Combine Notes from Saturday

By Chris Fedor

The biggest buzz in Indy on Saturday surrounded Cam Newton. After not speaking to the media on Friday, the day all the other quarterbacks did, it was Newton’s turn to take the podium.

Everyone knows that Newton is supremely talented. He is more than likely going to look great in his workouts tomorrow because the physical tools are there. He has the arm strength, he has a compact delivery, the ball just jumps off his hand, and he looks like a natural quarterback despite it being very early in the process for him. The biggest question with Newton is about his ability to lead a franchise. Is he mature enough? Does he handle interviews well enough? Is his head in the right place? Is he too cocky? While an interview with the media won’t answer those questions and it’s the GM’s and coaches that he has to impress, Newton stepped to the podium to try and quell some concerns. As he walked to the podium he was showcasing that same electric smile that captivated the nation and then he started off the interview reading from a prepared statement in response to his comments the other day about wanting to be an “icon” and “entertainer.” It was clear that he heard the backlash loud and clear after making those comments.

In his statement he took the blame and owned up to a mistake. He also said that he was a bit misunderstood in his comments. Nonetheless, for him to step up and own up to that mistake shows me a lot and that part was impressive. He also said something that was extremely important. Nobody knows if he was being honest in saying this and maybe he only said it because the cameras were on him, but he made it clear that football was his number one priority and he has been working day and night to get himself ready to play in a pro-style offense. That’s the kind of guy that you want on your football team. A quarterback has to be the face of the franchise, he has to step in front of the media when things are good or things are bad, and the quarterback also has to be the hardest working player on the roster. He has to be the first one in and the last one to leave. If Cam Newton has that kind of desire and that kind of work ethic then the sky is the limit. I hope for his sake that he keeps that mindset and lives up to his immense potential.

The other thing that I like about Newton is his ability to carry himself well in adverse situations. He is going to have to deal with that a lot in the NFL, especially if he goes to a bad team in the top ten of the draft. Newton continues to show that he handles adversity well. It was a tough room, there were tough questions being thrown his way, and despite a few slip ups (referring to himself in the 3rd person three different times and sometimes using the wrong word) Newton was calm, he was confident, he always kept smiling, and kept himself composed in a tough situation just like he did at Auburn amidst all the allegations that surrounded him during his Heisman Trophy campaign. I’m not sure what the future holds for Newton, but if he keeps himself focused, he stays dedicated, and he works at his craft, his future could be just as bright as the smile on his face.

Other notes from the combine on Saturday

Sam Acho – He was the first defensive lineman to take the podium and what a great kid! I’ve never met him, but he had such a positive attitude and a huge smile on his face the whole time. He just seems like a player that every team would benefit from having in their locker room. The biggest question with Acho is whether or not he can play linebacker at the next level if he’s not big enough to play defensive end. He said that he is not looking at it as a “challenge,” but more of an “opportunity.” That’s the kind of attitude that you want. Acho also went on to say that he models his game after Osi Umenyiora, DeMarcus Ware, Julius Peppers, and Trent Cole. It’s interesting that he mentioned some of the best pass-rushers in the league because I think Acho can be a pass-rushing specialist on the defensive line to start and could go as high as the second round.

Cam Heyward – He started talking about two minutes before Marcell Dareus so even though Heyward is a Buckeye and could go as high as the first round, I felt it more important to spend my time devoted to Dareus. Heyward got the obligatory questions about his father and how much he thinks that could help him in the NFL. It certainly won’t hurt him that’s for sure. He also mentioned that he had Tommy John Surgery and was just cleared to workout recently. The injury happened in the Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas and it will force him to miss Ohio State’s Pro Day workout. He will hold his own Pro Day on March 30th at OSU.

Marcell Dareus – Many consider him to be the safer alternative to Nick Fairley. Also, the word around Indy is that most teams have him, not Fairley as the best defensive tackle in the draft. Dareus believes that one of his biggest strengths is his versatility. He said it doesn’t matter if it is a 3-4 or a 4-3 scheme and can play anywhere along the offensive line. However the more people I talk to the more they believe he would be a better fit for a 3-4. Not to say he can’t play in a 4-3 that the Browns will run, but that the fit is not ideal. I asked Tom Heckert that question later in the day and he said that Dareus could fit into the 4-3 as a defensive tackle and also said Dareus is “relentless, makes plays all over, and is a high motor guy.”

Marvin Austin – Austin is one of the more interesting prospects in the draft. Along with Cam Newton and his teammate Robert Quinn he might be the most polarizing as well. Many people forget that in 2009 he was looked at as potential first round pick and was a huge piece on North Carolina’s defensive line. Just like his teammate Robert Quinn, Austin missed his entire 2010 season due to suspension and has a lot of questions to answer to teams this week.

I think the Browns should take a long look at him early in the second round if he is available. Austin is a supremely confident kid and when I asked him how he would be viewed if he didn’t miss the 2010 he told me there wouldn’t be any question who would be the best defensive tackle in the Draft. He believes he is better than Nick Fairley and Marcell Dareus and is out to try and prove it here this week. While I disagree with him, he would’ve been a first round guy more than likely had he played this season and if he falls to the Browns pick early in the second round, he would be a great fit on their defensive line and add great value as well. I was also able to walk with Austin out in the hall and I asked him to give me a little insight on his teammate Robert Quinn. His response was that Quinn is a “beast” and he also said that the Browns should take him at number six if he is still there. You certainly expect your teammate to have your back like that, but the feeling here in Indy is that if Quinn shows up in shape, with the proper attitude, and has good interviews and workouts, he could skyrocket up the board. Also in fairness to Austin, the word “beast” is being used by scouts to describe Quinn as well.

Da’Quan Bowers – This guy is the best pure pass-rusher in the draft and would be an ideal fit in a 4-3 defense. He came to the podium and looked very confident and relaxed up there, but also showed some humility when he was asked about his time at Clemson. When he came out of high school, Bowers was regarded by some as the number one recruit at any position. He didn’t live up to that his first two years and even admitted as much. He was asked about teams looking at him as a one-year wonder and he said by his standards he “had one good year and the other two were busts.” However he said the reason why this year was such a success was because he was starting full time and because he knew the system better than he did his first two years. Bowers is not going to work out in drills this week because he had a slight tear in his meniscus that he suffered in a game in early in the season against NC State. Surprise, surprise he injured his knee on a sack against the Wolfpack. He also added that he is 100 percent, but he hasn’t had as much time to prepare for the combine as others and does not want to compete unless he is fully prepared. Tom Heckert was asked about Bowers and said that he is “super-productive and is a legit sacker.”

Casey Matthews – Casey Matthews came to the podium and he made it sound like his goal at the combine was to step outside of his brother’s shadow. He said he puts a lot of pressure on himself to live up to the family name with how much success others have had. He also said he is different from his brother Clay because he gets by more on his football instincts to make plays where as Clay is a pass rusher. He could be a second round guy in the draft, but could also be there in the third round as well. He thinks he would be a good fit as the middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense.

Von Miller – Michael Reghi’s number one target seems like a great young man. While I think he is a better fit as a pass-rushing linebacker in 3-4 scheme, he can also be successful in a 4-3 as well. One of the things I like best about Miller is that he is a team guy and even said it as much. When asked how to describe himself as a football player he responded by saying “great teammate.” He also said that it is his goal to not just be the best linebacker of his class, but to be the best defensive player regardless of position.

Julio Jones – I have been bullish on Julio Jones since day one. Ever since he arrived at Alabama as a freshman he has been one of the best wide receivers in college football. Jones is not as good of a prospect as A.J. Green and I have yet to talk to anyone that has him in the top ten players overall, but he is right on the outside of the top ten and is a great receiver in his own right. Jones is probably the most physical receiver in the draft and said that he plays like Ray Lewis and Hines Ward.

While Jones has had to deal with a number injuries throughout his career at Alabama, something that I have always respected is that he didn’t miss games and always played through it. When asked about being injury prone Jones said “a lot of guys have injuries, but I didn’t quit and it didn’t hold me back.” Maybe that’s where the Ray Lewis and Hines Ward thing comes into play.

Jones also said that playing against a Nick Saban defense every day in practice helped him grow and develop as a wide receiver.

I asked Jones if the criticism of him dropping too many passes is fair and he told me yes, but also made it seem like that is something he is definitely going to work on along with his route running, which are the two things that separate him and A.J. Green.

As a side not he said that Janorris Jenkins of Florida and Patrick Peterson of LSU are the best cornerback he has ever played against.

Cecil Shorts – The young Division 3 prospect could be one of the bigger sleepers at wide receiver in the draft and could be a huge value if he goes late. Shorts is out to prove that he is good enough to play in the NFL and came to Indy with a chip on his shoulder. He mentioned Pierre Garcon’s success and how that paved the way for him to even just get invited to the Combine. I asked Shorts if he had a goal in mind for a forty time and he said anywhere from a 4.4 to a 4.3. Also, while many people just look at him as a slot receiver, he made sure to mention that he can play both the slot and on the outside and would not play any other position in the league “wide receiver is the position I will be playing” he said.

I also heard that Shorts had a meeting with the Ravens on Friday night and he just seems like a Baltimore Ravens kind of steal late in the draft doesn’t he?

Robert Quinn – Quinn is one of the most polarizing players in the Draft and I believe a realistic target for the Browns at pick number six. Obviously he is a huge risk because he hasn’t played organized football in a year, but he also has a tremendously high ceiling as well. He looks like he is in great shape and measured at 6-4 265 lbs. He looks every bit like a top ten pick. Besides being away from the game for a year another big question about Quinn is his health. However after dealing with a tumor earlier in his life he said that he hasn’t had a headache in five years and goes to the doctor every six months to get himself checked. He said his tumor made him appreciate everything so much more. As for his suspension, Quinn said that it matured him as a person and any questions about him being rusty or losing his ability during his year away were laughed off. He said “you can’t lose football skill.”

Quinn also said that it is his goal to be the best pass rusher and believes that he is the best defensive lineman in the draft, even better than Da’Quan Bowers.

I had a chance to ask Tom Heckert about Quinn and he said Quinn missing time is “not that big of a deal” and added that Quinn is a “good football player that plays hard, is good at rushing the passer, and has got what you’re looking for.” For a team that will need a pass-rusher in their new 4-3 scheme, Quinn would seem to be a very logical option at pick number six. My preference is still for the Browns to go wide receiver at pick number six, but if Quinn is their guy, I would not have an issue with that because in 2009 he was the best pass-rusher in college football and Butch Davis speaks very highly of him as do scouts that I have talked to.

When I was walking out of Lucas Oil Stadium I ran into Cam Newton all by himself in the skywalk. Him and I walked together, I introduced myself and he shook my hand. Wow, is he a big guy with a strong handshake. I also told him that my co-host in Cleveland really likes him a lot and wants the Browns to draft him. He mentioned he wouldn’t mind that because his boy Joe Haden is in Cleveland. He wouldn’t do an interview with me because it was such a long day, but I did ask him how he thought things have gone so far. He seemed tired, but said that things went well and “you have to take things with a grain of salt.” It was a thrill to get to meet all these players and form new relationships. What an experience. What a day in Indy!

 

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6 Comments

  1. Good read Fedor.

    • TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO LLLLLOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNGGGGGGGG!!!!!!

  2. I find it funny that you actually think you know what you are talking about. You break down the players like you have some clue what makes them a good football player. It must be all that experience you have playing, coaching and scouting the game. What’s that? You have no experience? So what does make you an “expert” then?

    • I agree but you better not criticize Fedor in any way. If you do he acts as if your just some hater and will block you. Hey Fedor, Hammer and Rizzo when criticize you it’s not because we are jealous like you like to claim. It’s because you are just so bad. Using your logic when you guys rip apart an someone it’s because you are haters and are jealous. So when you bitch about Delhomme it’s really that you are jealous of him. See, that logic isn’t logical.

  3. If Green or Peterson are there, go PETERSON. In no way do I go Julio Jones over Patrick Peterson if available. Stifling defenses worry me much worse and this process is not going to be complete in less than 3 years. 2 QB’s need to go before the Browns pick.

  4. Bowers much better on gap integrity and point-of-attack than Quinn. Quinn seems out to make big plays but sometimes gets ridden out of the screen by good tackles. He is very quick but makes high risk moves like stunts to the inside gap than can bust big plays. Give me Bowers.


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