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2008 Scouting Combine Review

By: Roshan Bhagat

The 2008 Combine, the last in the RCA Dome, lived up to its hype. It was exciting and provided crucial information to scouts and teams looking to invest millions of dollars into players. The NFL Network had outstanding coverage that allowed viewers to choose from several different feeds online. The hosts were charismatic and knowledgeable as always which created an outstanding atmosphere. With another year in the books, who earned the money and which players bit the dust?

Stock Up:

  1. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tennessee State and Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy
    The hottest name in all of football is Cromartie. Antonio Cromartie, the Chargers stud cornerback, just capped a miraculous season with double digit interceptions. His cousin Dominique wants nothing more than to make a name for himself. He’s doing just that. After lighting up Mobile, Alabama, he showcased his athleticism at the Combine. He came in at 6’1 ½ and 184 pounds. For his size, he had 17 reps, a solid number. More importantly, on Tuesday, he lit up the sidelines with a 4.33. His combination of size, speed, arm length, and ball skills will draw comparisons to his cousin which will make him probably a top 15 selection now. The second hottest name has to be Leodis McKelvin. McKelvin is battling the likes of Mike Jenkins to be the first corner off the board. Like Cromartie, Leodis built upon a spectacular week down in Mobile. His measurables aren’t quite as good as Cromartie (5’11, 190, 4.38 40), but he’s definitely more polished. His football intelligence has been measured through the roof. I’ve heard that he’s come off outstanding in interviews where he’s shown plenty of charisma to match his knowledge.

  2. Jake Long, OT, Michigan.
    The hottest non-Cromartie for the weekend would be Michigan’s four-year starter at tackle, Jake Long. He had a stellar career for the Wolverines playing very mistake free. At 6’7, 313, he has the strength (37 reps) and athleticism (1.75 10 yard split) to play either tackle position. While he may be compared to former Big 10 tackle Joe Thomas, their games are fairly different. Long isn’t nearly the athlete Thomas is, but is a more punishing run blocker. After tearing up the field and weight room, Long put his Michigan education to good use impressing scouts and coaches with great interviews.

  3. Dustin Keller, TE, Purdue.
    The first day of testing at the Combine was all about Dustin Keller. Keller is unique to the class because he is one of few players at the position with the game speed and timed speed to line up outside as a receiver. Though the shortest in the class, he measured in with the best vertical leap (38 inches) and tested well in the agility drills. In addition, he fell only one strength rep (26) short of Craig Stevens for the lead in the tight end class. His numbers across the day were phenomenal and he looked good in the positional drills as well. It’s a stacked tight end class so it’s difficult to gauge where he’ll go, but its day one.

  4. Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina.
    4.24. That number says it all. Johnson has some serious speed. This number is probably good enough to give him a shot to move into the first round. Johnson doesn’t appear to have what it takes to be a pure runner between the tackles in the NFL. However, his abilities will allow coaches to get creative and set him up to exploit mismatches on the outside in the open field. He has great hands and will be used in the Reggie Bush type role. He also brings immense explosiveness in the return game.

  5. Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas, Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois, and Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon.
    The three running backs came into Indianapolis trying to beat the others for the top spot. I was hoping that the Combine would help clear up the differences among the three, but it did nothing but complicate matters even more. McFadden ran the fastest 40 of the three, but came in with a slightly smaller frame. He also looked good in the other drills. Mendenhall ran a 4.45 with 26 reps at about 5’11, 225 pounds. Stewart, the strongest and most compact of the three put up 28 reps and a 4.48 at 5’10, 235 pounds. Three teams will be drafting talents that fit in the top 10 overall prospects in this year’s draft.

  6. Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida.
    When I first saw his measurements, I was sure that he was going to start falling down the board. Others like McKelvin and Cromartie were the hot names while draft experts focused solely on Talib, Cason, and Flowers. Jenkins name hadn’t been mentioned much. At 5’10, 197 pounds, Jenkins impressed with a time of 4.38 in the coveted 40 yard dash. He showed good strength with 18 reps at the Combine to mirror his physicality on the field. Jenkins is the top man-to-man corner in this year’s draft and will be among, if not the first corner taken off the board as early as seven to New England.

  7. Vernon Gholston, OLB, Ohio State.
    It would have been difficult for Gholston to raise his stock even further, but he did a good job of solidifying his status. Gholston was hyped as an athletic freak, and unlike Campbell, he delivered on and off the field. At 6’3, 266 pounds, Gholston equaled rival Jake Long’s Combine best of 37 reps. Furthermore, he ran an impressive 4.67 40 and completed the drills with great fluidity. Looks like the current trend will hold up and Gholston will be drafted by the Jets at six.

  8. Chris Long, DE, Virginia.
    Long doesn’t have much athleticism. You can throw that statement right out the window. I don’t get all of these critics saying Long doesn’t have a high ceiling. Would you not consider Will Smith, Patrick Kearney, Aaron Kampman high ceiling guys? Well the latter two could be argued to be top five defensive ends in the league. Long’s play reminds me a combination of the three aforementioned ends. His athleticism showed with extreme smoothness in all of the drills as well as a 4.75 in the 40 and a 34 inch vertical jump.

  9. Brad Cottam, TE, Tennessee and Jeremy Stevens, TE, California.
    Both of these monstrous tight ends are block first guys. Cottam was the one who impressed most so let’s begin with him. He’s been plagued with injuries throughout his entire career at Tennessee. At nearly 6’8 and 270 pounds, Cottam looks very thick all around. He ran a 4.63 and had a 33 inch vertical to go along with 24 bench press reps. Cottam is an outstanding athlete and someone who could possibly go in the third round based on potential alone. Jeremy Stevens is also a block first kind of guy. He’s known as the best blocker in the class and has strength at the point of attack (27 reps). To come out and run a 4.58 40 will give him a well-deserved boost in his stock.

  10. James Hardy, WR, Indiana and Limas Sweed, WR, Texas.
    These two massive receivers came out and showcased their athleticism. In a class crowded with smaller number two guys, these two came out to show star potential. Though both have been known to struggle getting separation they showed some tremendous straight lined speed for their size. First was Indiana wide receiver, James Hardy, who has outstanding upside. Coming in over 6’5, he ran an unofficial time of 4.47. Far more impressive were his numbers in the 20 yard shuttle and three cone drills. He showed great agility which means that perhaps he could be taught to run more polished routes and become a great target, in the mold of Plaxico Burress. Then there was Limas Sweed who stood at 6’4. He ran an unofficial 4.46 in the 40 yard dash and jumped an impressive 35 inches. Still bothered by the wrist injury he reaggrevated at the Senior Bowl, he decided not to partake in any of the receiver drills. He caps my list for stock risers during the Combine.
Stock Down:
  1. Ali Highsmith, OLB, LSU.
    After a strong senior bowl performance, Highsmith’s stock was at an all-time high. He had weighed in well and maintained his 230 pounds coming to the Combine. He looked great in coverage and filled in will against the run. He was projected to be a mid-second rounder, probably to a Cover 2 team where he would make a great fit. He left the Combine running an unofficial 4.96 40 yard dash. To draw comparisons to previous drafts of the recent past, Highsmith was the Kai Parham of this year. Parham was considered a day one pick, but after running 4.9’s at the Combine, he went undrafted in April. Highsmith, at his lean but compact frame, will now be a day two prospect unless he can prove his 4.96 to be very incorrect at his Pro Day. He will have to shave three or four tenths off his time to move his way back into day one. It’s a tough task he has ahead of himself.

  2. Mario Manningham, WR, Michigan.
    Manningham has never been known as the complete receiver. He was known as the most complete deep threat in college football. When he needed that explosion most, at the Combine, he came out and disappointed with an unofficial 4.59. When you compare that to the 4.46 and 4.47 ran by Limas Sweed and James Hardy, both four inches taller than Mario, what does that do for Mario’s stock? With the Titans looking to stretch the field with Vince Young’s deep ball this year, he was looking like a sexy pick to the Titans. That may now be the case in round two. Teams will have to evaluate his game speed vs. timed speed and if enough teams feel his game speed is significantly faster, he could go in the bottom of the first round or early in the second.

  3. John Carlson, TE, Notre Dame. Fred Davis, TE, USC.
    Both of these tight ends were known for their ability to stretch the seam and their consistent hands. Fred Davis still felt the lingering effects of a tweaked hammy suffered in Senior Bowl practices and decided not to run. Carlson should have claimed the same to avoid showing his 4.89 speed. Like Manningham, Carlson’s game speed will have to be evaluated. Once this is done, scouts will like his blocking and his deceptive speed that this shouldn’t affect his stock all that much. That said, the first round is probably now out of the question. Converted wide receiver Fred Davis didn’t show his receiver-like hands in the RCA Dome this week. He dropped several balls in the gauntlet and hurt his stock. Thankfully, scouts will note this as an anomaly and not let it sway their opinion of him.

  4. Yvenson Bernard, RB, Oregon State.
    Bernard has just about made himself undraftable after running an unofficial 4.83 40. He wasn’t expected to wow and was thought to get by on his ability to run, catch, and block. However, when you’re bettered or matched by eight of the quarterbacks, your shot of getting drafted significantly decrease. For his sake, I hope teams take a long hard look at the game film and sign him as an undrafted free agent. I have a feeling he’ll be one of those players coaches hate to cut and will stick around far longer than his measurables indicate by his ability to contribute on third downs.

  5. Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU.
    Not only did Dorsey choose not to participate in the workouts and weigh in less than 300 pounds, an injury history was fully evaluated. One doctor felt an injury to his tibia was going to linger throughout his career. Dorsey indicated that it occurred in the weight room several years ago and that it should not be a concern because he hasn’t missed a game in his career. He used the cliché saying that no football players ever play 100% after playing a down in the league. You can’t help but feel for the kid with so much heart and determination who just can’t seem to avoid the freak injuries.

This caps an exhilarating week in Indianapolis. Next up for the prospects: a repeat performance at their school’s respective Pro Days.

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