Pre-combine Whispers

The final number of invitations sent out to this year's NFL Combine was 333 with Missouri junior defensive tackle C.J. MOSLEY being the most recently invited prospect. A total of 39 underclassmen were added to the original list of those invited to the Combine.<p>

Texas senior running back CEDRIC BENSON has decided that he will not perform the workout portion of the Combine next week, but will rather wait until his Pro Day on March 23rd, which will do two things in the process... 1) Give both running backs from Auburn (Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams) the chance to surpass him... 2) Anger a number of the high-level team executives who are trying to decide if they want to invest a Top-5 draft choice and Top-5 money into a player that has already openly said he idolizes former Longhorns star Ricky Williams.

Oklahoma State junior running back VERNAND MORENCY has not stated publicly whether he will run in Indianapolis, but the fact that he has officially said he plans to workout at the Miami (FL) Pro Day on March 3rd could lead you to believe that he might decide to hold off on his 40-times until he gets to a more comfortable atmosphere.

Miami junior running back FRANK GORE has been training tremendously hard, as he feels as if he is not being mentioned alongside the other top running backs for this year's draft. He ended the season at just over 230 pounds (233), but has shed over 20 pounds, while training and should report to the Combine at 212 pounds. Plus, he intends to perform a complete workout, including the 40-yard dash next week.

Players that are not likely to be able to perform a full workout at the NFL Combine because of various injuries include Arizona State senior quarterback ANDREW WALTER (shoulder)... California senior wide receiver GEOFF MCARTHUR (leg)... Toledo senior wide receiver LANCE MOORE (shoulder)... LSU senior center BEN WILKERSON (knee)... Virginia senior offensive lineman ELTON BROWN (knee)... Colorado State senior offensive lineman ERIK PEARS (shoulder)... Connecticut senior defensive end TYLER KING (leg)... others who have been mentioned, but not confirmed in this category include California senior wide receiver CHASE LYMAN (leg)... UCLA senior wide receiver TAB PERRY (ankle)... Marshall senior wide receiver JOSH DAVIS (hamstring)... Virginia junior tight end HEATH MILLER (groin)... Miami senior tight end KEVIN EVERETT (shoulder)... New Mexico senior offensive guard CLAUDE TERRELL (shoulder)... Virginia senior defensive lineman CHRIS CANTY (various)... Virginia Tech senior cornerback ERIC GREEN (hamstring)... Oklahoma senior cornerback ANTONIO PERKINS (knee)... and Wisconsin senior safety JIM LEONHARD (foot)... However, Wisconsin senior running back ANTHONY DAVIS, who missed the East-West Shrine Game with a slight knee injury and Syracuse senior safety DIAMOND FERRI, who also missed the game due to various bumps and bruises, are both expected to perform most if not all of the workout portion of next week's NFL Combine... Davis was recently timed at 4.38-to-4.42 in the 40, while training in New Jersey.

One position that could be effected in terms of workout participation could very well be the cornerback spot, as there has been a lot of speculation on whether any of the following three top-prospects, Auburn senior cornerback CARLOS ROGERS, Michigan senior cornerback MARLIN JACKSON or Miami senior cornerback ANTREL ROLLE will even decide to run at the Combine or will just wait for their individual Pro Day dates.

*NFL TEAM-RELATED DRAFT NOTES:

Houston Texans general manager Charley Casserly recently stated that if they have already scouted a player then that player's performance at the NFL Combine is not going to change their overall grade that much. "The most overrated thing that just drives me crazy is that (a player's) performance at the combine can drastically change a (player's) rating," explained Casserly when asked about the workouts at the Combine.

Houston Texans general manager Charley Casserly also went on to say the team is not likely to be a big player in the free agent market, as they plan to put most of their focus on improving through the NFL Draft with wide receiver, offensive line, front seven being the primary positions they are focusing on, while running back and safety might not be too far behind.

New England Patriots, who are coming off back-to-back Super Bowl titles, may not be a team that gets overly enamored with the crop of underclassmen that attend next week's NFL Combine, as they continue to lead the NFL in the number of players on their roster with actual college degrees. One other note on the Patriots is that there are a number of teams waiting to see what kind of tender the team will make to restricted free agent wide receiver David Givens if they wish to ward off possible suitors they will have to tender him at $1.5 million, which would mean anyone that would then try to sign him away would have to giveup a first-round pick to do so if the Patriots decided not to match the offer.

Dallas, Denver and San Francisco are the latest teams to privately discuss the idea of using more of a 3-4 defense, as their primary scheme for next season. All three teams would need to address the change in personnel via free agency and in the draft. The Cowboys may start by releasing veteran linebacker Dexter Coakley, while the Broncos have already let it be known that former All-Pro defensive lineman Trevor Pryce can be had for a "Day One" selection. The 49ers believe that they have a strong foursome of linebackers; Julian Peterson, Jeff Ulbrich, Jamie Winborn and Derek Smith, but would need to upgrade themselves by adding a nose tackle and another defender that could add pressure opposite Peterson.

Denver Broncos, which is without a third round pick (salary cap violation) and fifth round pick (dealt to Atlanta) are expecting to receive at least one "Day One" compensation choice from the NFL for the free agent loss of Bert Berry (Arizona) and Ian Gold (Tampa Bay) last season.

San Diego Chargers gave themselves some room by franchising All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees, which will reward him with a salary nearly four times greater than it was last season, but it gives them the chance to listen to trade offers other than the mandatory two first-round choices, which although it would give them great flexibility on draft day it would be nearly impossible for them to retain and use three first round picks in one draft due to the league's rookie salary pool.

Buffalo Bills, who recently released veteran quarterback Drew Bledsoe, are hoping to find a suitable veteran signal caller that can come in and help mentor the physically gifted, but sometimes overly emotional J.P. Losman. Basically, they would need to find a Trent Dilfer-type guy who is comfortable with aiding his development, but could fill-in if necessary. Some names that could surface include Charlie Batch, who coach Mike Mularkey knows from his days in Pittsburgh, Jay Fiedler, who is likely to be cut in Miami, and is an East Coast guy or possibly Kelly Holcombe if the Cleveland Browns do not make a strong offer to keep him.

*NFL DRAFT PLAYER NOTES & UPDATES:

NW Oklahoma State senior defensive end VAN BROWN (#43)... recently performed a full regiment of combine-type events for a former NFL personnel evaluator... his official weigh-in numbers were 6056, 272 pounds... ran 4.59 in the 40... 4.27 short shuttle... 41" vertical and 10'2" broad jump... spent his red-shirt senior campaign at the NAIA program after transferring from USC... recorded 52 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, three pass breakups, three forced fumbles and one blocked kick... earned NAIA All-American status in many circles... game films reviewed include Lincoln (MO), Colorado School of the Mines, Texas College and Azusa Pacific... had at least one tackle for loss in all ten games he played this season... primarily lined up at RDE... well-traveled kid with superior natural physical tools... signed with Oregon out of high school, but never enrolled... sat out one year before attending Glendale CC in California... moved to Pasadena CC, where he recorded 44 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, six sacks and seven pass deflections in 2000... traveled to Lansing CC in Michigan, so that he could be closer to his next possible destination, which was going to be Michigan State... did not play there in 2001, but finally landed at USC in the spring of 2002... had four tackles and 1.5 sacks, including a strong effort against Stanford (2002)... served as the backup to Kenechi Udeze (Vikings), as a junior (2003)... saw limited action with his top games coming against Stanford and Arizona... decided to move one final time in order to receive the necessary playing time to impress pro scouts... the young brother of All-Pro linebacker Chad Brown (Seahawks)... was a two-way prep standout, defensive end and tight end... he's a little bit of a different kind of guy, much like his brother... rare athleticism for his size and position... has carried anywhere from 260-275 pounds during his college career... injury history includes a strained groin, which caused him to miss some time... an arthroscopic procedure, which was done after the 2003 campaign, on his left ankle to remove some bone chips... has had a slight issue with one of his shoulders, while training in Colorado... but has been regularly turning in late-20's to mid-30 reps of 225 pounds... will turn 24 years old this coming May, but maybe not as mature as you would expect/desire... shows a good work ethic in the weight room for the most part, according to several current/former NFL players that have trained with him in the off-season... has contacted the USC staff, and will likely be doing his Pro Day out there rather than in Oklahoma... wore jersey #91, while with the Trojans (2002/2003)... wore jersey #43, while with the Rangers (2004)...

Colorado State senior offensive lineman ERIK PEARS (#74)... sustained a partially torn right labrum (shoulder) at one of the East-West Shrine game practices... since then he underwent successful surgery on January 20th, 2005... the procedure was done back in Colorado by the Denver Broncos team doctor... will still be attending the NFL Combine for interviews and full medical review... has been told that his rehab process should take no-less than four months to complete (Late May)... so he should be ready in time to start training camp.

Delaware senior defensive lineman CHRIS MOONEY (#92)... was recently weighed, while training for his Pro Day on March 8th... he came in at 6044, 285 pounds, which is 8-to-10 pounds heavier than he was during the season... most have estimated him in the mid-to-late 4.8 range, but according to those that have seen him in his Pre-Pro Day training sessions... it would not surprise them if he ran between 4.75-4.80 in a few weeks.

Florida State senior wide receivers CHAUNCEY STOVALL (#15) and DOMINIC ROBINSON (#21) were recently pointed out as the two "Ringleaders" of the "I ain't wearin no pads on a Thursday practice" event that took place at this year's East-West Shrine Game... several participants (players, coaches, trainers, staff) who were also on the East roster admitted that the two Seminoles made a big issue from the get go that day about how they were "Not wearing any pads today" for practice... their initial words were followed by several other ACC prospects who were in the game... which led to the entire East squad not putting their pads on for practice... Purdue head coach Joe Tiller pulled his staff off the field, saying that the players could do as they felt, but also did not allow them back onto the team bus until 4:45pm, which was the official time to end practice, according to the game's schedule... while several people tried to downplay event afterwards, the issue at hands was how selfish certain players were willing to be in an all-star game atmosphere... which would bring to question their overall level of character and maturity.

Graceland (IA) senior wide receiver/return man DANTE JOHNSON (#3)... weighs 5116, 204 pounds... has been timed between 4.42/4.49 in the 40... 36"-38" vertical... caught 49 passes for eight touchdowns and 884 yards this season...along with 57 yards rushing and 402 return yards... gained 1,343 all-purpose yards and scored ten touchdowns... averaged 18 yards per catch... 4.8 yards per rush and 28.7 yards per kickoff return... named NAIA All-American, first-team HAAC, as both a receiver and return man... gained 4,642 all-purpose yards during his college career (39 games)... while scoring 30 touchdowns, 26 receiving, two rushing and two on returns... not a well-rounded receiver to date... would probably struggle to get off of press coverage... defeated a number of double teams... shows good acceleration to the ball... but it came against slower defenders (4.6-4.7 range on film)... good natural instincts, as a return man... showed an extra gear at times, as well... talented kid for his level of competition... would want to see if his 40-time held up on a pro watch, as compared to his coaching staff... would need to get stronger... he is originally from Orlando, Florida, so it would be possible for him to be worked out at Central Florida... wore jersey #3 on game film.

Southern Connecticut State senior quarterback MIKE ABATE (#7)... completed a full mock Pro Day workout recently and posted some very impressive results... he was 6024, 235 pounds... ran 4.81/4.90 in the 40... 29" vertical... 10 reps of 225 pounds... 4.39 short shuttle and 7.61 three-cone drill... he led the Northeast-10 in passer rating this season (148.7)... while averageing 255 yards passing per game with a record-setting 28 touchdown passes... he also broke the school's all-time touchdown passing record by recording 53 during his career... games reviewed were Rowan, St. Anselm and Bryant (RI)... played professional baseball in the Seattle Mariners organization, as an outfielder, before turning his attention to football... will be a bit of an older prospect at 26-years old.

Mississippi senior wide receiver KERRY JOHNSON (#2)... completed a full mock Pro Day workout last weekend, while training at Athletic Edge Sports ... he was 6025, 206 pounds... which is 6-to-8 pounds heavier than he was most of the season... with 7.2% body fat... ran 4.52 in the 40... had been timed in the mid-to-late 4.6 range last spring... 38.5" vertical... 3.90 short shuttle... 6.78 three-cone drill... "This kid (Johnson) is really impressing me", said head trainer Mike Gough, "He's been great to deal with since day one... mature, great leadership skills and really working hard and improving with us". Gough trained former South Florida standout safety J.R. Reed, who was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth round of last year's NFL Draft.

Duke senior defensive back ALEX GREEN (#17)... who was named Defensive MVP at this year's East-West Shrine Game... continues to impress, as he recently ran several 40-times, while training at Athletic Edge Sports for his upcoming Pro Day... he was 6012, 202 pounds... which is roughly five pounds heavier than he was at the East-West Shrine Game... averaged 4.45 in the 40... had been timed in the mid-to-late 4.5 range last spring... also did a number of position specific drills during this past weekend, which included him matching up 1-on-1 with several of the receivers in attendance... with continued work and improvement he could prove versatile enough to play anywhere in the secondary.

Central Florida senior safety ATARI BIGBY could very well be an odd kid with some potential emotional and personal baggage... seems to have some serious mood swings... signed with his initial agent... decided to fire him... once the 30-day waiting period ended... he signed with a new agent one afternoon... and then faxed a letter ending that new relationship by early the next morning... just to go back and sign with the agent he had fired after just a month of being together... has had some issues with the current girl he is in a relationship with... if they fight or argue he seems to take it as if it is a high school drama... some people close to the situation believe he should go seek professional help and worry he might have some type of depression or even bi-polar issues.

Central Florida senior running back ALEX HAYNES may not be too far behind in terms of his mood swings with agents... as he originally signed with Mason Ashe, but is said to be formally dismissing him and then looking closely at MJ Sports.

Central Florida junior defensive end/outside linebacker RASHARD JEANTY, whose rights are currently owned by the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL, will be working out at the University of Miami's Pro Day on March 3rd... any team that selects him in this April's NFL Draft would have the option of buying out his CFL contract, which would be a likely scenario should he be taken.

*All rights reserved by Next Level Scouting, Inc. and John Murphy. He can be reached via email at draftjm13@aol.com.


Jets Insider Top Stories