NFL Combines: Receivers draw interest from coaches

Plenty of NFL coaches and scouts were in attendance to watch the show put on by wide receivers at the NFL combines on Sunday. With plenty of movement already and free agency in the wings, teams were assessing whether the answer was in the April draft.

Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher was in the stands and had his eyes on a few wide receivers.

Due to cap woes, the Titans dropped their top receiver from 2004 when they let Derrick Mason go. Now they are forced to look to the draft to come up with a replacement for the 1,000-yard receiver.

John Fox, also in attendance, is in a similar boat after Carolina allowed Mushin Muhammad test free agency because of a high cap number he was due in 2005.

With the healthy return of Steve Smith, and the continued emergence of Keary Colbert, the urgency isn't as high to select a wideout on the first day. They would, however, like to add a complementary receiver.

With the impending trade of Randy Moss, Minnesota head coach Mike Tice took an active interest in the wide receivers. Armed with the number seven pick in the draft once the trade is finalized, Tice may be in an enviable position of having the top receivers still on the board, especially since Chicago pounced on Muhammad as soon as he was set free by the Panthers.

A nice bonus was seeing USC wide receiver Mike Williams run the forty. His unofficial times were 4.61 and 4.59 with three false starts mixed in. Williams is a lot like Moss, albeit not in attitude. He has the solid college numbers but people question his speed. Like Moss, Williams can catch anything thrown his way and his draft stock will be interesting to watch.

The Vikings have also taken an early liking to troubled West Virginia star Chris Henry. Originally slated to go towards the top half of the draft, Henry has dropped considerably because of off-the-field problems.

Tice also got a chance to see Michigan wide receiver Braylon Edwards bench press 225 pounds 19 times, although Edwards did not run.

Baltimore has been searching for a wide receiver for years. They almost had Terrell Owens last year until that deal fell through. This year they have already lost Kevin Johnson, and Travis Taylor will test the free agent market.

While head coach Brian Billick confirmed that they will look to add a veteran wide receiver through free agency, their depth chart would still be slim with one addition and will look towards the draft to land another player who can contribute.

Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones continues to make a bid to move to receiver after running unofficial times of 4.37 and 4.41. At the Parisi School of Speed in Fairlawn, New Jersey, he confirmed that he ran in the 4.4 range with regularity.

One coach who continues to monitor the progress of Jones is Bill Cowher of the Pittsburgh Steelers. They are in the market for a receiver with the impending departure of Plaxico Burress and have already expressed an interest in Jones.

Ironically, Mark Gorsack, a college scout with the Steelers, instructed the group on a variety of drills, including the 40-yard dash. He had a close-up view of the initial burst of every prospect off the line and figures to weigh in with his insights regarding the wide receivers entering the draft this year.

Dallas head coach Bill Parcells has been a staple in the stands, and Sunday was no different. Parcells kept a close eye on the wide receivers and already has expressed an interest in Steve Savoy out of Utah. Among those receivers that impressed on the field Sunday were Mark Clayton out of Oklahoma, Airese Currie out of Clemson and Troy Williamson out of South Carolina. Clayton was termed "tough, not afraid to go over the middle" by one scout, although he did drop a pass or two – something he hardly ever did during his career with the Sooners. Currie was described as the best receiver on the field during all the passing drills on Sunday. One scout said he was "consistent." Williamson burned up the track, as expected, running unofficial times of 4.38 and 4.40. Several scouts had him timed in the high 4.2 range.

Two prominent receivers who did not work out will get their workouts in on their respective Pro Days. Craphonso Thorpe is bothered by a blister and will work out on March 15. Roddy White is still bothered by a hamstring injury that cut short his Senior Bowl week and will be available on March 17.

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