The Vikings were one of several teams interested in having a quickly rising cornerback make a predraft visit to the team. Find out more about the prospect, which teams he did visit, and get loads of player updates – from character concerns to risers and fallers – as the draft approaches.
Risers and Fallers
One player quickly moving up draft boards is Kent State University CB Usama Young. In a fashion similar to that of former University of Pittsburgh CB Shawntae Spencer three years ago, Young was not invited to any major post-season games nor was he invited to the combine. Yet nearly two dozen teams were on hand at his pro day workout on March 9 when turned in a spectacular performance. Since then, Young has been a very busy prospect. He has been on 11 visits across the league, most recently with Cincinnati Bengals Wednesday and he will be visiting the Green Bay Packers on Friday.
Next week, he will be working out for four different teams including the Bengals, Cleveland Browns, St. Louis Rams, and New Orleans Saints. The Minnesota Vikings wanted to bring Young to their facility for a visit, but there was not enough time to meet Friday's league-imposed deadline. In the past three weeks, Young has had individual workouts for the Chicago Bears, which was attended by head coach Lovie Smith as well as defensive backs coach Steven Wilks. The New York Jets and New York Giants also sent their defensive backs coaches to privately work out Young.
One of the more interesting workouts Young had was with New England Patriots, who sent defensive coordinator Dean Pees to test Young on campus. Pees originally recruited Young to play at Kent State when he was the head coach there.
The Chargers are looking for a solid possession receiver to play opposite third-year WR Vincent Jackson. By doing so, they could move veteran WR Eric Parker to the No. 3 role, which he's better suited for.
The Colts need to replace veteran WR Brandon Stokley's slot role and Gonzalez would be perfect for it.
League sources have told scout.com that UNLV CB Eric Wright is taking a big hit as there are several issues with his character, going back to his days at USC. While this is no surprise to those who followed Wright, there is enough wrongdoing that most feel the earliest this once-projected second-round pick will now be taken is in round three.
Sources from Miami have told scout.com that there is no single grave concern about University of Miami S Brandon Merriweather and the rumors swirling about his character are just that, rumors. But league sources have told us it is not just one single incident. Rather it is a lot of small things that, when added up, have teams concerned.
University of Wisconsin OLT Joe Thomas also seems to be falling but for other reasons. While his character is solid, teams are catching on to the fact he is deficient as a run blocker. Sources said he could easily drop to the fifth pick of the draft, which would make the Arizona Cardinals very happy. The team had considered moving up if necessary to grab the blind side tackle who could turn out to be an upgrade over projected starting LT Oliver Ross.
While it is difficult for us to believe, the name of Penn State LB Paul Posluszny continues to surface when we inquire about the Pittsburgh Steelers. Several weeks ago, a source intimate with the franchise told us Posluszny may be "too much football player for the Steelers to pass up." The same source again confirmed Posluszny to be the Steelers' first-round pick earlier this week. To make the story all the more fascinating, a separate source agreed with the connection between Posluszny and the Steelers, going as far as saying the Steelers perceived interest in Florida State LB Lawrence Timmons may just be a smoke screen. Posluszny would play inside for the Steelers if they drafted him and would challenge for playing time behind starters Larry Foote and James Farrior, whose contract is up after the 2008 season. Foote's is up after 2009.
There are five major contenders left in the sweepstakes to sign free-agent MLB Ed Hartwell.
On Thursday, he flew to visit the Cincinnati Bengals for the second time. All signs point to Hartwell signing with the Bengals at this point, and people in his camp feel it is the best fit. Hartwell was coached by Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis as a rookie in Baltimore and he'd like to remain as close to his Atlanta home as possible as his wife is expecting a baby soon.
But it's unlikely he'll sign with Cincinnati before meeting with other teams as Hartwell is looking for the best one-year deal possible.
We wrote in this space last week how the future for Houston Texans second-year OLT Charles Spencer (leg/knee) wasn't looking too bright after we talked to head coach Gary Kubiak.
Kubiak, when we spoke to him at the NFL owners meetings, put Spencer's chances of playing this season only at 50-50. A league source, with knowledge of Spencer's latest medical evaluation, said he's about two months ahead of schedule, which would put his return to practice some time in June.
The source also adds offensive coordinator/assistant head coach Mike Sherman still has Spencer penciled in as the starter at the position, which is significant. That means the team doesn't have to select a left tackle with their first-round selection and they can look at another position.