Cardinals Afternoon Combine Notes: 2.24.07

Lots of defensive tackles, Gaines Adams, and my pick for who we should take 5th overall in April.

Brandon Siler, a middle linebacker from Florida just stepped up to the podium.  He has acting aspirations, stemming back to his high school days when he was involved in theater.  He gave up auditioning for plays to pursue football.  That's interesting to me because I didn't go out for the football team in high school because I wanted to audition for plays.  I wonder how different my life would be now if I went out for football.

Oh, wait.  I was always too short, too fat, and too slow to play football.  That's right!

He's a middle linebacker that weighed in at 235 and he's 6'2".  Maybe I'm still reeling from the defensive tackles that were in here earlier today and the massive offensive linemen from Thursday, but that just seems small.

HB Blades, LB, Pittsburgh

Very eloquent speaker.  His Dad played in the NFL and HB was around the game his entire life.  He talked about how messy Chris Spielman's locker was and how much he learned from Barry Sanders on and off the field.

He's from the same school as current Cardinals middle linebacker Gerald Hayes, so he might have an in either through someone that played against his Dad, or a recommendation from Hayes himself.

Blades was very productive in college and was among the leader in all defensive categories, but the book on him is that he's undersized and won't be able to take on blocks at the NFL level.  That was the book on Hayes, too.  Then again, Blades is a middle linebacker just like Hayes, so the question breaks down to how many former Pitt players do we want on the team?

Just overheard that Greg Olsen, TE, Miami, ran a 4.45 in the 40 yard dash.

Dave Patterson, DT, Ohio State:

Patterson might be worth a longer look.  I don't know that he's high on a lot of teams' draft boards, but he seems like a Gabe Watson kind of prospect without the work ethic issues.  He played at a major program, was involved on championship-level teams, and has played almost every position on the defensive line (4-3 front).  Once again, it's strange to think of him as "undersized," but at 6'3", 285, he looked like he could add about 15 pounds and not lose much explosiveness.

Definitely worth a shot in the later rounds.  Looks the part and is a good kid.  He has things he needs to work on (like the fact that he said he wasn't successful as a wrestler in high school because he couldn't get good leverage on his opponent and his lower body strength), but there also seems to be a lot to work with.

Michael Okwo, LB, Stanford:

He's played mostly inside in the 3-4, but I could definitely see him playing on the outside in the 4-3 (replacing Orlando Huff).  A very intelligent young man and, since he's shorter than everyone else (5'11"), he's had to learn to diagnose plays early, read and re-act faster, and work on his coverage ability.  He reminds me of Cato June a lot.  Not a huge guy, but a smart player and someone that can contribute (especially on special teams - did a lot of that in college) right away in some capacity.

Plus which, he's already a (Stanford) Cardinal and they went 1-11 last year, so he's used to losing.

Dan Bazuin, DE/OLB, Central Michigan:

Looks like someone's going to take this kid and make him an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.  He even dropped 10 pounds and has been working on linebacker drills with his position coaches and an outside facility.  He seems to be a "try hard" player and he even said that his most valuable asset was his motor and his relentlessness.  Thinks he can be the next Mike Vrabel.

Here's what I don't get: He wants to run a 4.6 in the 40 and, even after dropping 10 pounds he's still at 266.  That's 8 pounds more than Gaines Adams weighs.  I understand that he's not at the level that Adams is as far as athletic ability, but why is one guy a top 5 pick and the other a late round guy?

I'll now climb off my soapbox and move on, since it's highly unlikely that Cardinals would be interested in him (and a team that runs the 3-4 will probably grab him first).

Another Hybrid Guy:

Just talked to Juwan Simpson from Alabama.  He's a linebacker that some teams (especially our good friends the Seattle Seahawks) are trying to move him to safety (ala Michael Boulware).  The biggest thing he brings to the table, according to him, is his speed.  He'll need it if he's going to make the switch.  He said he's run in the low 4.4s in the past but is gunning for a 4.5 time in the 40 when he runs on Monday.  At 6'2", 225, he'd be a good sized safety and a suitable replacement for the venerable Robert Griffith.

Plus which, we can snake him away from the Seahawks, which would be nice.

Alan Branch, DT, Michigan:

We shouldn't take Gaines Adams, we should take this kid.  He was simply amazing.  I know about everything he did at Michigan, I know he's a dominant player, I know that he can significantly help the run defense (because, seriously, how good are we going to be with Kendrick Clancy and Gabe Watson or Darnell Dockett?).  I know all of this and I feel that he can help the pass rush as well.

He's the biggest guy I've seen thus far.  That's saying a lot.  He seemed very at ease, answered everyone's questions honestly and concisely, and just seemed like a big, happy guy that would be outstanding in the locker room.  If you're afraid that he's too big or too happy, you obviously didn't watch any Michigan games last year.

I had a special feeling about him before the Combine and I obviously need to see his workout numbers to be sure (especially his bench press and his short shuttle, since I don't see him as being a guy that will do well in the 40), but he looks like the biggest "can't miss" guy that I've seen thus far (Joe Thomas notwithstanding, because he's going to get drafted by someone else).

I was also hesitant about Gaines Adams coming into the Combine, so it could just be that I'm biased.  But, with Chike Okeafor and Bert Berry already at the end positions, do we really need to take a shot at a kid with a lot of upside?  Or do we want a big guy that dominated all year for a National Championship contender?

I'd take Branch.

Marcus Thomas, DT, Florida:

He was suspended last year.  Twice.  Once for failing a drug test, once for violating the terms of his contract with Florida following the suspension.  That means the Bidwells aren't going to draft him.

And it was painful to watch the press conference, since all he wanted to do was talk about football and all they wanted to talk about was the suspension.

Apparently, Tennessee has shown interest in him.  I wish I were making that up.

Amobi Akoye, DT, Louisville:

No.  He isn't related to Christian Okoye aka the Nigerian Nightmare.  He's an interesting prospect because, as a result of the fact that he was born in Nigeria and started school early, he graduated high school at 16, spent three years at Louisville, and declared for the draft at 19.  He's got great size for a defensive tackle (6'1", 302) and everyone seems to be in love with his potential.

For how young he is, he's definitely more mature and eloquent than I ever was at 19.  He's very intelligent, almost went to Harvard, and handled all the questions from the media exceptionally well.  He's explosive, he's strong, he's big, and he hasn't finished growing or developing yet.  Still... I don't see the Cardinals drafting a 19 year-old kid.

Were you ready to graduate and enter the real world at that age?  Would you have been ready for the pressure of the NFL and everything that goes along with it when you were that young?  How's he going to react to a bunch of guys that are 30 or older snarling at him about trying to take their jobs?  What if he gets drafted high (Scout.com has him as the sixth rated prospect overall), gets a huge signing bonus, is suddenly famous, and has to deal with everything that goes along with that?  At 19.  Just seems like too much.

My prediction: A lot of NFL teams have the same concerns about his age and he falls to the Falcons, where Bobby Petrino takes him and finishes what he started at Louisville.  Atlanta needs help on the inside and Petrino would be the best coach in the NFL to continue to development this young man and get the most out of him.

One other thing I thought of: What if Doogie Houser also had a pituitary issue, ended up being 6'2", 300 at the age of 11, graduated high school, then went to college, graduated in three years, and went to the NFL at the age of 14?  If he wasn't ready to be a doctor, I'd have to assume Akoye isn't ready for the NFL.


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