Friday, February 24, 2012
Updated: February 25, 7:17 PM ET
Combine: Day 3 observations
By John Clayton
INDIANAPOLIS -- Fridays are star days for the media at the NFL scouting combine.
On every combine Friday, quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs get a chance to go in front of the podium and be interviewed by the 750 credentialed reporters and camera people attending the combine.
With a deep class of wide receivers, an interesting class of quarterbacks and one big-name running back, Trent Richardson of Alabama, it was a fascinating day.
Here are the five things we learned Friday:
1. Richardson is popular: Even though he isn't working out because of recent knee surgery, Richardson said he has been interviewed by all but five of the 32 NFL teams. He's heard from Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Cincinnati and others. As the top running back in the draft, Richardson should draw a lot of interest. It's unlikely the Browns would take him with the No. 4 pick, but if they don't re-sign Peyton Hillis, it's not out of the question for the Browns to take him with the first-round pick (No. 22) they acquired from Atlanta last year in the Julio Jones trade.
The Bucs may be looking to upgrade the backfield despite LeGarrette Blount's success. The most interesting team could be the Bengals. There is a good chance Cincinnati won't re-sign Cedric Benson. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis spoke at a podium and didn't seem to be certain Benson, who is a free agent, will be on the team. Richardson to the Bengals in the first round could be an interesting possibility.
2. Measuring out at the combine: Normally the national press doesn't pay much attention to the weigh-ins, but Friday's checkups for the quarterback prospects turned out to be a big story. Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III turned out to be taller than expected. He checked in at 6 feet 2⅜ inches and 223 pounds. St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who isn't considering drafting a quarterback with the second pick in the draft, said the cutoff is usually 6-1 for the standard height requirement for a quarterback.
"I think once you're over 6-1, or in that area, you had better be able to have pocket presence and be able to move and see, much like Drew Brees," Fisher said. "Drew does an outstanding job.
Once you get to 6-2 plus, that is important, but we all know he has the mobility and the build.
"But there is no evidence on the college tape whatsoever of [Griffin's] inability to make decisions based on his inability to see."
The other winner was Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler, who hit the tape at 6-6⅞. That is significant because he is listed as 6-8 by ASU, and there hasn't been a successful 6-8 quarterback in NFL history.
Dan McGwire of the Seahawks was the last 6-8 quarterback and he was a major failure. Osweiler is building a lot of momentum toward becoming a high second-round pick or higher because of surprisingly good footwork and good throwing ability. As for other measurements, quarterback Kellen Moore of Boise State was proud to announce not only that he was six feet tall but that he was also six feet with a lot of zeroes.
Quarterback Russell Wilson of Wisconsin checked in at 5-11, which won't help his draft stock.
3. Luck, Griffin III win with their media interviews: The Colts are expected to make Andrew Luck the first pick in the 2012 draft and he apparently has no problem being Peyton Manning's backup if Manning stays. First, Luck said he modeled his career after Manning. Second, according to a source, he's talked with the Colts about Manning's potential return and expressed that he has no problem with it.
"If I have an opportunity to learn from someone like him, why wouldn't I take advantage of that?" Luck said.
On the other side, Griffin was as impressive with his first combine interview as any player I've seen in 24 years of covering the event. He handled questions flawlessly. Nothing seemed coached with his answers. He was funny when he needed to be funny. His answers were thoughtful and insightful. More than anything else, though, he spoke like a quarterback who would have no trouble adjusting from the Baylor offense into the NFL.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Griffin has the talents and skills to be able to learn a West Coast offense without much problem. The more you see these two players, the more you realize Luck will be the first pick and Griffin will be the second pick after a team makes a swap with the Rams.
4. Kicking tires at the combine: In past years, a lot of contracts were negotiated at the combine. That's not the case this year, and agents and teams aren't surprised. Many of the top agents are saying their meetings pertaining to re-signing players are more "kicking the tires." The Packers re-signed tight end Jermichael Finley and the 49ers re-signed safety C.J. Spillman. Other than that, not much has gotten done this week.
The problem is the delayed start of free agency and the late deadline for franchise tags. Free agency begins March 13. The deadline for franchise tags is March 5. Deals in the NFL are spurred by deadlines, and in past years the combine usually finished around the start of free agency. Don't be surprised if in the future, the league goes to an open period in February that would allow agents to discuss free agency with other teams around the time of the combine. The idea was floated a couple of years ago, but in the past two years, owners were preparing for the possible 2011 lockout and weren't interested in any change. According to a league source, the open period of negotiations is expected to be suggested when the competition committee meets next month in Naples, Fla.
5. Important coin tosses: Early Friday morning, the NFL staged a coin toss to figure out draft positions for four of the 32 spots in the first round. The Dolphins won a toss that allowed them to have the eighth pick of the draft, leaving the Panthers ninth. The Chiefs beat out the Seahawks for the 11th pick, leaving the Seahawks 12th.
What was interesting was seeing Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland and Seahawks general manager John Schneider sitting together discussing things after the coin tosses. Both teams are on the outside looking in for the top quarterbacks in the draft; Luck is the consensus No. 1 pick and a team will possibly trade up to No. 2 for Griffin. On Thursday, Schneider conceded it was close to impossible to trade up to the No. 2 pick. It became that much tougher when the Seahawks fell to the 12th pick instead of No. 11.
The Dolphins know it might take the equivalent of three first-round picks to trade from No. 8 to No. 2. Odds will favor the Browns (No. 4) and the Redskins (No. 6) as having the best chances of trading up for Griffin.
What was learned Friday is, according to a source, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross would really like to find a way to get Peyton Manning if he's released by the Colts. The Seahawks and Dolphins have interest in Packers quarterback Matt Flynn. Both teams would like to find ways to upgrade the quarterback position, but it won't be easy.
|If NFL GMs had questions about Robert Griffin III's height, they were answered on Friday.|
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Follow Clayton on Twitter @ClaytonESPN