Combine Day 1 News and Notes

Maxx Williams emerges as the top tight end in this draft, Bucs head coach Lovie Smith talks quarterbacks, and offensive linemen put on a show. All this and more in today's NFL Combine notebook.

Indianapolis - The apple didn’t fall far from the tree in the Williams household. Minnesota’s Maxx Williams is widely regarded as the top tight end in this year’s NFL Draft. He’s following in his dad’s footsteps. His father Brian, also a former Gopher, was a first round draft pick by the New York Giants in 1989.

“I think just the fact you're going in the first round is a great honor,” Williams said. “I mean not many people can say they went in the first round and so did their father, so having an opportunity to go in the first round , it would be a moment I would remember for the rest of my life.”

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As you can imagine, Williams grew up in the Giants locker room. That helped shape him to become the player he is today.

“It was a great experience having my dad play in the NFL and growing up around that kind of atmosphere, being in the locker room and seeing what the game's all about, actual inside the NFL, what football truly is,” Williams said. “I think that's helped me in my career knowing that I know what it's like and I can fall back on my dad if I have any questions. He's one of those guys I've always relied on for those questions because he's been there, he's done it, he's succeeded at the highest level.”

It was not an easy decision for Williams knowing he could come back to Minnesota. But, of course, he relied on his father for his parental advice.

“I think my dad was a huge influence on helping me make my decision,” Williams said.” Just knowing I could turn to him like, 'Dad, what was it like? Dad, am I prepared?' Knowing that any question I had or wanted to figure out, I could turn to him and say, 'am I making the right decision?

”He's taught me how to be a pro. 'You've gotta be a gentleman. He's told me my whole life, 'Be a gentleman. Present yourself so people think you're a gentleman.' The biggest advice he gave to me is take it day by day. You can't worry about what's going to happen the next day. You worry about what's happening that certain day and go from there. So that's how I went about the process of knowing when I wanted to declare. “

Williams, 6-foot-4, 249-pounds, wants to be considered an all-around tight end, a guy that can block and catch the football. He wants to be like a current tight end great for the Dallas Cowboys.

Jason Witten is a complete tight end in my opinion,” Williams said. “He blocks. He runs routes. He makes plays for his team. That's what I want to be. I want to go to the NFL and be a complete tight end and make plays with my hands but also in the run game by making complete blocks.

Williams didn’t put up huge numbers for the Gophers. They were not an offense that played pitch and catch all over the gridiron. But at the end of the day it may work to his advantage.

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”It's the offense we ran,” Williams said. “You can't get frustrated with it. I knew we were a power offense when I committed there. I think it actually benefited me because it taught me how to be an on-the-line blocker and play in a power scheme and it worked to our advantage because I had mismatches in the play-action game.”

Still, Williams put enough on tape to wow the scouts. Now he’s here at the NFL Combine with the draft two months away.

”I would say it's a dream coming true for me,” Williams said. “I went into college football with my dream of playing in the pros and it's all been kind of a dream right now going through this whole process, getting to come stand up here in front of you guys at the combine. It's just all memories I'm making for myself.”


Mixed signals from Bucs coach
Love Smith finds himself in a position that he’s never been in before. Coming off a disappointing 2-14 2014 season, the Buccaneers find themselves with the first pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

“It was frustrating,” Smith said. “Anytime you get two wins it’s not a good situation. But I know we have to crawl before we walk and walk before we run. We were really only out of three games [last year] and in all the others. We had plenty of opportunities to win and didn’t. This year we will finish the job.

“I can’t wait to get the [2015] season under way,” Smith said. “The [NFL] combine kicks starts the draft process for us. We have the first pick of the draft and this time of the year is always exciting and I am always excited about the combine. I believe in it and I am excited to see guys perform.”

The big question for Smith and Tampa Bay is what will they do with that first selection? The franchise recently cut quarterback Josh McCown, leaving only Mike Glennon on the roster with any kind of NFL experience. Smith sent mixed signals at the podium with the things he said about the former N.C. State star and with the potential of drafting Florida State’s Jameis Winston or Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.

“We can certainly move forward with Mike Glennon,” Smith said. “And with good reason. We saw things that we liked. The new coaches [offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter] saw things that they liked. We can move forward with Mike Glennon.”

But at the end of the day, Smith and the Bucs hierarchy now they have a golden opportunity to draft a franchise quarterback in either Winston or Mariota. Smith insists that Tampa Bay is in the early evaluation process of both signal callers.

“What I know right now is what I have seen on film, on T.V. and video,” Smith said. “They are two different styled quarterbacks that won. They throw with accuracy and make good [on field] decisions. They have leadership and they both won a lot of games. One [Winston] didn’t lose at all until his very last game. They are two very good quarterbacks who are built to have success in this league.”

Of course Smith wants a guy that fits what Koetter wants to do with the Bucs offense. It’s believed that Winston may be the better fit of the two but Smith still hyped up the upside of Mariota.

“We will factor in the style,” Smith said. “We want a quarterback that can throw the variety of NFL passes. We want a leader and a great decision maker. We want someone that’s mobile in the pocket and that has won games. We have time. We have the first pick. We will gather all the information and spend time as an organization to decide.”


Size matters
Today was the first day of weigh-ins for the prospects. This is big for offensive linemen. Scouts are looking specifically for long arms and big hands. While that may sound funny, the decision makers in the NFL take a strong look at these two important measurables for the players manning the trenches.

The two important numbers here are 34-inches for arm length and 10-inch hands. Certainly, those are favorable bars when looking at those two specifics. One former NFL offensive line coach told me that hand size is one of the most underrated elements when evaluating offensive linemen. Small hands in cold weather are not an ideal match.

Size matters. You want linemen with long arms to keep defenders at bay and a lot of core strength comes from the hands.

Florida’s Trenton Brown checked in a 6-8, 355-pounds. He had the longest arms here at the Combine at 36-inches. He also had a hand size of 10 7/8-inches. Iowa’s Brandon Scherff had the largest hands at 11-inches but only an arm length of 33 3/8.

Here are some other measureables of notable offensive line prospects here at the NFL Combine.


Dismukes weighs in

The only offensive line prospect that weighed in under 300-pounds today was Auburn center Reese Dismukes. He tipped the scale at 296-pounds.

“I leaned up and I am not worried about it,” Dismukes said. “I played at over 300 at Auburn and at 285-pounds, although I know the NFL is much different [than college]. I plan on getting up to about 310.”

On a funny note, Dismukes was asked about the toughest defensive linemen he faced in the SEC. He responded with former South Carolina standout Melvin Ingram.

”He was fast. He was quick. And I was a freshman,” Dismukes said.


News and notes
Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht on their first pick in the upcoming draft - "We have a favorite, but we want to let the process play out.”

Gary Kubiak on Denver’s offense – “We will do what Peyton Manning does best. We are going to run the Denver Broncos offense. That’s a big challenge to me right now, meshing things together and getting ready to go do the things that Peyton does so well and has for many, many years.”

Penn State OL Donovan Smith on the draft advisory board - ”It’s pretty simple; they tell you you’ll go in the first round, the second round or stay in school. They told me to stay in school. But I followed my gut because I had two goals. My first was to get a degree and I did that at Penn State. My second is to play in the NFL. That’s my dream.”

Running Back Tevin Coleman will not work out at Combine. He has a boot on his foot. It’s expected that he will be ready to work out for scouts at Indiana’s pro-day on April 15.

Florida State offensive lineman Bobby Hart will not participate in tomorrow’s workout portion. He strained a hamstring and plans to be ready for FSU’s pro day.

SCOUT.COM DRAFT RANKINGS

Prospects by: OVERALL RANK | Position | College | Home State | Name
Position:
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