could be the best player. I don’t know if he is a great fit there. I could see Bowers, who is a very good pass rusher. Denver is in pretty good shape with this pick.”

Kansas City Chiefs

Should the Chiefs grab a pass rusher at No. 21?

“They are in a tricky spot. All the really, really good rushers are probably going to be gone, but I could see a guy like UCLA’s Akeem Ayers there. He’s a good player. [Georgia’s] Justin Houston is the next guy, but I don’t know if you go with him at No. 21. There might be better rotations at other positions like tackle. Kansas City could always trade down and pick up a good player and an extra pick.”

Oakland Raiders

Should the Raiders take a quarterback in the early rounds?

“They have other needs, but if there is a guy like [Nevada’s] Colin Kaepernick is there in the third round, that could be a good fit. He has a big arm that the Raiders like. [TCU’s] Andy Dalton isn’t a perfect fit because of his arm, but it’s good enough. He could be a fit in the third round. I tell you what, [Arkansas’] Ryan Mallett could easily fall all the way down to No. 48. Oakland would have to think about it. He has the big arm. He is a risk, but he is an incredible value at No. 48.”

San Diego Chargers

Should the Chargers trade up from No. 18 for a star like Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller or Alabama receiver Julio Jones?

“I don’t think so. Miller would likely make you go up to all the way to No. 5 and Jones would be but to No. 13. I think San Diego should just stay at No.18, and keep its extra picks in the second and third rounds. The Chargers could get a guy like [California’s] Cameron Jordan or Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson. We have him right up there.”
INDIANAPOLIS -- If Da’Quan Bowers ends up in Denver, he could come as a package deal.

Bowers is entering the draft with massive Clemson teammate Jarvis Jenkins. Bowers is a defensive end who Denver could be targeting at No. 2. Jenkins is a versatile defensive tackle who could be had in the second- to-fourth rounds. Both would fit John Fox’s defense.

Bowers credited Jenkins -- the two are close friends who share the same agent -- for helping him lead the nation with 15.5 sacks in 2010. So, I’m sure the two would love to play together in the NFL.

If Jenkins performs well at the combine, he could rise up draft boards because of his unique ability and size. He played several different positions on the Clemson line. At this time, he is known as a better run stuffer than pass rusher.

“I’ve established I can stop the run,” Jenkins said at the NFL combine. “If I want to be an elite player in the NFL, I got to improve pass-rush, because sacks get you paid, sacks get you in the Hall of Fame. That’s what I got to do.”

Jenkins also offers unique help on special teams. He has four blocked field goals.

Da'Quan Bowers has a big goal

February, 26, 2011
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No offense to the Denver Broncos, but Da’Quan Bowers has a higher goal.

He wants to be the No. 1 pick in the draft.

“It’s definitely a goal,” Bowers said. “I don’t think anybody here doesn’t have the goal to be the No. 1 pick.”

The Clemson defensive end, who led the nation with 15.5 sacks in 2010, has a chance to be the top overall pick in the draft. Carolina has the No. 1 pick. Denver has the No. 2 pick.

Carolina could potentially take Bowers, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton or Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley with the pick. Denver is expected to take a defensive player at No. 2, and Bowers is expected to be at the top of its list. The Broncos are visiting with Bowers this weekend.

Bowers said he’d relish the opportunity to play in Denver.

“It’s a great opportunity and I’ll be ready to work for them,” Bowers said.

Bowers said he’d compare his game to Julius Peppers. That comparison has been made often. New Denver coach John Fox took Peppers in Carolina with the No. 2 overall pick in 2002, Fox’s first season in Carolina. Thursday, Fox said he hasn’t studied Bowers enough to make that comparison. I do know Bowers is thought of highly in Denver’s building.

Teams like Bowers because of his production, good character, and study habits. He seems to know that.

When asked why he is successful, Bowers had this to say: “Because I watch a lot of film, very fast and very powerful. I study offensive tackles a lot, I try to study tendencies. I try to look at their feet to notice things if they are going to pass or they are going to run, just being a student of the game.”
INDIANAPOLIS -- Larry Kennan of the NFL coaches union believes several NFL coaching staffs in the league could be severely affected by a long lockout.

Kennan, the executive director of the NFL coaches association, said he believes coaches on 12 teams (including San Diego) could lose 20-25 percent of their salary after the first month of the lockout with the potential for several coaches being terminated. Teams can cut up to 40 percent of their salaries. Another league source said every coaching staff could be adversely affected during a long lockout.

“The coaches are the ones who will be spilling blood during this thing,” one NFL head coach said Saturday at the NFL combine.

This is clearly a difficult situation for the coaches of the teams affected. These coaches are truly caught in the crossfire of the dispute between the players and owners. They have nothing to gain from this lockout, but certainly much to lose.

If there is a lockout coaches cannot have any contact with players. Thus, the coaches won’t have much to do if the lockout extends past the April 28-30 draft. If we hit May and the lockout is still going on with no end in sight, there is a concern around the league that teams will be desperate to chop payroll and start terminating coaches.

So, while they are not part of the negotiations and have no say in the matter, NFL head and assistant coaches are directly invested in these talks, and they are as nervous as everyone else involved.

Talking with Scott Pioli

February, 26, 2011
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Random thoughts from the media session Saturday with Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli:

Pioli stuck up for the past few drafts of the previous Kansas City regime. He lauded the drafting of players like Derrick Johnson and Jamaal Charles.

“The cupboard wasn't bare when Todd (Haley) and I arrived to Kansas City,” Pioli said. “There were some pretty good football players.”

Pioli lauded the 3-4 defensive end-outside linebacker group in this draft. Kansas City could be looking for a pass rusher with the No. 21 overall pick.

Pioli wouldn’t address the Detroit Lions recently being found guilty of tampering charges with former Chiefs safety Jarrad Page. The ruling means the Chiefs will move up 16 spots in the fifth round. Pioli called it a league matter.

Pioli expressed excitement about the hire of former NFL quarterback and head coach Jim Zorn as Kansas City’s quarterback coach.

Pioli said he thought Charlie Weis would be with the team for more than one year, but his departure is simply part of the game.

“I don't think you enter any relationship thinking it's going to be a short-term relationship,” Pioli said. “You adjust to it as you have to adjust.

"That's life. It could have been where Charlie got a coaching job in the NFL. That's a part of it when you're building a team.”

Pioli said he thought the Chiefs were a very slow team when he took over in 2009.

“We needed to upgrade our team speed, because I think when we first got there it was certainly the slowest football team I've been a part of,” Pioli said. “Not just on offense, not just on defense, but on special teams (too).”
The player Mel Kiper believes will end up being the San Diego Chargers’ first-round pick has reportedly withdrawn from the combine.

NFL.com reports that USC tackle Tyron Smith has dropped out of the combine suddenly Saturday with a lingering knee issue. He is going to save himself for his pro day workout in late March. He reportedly was injured eight weeks ago.

In Kiper’s latest mock draft, he penciled Smith in for San Diego at No. 18.

If Smith is the Chargers’ top target, this could change things some. The fact that Smith is going to work out before the draft still allows him to salvage his draft status. But this is a deep tackle group, and the Chargers could look at other tackle prospects Anthony Castonzo of Boston College, Nate Solder of Colorado and Gabe Carimi of Wisconsin.

San Diego will also look at several other positions in the first round, including linebacker, defensive end and receiver.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Keep this name handy in the next couple of months, Oakland Raiders fans: Ryan Bartholomew.

The Syracuse center is the early workout star at the NFL combine.

That is significant to Oakland. The Raiders love combine workout warriors, and they have a need at center. You have to consider Oakland an early favorite to pursue Bartholomew.

He led all players in the bench press competition Friday. Bartholomew did 34 repetitions of the 225-pound bench press. The average over the past three years for interior offensive linemen is 26.6 reps.

Saturday, Bartholomew clocked an unofficial 40-yard dash time under 4.9 seconds. These are tremendous numbers for a 6-foot-1, 305-pound offensive lineman. Bartholomew entered the combine considered a third- or fourth-round prospect. Now, he could shoot himself into the second round.

Oakland will likely consider centers with its first pick, No. 48.

Oakland pays attention to combine numbers as much as any team. Last year, Oakland drafted workout stars Jacoby Ford and Bruce Campbell.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Oakland Raiders' wild spending spree in the past week has been the talk of the NFL combine.

Last week, Oakland re-signed defensive tackle Richard Seymour to a two-year, $30 million deal. Thursday, Oakland surprised the league by handing cornerback Stanford Routt a three-year, $31.5 million deal and giving linebacker Kamerion Wimbley the franchise tag for $10. 1 million. The Raiders then signed 31-year-old potential defensive tackle John Henderson to a two-year, $8 million deal.

Personnel from many teams were quietly amazed how much money has spent. Many league observers said the Denver Broncos were lucky they secured star Champ Bailey to a four-year, $43 million deal before news of Routt’s deal broke. The Bailey deal now seems like a bargain.

Here is a column that says Raiders are undermining the rest of the owners by attacking their free agents now before teams know if there will be a salary cap and what the terms of it will be.

I don’t see it that way. The Raiders only need to worry about themselves and if they want to take a risk now, that’s up to them. But they must live with the fact that there may be repercussions. It’s not the rest of the league’s business what the Raiders do. Oakland owner Al Davis, 81, wants to win now. He is making his own decisions based on his own timetable.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus said Friday at the combine that he wished the other teams would follow the Raiders’ lead and take care of business. Of course Rosenhaus feels that way, the Raiders are paying players now instead of making them wait.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Thursday night, we noted the Denver Broncos were considering pursuing former Rams safety Oshiomogho Atogwe.

Atogwe
Rogers
Friday, a source close to the situation said the Broncos are definitely planning to pursue Atogwe. He is the first veteran the team has targeted in the John Fox era. The Broncos are interested in Atogwe because he creates a lot of turnovers.

Denver will be looking for several aggressive defensive players. The Broncos ranked last in the NFL in total defense and points allowed in 2010. They are expected to concentrate heavily on the defensive side of the ball in the draft and in free agency.

Atogwe can be signed now because he was cut by the Rams. Washington, Buffalo, Dallas and the Rams are reportedly interested in signing him.

Meanwhile, a source close to the situation said there hasn’t been any movement between the Chiefs and free-agent defensive tackle Shaun Rogers. He has visited the Redskins, Saints and Chiefs. The Chiefs remain interested. Rogers, a massive run-stuffer, played for defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel when he was the coach in Cleveland.

The Atogwe and Rogers situations could be decided in the next week.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Denver Broncos general manager Brian Xanders said the team is open and ready to either keep the No. 2 overall pick or trade it.

Xanders understands that Denver will most likely keep the pick. The second overall pick hasn’t been traded in 11 years. The Broncos will get a better feel for whether the pick is tradeable if there is a new CBA agreed upon prior to the April 28-30 draft. If there is a new rookie pay scale, the pick could be easier to move.

Xanders said he does not have a preference on what to do with the pick, but Denver is preparing itself for any scenario.

Meanwhile, Xanders strongly denied a recent NFL.com report that second-year quarterback Tim Tebow doesn’t have the support of the team’s brass. Twice, Xanders said the report is "false." Xanders said Tebow is doing everything the team expects him to do.

Xanders said the Broncos are open to addressing any position in the draft and will evaluate every position closely. However, he did acknowledge Denver’s major needs on defense. Xanders said the defensive side of the ball is deep in this year’s draft. It’s clear Denver -- which has four picks in the first 67 -- is planning to concentrate on defense.

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