Point No. 1
Arizona WR Mike Thomas has the potential to be a big-time slot receiver cut from the same mold as New England's Wes Welker.
Some draft prognosticators question Mike Thomas' ability to succeed in the NFL simply because he's 5-foot-8 and 193 pounds. But I don't think it's wise for anyone to doubt the Pac-10 Conference's all-time leading receiver who pulled in 259 catches during his college career.
At Arizona, Thomas was an all-purpose threat who logged 4,891 yards—fourth-best in Arizona history—and 23 touchdown catches, which put him in a tie for third-place in the school's record book. He caught passes, ran with the ball and returned punts.
Likable and highly coachable, Thomas is a self-described country boy who has a refreshing down-to-earth demeanor despite his success.
"First and foremost, I think I'm a playmaker," he said during a recent phone interview. "The only knock on me at this point is my height, and I am what I am. But I'm quick and fast, I'm strong and I love to play the game."
Thomas could develop into a serious threat out of the slot position at the next level. He's only one inch shorter than Welker, who pulled-in 111 passes last year for 1,165 yards for the Patriots. Thomas is roughly eight pounds heavier and he's got terrific leaping ability that he showcased with his 40.5-inch vertical jump, third-best among wide receivers at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"I'm not a skinny guy, so I'm not afraid of going across the middle and taking big hits," he said. "But once you elude that, there's a lot of room— and you can put a lot of pain into the middle of that field for a defense."
Thomas has drawn plenty of interest from NFL teams already. He's had private workouts with the Broncos, Rams and Chiefs, and he visited the Steelers on March 30-31. He spent time at his school's Pro Day talking with the 49ers special teams coach. At the Combine, the Steelers, Lions, Jaguars and the Panthers were among the teams who requested a formal interview.
Point No. 2
Running back Adrian Peterson has been a real bargain for the Minnesota Vikings, but that will soon come to an end.
During his first two seasons in the NFL, Peterson has rushed for 3,101 yards, including a league- leading 1,760 yards last year. And so far, he's only hit the Vikings salary cap for $4.4 million over the two-year span.
What a steal.
However, the Vikings will begin paying for Peterson's previous success beginning in 2010 due to performance-based escalators in his contract. According to a source, Peterson will earn an additional $ 2.5 million in base salary in 2010, lifting his salary- cap hit to $5.7 million. And he's already boosted his 2011 base salary to $10.7 million. That will translate into a hit of roughly $ 12.8 million that year.
The third-year player out of Oklahoma still has plenty of upside potential despite his extraordinary results to date. I shudder to think what he would be able to do if the Vikings were able to consistently mount a more balanced attack. During Peterson's first two years in the league, the Vikings haven't finished higher than 25th in the league in passing offense.
Point No. 3
USC's Fili Moala is both a kind and humble person and an aggressive warrior.
On the field, the 6-foot-4, 305-pound defensive tackle uses his size and strength to force his opponents to double-team him. This past season, the talented defender helped open up opportunities for the USC linebacker trio of Rey Maualuga, Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing to make more tackles.
USC DT Fili Moala in the locker room prior to the start of the Senior Bowl game.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
" I was raised by great parents who taught me right from wrong, who taught me to be true to myself and to be a standup guy," he said during a recent phone conversation. " I look forward to the day where I can be a contributor to an NFL team, active in the community, and someone who genuinely cares— because I think there just aren't enough people in the world today who really care anymore.
"Whether it's working with youth or anyone in the community, you have to realize that you're an example to people that you don't even know. I think all that comes into account when you take on the responsibility of being an NFL player."
On the field, Moala prides himself in being able to flip an internal switch that brings out the warrior in him. And when he does, that creates all sorts of problems for opposing offensive players.
"I think I'm one of the best, and I'm not trying to be cocky or put anyone else down, because there are some pretty good defensive tackles in this class," he said. "But I think I bring a certain skill set that is versatile, I play hard, I've got a motor, and I think I do all the things that a coach would want a defensive tackle to do.
"I think I'm kind of a raw talent right now, and once I get settled on a new team and put all my energy towards fine-tuning my skills, I'm confident that I'm going to produce for whichever team takes me."
Among the teams that Moala has been drawing interest from are the Bills—who he visited in March—the Chargers, Steelers, Giants, Saints, Chiefs, Colts, Lions, Cowboys, Browns, and Cardinals.
Point No. 4
Up until recently, I was having a hard time figuring out why Tennessee held onto quarterback Vince Young for another season.
Young, who is entering his fourth season in Tennessee will once again be backing up veteran Kerry Collins, who signed a two-year deal during the off-season that included a $4 million signing bonus.
But unless Young renegotiates his current six-year deal, this should be his last season in Tennessee.
After losing the starter's job last year to Collins, Young became a very expensive backup quarterback who hit the team's salary cap for roughly $ 3.9 million. With Young's struggles and his quarterback style being so much different than that of Collins, it seemed likely that the team would shop him around during the off-season.
But his current contract made that virtually impossible.
According to a source, Young's cap hit for this season is $4.6 million, including a $2.1 6 million base salary. Had the Titans decided to release him this year, they would have been responsible for roughly $ 7.4 million in dead money. While the fourth-year quarterback can also earn up to $5.7 million in " not likely to be earned bonuses" it's even less likely that he'll see any of that money while watching the action from the sidelines this season.
But in 2010, Young's cap hit more than triples to $ 14.2 million. While the Titans would have to accept a cap hit of $4.9 million next year by releasing him, they would avoid paying out the $ 7.5-million base salary commitment called for in Young's contract and a $ 4.2 5-million roster bonus.
Although it's likely that neither Collins or Young will be with the Titans heading into the 2011 season, don't expect to see Tennessee use a high draft pick on a young quarterback to begin grooming this year. After all, they're still paying a hefty price for the last young quarterback that they drafted in the first-round of the 2006 NFL draft.
Point No. 5
North Carolina State's Andre Brown is a bruising running back who is also a big threat as a receiver out of the backfield.
The Wolfpack running back rushed for 767 yards on just 175 carries, averaging 4.4 yards per attempt and tallying seven touchdowns during his senior year. But he was also the team's second leading receiver with 29 catches for 309 yards, averaging 10.7 yards per catch, scoring two touchdowns.
NC State RB Andre Brown leaps over Georgia Tech's Jahi Word-Daniels.
AP Photo/Gerry Broome
"I've got a little bit of bunny in me," he said with a laugh during a phone interview. " I have great hands. I go out there every day and I work hard on my hands. I catch a hundred balls a day."
When you consider that Brown has bounced back from breaking his left foot twice during his career—both times requiring surgery— his senior year results, as well as his speed and leaping ability are all the more impressive.
"I'm a strong, downhill runner. I'm a big back who can catch out of the backfield and who can line up in the slot," Brown said. "I consider myself to be a bigger Brian Westbrook, but I'm stronger in between the tackles."
Brown has worked out for the Patriots and has visits scheduled this month with the Chargers, 49ers, Titans and Jaguars. At his Pro Day, the Dolphins and the Patriots showed plenty of interest. And at the Combine, some of the teams that met with him for formal interviews were the Texans, Chargers, Bears, Packers, Broncos, 49ers, Bengals and Patriots.
Point No. 6
Michigan DE Tim Jamison is Mr. Consistency when it comes to getting pressure on the quarterback.
Over the past three seasons, Jamison has posted at least five sacks each year, using great technique to fool would-be pass blockers.
"I think that's one of my strengths," he said during a recent phone interview. "I've had some great coaching and the opportunity to learn from some great leaders like LaMarr Woodley, Shawn Crable and David Harris.
"Different techniques, like a speed rush or a bull or an up- and-under, countermoves that help you stay consistent in keeping pressure on the quarterback—those are things I picked up on as I got older and got wiser."
Jamison's excited about his opportunity to play at the next level, but he doesn't know yet if he'll be lining up as a defensive end or an outside linebacker. He's confident that he can handle either position.
"I'm a hard worker, and I consider myself to be very athletic and very smart," he said.
A few of the teams who have been showing consistent interest in Jamison dating all the way back to the Senior Bowl through his Pro Day are the Cardinals, Redskins, Rams and the Saints.
Point No. 7
Don't expect to see a sophomore slump by Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte.
With the addition of quarterback Jay Cutler and offensive tackle Orlando Pace to the Bears offense, Forte could post even higher numbers than he did during his impressive rookie season. The 6-foot-2, 216-pound running back out of Tulane rushed for 1,213 yards, averaging 3.9 yards per carry last year. He also caught 63 passes for 477 yards while scoring a combined total of 12 touchdowns despite a fairly lackluster passing attack by Chicago.
With Kyle Orton at the helm for 15 out of 16 games last season, the Bears finished 21st in the league in passing, and he personally finished 19th.
One of the big differences between Orton and Cutler is that the former Broncos quarterback knows how to move the chains. By converting 36 percent of his throws into first downs last year, Cutler finished ninth in the NFL in that category versus Orton's 25th-place finish. His throws also resulted in larger chunks of real estate since 55 of his passes resulted in gains of 20-plus yards compared to just 34 by Orton.
Opposing defenses will now have to respect the Bears passing attack more than they did last year, and that means Forte won't see as many defenders stacking the line so often.
A mature and focused individual, the second-year rusher isn't likely to let his early success in the NFL go to his head. In fact, it's more likely that he's realized that he's capable of even better results now that he's fully familiar with the Bears playbook and the speed of the game.
And that's bad news for teams that have Chicago on their schedule this year.
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A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook. Or contact him by email email through this link.