What We Learned at the Combine

Good news, bad news, and all sorts of impressions from the Combine. What does it all mean? Find out here.

-  This is a deep class for offensive linemen.  There's a lot of top-end talent (with Joe Thomas by far leading the pack; more on him in a moment) and considerable depth beyond that.  This is exceedingly good news for the Cardinals, who could draft an o-lineman in all seven rounds and still end up with five NFL quality guys.

-  Tons of depth along the interior.  Both offense and defense.  The good news is that there is value to be had in the second day.  The bad news is that there seems to be very little separating a highly rated guard like Ben Grubbs from a lower-tier guy like Dan Santucci.  In the next two months, a lot of information will be disseminated and there will be a widening of the gap between the two, but it's still going to be close.

-  It's a deep defensive line class along the interior from the standpoint that there's Alan Branch, Amobi Okoye, and everyone else.  While some guys might be a bit bigger than others, some might be a bit faster than others, differing pass rushing skills, they all kind of bunch together after the top two prospects. 

-  Speaking of Branch, he's making me look like an idiot right now for falling in love with him after his interview.  Word on the street (from Scout.com) is that he struggled to finish his workout and looked sluggish towards the end of it.  To rub salt in the wound, Gaines Adams was very impressive and athletic in his position drills (especially in his linebacker drills).  I'm still prepared to defend Branch and revile Adams, because the draft is still two months away.  I have a feeling that Branch's trainer is currently making him run up and down stairs, run in place in his sleep, and making him take deep breaths to widen his lungs for his Pro Day.  I also have a feeling that Adams is one of those players that looks great in practice but disappears during games because the opposition's left tackle watches enough film on him to determine his tendencies on his first to steps after the snap.  As soon as that information is gathered, it's a simple matter of overwhelming Adams and his lanky frame at the point of attack.

-  I won't change my opinion on the above paragraph until both of these guys are in the NFL for three years.  Even then, I'll find a way to work it out so that I'm right.  That's how strongly I feel about Adams.  And, to a lesser degree, Branch.

-  It's a slow class this year.  Aside from the receivers, no one really scorched the radar gun this year.  The closest thing that we had to a Vernon Davis-type surprise was when Greg Olsen ran a 4.5 in the 40.  A few defensive backs had times in the 4.3s, but those were all guys that were expected to post fast times.  Calvin Johnson's 4.34 was still impressive, but he was going to be a top 5 pick anyway.  Plus which, pretty much everyone that worked out at the Combine had spent the past couple of months working out at a training facility.  It's safe to say that all these prospects worked on their 40 times in preparation for the Main Event.  And they still posted slow times.

-  Speaking of tight ends, this is a pretty dreadful year for them.  Olsen will most likely find himself in a Heath Miller situation where he's the only tight end that winds up with a first round grade this year.  Add to that the fact that most of the tight ends ran lackluster times and can't block and you've got a very lean year at the position.  Makes me think that Leonard Pope won't have a lot of competition coming into this season.  Unless Arizona adds a veteran (or possibly Dan Graham?)

-  While there aren't many guys that have separated themselves from the pack, it's definitely a solid linebacker class.  After the talent drain last year, many experts predicted that it would be a down year at the position.  There aren't any individuals that blow you away, but there are a bunch of solid prospects.  Value can definitely be had at the position late Day 1, early Day 2.  This also bodes well for the Red Birds.  Someone needs to step into the spot that was shared by Orlando Huff and Calvin Pace last year.  That someone could be a value pick that Cardinals snag in the 3rd or 4th round.

-  Joe Thomas is in a class by himself.  If I were Rod Graves, I would be calling the GMs at Oakland, Detroit, Cleveland, and Tampa and starting as many wildly untrue rumors about Thomas as I could.  "Hey, it's Rod.  Did you hear about Thomas?  Apparently, he beat up an entire Girl Scout troop because they ran out of Thin Mints.  And don't get me started on his gun running business..."  It's worth a shot.  And it would be worth it to land Thomas.

-  Defensive backs are hit and miss.  Outside of the first round guys (Chris Houston, Darrelle Revis, LaRon Landry, Leon Hall), there are a lot of average players with average NFL futures.  There are a number of intriguing safety prospects, though, and that is a very promising thing for Arizona's draft prospects.  They could wait until Round 5 (or possibly Round 6) and still get a versatile guy like Eric Weddle or JD Nelson.

-  The bad news from the above paragraph is that this doesn't look like a deep cornerback class.  The Cardinals definitely need help there (how much longer can they handle Eric Green and David Macklin?) and the free agent market (Nate Clements notwithstanding) is very slim.  It's actually making me take a long look at Dre Bly.

-  I saved the most important point for last: There's still a long time to go.  There's still free agency.  There's still the fallout from the first week of free agency.  There are a number of Pro Days on the schedule.  A lot of these prospects will rise and fall between now and when Goodell takes the podium for the first time.  More information, more turmoil, and more intrigue is yet to come.  And we'll have it covered.  First, we need to see what transpires in the free agent market with a conservative ownership that has $32 million in cap room staring it in the face.

-  Insert plug here:  Keep checking back for lots of free agency coverage.


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