On the last major day of pro days for this scouting season, the Packers watched five players on Wednesday who potentially could be their man at No. 23 in three weeks.
With general manager Ted Thompson at USC, Packers coach Mike McCarthy and director of college scouting John Dorsey watched the action at Texas.
While quarterback Colt McCoy was the headliner, safety Earl Thomas and hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker Sergio Kindle might have been the featured attractions for the Packers. Both are considered first-round prospects.
Thomas, arguably the top ballhawk in this draft after picking off eight passes in 2009, showed his competitiveness by running the 40-yard dash, even though he ran a 4.48 at the Scouting Combine. The result? A blazing 4.37 while carrying a solid 208 pounds — about 20 pounds over the 5-foot-10 Thomas' playing weight.
"My competitiveness got to me,'' Thomas told reporters. "A lot of coaches asked me, ‘Are you going to run?' I felt like I needed to calm people down or something like that. When the lights come on, I perform my business. I'm glad I got to run."
Unfortunately, Thomas — who a league source said had a formal interview with the Packers at the Combine — tweaked a hamstring on that run and didn't participate in drills.
Kindle (6-3, 250), who ran a 4.70 40 at the Combine, tweaked an injury during his 60-yard shuttle and didn't complete his workout, either. Kindle is the fourth-ranked 3-4 outside linebacker prospect and is a definite possibility at No. 23, Scout.com draft analyst Chris Steuber told Packer Report for our upcoming linebackers series. He had 5.5 sacks, 21.5 tackles for losses and a whopping 40 pressures as a senior.
McCarthy came away impressed with McCoy, who went 45-8 and twice as a Heisman Trophy finalist. McCoy, who was knocked out of the national championship game with an injured throwing shoulder, completed all 55 passes with practically impeccable accuracy.
"I like this workout better (than Oklahoma's Sam Bradford's) from the fact ... I thought Colt was challenged more in his workout as far as the type of throws," McCarthy told reporters. "I thought in Sam's workout, he was very accurate, but Sam's workout was very controlled. He didn't do as much movement and driving throws, in my opinion."
Looking chiseled at 268 pounds, according to a report by Dan Greenspan of our USC Web site, Griffen lived up to his nickname as "The Freak," posting a 34-inch vertical jump and 40 time of 4.59 seconds, though some scouts had his second run as low as 4.46. He showed excellent range of motion and change of direction, confirming Steuber's belief that Griffen is the second-best 3-4 outside linebacker prospect in this draft.
Griffen credited the return of Jethro Franklin — a former Packers assistant — with his improved effort last season. He recorded eight sacks in 2009 after being benched in favor of Clay Matthews in 2008.
"This all started with Coach Jethro coming in," Griffen said. "He taught me more than football. You got to do right off the field to do right on the field. It showed up in my play this past season, the pro day and Combine."
A three-time All-American, Mays finished with just five career interceptions. He often was lined up 15 yards off the line of scrimmage, raising questions if Mays can guard slot receivers in a league that increasingly employs three or four wideouts.
"I didn't back peddle too much on film, didn't do too many one-on-ones and didn't play in the slot. I just took a couple steps and ran to the ball, so showing the change of direction and ball skills is what I wanted to show," said Mays, who didn't run the 40 on Wednesday after lighting it up at the Combine. "These DB drills were most important to me, because that's what I don't show on film. They know I can run fast and hit and all that stuff, but being able to move as a bigger safety was the biggest question mark. In the NFL, you get paid to get interceptions. I wasn't really coached to do that at USC," he said.
Brown ran his 40 in 5.25 seconds, tweaking his hamstring at the end of the run and leaving him unable to do position drills. Teams, however, love his pass-blocking skills. Packer Report featured Brown in this exclusive on March 21.
It's funny how the draft process works.
Based on production, South Carolina's Eric Norwood (6-1, 241) should be one of the top hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker prospects in this draft. In four seasons, he piled up school records of 29 sacks and 54.5 tackles for losses. As a senior, he posted seven sacks, 11.5 tackles for losses, three blocked kicks and two interceptions.
"I'm just ready for it, ready for it to all be over with and find out where I'm going and start playing football," he told reporters.
But a 40-yard time of 4.71 seconds at the Scouting Combine and his lack of ideal height have pushed him into a probable third-round pick. Norwood stuck with most of his numbers from the Combine — though he did 21 reps on the 225-pound bench press — and looked sharp in position drills, a source told us.
"I think I did well," Norwood told reporters. "I dropped a couple of balls, but other than that, the drills still looked fine. That's what I heard from everybody else so I'll take their word for it."
The Gamecocks have two others prospects to remembers. Clifton Geathers (6-8, 297) — the nephew of Jumpy Geathers — is a towering defensive end who entered the draft following his junior season, even though he's likely a Day 3 prospect. He started only one year, with 3.5 sacks and eight tackles for losses in 2009.
Darian Stewart (5-11, 211) played a hybrid safety-linebacker position in college. Not surprisingly, playing the run is his strength, with 16 tackles for losses in the last two seasons.
South Carolina State
Receiver Oliver Young (6-1) caught 65 passes for 995 yards as a senior with nine touchdowns. Maybe more importantly for scouts, he averaged 18.2 yards on punt returns and 26.1 yards on kickoff returns (one touchdown). Cornerback Phillip Adams (6-1) picked off three passes as a senior with two returned for touchdowns.
Perhaps the best prospect would have been running back Will Ford (5-9, 188), who's the MEAC's all-time rushing leader with 4,650 yards. But he tore his LCL in a November game and has been unable to work out for scouts.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.