Archive for March, 2009

Interview Transcript: Jarron Gilbert, DT, San Jose St.

So as most of you ho read my stuff know, I attended both California and San Jose State Pro Days last week and interviewed a bunch of players including hot defensive tackle Prospect Jarron Gilbert, who spent a ton of time with Jet Head Coach Rex Ryan during defensive line drills.

I would go so far as to say if Ryan spent any more time with Gilbert I would have expected him to get down on one knee and offer his giant Super Bowl ring up in a proposal.

Which is not to say that the Jets will absolutely pick Gilbert as their second, maybe third round pick. First, he may flat out not be there. Mind you, the Jets showed last year with Dustin Keller that they have a willingness to move up if need be for a player they fall in love with.

But they are doing their homework and that has to make Jets fans happy. Ryan has been all over the place and the jets have been working out, interviewing and investigating a ton of players, as you can see in my team interest article on Draftguys.com.

That list looks as long as the one the Patriots have built and we all know how good they are at working the draft.

You can find the interview with Gilbert, as well as the ones I did with Coye Francies and Chris Owens here and also see this transcript and a ton of other great NFL Draft information at NFLDraftbible.com.

I will be at both USC’s and Hawaii’s Pro Days next week, so more interview transcripts from
those schools, as well as interviews with players from San Jose State, California, Stanford and more over the coming weeks.

Enjoy.
——————————————————————————————————-
Garda: I’m here with Jarron Gilbert, who just had a pretty good Pro Day. Today you spent a lot of time with Rex Ryan–how did that go?

Gilbert: Oh, it went good. We just went through some drills–I think I did pretty good with him, picking things up. Just had a pretty good day out here.

Garda: It definitely looked like you had a very good day. You’ve got a great deal of athleticism. How do you approach the game when you have a good natural, God-given talent? What does that allow you to do that some other players sometimes don’t get a chance to because they have to work a little bit harder at it? When things come easy like that because you have that natural athleticism, how does that change your approach to the game?

Gilbert: Well, I think I’m a lot more comfortable and confident in trying new moves or trying to do things with my body in the trenches that other guys might be afraid to do. Like certain spin moves and just using my speed to beat guys with athleticism and just get around them.

Garda: Ok, I’m sure everybody has asked you this, but the YouTube video? How did that come about?

Gilbert: This is my 1,000th time answering the question, but I heard something our strength coaches said, that Adam Archuleta, the former safety, could jump out of a pool and he was kind of a freak athlete. And everybody was shocked and amazed by it. But I thought to myself it wasn’t a big deal so I went and tried it and brought a video camera out and went out there and did it. No failed attempts, no bloopers.

Garda: You were the 2008 WAC Co-Defensive Player of the Year. That speaks to a great deal of consistency as well as production. What goes into your day to day workout routine that allows you to reach such a high-level of play?

Gilbert: Well, during the season I watched a whole lot of film and studied my opponents to a tee. I knew everything about them going into the week, so that really helped me during the season. And I had a lot of free time during the semester, I only took one unit during the semester and that was archery. I had already graduated so it gave me a lot of time to really study my opponent and a lot of confidence going into the game. So, it helped me out there on the field.

Garda: So film study…A lot of guys–the gym, the field–that’s their biggest focus, but it sounds like film study to you is as important as anything else in the game.

Gilbert: Yeah, film study and staying strong during the week, staying healthy. Getting in the training room and getting in the weight room and getting my body back to its peak for Saturday. That was the biggest thing for me.

Garda: So coming away from the day, what do you feel was the best part of your workout, what do you think probably left people with the best impression of you?

Gilbert: My broad jump I think was probably the most impressive thing of the day. I jumped a 10’7” on broad. I jumped a 9’11” at the Combine, but I just couldn’t stick it for some reason at the Combine so I had to do it about nine or ten times. But I got out here today and I jumped a good number. I think it impressed a lot of people.

Garda: What do you feel was the biggest difference between the two things? What did you do differently between the Combine and now, either training or otherwise? That’s a pretty decent increase from what you jumped from one to the other.

Gilbert: Yeah well, at the Combine I was landing around 10’4” I think–10’4”/10’5”-ish but I couldn’t stick it, so by the time I stuck it on the eight or ninth try, it was a 9’11”. But I got out here and was able to stick it today.

Garda: It seems like that’s happening a lot, actually. Chris Wells did like, fifteen, as I remember watching. Last question, then I will let you go. You’re able to not only produce plays out in space, once a player has gotten past the line of scrimmage, you get in the backfield and you cause a ruckus back there as well. What do you do that gives you that edge so you can get into the backfield and disrupt a play before it even really takes off?

Gilbert: I’m just quick off the ball. Quick with a good first step, and I get strong at the point of attack which allows me to get a lot of penetration. I came into the season pretty much a three year starter at end and moved inside, so coming inside I felt more athletic and quicker dealing with the guards then they’re used to. So being able to get off with speed really helped me out.

Garda: Well, you definitely had a good day today. The experience you bring to the table starting as many games as you have is certainly something that’s valuable at the NFL level, so I wish you the best of luck and look forward to seeing you on draft day when they call out your name.

Gilbert: Thank you.

——————————————————————————————————
My thoughts: Gilbert is an intriguing prospect and one people have moved up on their boards significantly. He can either play tackle in a 4-3 or move to end as a five-technique in a 3-4. He would fit well with the Jets 3-4 scheme and it would be nice to finally see the Jets draft guys who can play the scheme they have, rather than try to jam a guy into a scheme they don’t fit. Guys like Vernon Gholston aren’t busts yet (it’s too soon, I don’t care what anyone says) but the Jets have drafted guys who didn’t fit their defense for years, ever since Mangini came into the picture in fact.

A guy like Gilbert is a tweener, not fitting into any one category easily. But that versatility can also be a strength for some teams.

He looked smooth and solid on his Pro Day, so that may allay some fears about his technique being a little sloppy. Follow up private workouts may get teams a better look at how he uses his hands and perhaps a closer look at effort and motor, something some scouts have been concerned with.

I like Gilbert a ton and think he’s worthy of a late second, early third round pick – and he may go earlier than that.

Interview Transcript – Fresno State QB Tom Brandstater

As time goes on, I’ll be rolling more and more of these out. You can always find the audio on NFLDraftbible.com or in the archives for All-Access Football and usually (although not in this case) The Thundering Blurb Football Show – both on Blogtalkradio.com.

I did this interview just prior to Fresno State’s Pro Day and actually broke the news in it that Brandstater would not be working out at his Pro Day, which then appeared on Rotoworld. Right place, right time.

So without further ado, here is the interview I ran on All Access football a couple of weeks ago with NFL Draft Prospect and former Fresno State QB Tom Brandstater.


Garda: Welcome to another edition of All Access Football Radio brought to you by NFLDraftbible.com, as well as the fabulous Fantasy Sports Channel and BlogTalkRadio.com. I am Andrew Garda, your host for the next 15 or so minutes, as we will get our interview on with another in a long line of top prospects. A guy who, coming into the Combine people were thinking ‘Intriguing prospect, maybe someone who could make some noise.’ Coming out of the Combine, everyone was saying ‘What the heck did we just see?’ Of course I am talking about Fresno State Bulldog quarterback Tom Brandstater. Tom, how are you doing tonight?

Tom Brandstater: I’m doing great. How are you guys doing?

Garda: Doing absolutely fantastic. Big night for you, getting ready for your Pro Day. So I want to thank you for coming on tonight because I know you probably have some butterflies going on to tomorrow. Absolutely going to be a huge day. Between the Combine and now, have you been hearing a lot from teams? Are there any workouts yet, any dialogue or do you think that’s going to come later on?

Tom Brandstater: Yeah, at this point it’s starting to become, teams are calling and getting ahold of my agent and trying to figure out different meets and stuff like that. So it’s going to be – I’ll be a busy guy for the next month or so before {the Draft} just trying to hit every appointment and trying to talk to all the people who are interested so, I’ll be busy. And it’s kind of fun, part of the process to get out to different places and see different people and ultimately going for the goal of being on an NFL team.

Garda: So moving backwards a little bit before we move too far forwards, you played both quarterback and defensive back in high school and you were a good enough defensive back to where named to the first team All-District by the Modesto Bee, at the position. In college however, it was all about the quarterback slot. Which is not to say that you were so good as a D-back that nobody was talking about your quarterback ability because you were directing what was primarily a rushing offense, but you still threw for 1,000 yards as a senior high school QB. So, clearly you had the talent to do both. What was the thing that made you say ‘hey, I’m focusing on quarterback from here on out’ when you were clearly successful at either position at all. What really did you see that said ‘that’s why I want to do quarterback?’ And what advantage do you have, having played that position, a position that usually gives quarterbacks some headaches.

Tom Brandstater: Right. I was more of a safety in high school. I don’t think I’m physically gifted enough at to play defense in college. So it wasn’t a question at all as I got to college. I did well in high school because I was able to know what was happening before it was going to start. So it wasn’t because I had sheer athletic ability, the ability to cover and stuff. So I was kinda in the right place at the right time playing defense. And then I was a natural quarterback with the ideal – with the prototypical body at least to play quarterback.

Garda: You like, flipped the script there, because most of the time quarterbacks were like ‘yeah I played a little D-back and now I know what’s in the safety or corner’s head because I was there for a little bit.’ And it sounds as if you were all like, in high school, ‘yeah I played a little D-back, and I knew what the quarterback was doing and that’s what made me effective.’ So that’s a pretty good use of the tools. You reversed it on them.

Tom Brandstater: Exactly! That was how I utilized my somewhat athletic body. I kinda knew what was going to happen. In high school it’s such a – it’s not so precise. If you have any idea what’s going on, you can usually be pretty good and I was lucky just to – the quarterbacks would just kind of throw it up and would find a way to come down with the ball. I think I had like eight interceptions my last year. So that’s why I did so well, had so many interceptions on defense.

Garda: So let’s get back to the Combine, We touched on it a couple of minutes ago. You had, I’ll just put it simply, a very good day. You showed more accuracy and straight-line speed than people really expected, you had a great 20 yard shuttle. You were the fifth best among QBs in that. You showed off your agility. Accurate passes, good velocity. After a day like that, how do you go back to the grindstone and in many respects act as if nothing really happened? Because you can’t afford to lose that momentum. I mean, because you came out red hot after the Combine.

Tom Brandstater: Yeah I did. I had a good day and you know I think – I wasn’t totally surprised. Other people were more surprised than I was. I think that’s how I usually threw the ball and I felt good about that. So, it was a solid day for me. I was real happy with the way I did everything and I think – it doesn’t prove anything. It’s definitely going to help me to get looked at. I have to do it on a more consistent basis every time and so it was just one more piece of the puzzle that had to be put together in order for me to turn some heads.

Garda: Absolutely. Tom, really when it comes down to it, as time has gone on, the NFL has taken a lot more notice of small school players. A few years ago, people were saying – could Fresno State, could be Appalachian State – ‘sure they put up good numbers but they haven’t played USC, they haven’t the SEC’. That’s certainly changed over the last few years. And now in some respects it’s almost an advantage for some guys to come through a small school program. What are the advantages you’ve felt you had going to Fresno State over one of the huge universities which frankly, some people get lost in the programs a little bit. What do you feel is the best thing about going to Fresno State, and strengthened you the most? And at the same point, what do you feel some of the challenges have been coming out of a small school?

Tom Brandstater: Well I think that the good thing about Fresno State is we’ve had good coaches, we’ve had really good people involved with the program who have taught me a lot of things I need to know for the next level. So that’s definitely been a positive just having that knowledge part of it. A negative might just the fact that people are going to doubt the strength of schedule and… but that doesn’t really mean anything. We don’t have a team of 100 all-stars, you know, we have a couple of good players and enough players to field a starting defense and a starting offense. Our depth isn’t what the other teams are but that could be the only knock on our team. That and our schedule. So I don’t see it as a huge negative and I don’t think at the end of the day people don’t care where you came from, this is all about what you can do and what you can do to help a team win.

Garda: Absolutely and just to point out, I mean, in 2007 you had four very good passing games against the likes of , at the time #23 Texas A&M, at the time # 4 Oregon, at the time # 21 Boise State, and a Kansas State that I don’t think was ranked at the time but was still pretty stiff competition and you had a career high 300 yard passing game so I guess when it comes down to it, it’s all in the perception and as long as guys are looking at your tape, it doesn’t lie.

Tom Brandstater: Yeah, I mean that’s what I’m hoping for. It’s all about a couple guys up there in key positions in the NFL have to like you and not every guy is going to like you or think that you can fit with their system but when a couple of guys like you and a couple of guys are willing to go after you, that’s all it really takes. It really takes one but once you get a couple in there, it’s going to guarantee your odds and that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m just trying to do my thing and hoping my thing is what some of the people are looking for.

Garda: You yourself mentioned that you pretty much have the prototypical size, the build the guys are looking for in the NFL for a quarterback. But at the same point, you’re still mobile. You can move the bootleg, you can move in and out of the pocket, you don’t lose anything for being that size. What do you do to keep up that agility, to work on the speed that you need to kind of keep things going long enough for a wide receiver or even a running back – one of your other options, if the primary is covered, to get open?

Tom Brandstater: First I’m gifted that a lot of it comes natural. Some guys just can’t run to save their life and luckily I’ve been blessed to be able to run. And then it comes down to working hard in the weight room and doing different things, different agility drills that allow you to be able to move around. I think that that’s a big part of my game. I’m not a Michael Vick by any means, but I think when things break down I have some ability at least to make the play happen and try to extend the play and at least get the ball out of my hands so I don’t get sacked let one of the playmakers make a play.

Garda: You know, we were just talking about how the perception of small schools at one point was sort of a negative. And it has turned to where it’s a positive or at least on the level of any other school. It seems to like now to me, virtually everyone I talk to be it scout, quarterback, analyst or Joe on the street, seems like to me the new ‘small school’ label is now the spread offense. Let’s flip the script on that – what do you think are the strengths coming out of something that uses the spread offense and what’s your reaction to people who do bring it up as a negative going into the NFL?

Tom Brandstater: Well the positive of it is, you know, the stats are pretty mind-boggling. You can put up some pretty good numbers in the spread offense. But the negative is the fact that you’re not going to run that offense in the Pros and there’s a lot guys that are going to look down upon that so that’s really, to me, that doesn’t affect me. Some guys will talk about it, even though I wasn’t in that offense, it’s going to help some guys as my peers or hurt guys. That’s not really my decision, but I think it is what it is. And I believe I wasn’t in an offense like that but if I was it’d be a lot of fun, you put a lot of points on the board and try to make the most of the situation.

Garda: Well, despite not being in a spread offense, 2,600 plus yards for two seasons in a row and 15 plus touchdowns for two seasons in a row is not too shabby really when it comes down to it. That’s some pretty good production.

Tom Brandstater: Yeah, you know, we definitely did some good things on offense. There were games where we’d like to have done more, you know like any position isn’t going to be satisfied with what they did. But, yeah we did some good things and that was good. We had a lot of good players here at Fresno State and I enjoyed my time here and it’s been awesome and the next step in my dream is getting closer and it’s exciting to live it out a little bit.

Garda: So as we’re getting close to the end here, a couple more questions for you here Tom. First of all, tomorrow is your Pro Day. What is your biggest goal going into tomorrow’s workout? What is the one thing that you think more than anything else you need to go out there and just hit a home run on?

Tom Brandstater: Well, actually, my Pro Day is tomorrow but I’m not going to be able to do anything. Two weeks before [the Combine] I tore my lat muscle in my side…..underneath my arm. So I re-aggravated it at the Combine. I haven’t been able to do anything for the last … since the Combine. I’m not even going to be able to throw tomorrow at [Pro Day]. So my situation is a little bit different, and basically it’s going to turn into a meet and greet for me to talk to the scouts and then before the actual draft. But my Pro Day is not – I won’t be doing anything at the Pro Day.

Garda: My bad. Sorry about that.

Tom Brandstater: Yeah that’s relatively new information yeah, so I mean, I got the doctor after the Combine and we found out I tore my lat while I was at the Combine. In a way it’s good, because I threw so well at the Combine, but I did it all with a torn lat, so hopefully there’s more to come and even better things for me out there.

Garda: All right, so when you are able to work out, where have you been working out and what were you focusing the most on when you’re able to throw the ball?

Tom Brandstater: Well I’ve been training in Southern California with my agent and a whole bunch of – we got about five quarterbacks. We got Curtis Painter, Pat White, Mark Sanchez and Nate Brown. We’ve been out there doing everything. I think the little things are what makes good quarterbacks great, so I’m trying to work on little things and making sure that I’m a complete quarterback. Whether it’s moving the pocket, accurate throws and just doing all the things that you have to do. I think footwork is my biggest emphasis, because I want to make sure that – anyone who knows anything about quarterbacks know that footwork is the most important thing and your arm and the ball will follow what good feet do. So that’s been my emphasis since I’ve been training.

——————————-

My take on Brandstater: This wasn’t the sort of thing that would hurt him, though it’s more about the depth (or lack thereof) in the class than the injury, missed Pro Day or anything else. Most of these quarterbacks are projects. Any team could very well go any direction and – if they are willing to be patient – could very well end up with the next Matt Cassel three or four years from now.


Brandstater is a guy who is a decent quarterback and has the basic tools to suceed, though in my opinion I’m not sure he is starter material. But since he’s a project, with the right system and coach, he has as much of a shot as most of this class of quarterbacks.

San Jose State Pro Day Wrapup

So getting up at five AM isn’t something I do very often anymore, which has hurt my surfing patterns, but improved the level of grumpy, for which my family is grateful.

However, the opportunity to hit a Pro Day as a fully media credentialed writer for the Draftbible and Draftguys is always welcome and as I am two hours away from San Jose and the workouts started at 8am – well sacrifices were made.

Somehow I am still awake. Or this could be a dream.

It was an incredibly smooth running day as well as an early one. Just a handful of years ago, San Jose State was fighting to keep the football program alive and now it’s cranking out Pro level players. If Coye Francies and Chris Owens pan out, some people were joking it’s going to get titled ‘Cornerback U’.

I’m awaiting confirmation on the exact number of personnel and teams, but there were easily between 20-25 teams represented, 30+ people and two head Coaches – Carolina’s John Fox and new Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan. More on both is a bit.

The three biggest focal points were the aforementioned Francies and Owens, as well as Defensive End Jarron Gilbert.

Francies was hot after the Senior Bowl, but since then, Owens has started to overtake him and today may have locked that down. That isn’t to say Francies won’t make a fine corner in the NFL – he probably will. But Owens is hot.

Owens was faster overall, running a pair of 4.40’s in the 40, while Francies was clocked between a 4.59 and a 4.65.

Side note- when it comes to timing, here’s how it goes at a Pro Day. We (that is to say, media and Scouts) all have our own stop watches and do our own timing. Often right after a run, we’ll all double check the time with people around us. After all the speed drills are done, the scouts convene in a seperate location and get a consensus time or range of times.

Francies’ was a wide range. I don’t know how or why, but the range on his runs was wider than I’ve seen in the year and a half I’ve been there. For what that’s worth.

Regardless of how wacky those numbers were, Owens was faster by a margin.

Of course, straightline speed isn’t everything to a cornerback. Both corners worked out well in the position drills and looked good. Both tracked the balls well and looked good overall. Francies looked good flipping his hips and turning to move upfield. Owens looked great tracking the ball and very fluid.

It’s close. I will say that Jets Coach Ryan (told you we’d touch on him again) made a point to chat with Owens and it was clear they had talked before. He might have doen the same with Coye, but I didn’t see it. But Ryan definitely looked interested in Owens and given that he likes current Jet and former Spartan Dwight Lowery, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Jets go to that well again. (I realize he didn’t make that pick, but GM Mike Tannenbaum did and I’m sure he chatted it up to Ryan.)

I wonder how the Jets might get Owens as it’s hard to know where he might go and it’s possible he won’t be there with the Jets’ second round pick. Will the Jets move up like they did for Dustin Keller last year?

They certainly might.

But the guy who seemed to be Ryan’s biggest focus was Gilbert. When it was time for the D-line drills, Ryan stepped in and led them. While he spent plenty of time with the other two Spartan DEs there (Marcus Keli and Jeff Schweiger, who I will talk about in a minute), he worked with Gilbert the most and definitely was focused on testing and probing him.

I walked away thinking that the Jets have to be thinking Gilbert is a high priority. Like Owens, you have to wonder how they would pick him up. He’s slotted on many sites to be a guy who could go somewhere in the second or third (I lean towards second) so again, the Jets might have to make a move to get him.

By the way, many sites have him listed as a Defensive Tackle but he can play Tackle or End, specifically end as a five technique in a 3-4 which could fit what the Jets are looking at.

I call him an End because that’s what he was in school.

Whatever you call him, he too looked solid in drills and is definitely more than a YouTube video and some stats. Gilbert ran a 4.76/4.83 40 with a good 10 yard time of 1.66. Not the fastest bloke, but quick enough.

When guys like Gilbert, Francies and Owens attract a spotlight, sometimes it splashes on some other players as well. One player I am looking more into is defensive End Jeff Schweiger.

Schweiger was a transfer from USC and had an OK, though not spectacular season in 2008. He had a very good workout today, including a 4.71/4.74 40 time, with a quick 4.56 short shuttle which looked pretty solid. Add to it a 35 1/2 vert and a 10 foot broad jump and he’s an intriguing guy who isn’t on many radars.

I’m not saying he’s a first round pick. I’m saying he may have gotten himself enough notice to have a good shot at being a rookie street free agent if not a late second day pick.

It only takes one team to fall in love to make that happen. He’s already worked out for the Atlanta Falcons.

I’ll be looking at his film this week and am curious to see how he looks.

Finally, I wanted to touch on the bonus portion of the day’s program – the workout by players from Cal-Poly, Sacramento State and other small schools.

This took place after the San Jose State day and a bunch of scouts stuck around. It was a long day by the time it was done – from 8am to after 1pm.

Of course, the teams who stayed (including John Fox) were there to see Cal-Poly wideout Ramses Barden do his thing. I think Carolina has to be looking at him given that they have nobody behind Smith and Dwayne Jarrett hasn’t worked out. Barden is a big guy, like Jarrett was, and as he learns to use his size and hands to beat corners high, he could be a great complement to anyone, Smith included.

Among the other teams remaining were the Giants, Rams, Panthers, Pats, Dolphins and Packers. The Panthers had two other men there along with Coach Fox, who busted me up more than once with little side comments.

There’s a guy I dearly want to have a beer with. He strikes me as a fellow who could make an evening fairly entertaining.

Back at the workout, Barden smoked his Combine 40 time, which was listed as a 4.58, with his first run timed at a speedy 4.51. His second run was a 4.55, closer to the Combien time but still solid. By the way, I clocked his first run at a 4.48. Barden told me he liked that time best and who am I to argue?

Barden was good in his workout as well and between the Combine and today, helped himself quite a bit. His 39 arm length, 10′2″ broad jump and 7.1 three cone drill helped also.

One other guy I am looking into after watching him in the second half of the day is Montana State Running Back Demetrius Williams. Williams had speedy 40 times of 4.44 and 4.45 (although one scout had him at 4.39) and overall had a good workout.

Liek Schweiger, Williams may benefit from the teams who stuck around to watch Barden and get himself some workouts. I’m curious to look more closely at his game and examine if he might be able to catch onto a practice squad or on a special teams unit.

Sometimes it’s not just the big guys who leave you fascinated.

Cal Pro Day Wrap Up

Today I had the pleasure to be a media rep covering the NFL Pro Day at the University of California – Berkley. It was a beautiful day at California Memorial Stadium. Great weather, sunny, not windy and cool.

I arrived as the athletes were working in the weight room, and happened to be there when top Center Alex Mack was getting ready to lift. For what it’s worth, he did not lift the 225 bar 40 times. It was 20. That was already corrected in the article that Rotoworld.com quoted, as well as on Rotoworld. But as good a day as Mack had – and it was very good – he didn’t become Superman.

Back to the broad picture though. All 32 teams were represented by 50 scouts, coaches and various personnel. Largely, they were there to see Mack and Zach Follett. Follett was nursing a bad hamstring though and only lifted, pulling a 21 rep bench press.

Follett told me he was disappointed, as he wanted to take another shot at his Combine numbers. However, he already has talked to some teams and will be scheduling some workouts. While I was there, I saw him chatting with representatives from several teams, among them the Colts, Chiefs and Browns.

How interested those teams are is anyone’s guess – they could have just been chatting. Or they could be hoping he’ll tumble enough to be there when thy come back around. He also mentioned the Raiders were sniffing around as well. Any of those teams could use him and I’m sure there are more who will take a look at him prior to late April.

Back to Mack. He ran a nice 5.17 40, looked good in his other workout drills and great in his positional drills. He held the rapt attention of nearly everyone who was there and when he was done, I’d say 75% of the people there took off.

That’s not to say there was no interest in anyone else. But Mack was the biggest target for attention there and clearly someone who won’t drop too far in April’s draft. I get the sense that he could go anywhere from the middle of the first to the end, but I don’t think he gets out of it unclaimed.

Mack ended his day in a film room working some chalk and going over tape with representatives from three teams. He was easily in there for two hours, maybe more. It was great to talk to him afterwards and he was definitely pleased with his day and ready to stop training for Pro Days and Combines and start training for actual football again.

After Mack was finished, the remaining scouts were treated to a pretty sharp workout by quarterback Nate Longshore. Longshore ran around a 4.7/5.1 40 yard dash (I timed it by hand, but was unable to verify afterwards) earlier in the day.

Warming up he seemed a bit off but once the drills started, Longshore was sharp throwing the ball with good arm strength, accuracy and touch. I was impressed the way he worked and not only made himself look good, but his receivers as well.

This draft is filled with project quarterbacks and in my opinion once you get past Stafford and Sanchez, there are a ton of question marks. As Sigmund Bloom, one half of the pair from Draftguys.com who were on my show Wednesday night said, guys like Pat White and Josh Freeman are riding a bit of a wave from the fact that this class is weak.

So when you get past the first few solid quarterbacks, and you’re looking for a project it’s really just about whom you fall for. Longshore is far from a sure thing. But as a project?

Why not?

A few other notes from the day.

Linebacker Anthony Felder pulled a hamstring during his first 40 yard dash. It was a shame, he definitely had high hopes for the day. Before the end of the day, he had already set up a session with one team and was looking forward to getting back on track prior to the Draft.

I liked what I saw from tight end Cameron Morrah, who ran a 4.5/4.6 in the 40 and looked solid in receiving drills. He too has some interest already from teams and has scheduled multiple workouts.

Finally, Burl Toler stopped by for a workout and looked good in receiving drills. Toler is a free agent journeyman who has bumped around various NFL and AFL teams since he was signed as a street free agent with the Oakland Raiders back in 2006. He most recently played on the practice squad for the Washington Redskins in 2007-2008 and the San Jose SabreCats from 2008 until the AFL dissolved.

It’s always interesting to me to see a guy like this work out. He’s clearly willing and definitely looked good and while teams tend to try and think about getting the freshest talent in the Draft, there’s always guys like Toler who are still young and able, but carry experiance that most rookies take a long time to gather and some never get.

Could Toler find a home again within the NFL? It will be interesting to see.

Overall, it was a great day for most of the athletes present and with the extra attention guys like Mack and Follett brought to the day, some of the more fringe projects might have gotten a tad more exposure than they might have otherwise.

People Management 101 – Why Josh McDaniels and Denver are a mess

The situation in Denver has continued to disintigrate and it’s hard to imagine how much worse it could become. Assuming Cutler does not show on Monday, the Broncos will have some very tough decisions to make and soon.

But the source of this isn’t so much about football, though the details take place in that world.

It’s about people management. It’s about being able to handle the people you have working for and with you with tact and getting them do do what you want without causing a fight.

So far I can’t say I see any of those skills in Denver Head Coach Josh McDaniels.

The source of this trouble is likely not his fault. Denver got trade offers, Denver listened to trade offers, Denver rejected trade offers. Not calling Jay Cutler and his agent immediately was an error in judgment, compounded by Cutler learning about it by seeing the story on ESPN and his agent hearing about it from other agents, not the Broncos organization.

Ultimately, that’s not necessarily McDaniels’ fault. The GM, the team president, the owner – they should have called Cutler or his agent before it got out. A simple ‘hey we got this offer, we had to listen to it, but you’re our guy and we aren’t actively shopping you’ might have prevented this whole thing.

Maybe not. I won’t call Cutler a child, but he’s playing the spurned lover right to the hilt. He’s been no more giving or understanding than Denver’s front office and asking for an extension at this point is just this short of ridiculous.

But the honest truth is when McDaniels had an opportunity to smooth things over, he didn’t. Instead, he choose to push.

Now, if you are a boss – I don’t care what kind – and you were having an issue with an employee – one of your best and most important – would you chose to take the conversation you were supposed to use to smooth things over and instead use it to take him to task for errors he had made and improvements he needed to make?

When Cutler, his agent and the Broncos organization met and talk things out, Daniels really only had one thing to do.

He didn’t need to kiss Cutler’s tail, just make nice. Again, a simple ‘Jay I know how things looked, but we had to give any offer a listen’. Allegedly, he told Cutler that nobody was untradeable, but we’ll never know for sure exactly how he said that. But he even could have added that to the discussion in a way that wasn’t antagonistic.

‘Jay, we had to listen. There’s nobody on this team that is untouchable. It would need to be a whole heckuva lot to get you from us. You’re the guy. But we have to look at every offer, any offer that could improve the team.’

Would that have made Cutler happy? Probably not.

But you know what I KNOW won’t make him happy right after you talked about trading him and were in a conversation to smooth things over?

Criticizing him.

I just don’t get what seemed smart about using this meeting – the one to make it all better or at least try – to point out what Cutler does badly. To tell him he has a ton of work to do.

Even if it’s true. Even if Cutler is far from a Hall of Fame quarterback, this was a peace-making mission. Why say something you darn well know will antagonize the people you are trying to get along with?

Yeah, I get he’s the coach. It’s his job to get Cutler to play better. But now? During a meeting to diffuse tension?

McDaniels seems to think that because he worked with Bill Belichick, he can throw his weight around like him. Well, sorry Josh, like much of America, your line of credit just isn’t that good.

You need to earn the right as well as the respect of your players. Going hard at the face of your franchise is a poor way to go about earning that credit. I don’t care if you are the boss. You need to handle your people. And McDaniels didn’t do that.

You may think that Cutler is in the wrong. That he’s being far too sensitive and he should have just taken his criticism and liked it. And maybe there’s truth to that.

But a boss of any kind has to know how to handle people. Especially those who might have an ego that could be bruised, too easily or not. And especially when a situation is already tense, even if the source of the tension is a misunderstanding or just flat out silly.

Instead, McDaniels chose to aggravate and antagonize. To prove he was the bigger dog in the yard.

But you have to wonder whether he realizes all he has at stake. With a tough season ahead, he already risks losing the locker-room.

It’s not like he has close ties with the players there. And he’s just assaulted their leader, at least on the offense. Players have already come out asking that the two sides mend fences.

But McDaniels is too busy breaking his bucking Bronco to really spend time worrying about what this fight is doing to the locker room chemistry. Or if he is thinking about it, he doesn’t seem to care. But the locker room is feeling the pressure as well and players acan’t be very happy that their new coach came in with guns blazing.

Again, right or wrong, instead of diffusing and improving a situation McDaniels has tossed gas on a fire.

The two met again this weekend and as was th case before, we’re hearing bad news from Cutler’s camp. That McDaniels told him he wasn’t sorry about trying to trade the young quarterback and that Cutler feels McDaniels wants his own guy at quarterback and that he can’t trust the coach. The Broncos quarterback feels antagonized and attacked.

And yes, as has been the case this whole time, Cutler is playing the diva a little hard. Woe is me.

But frankly, it seems to me as if McDaniels is uninterested in patching things up. My way or the highway kid, buck up and go.

McDaniels has yet to show me he has any feel for handling people, an incredibly important skill for a head coach to have. Again, a guy like Belichick or Bill Parcells earned their leeway and ability to call a player out the way they are known for. McDaniels is a young coach and in a new situation. As such, he needs to work with his players, not just clash with them.

Especially over something as ridiculous as this non-trade.

It’s People Management 101 folks. And so far, I’m giving McDaniels a failing grade.

In the end, this may end in divorce. And if that’s the case, the days immediately following the trade or release will be telling.

McDaniels will once again have the chance to work with players and smooth things over.

Whether he has learned anything from this Cutler mess will be seen in the way he deals with the fallout, some of which will be extremely negative, and the players left behind.

Thursday NFL Draft News and Notes – Did Pat White Just Screw it up?

So one of the most curious stories from yesterday was the decision of West Virginia QB Pat White to not do the wide receiver positional drills he had said he would do back at the NFL Scouting Combine.

White, who impressed scouts back at the Combine and Senior Bowl as a quarterback, said on NFL Network he was not asked to run wide receiver drills.

And yet a league full of scouts, coaches and staff were there to what? Watch a mid round quarterback prospect throw his route? Seriously?

There’s even more to this story. According to many sources, White’s West Virginia coach Bill Stewart came out prior to the workout and said White was not running any receiver drills.

So as Mike Mayock put it, maybe the reason nobody requested that White run routes is because they were told he wasn’t going to. But who knows where it came from because if you go to a site like Rotoworld, find Pat White and sort his news, it looks like you get several different stories and reactions.

In my opinion though, yesterday was a little bit of gamesmanship, maybe some ego and it resulted I think in a major error in judgment.

White made a promise that he would at least humor the scouts and team officials by working out as a receiver. It’s why he was given a bit of a pass at the Scouting Combine. At least he was willing to do whatever it took to get in the door. Yes it’s clear he intends to be a quarterback. I respect that, and I think he proved he has the potential in Mobile and Indianapolis.

But you need to get in the door first. You need to have the opportunity to show them what you can do and for some guys – and sorry Pat, you’re one of them right now – you have to be willing to be flexible enough so that you get your chance.

Here’s what I think happened though. Just prior to the quarterback workouts, White told teams he would work out as a wide receiver at his Pro Day. He did it becuase there were a ton of questions about him – can he handle a pro style offense having worked predominantly in the spread, is he big enough, can he make the throws – and at that point he knew he had to do anythign he could to get on a roster.

I firmly believe that he felt then he could play quarterback in the NFL, but knew that he was going to have to win folks over.

Then he worked out. And wow, did he impress. And he started hearing all about how he could make it in the NFL as a quarterback and maybe the talk about wide receiver and wildcat had been premature.

I think he read his own press.

Now let me be clear. This is my read on the situation. I don’t know White, haven’t talked to him or his agent and what i have heard about him personally is that he is a good kid. So this is all conjecture.

But it makes sense to me that coming off a red hot Combine performance where many people were talking about him as a quarterback, maybe White (or his agent) started thinking that they didn’t need to run that route tree. Didn’t need to run a gauntlet. Didn’t need to do all the wide receiver dancing.

I think he started buying into his own hype. I think maybe he and his people forgot that the 2nd round buzz involved the words ’slash’ and ‘could also be a QB’.

You could see it in the interview he did with NFL Network’s Steve Wyche. White seems to really believe he doesn’t need the receiver workouts. I wonder what he will do if a team asks him for a workout, but wants him to run routes? Is he even working on them?

Meanwhile 25 reps from NFL teams showed up – including it appeared to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin – to watch him run and were told quietly ahead of time that no, White was only doing QB drills.

It’s telling then that immediately after the QB drills, most of them left.

White needs to think hard about what he is doing. Other prospects have called scouts to let them know when they won’t be running drills due to everything from injury to being happy with previous numbers. Scouts and officials expected him to run wide receiver drills and that’s why most of them were there.

White didn’t. Which means he may have done something more egregious than lie.

He wasted people’s time. And that might take as much image repair as Andre Smith’s bad Pro day.

Wednesday NFL Draft News and Notes – Did Andre Smith Do Enough?

So while there is the usual ever flowing news from Pro Days and Free Agency, the biggest story of the day seems to have settled just where I thought it would be.

Left Tackle Andre Smith worked out at Alabama’s Pro Day on Wednesday and left observers and scouts with two very distinct impressions.

For example, the Chicago Sun Times was told by a source that Smith did well in his positional drills and that he won’t drop out of the top ten. On NFL Network’s Path to the Draft, both Charles Davis (who was present at the workout) and Mike Mayock felt that while he looked out of shape and underperformed in some areas, he did enough to hang around that top ten area.

However many other reports are calling Smith’s workout, which included a mere 19 lifts in the bench press, a 5.28 and 5.33 second time in the 40-yard dash and a short 25 inch vert, lackluster and further cause for concern.

Most cited as red flags are the lift reps and the vert, both of which were expected to be higher. The vertical jump really surprised folks, since Smith wieghed in at just 325 pounds, lighter than he has been in some time. The vertical jump is a measure of athleticism and agility – both things a left tackle needs.

So who is right? Mayock says that tape doesn’t lie and Smith can clearly play. But which Smith shows up to camp?

I have that same question. After all, we’ve now seen him unprepared in many ways for two of the biggest job interviews of his life. And while many o-linmen look a bit chubby, when Smith took his shirt off (not sure who green-lit that idea, but it was a doozy) it was clear he lacked almost any definition at all. And running without his shirt off. Wow.

Many analysts will tell you that the positional drills, not the workout drills (for example the 40, the shuttle) ar what counts and by all accounts, he did well there.

But too many things add up to question marks on Smith and so that part of his day has once again been overshadowed.

Listen, Smith has talent. And other guys have come out of college who had tremendous talent and either no discipline or no clue. Sometimes they bust like former USC and Lion wide reciever Mike Williams. Sometimes they turn it around like former USC running back and current Titans short yardage back LenDale White. Though to be fair, White still has issues.

Smith will either get it or he won’t. The question is, when you look at tape of his junior year, is he worth the potential risk?

And as I have said before, the further he falls, the quicker he will get picked up. He will get grabbed by a team in the first because at some point he will not cost as much as he did in the top 5 and may even be with a team who can allow him to come along slower.

At some point in that first round, someone, somewhere will stop seeing a potential problem slide towards them.

They may start seeing a potential Pro Bowler.

He’s got that ability, though he is prone to lazy moments and sometimes absorbs too many blows. I like him, but he has his questions and not just personality-wise.

I think in the end, scouts and teams will see this workout and it may support whichever way they were already leaning. For his detractors, this was a horrific workout, one that should drop him out of the top ten.

For those who see his ability and potential, they will focus on his positional drills. They will come back, a few weeks prior to the Draft and they will run Smith through his paces again.

If he has progressed, he may find himself a new home. If he doesn’t, his stock will slip just a tad bit further down the first round ladder.

Tuesday NFL Draft News and Notes

Another day, another grip of news.

Like I said yesterday, you never know where the news will break or in what way. I can attest to that since I suddenly found myself breaking the story that Fresno State QB Tom Brandstater would not be working out at all his Pro Day (Wednesday, March 10th) due to a torn Lat muscle which was hurt prior to the NFL Scouting Combine and aggravated in Indianapolis.

“Two weeks before (the Combine) I tore my lat muscle in my side …underneath my arm,” Brandstater told me during the interview on All Access Football. “So, I re-aggravated it at the Combine. I haven’t been able to do anything for the last … since the Combine. I’m not even going to be able to throw…”

Brandstater did say he would be at the event tomorrow and use his time to meet the teams and the scouts present.

What does this mean for a guy like Brandstater, who came off the Scouting Combine red hot? Many analysts have him ranked as anywhere from the fifth to the tenth quarterback. Does he take a huge hit?

Frankly, no. Listen, this is an average group at best. Get past Stafford and his awesome work in a room full of scouts, or Sanchez and his work ethic and lack of film and Freeman and his huge tractor trailer full of upside and you have a host of guys who might, maybe someday be good quarterbacks.

I love Pat White out of West Virginia, but as impressive as he looked at the Combine, he still has some question marks in terms of holding up for a whole season plus he’s the new ‘face of the wildcat’ as far as the talking heads on TV are concerned.

Nate Davis, Rhett Bomar, Stephen McGee – all guys with great upside but nobody who you’ll plug in with confidence on purpose.

So to my mind, no, Brandstater is not terribly hurt by this. He wasn’t going on day one anyway. Maybe he slips from round 4 or 5 to 5 or six. But he’s not a guy who was ‘ready to start’ anyway.

Moving on to other news (and putting and end to the back patting)…..

Nice, though brief, piece on Path to the Draft about Cal-Poly wide receiver Ramses Barden. Another guy I interviewed prior to the Combine, Barden suffered through an injury at the Senior Bowl and had a good, though not great scouting Combine. I was happy to see him still getting press from guys like Mayock and Davis. Barden needs to use his size more effectively if he’s going to succeed at the NFL level.

Otherwise he stands to look a lot like James Hardy, part deux. Well, Hardy, minus the Owens signing.

I feel like I have seen the term ‘bad surface’ a ton during the first few weeks of Pro Days. The latest is in a column on NFL.com by the ageless Gil Brandt about Montana’s Colt Anderson. The young safety prospect ran indoors on a rubber track, managing a 4.22 in the 20-yard shuttle. He went outside for the three-cone and ran a 6.88, which isn’t too bad either.

I just wrote the other day about a Pro Day where shuttles and 40s were run in a wood-floor gym. A rubber floor is a step up, but how much? What’s going on with these schools? I’m not saying they should throw a hundred thousand at facilities just on the basis that ten guys will work out for scouts.

But I’m seeing a lot of questionable surfaces and wonder if I’m going to be typing ‘John Doe tore his ACL when his toe caught on the edge of a wood slat.’

Wrapping up Anderson though, he was a guy hovering around the seventh round or rookie free agent signing area in projections. It sounds like he might have locked that up, but it’s early and you never know who could really wow scouts over the next 40 plus days.

I know this has been talked about by me and others but how big a day is tomorrow for Alabama tackle Andre Smith? He already cost himself millions with the antics at the Scouting Combine.

Another misstep and he’ll be the free-fall we all talk about come the Monday after the Draft.

Finally, if you want to know about great small school prospects, you need to find out what Josh Buchanan is writing. Currently stringing for DraftDaddy.com, Josh is the man when it comes to smaller school prospects.

Mr. Buchanan is reporting that Liberty running back Rashad Jennings, probably the hottest small school guy to come out of the Scouting Combine (neck and neck with Johnny Knox from Abilene Christian), has been racking up frequent flier miles. He hit Denver Monday, the Eagles Tuesday, will hit the Pats Wednesday and the Jets on Friday.

He fits a few of those teams. Denver is collecting running backs like I am moving violations, Philadelphia needs to back oft-banged up Westbrook, the Hoodie (that would be Bill Belichick) needs to wash the taste of Laurence Maroney out of his mouth and Fred Taylor can only do so much. The Jets aren’t as likely but how many years does Thomas Jones have? Besides, like everyone else, the Jets know you can’t have too many running backs in your pocket.

Jennings has done a ton to up his profile. I’m watching some tape of him now and he’s an interesting guy.

He may just be the next ’small school surprise’.

Monday NFL Draft News and Notes

Week three of the Pro Day Meat Market has commenced and there are a ton of schools over the next six days who will be hosting NFL Scouts and Staff to their home campus to give their guys a look and maybe a shot at being grabbed by a team in April.

I mentioned many schools to look for in this week’s Pro Day Rewind as well as my impromtu Pro Day episode of All Access Football show, but honestly there is no way to cover every school and even the players who aren’t having their expos are news in some cases.

Here are some of the big pieces today and my thoughts on them:

DE Michael Johnson ran an official 40 time of 4.59 at the Georgia Tech Pro Day on Monday, although the Lions had him at 4.49. Which is odd and totally opposite my personal experiences at USC and UCLA’s Pro Days last year. Sometimes a school will put an athlete’s time much faster than the Scouts do but I don’t think I’ve seen a discrepancy flipped like this. And .10 of a second in a 40 time is an eternity. How does that happen? My thoughts on Johnson really are simple. He measures up really well, but gets pushed around and lacks consistent effort from play to play. However, Johnson is looking to be a late second, early third pick right now and could still move up depending upon what times other teams got today.

Beat writers and mockers have the Jets grabbing the best available wide receiver at #17. All sorts of guys – Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jeremy Maclin most often – get mentioned so far and the only thing that really might not be accounted for could be that Rex Ryan is a defense guy. So given how good I think the defensive class is (article forthcoming), it wouldn’t shock me, even with the cash they’ve spent over two years, if Ryan went with a great defensive player.

Georgia QB Matt Stafford (sorry, Matthew) apparently kicked some serious tail in personal interviews at the Scouting Combine. While it comes as a shock to nobody that he’s still in the conversation to be Detroit’s pick, it’s something interesting to hear. This is not a fantastic quarterback class. Stafford testing well may bump up it’s overall grade. Now we’ll see what we hear of Sanchez as well. He’s a guy I am very interested to see when I head to USC’s Pro Day on April 1st.

Mike Mayock was on the NFL Network and is talking up University of Connecticut running back Donald Brown pretty hard. He was already looking at him as his second best back in the draft, an opinion I didn’t particularly share. I’ve been watching tape I can get ahold of and have been gradually getting on board. I haven’t gotten to the point where I have him as high as Mayock but he’s starting to get there.

I was supposed to interview Utah QB Brian Johnson, but he had to postpone (hence the impromptu Pro Day show on all Access) and so was paying close attention to Utah’s Pro Day this afternoon. Johnson was very productive in an offense that led a team on an undefeated run last season – so you kind of need to look and see what’s there. Some injury issues and an offense which worked largely out of the spread are question marks. He moved all right in the 40 (4.88/4.89) and the three-cone in 4.41. Johnson is a long shot, but is just intriguing enough to maybe catch on as a Rookie Street Free agent.

Just when you thought it was safe to be a Bills fan- Terrell Owens is your guy!

According to NFL.com, the Buffalo Bills agreed to terms with Terrell Owens on a one-year, $6.5 million contract.

OK, so this one is a little out of left field and is terribly, terribly risky.

Owens has lost a step, no doubt but is still very effective, very often. He can still make big plays even if he also makes some big drops.

His affect on the Bills will be immediate.

We all know the TO flipside of that great talent and this is not a team that is currently trouble free. Given Owen’s history the Bills could be opening themselves up to some problems.

For example, Marshawn Lynch has made some awful decisions off the field the last couple of years and you have to wonder if Owens in a locker room is going to make that worse.

OK, so Pacman didn’t immolate his career because Owens was there. Fine. But TO wasn’t exactly playing nice with top target Jason Witten. Will he really play second fiddle Lee Evans? Is he capable of being a giving teammate who isn’t the focus of the offense?

And let’s not forget the list of shattered quarterback relationships in his wake. Three for three, right? Garcia, McNabb and Romo? And no he gets Edwards who has more than once faced questions in Buffalo about whether he is the right guy for the job?

Is this a recipe for success or meltdown?

In a vacuum, on paper, at first glance – this looks like it’s an upgrade for the Bills. As I said at the start, they have been desperate for a weapon to compliment Lee Evans.

Maybe it’s unfair to judge TO’s behavior before he actually puts on a jersey. Maybe this divorce with Dallas will turn him around.

And to be brutal, he usually becomes a problem after a year or so, so this one year contract should get Buffalo in and out before he annihilates the team chemistry and locker room.

But like a former leader of the free world said: ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I won’t get fooled again.’.

Or putting it like TO once did: If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, talks like a duck…..

But the upside here for the Bills could be huge.

Finally, Lee Evans gets the weapon he desperately needs across from him. Let’s face is – James Hardy wasn’t cutting it. Until he figures out how to use his big frame to muscle the ball away from the secondary, he’s not going to be a big enough factor to affect the coverage on Evans. I DO have a lot of hope and expectation for Steve Johnson to emerge down the road, but they need help now. Owens will distract the secondary and we could be in for some epic production for Evans who started off so hot last year only to fall by the wayside when secondaries adjusted to his work.

Trent Edwards finally has another weapon and as I just mentioned, it will make his other main pass target more effective. That’s a plus too.

And as the passing game becomes more of a threat, it should open lanes up for the run game and Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson. That’s already a pretty effective tandem carrying the rock. How about when they don’t find the secondary at the second level because they were burned a few times by the new Owens-Evans tandem?

Assuming Head Coach Dick Jauron uses them effectively, this could be a very dangerous offense.

This is a risky move for Buffalo. It’s got a huge risk factor in it. But if it pays off, the Bills could be a sustained threat in the AFC East this year, perhaps not fading offensively once the opposition adjusts to their offense.

Would I do it? Would I want my beloved Jets to do it? No, I don’t think so.

But it’s a gamble I respect and the kind of move that sometimes pays huge dividends.

Then again, it might also be the type of move a very desperate franchise might do as well, and the sort that could burn a team to the ground as well.

Should be fun to watch though.