Welcome to the first installment of a weekly news/rumor/anonymous quote round-up series that will run through April's NFL Draft. Maybe longer. If you’re good (and I remain gainfully employed).
Every Friday, we’ll do a drive-by, bullet-point bang-bang-bang rundown of the juiciest NFL Draft and college football news. Hit the player links if you desire deeper analysis or the source material.
Let’s not discuss the conceit of this thing again, alright? I’d rather check in with my nicotine stained, potty-mouthed scouts. And away we go.
NFL Draft News
- Tennessee GM Jon Robinson and HC Mike Mularkey strongly hinted on Wednesday that they want a left tackle at No. 1 overall and all but turned in a card bearing Ole Miss T Laremy Tunsil’s name. In turn, Tunsil declared that he wants to go No. 1 and be a Titan. This was his pitch: "I have great feet, great frame. I just think I'm the best. You've got to have that swagger about yourself. You've got to be confident." With this public courtship beginning to feel like the flashbacks in The Notebook (I've been told!), Tunsil opted out of the Combine athletic tests and positional drills. It’s my belief—and this is only a guess based on my read of the situation—that Tunsil has been given a strong indication from Tennessee that he’s going No. 1 overall, ala the Jadeveon Clowney situation with Houston a few years ago in which the prospect essentially took the entire process off (hopefully for Tennessee, Tunsil doesn't similarly extend the furlough through his first two NFL seasons, amiright?).
- Notre Dame T Ronnie Stanley also believes he’s the best offensive tackle in the class. This will be the column's last item about players pimping themselves, I promise. To recap: Every prospect at the Combine believes they are the best player in the draft ("If you don't believe that then there is something wrong," was how DE Joey Bosa explained it). Of more relative interest was Stanley’s admission that he’s not happy about the perception that his motor isn’t always running. "People think I'm lackadaisical," he said. His top priority at the Combine was trying to allay that perception. Folks will jabber, Ronnie. This life is long and we run out of things to talk about. Convert us on the field.
- The week’s saddest story belonged to Auburn RB Peyton Barber, who said he opted into the draft because his mother is homeless. Pulling for you, kid.
- A sports hernia prevented Baylor WR Corey Coleman from running the 40-yard dash. Coleman is a speed merchant, so nothing to see here. He arrived in Indianapolis measuring 5-foot-11, 194 pounds with 30 1/4-inch arms and 9-inch hands. NFL Media analysts Bucky Brooks and Daniel Jeremiah and Pro Football Focus all comp Coleman to Steve Smith. ESPN's Kevin Weidl throws out Antonio Brown. We say Coleman is a special snowflake and a top-five overall draft prospect.
- Both Cal QB Jared Goff and Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg measured in with 9-inch hands at the NFL Combine. Anything smaller than 9-inch hands is considered a major red flag for a signal-caller (my colleague Josh Norris has written extensively about the conceit and value of cutoff thresholds, if you're interested). Some teams reportedly won’t draft quarterbacks with 8-inch hands. We're going to call that the Johnnie Cochran “If the big glove don’t fit, you must get (off our damn draft board)” Corollary.
- Until Thursday, nobody knew Auburn T Shon Coleman underwent surgery after the season to repair a right MCL tear. We would entrust our deepest, darkest secrets to the poker faced Coleman. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to take the field at the Combine (though he was able to log 22 repetitions on the bench) and also won’t be able to participate in Auburn’s pro day event. Coleman’s doctors won’t clear him until mid-April at the earliest. If you know Coleman's backstory, you'll pull for him just as hard as his former teammate Peyton Barber. Inspirational doesn't begin to describe it.
- Notre Dame WR Will Fuller’s 8 1/4-inch hand measurement was a discouraging development. Already dogged by the perception that he's a milquestoast body-catcher, Fuller is more and more becoming a niche prospect who will only interest a portion of the league. Doesn’t mean Fuller is going to freefall, just means there are fewer suitors to stop a potential drop. Before his hands were even measured, Pro Football Focus’ Michael Renner described Fuller as having "speed for days that will fit in nicely at the next level” but “ball skills [that] are a tad worrisome." NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks compares Fuller to Ted Ginn Jr. and tosses out the Cincinnati Bengals, Atlanta Falcons, San Diego Chargers and Baltimore Ravens as possible scheme fits.
- Ohio State DL Adolphus Washington's misdemeanor solicitation charge was dismissed after he completed a required program.
- At the Combine, teams asked KSU OL Cody Whitehair whether he'd consider playing center. And he would. So what we have here is a dominant collegiate left tackle who’s projected as an All-Pro NFL guard who may instead become a center, depending on the need of the team that selects him. Everybody and their mother (even mine—hey Moms!) compares Whitehair to Zack Martin. That was a joke about my mom. She thinks “Cody Whitehair” is inappropriate speculation about Diablo Cody going grey. In Minnesota, where we both live, Diablo Cody is just as bulletproof in the public consciousness as fellow Minnesotans Prince and Bob Dylan. Adopted son Teddy Bridgewater is getting there.
- Stanford QB Kevin Hogan reportedly shortened his throwing motion with the help of veteran NFL coach John Ramsdell.
- Though he says his lingering knee injury has fully healed, Indiana RB Jordan Howard only participated in position drills and the bench press in Indy.
- The foot injury that cost Arkansas RB Jonathan Williams his 2015 campaign limited him to the bench press in Indy. He'll do agility drills for evaluators at his pro day on March 16. "Whoever drafts me will be happy for years to come," Williams declared.
- Texas A&M RB Tra Carson was held out of the Combine festivities with a bone spur and Utah RB Devontae Booker skipped everything except medical exams, interviews and bench press because of lingering effects of his season-ending knee injury. Both will be fine for pro day workouts.
- A strained quad kept South Carolina WR Pharoh Cooper off the Indy track. Like Coleman, stopwatches are unnecessary to gauge Cooper's speed. If I ran like Pharoh Cooper, I wouldn’t even play football. I’d just run always, like Forrest Gump across the United States. I’d have that crazy beard and everything. You’d see me in your city and run behind me for like 10 seconds until my goofy beard disappeared into the horizon.
- Though he isn’t injured, USC LB/S Su'a Cravens decided to skip the 40-yard dash at the Combine and run it instead on his home turf at next month’s pro day event.
- Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander skipped his athletic duties at the Combine because of that hamstring injury that dogged him during the College Football Playoff.
- Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith (knee) also isn’t working out, but fortunately he’s up and walking around without support. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock says Smith may have been the No. 1 overall pick if he hadn’t torn his ACL and MCL in the Fiesta Bowl. I don’t agree -- all indications support the conjecture that Tennessee has been smitten with Tunsil for some time now and won’t risk losing him -- but Smith, comped to Patrick Willis by Bucky Brooks, would not have fallen out of the top-five. Even with the injury, I’d be surprised if he fell out of the top-15, but Smith’s medical exams will go a long way toward determining that.
- 49ers GM Trent Baalke, who may or may not have taken himself out of the quarterback market at No. 7 by announcing he’s keeping Colin Kaepernick, told the assembled Combine media throng that he isn’t concerned about North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz's acclimation as he jumps from the FCS to the NFL.
- Cardinals GM Steve Keim will look for a long-term successor to Carson Palmer in the draft. "There is no secret, we're always trying to look for the next guy," Keim said.
- NFL Media’s Mike Mayock believes Oregon DE DeForest Buckner, who he ranks No. 1 among interior defensive linemen, may go down as the best overall defensive player of anyone in the 2016 class. "He's nasty, he's tough, he's powerful,” Mayock said. “Eight to 10 years from now, I think he'll be one of the guys we'll be looking back at that will be in the conversation as the best defensive player to come out of this draft.”
- A college scouting director had plenty to say about Alabama RB Derrick Henry with Yahoo Sports. “He wants to bury you,” he said. “He runs hard and straight, but he breaks tackles. Good luck with that guy, if you’re a safety. Runs upright, but he’s 6-3; you expect that. Eddie George ran upright. I am OK with that.” Interestingly, NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks recently made the Eddie George comparison (on the other side of things, former NFL scout Bryan Broaddus comped Henry to everybody’s favorite bust Curtis Enis). Back to the scouting director on potential fits: “[Alabama uses] inside and outside zone, old-school run game — traps, counters, stuff like that. Put him in the Panthers’ offense? My goodness. But I could see him in the Sean Payton [offense]. I could see him in the Patriots offense. The Jets, the Cowboys, even the Vikings, a four-minute back you finish teams off with. He has a role for sure.”
- To round out our weekly Henry news, former Buccaneer GM Mark Dominik (now of ESPN) tweeted out prior to the Combine that he thinks Henry will go in Round 1 regardless of what happens in Indianapolis (for the record, Henry posted unofficial forty times of 4.52 and 4.54 on Friday; his size and testing numbers were nearly identical with Von Miller’s when the latter was going through the process). Bleacher Report tossed out the supposition that Trent Richardson associations may hurt Henry. I disagree and penned the following response: “Henry may go later than casual fans assume he should, but that's because a back of his skills is a perfect fit for some clubs (old-school, grinding scheme with a complimentary Tiki Barber-type also on the roster) and an awful fit for others (bad line, no complimentary back, a scheme that asks him to stretch laterally or dance around in the backfield, etc.). Henry would be at home in the top half of Round 2, but he may just sneak into the first stanza yet. But only if a perfect situation presents itself or a team, assuming that doesn't matter, makes a Richardson-esque mistake by miscasting Henry.”
- An NFL Executive referred to Oregon WR Bralon Addison as "a toy you say you want from Christmas and then you never play with it." NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein compares Addison to Josh Huff, while Addison evokes Brandin Cooks to CBS Sports' Rob Rang.
- An NFC area scout predicted that Texas A&M CB Brandon Williams was "going to have a great workout at the combine and get overdrafted." NFL Media analyst Lance Zierlein compares Williams to QB-turned-undrafted CB Nick Marshall. Williams himself converted to CB from RB prior to last season.
- NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein compares TCU QB Trevone Boykin to Tyrod Taylor. "He might be written off as too small or a 'system quarterback', but he has shown tremendous growth as a passer and leader while building an impressive resume over the last two seasons,” he wrote. “Boykin throws with some anticipation and has the arm talent and mobility to warrant a late-round pick even if he will need extended work learning to read defenses.”
- TFY Draft Insider's Tony Pauline sees some 1996 Peyton Manning in Cal QB Jared Goff. "Intelligent, instinctive, accurate & can improvise but rail thin," Pauline tweeted.
- NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks likens Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott to Frank Gore ("Explosive downhill runner with exceptional vision, balance and body control. Elliott excels running between the tackles, but also flashes the speed and quickness to turn the corner on outside runs," Brooks wrote) and his colleague Lance Zierlein comps Zeke to Edgerrin James (Elliott has rare combination of size, athleticism, pass-catching and blocking skills and his competitive nature is always bubbling on the surface,” Zierlein wrote.).
- I was also interested by Brooks’ comp for Penn State Christian Hackenberg: Jay Cutler. "The Penn State product capably makes every throw in the book with zip and velocity, exhibiting A+ arm strength on throws at intermediate and deep range,” he wrote of the positive side of that. As for the downside: "Despite immense physical tools, Hackenberg is one of the draft's biggest enigmas due to his poor accuracy and questionable judgment.” Josh and I have perhaps never agreed on one prospect more strongly than we’ve agreed on Hack over the past few years. We would both steer clear. At the point Hackenberg is going to get drafted, there will be a handful of more interesting developmental prospects available who have a better chance of being in the league in five years.
- ESPN’s Mel Kiper sees Hall of Famer Rod Woodson and future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson when he evaluates FSU DB Jalen Ramsey’s tape. "He has length. He has athleticism,” Kiper said. “He’s coming in like a Rod Woodson did, like a Charles Woodson, the great corners over the years, the corner/safety types that did both in the NFL. Before his career is over, he will have played both positions."
College Football News:
- Auburn HC Gus Malzahn labeled his quarterback competition “wide open.” There are five contenders, including returnees Jeremy Johnson, Sean White and Tyler Queen, Nick Marshall-comped JUCO transfer John Franklin III and true frosh Woody Barrett.
- Arkansas introduced former Iowa State HC Paul Rhoads as DB coach.
- The NCAA granted Marshall redshirt senior T Clint Van Horn’s medical redshirt request and gave him a sixth year of eligibility. CBS Sports draft analyst Rob Rang says Van Horn has "the size, strength and brawler mentality to project nicely inside at guard."
- Kansas senior WR Shakiem Barbel was also granted an additional year by the NCAA. Barbel is not an NFL prospect.
- Kentucky dismissed DE Jason Hatcher, a former four-star recruit, after the senior was arrested on multiple charges last weekend, including an accusation of marijuana trafficking. He'd already been suspended twice on campus and has a history of marijuana violations.
- Syracuse QB Eric Dungey was declared 100-percent healthy after missing the last three games of the season with a concussion. The sophomore is "without question the jewel Dino Babers inherited when he accepted the Syracuse job,” according to Syracuse.com.
- Michigan RB Derrick Green will transfer.
- Late in the week, Baylor QB Seth Russell threw for the first time since neck surgery. He’ll be 100-percent healthy for summer camp. If the competition is even -- and why wouldn't it be? -- Russell is going to have a heck of a time fending off super soph Jarrett Stidham for the starting gig. Stidham is over his ankle woes and says he's been cleared for spring practices. RB Shock Linwood wasn’t so lucky, learning that his fractured right foot has not healed sufficiently to join his teammates on the Waco field for drills. He'll be fine by summer camp.
That’s it for this week’s episode, groovy draftniks. If you have a question you’d like to see answered in a future column, hit me up on email or Twitter at the links below. Unless you’re my mom. In which case we can discuss Juno on the phone. Easter dinner at the latest. Mom! Leave me be when I’m at work! I have to wrap this thing up A$AP Rocky or the NBC editorial goblins are going to roll up on me hot over the word count!
Gentle reader, I leave you with the 2016 Pro Day calendar. See you next Friday.
Pro Day Calendar
Prairie View A&M
Jacksonville (Ala.) State
Grand Valley State
Northwestern State (La.)
San Diego State
William & Mary
North Carolina State
North Carolina Central
Missouri Western State
North Dakota State
Jacksonville (Fla.) Villanova