More combine – Best of the linebacking bunch
INDIANAPOLIS – An otherwise standard NFL scouting combine took an odd twist Saturday and Sunday night, as conflicting information circulated about the Wonderlic test score of Texas quarterback Vince Young.
Late Saturday, two league sources present at the RCA Dome passed on a tip that spread like wildfire – Young had scored a six on his Wonderlic, the 50-question examination that's administered with a 12-minute clock and aimed at measuring an athlete's general intelligence. A score of six would be remarkably low for any combine invitee, but particularly for a quarterback – a position where most teams set their bar for scores in the high teens or low 20s.
But by Sunday afternoon, Houston Texans general manager Charley Casserly insisted that Young's supposed score was erroneous.
"I have been told that's an inaccurate report from a very good source," Casserly said during a press conference with the media Sunday. "… Yes, I have been told it was inaccurate, by a source good enough for me to stand up here and quote it. Otherwise I wouldn't get up here and just say it."
Casserly later said his source was National Scouting, the service that organizes the combine, administers the Wonderlic test and tallies the scores. Two other high-ranking sources in NFL front offices also disputed the rumors, and a third wasn't even aware of Young's supposed score. Even Mike Mayock, who is the draft expert for the league-run NFL Network, cast doubt on the report.
"I've been told by the NFL that it is not true," Mayock said.
Team officials aren't scheduled to get the Wonderlic scores until next week, but the rumor simply underscores the kind of combine Young has had.
He came into the week facing questions about his ability to adapt to an NFL offense, and now he might have lost his foothold as the No. 2 quarterback in the draft. Not only has the Wonderlic rumor cast a shadow – and you can bet Young's true score (whatever it is) will become public when teams get the results – but Jay Cutler's strong performance in Indy has elevated the Vanderbilt quarterback to the top of some draft boards, too.
"(Cutler) made a good case, and now we have to see how (USC's) Matt Leinart and Vince Young respond," one general manager said. "But don't forget – Cutler's going to have a pro day, too. Now he's got two chances to wow people instead of one, and I think that gives him a little bit of an edge right now.
"I know this – Vince Young really would have helped himself out if he had done his (drills) here. Maybe people would be talking about how great he looked instead of all this Wonderlic nonsense."
Hope seems to have been renewed for a new collective bargaining agreement. One AFC assistant coach said his team held one last full-staff meeting late Saturday night before some of the assistants were set to fly home Sunday morning.
"(The salary cap guy) said he thought something could be done maybe Monday," the coach said. "We were supposed to have meetings about (free agency) on Monday afternoon, but (the general manager) told us to sit tight until Monday night. He thinks that's when we'll know for sure which direction we're going in."
The combine's biggest winner yet might have surfaced Sunday, when Florida wide receiver Chad Jackson ran a blistering 40-yard dash. He was clocked anywhere from 4.26 to 4.36 seconds – with the electronic time settling at an extremely impressive 4.32.
The draft has looked lean in terms of impact wideouts, with Ohio State's Santonio Holmes appearing to be the position's No. 1 player going into the combine. But Jackson came in with size (6-foot and 213 pounds), good hands and solid route-running skills. With Holmes choosing not to run, people were looking for Jackson to post a jaw-dropping 40 time, and he gave it to them.
Now he's likely secured himself a spot in the draft's top 20, and with the size edge (Holmes came in at 5-10½ and 198 pounds), Jackson is expected to climb to the top of some draft boards at wide receiver. Interestingly, Jackson's agent is David Canter, who represented last year's mover and shaker, Troy Williamson, whose stock rose after running a 4.38 in the 40 and was chosen seventh overall. This year's generous crop of talent might prevent that kind of jump this year, but Jackson is clearly rising.
"(Chad) said, 'Tell me everything I need to do to do what Troy Williamson did,' " Canter said Sunday. "He goes, 'I don't care if it's eating every single of the worst tasting foods for the next three months (or) study the Wonderlic test.' He did his workouts. He didn't complain. He just shut up and went about his business and played his video games. He didn't even go out (at night)."
Another player teams are keeping a close eye on is Florida State cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who suffered a massive knee injury last season (torn ACL, MCL and hamstring) but still declared for the draft as a junior. Cromartie has superb size for a corner (6-2½, 208), and he'll be healthy enough to do all of his workouts Monday and right up to the draft. While it's not known how fast he can run now, Cromartie was extremely fast before the injury. He could have been a top-10 pick in 2007 had he gone back to school.
Because of the injury and lack of experience (he played in only 25 games in college), Cromartie is no better than a high-to-mid third-round pick at the moment. But if he can get a clear medical evaluation and show good speed and quickness, a team could take a flier on him somewhere in the second round, hoping he'll eventually develop into that elite talent most thought he could be going into his junior year.
The Elvis Dumerville-Marcus Vick beef was buried at the combine. Heading into the week, Vick still hadn't apologized for the nationally televised incident in which he stomped on the calf of the Louisville defensive end during the Gator Bowl. Vick was contrite about his actions when meeting with the media in Indy, and he apparently expressed those feelings to Dumerville.
"Things happen," Dumerville said. "I think it was an accident. In fact, I spoke to Marcus and he apologized. He made a mistake. He was a man. He came up to me. I have a lot of respect for that. It's time to move on."
Speaking of Dumerville, it's looking more and more like he's going to have to make the transition to outside linebacker if he wants a long future in the NFL. He checked in short (5-11) and light (257) and teams are worried he's going to get overwhelmed and worn down against NFL tackles that will consistently outweigh him by 60-plus pounds. With that in mind, many teams have been asking him about possibly making the move to linebacker. They will likely work him out in that spot leading to the draft.
"I have spoken to teams about that," Dumerville said. "Whatever it takes to get on the field. … I never played linebacker. The only time I played linebacker was in little league. I don't think that counts."
Kudos to all the scouts and fans who said leading up to the draft that Ohio State defensive lineman Mike Kudla was going to break the combine's record for bench presses at 225 pounds. He didn't break it, but he tied it at 45 – well below his personal best of 52.
"I had 46 right there, but I couldn't get that last inch with my right arm," Kudla said.
Texas A&M quarterback Reggie McNeal and Arizona State wide receiver Derek Hagan really opened some eyes Sunday, running great 40-yard dash times.
McNeal tied for the combine's second-fastest time (4.35 seconds), and he'll have NFL teams pushing him to show what he can do at wide receiver in his personal workouts. McNeal wasn't a particularly accurate passer for the Aggies, but his size (6-2, 205) and speed would make him a very attractive wideout if he could make the transition. He said earlier in the week that he'd be open to making the switch.
As for Hagan, he was extremely productive at Arizona State, but the knock on him was that he didn't have enough speed to be more than a possession receiver in the NFL. Hagan showed otherwise, posting a time of 4.42 (some had it as fast as 4.4 flat). Considering his size (6-2, 208) and good production in college (three straight 1,000-yard seasons and 27 touchdown catches his final three years), Hagan has a chance to climb into the bottom of the first round.
Some other notable 40 times Sunday:
Running backs – Mississippi State's Jerious Norwood (4.4 seconds) and Florida State's Leon Washington (4.42).
Quarterbacks – Virginia Tech's Marcus Vick (4.42) and Missouri's Brad Smith (4.46).
Wide receivers – Auburn's Devin Aramashodu (4.35) and LSU's Skyler Green (4.44).
Best two quotes of the day:
USC tight end and former Minnesotan Dominique Byrd, on what has to be the strangest tattoo at this year's combine: "I have the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome right on my arm."
Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk, reacting to the news that fellow college teammate Mike Kudla tied the NFL record for 225-pound bench presses at 45: "Forty-five's a bad day for Kudla. He'll probably break that at our pro day."
Odds and ends: Though they won't have the money to dedicate to it, the Tennessee Titans are still intent on looking for a No. 1 receiver. … The Baltimore Ravens are looking for a veteran quarterback – but not just some guy to back up Kyle Boller. Word around the combine is that Drew Brees is at the top of their list if the new CBA deal goes through. … Bowling Green's Omar Jacobs has been knocked for his throwing mechanics, but he impressed several onlookers Sunday. He's probably still in the middle rounds, but some think he's a worthy project. … Judging from the personnel buzz at the combine, it's starting to look like this year's big loss in free agency for the New England Patriots will be kicker Adam Vinatieri.