2008 NFL Draft Buzz: February 17

Find out who's been checking out Indiana WR James Hardy, Iowa RB Albert Young and Western Michigan's rising star, OG James Blair. TheRanchReport.com's Ed Thompson has the scoop.

Expect to hear that Tulsa's Paul Smith has made strides with NFL clubs by the time the NFL Scouting Combine winds down next week. Smith's knowledge of the game, poise and maturity is impressive and will resonate well when he sits down face-to-face with NFL coaches and GMs. 

The son of a football coach, Smith put up staggering numbers at Tulsa in their spread offense, throwing for 10,924 yards and 83 touchdowns while rushing for 1,155 yards and 28 touchdowns during his career. While some want to question his ability to throw the long ball, Smith's precise workmanship in the short and middle areas of the field along with his field intelligence and leadership are going to give teams a lot of confidence in his abilities.  

"I love those critics, because they're the ones who keep me going," he told Scout.com. "They're not the general managers who will be making the decisions. 

"I know some of my weaknesses, and a lot of it might be the mirror test of not being 6-foot-5, 235 pounds. But I enjoy lining up next to the best quarterbacks in the nation, I'm excited about that opportunity." 

The 6-foot-1, 198-pound quarterback said that although the attention he received from teams at both the Hula Bowl and the East-West Shrine game was extensive, there were a few clubs that stuck out in his mind a bit as he reflected on those encounters.

"I remember talking to the Vikings, mainly because my best friend — Garrett Mills — who played at Tulsa two years ago plays tight end for them. I talked to them about how Garrett and I have a pretty good feel for one another," he said with a laugh. "I certainly wouldn't mind throwing to him again, because he tends to make a quarterback look good, I know that from experience.

"That was kind of neat to have a friend in the NFL, and I guess at the bigger schools you find that quite commonly, but for guys like me, it was neat talking to them about a possible future with the Vikings."

Smith also said that the Chicago Bears have shown a good level of interest so far. But that shouldn't be a huge surprise since the Bears are definitely in need of some quarterback help, and their head coach, Lovie Smith, graduated from Tulsa. 

"I did talk one of their scouts for quite a while," Smith said. "And then I talked to a different one at the East-West game."

The Carolina Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons have also shown some strong interest in Smith to date. But expect that list to grow exponentially after his appearance in Indianapolis next week.

Lining Up for a Look

Indiana wide receiver James Hardy runs after the catch during a practice.
AP Photo/Darron Cummings

More than half of the teams in the NFL have already shown some interest in Indiana's exciting wide receiver, James Hardy, and he's ready to do whatever it takes to succeed at the next level after setting both single season and career records by the end of his junior year.

"As long as I have a coach who's willing to stay long hours with me, I'll be there willing to learn," Hardy said during an exclusive interview with Scout.com

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound wide receiver is a playmaker who knows how to use his body to his advantage in tight coverage. And his timing and leaping ability make him deadly on fade routes and as red zone target.

Hardy told Scout.com that just a few of the teams that have shown interest in him are the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons, and the Indianapolis Colts.

Just Unbelievable

Iowa running back Albert Young is only the third player in the history of Iowa University football to rush for more than 3,000 yards in his career. But that didn't earn him an invitation to the NFL Combine.

"I didn't receive the right percentage of teams that might have wanted me at the Combine, and that's something I can't control," the versatile running back told Scout.com during an exclusive interview. "But there were teams who were interested.

"I'm using that as a motivational factor, along with not going to an All-Star game, but that's OK.  You can only play for one team anyway, so you're just trying to find that perfect match right now.  When I get the opportunity, I'm going to impress. So I'm just waiting until that time comes."

Young has drawn interest a number of clubs already, including the Seahawks, Falcons, and the Jets. Since Young played high school football with the son of the Jets scout, he knows that New York will have an insider's point of view on the overall talent and attitude that he can bring to the field.

On the Rise

An offensive lineman who has put himself on the radar of a number of teams over the last month is Western Michigan's James Blair. An offensive tackle his last two years in college, Blair is projected as guard at the next level — and he's been turning the heads of scouts at the East-West Shrine game and the Texas vs. The Nation Game. His work has been so impressive that he received an invitation to the Combine after competing in that second all-star game in El Paso.

"When I got my Combine invite I was thinking to myself, all that hard work has paid off and I need to be consistent and keep working hard," Blair told Scout.com.

Although he played at roughly 335 pounds in college, Blair has dropped his weight to 329 and is targeting the 320- to 325-pound range for playing guard in the NFL.

Following the Hula Bowl, Blair talked with scouts from the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins. Green Bay followed up with him after the Texas vs. The Nation Game,  and he also met with representatives from the Kansas City Chiefs, Detroit Lions and the Houston Texans.

Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and are syndicated through FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.

CowboysHQ Top Stories