Cardinals Combine Notes: 2/22/07

LIVE FROM THE COMBINE! News and anecdotes about offensive linemen, including All-World prospect Joe Thomas.

Ryan Harris, OT, Notre Dame:

Harris checked in at 6' 4 1/2" and 305 pounds.  Somehow, he looked smaller than that.  I haven't seen many people that size in my lifetime (especially that close), but he just looked small.  His hands and feet are smaller than I had anticipated.

He's not concerned about his size, though, saying, "I'm more interested in how you play versus how you look."  And, to be honest, it's pretty strange to think of someone that's nearly six and half feet tall and over 300 pounds as "undersized."  Yes.  I understand that I just said he looked small.

He's a Muslim that attended a Catholic university, so he's obviously had to go through some adversity through the years.  He doesn't fast for Ramadan, though.

He was an All-State wrestler in high school, so he knows how to use his hands and how to use leverage to his advantage.

I wouldn't say he's a first round guy (especially at 5th overall), but if we don't get either Joe Thomas or Levi Brown, he has the size at his position that Whisenhunt and Grimm have gravitated towards and coached in the past if he falls to the second round and definitely if he falls to the third.  He can also play right or left tackle, so that helps.

Doug Free, OT, Northern Illinois:

This guy is just simply gigantic.  He has massive hands, long arms, and he's almost 6'7" and weighs 324 pounds.

He kept referencing his athletic ability, so I would assume that he has some.  We'll see how he does in the drills when the cameras are running.

Very relaxed for how many eyes and tape recorders were on him.

Started out as a tight end, so he probably has good feet and knows how to use his hands.

Played in every game at NIU and even played 10 games last year with a stress fracture in his foot.  That impressed me.  A big dude like that would have more trouble with a stress fracture than, say, you or I.

In training camp at Northern Illinois, he won the strength competitions (sled dragging, tire dragging, etc) every single year.  And he worked on a farm.  Bailing hay.  Milking cows.  Raising barns.

I like this kid.

Cameron Stephenson, G, Rutgers:

This guy didn't impress me.  He seemed a little too nervous, a little too aloof... just immature, really.  He took a year off school, then went to junior college, then took a scholarship at Rutgers because they were the first team to offer him one.

He didn't know that he was going to go to the Combine until late January.  He came back home after a couple of weeks away and saw a letter from the NFL saying that he was invited.  Since then, he's been training, but he just seems like one of those "happy to be here" guys.  And a second day guy at that.  There's nothing wrong with that, I'm just saying.

He also has interviews with the Falcons and Patriots, so they might see something I don't.  And, he trained in Scottsdale.  I'm not going to quit writing if he gets drafted, he just seems to have a lot of holes.

Dan Mozes, C, West Virginia:

This kid has some serious moxie.  He was cracking jokes, having fun, and generally toying with the media.  He said he could play center or guard, but he's a little undersized (293 pounds) to play guard, so I think he'll be a center.  It was just refreshing to see someone being kind of fun and playful in a situation where players are normally very stoic and formulaic.

Joe Staley, LT, Central Michigan:

You can definitely tell the top-shelf prospects from the guys who will probably get drafted on the Second Day.  Staley is listed as the #3 tackle prospect on Scout.com and you can tell that he's been coached on how to interview.  He was very calm, gave very concise answers, and didn't get rattled.  He also didn't actually say anything the entire time, which is what a lot of people have become accustomed to when watching interviews with NFL players.

He tweaked his hamstring and won't be able to work out at the Combine this week.  Which is a shame.  I'd like to see what his numbers are like and he mentioned that what sets him apart from the rest of the field is his athletic ability.  I believe he's only going to do the bench press, though, because of his hamstring.  He said he's at about 80%.

Joe Thomas, LT, Wisconsin:

The big tackle prospect that everyone has been waiting for.  The savior of every franchise in the league.  The man you can plug in at left tackle and forget about for the next 10-15 years.

I'm not sure, though.  I've got a tremendous amount of respect for what he's done, what he's accomplished, and was impressed by the fact that Gil Brandt of NFL.com came up to introduce him at the podium as a "great football player and even better person."  He blew out his knee in a 2004 bowl game, spent 2005 re-habbing, and came back strong in 2006.  He tore his ACL in that bowl game playing defensive end.  There's a guy that wants to help his team out.  That really impressed me.

One thing, though: I had assumed that Joe Thomas would be the largest human I have ever seen in my entire life.  I was even ready to write those words in this report, long before I ever saw him.  He's not as big as Doug Free.  They both checked in at 6' 6 1/2" with Thomas at 311 pounds and Free at 324 pounds, but Free seemed like he was way bigger than Thomas.

Free seems like a farmer, like a brawler, someone that you would want to have a beer with and never worry about getting in a bar fight (even if you had to face off against the entire Persian army).  Thomas' Dad is a banker.  And that's what Thomas seems like to me.  He seems like a big, strong, agile banker.  And I'm not sure I want him computing APRs and second mortgages when he's trying to protect Matt Leinart's blind side.

I want the farmer.  I want the brawler.  I want the guy that'll tackle some poor, unsuspecting defender out of the way if that guy happens to get in Leinart's face.  And I think that's Doug Free.

Conveniently enough (and I'm sure that my changing opinion of Thomas and the following fact are not at all related), he had dinner this week with Detroit, Oakland, and Cleveland.  So, he'll be gone anyway.  But, for the record, I'd still rather have Free.

Arron Sears, G, Tennessee:

I love this guy.  He just looks like a guard.  He stayed for his senior year because he wanted to finish what he started at Tennessee.  He looked relaxed, was smiling, and didn't seem at all overwhelmed (there have been a lot of "thousand yard stares" thus far).  He came into last season at around 335 and weighed in today at 319.  With any guard prospect, you need to be concerned about weight, but I don't see that being an issue once he gets involved in the off-season conditioning programs and so forth.  And, it's something that seems to be behind him now.  Let's hope.

I'm saying that, if he's available when the Cardinals pick in the second round, they should take him, put Milford Brown on the bench and give him some Gatorade, and never look back.  The kid was that impressive.

To beat this into the ground: He looks like a guard.  He looks like every guard that has ever laced up his cleats in the NFL.  I know I put a quote in earlier about "playing the part vs. looking the part," but the man looks like a guard.  Plus which, more sought after prospects like Auburn's Ben Grubbs are likely to be gone by the time Arizona's up in Round 2.

On top of all that, this kid played every position but center for Tennessee during his four years there.  He's not working out here at the Combine because he tweaked his knee at the Senior Bowl, but I'm thinking that a work-out won't affect his stock much.  If anything, it might make him available when the Cards draft in Round 3.  But, that's probably way too optimistic.  Just take him in Round 2 and count yourself lucky.


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