Players look to `wow' at scouting combine

Measurables on display at NFL workouts

February 22, 2007|By Bill Ordine | Bill Ordine,SUN REPORTER

Once the obscure purview of NFL coaches and scouts armed with stopwatches, the NFL scouting combine opens today in Indianapolis under the spotlight of 27 hours of live TV coverage over seven days.

More than 320 college players have been invited to go through what amounts to an exhaustive job interview. They'll run 40-yard dashes, maneuver through traffic cones, lift weights, be probed by doctors and be interrogated by club personnel.

The workouts actually don't begin until Saturday and will continue through Tuesday, but news conferences with the players as well as NFL coaches and general managers start today, as does the NFL Network's television coverage.

Although more than 400 credential requests have been submitted by media members, only the NFL Network is permitted inside the RCA Dome, where the workouts will be held. But the news conferences will give many fans their first up-close-and-personal look at the incoming class of NFL players.

This year's combine lacks the star power of 2006, when the draft class had a cavalcade of already minted celebrities, such as running back Reggie Bush and quarterbacks Vince Young and Matt Leinart. And even though some of the top prospects a year ago didn't work out, preferring instead to show off their skills for pro teams later, their presence in the media room at Indianapolis still created buzz.

This year's buzz has yet to be created.

Last year, Maryland tight end Vernon Davis became a combine darling with a fantastic workout that allowed him to skyrocket on NFL draft boards and led to the former Terrapin being selected No. 6 overall by the San Francisco 49ers.

This year's Vernon Davis could be Florida State linebacker Lawrence Timmons - or someone else.

"Chris Houston, corner, Arkansas. A lot of people have him in the second round right now. I gave him a first-round grade," NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock said. "I think he's going to go in there [at the combine] and run a sub-4.4 [40-yard dash], bench press [225 pounds] 24, 28 times, which is unheard of. I think people are going to go, `Wow.'"

Mel Kiper, ESPN's draft guru, thinks Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson, already the top-rated runner, would help himself even more with a great showing.

"If he comes in at 6-foot-1, 223 pounds and runs a 4.38, he's going to make people go `Wow,'" Kiper said. So much so, Kiper added, that teams such as the Ravens and the Denver Broncos, which are in the market for ball carriers, might be willing to trade up in the draft to get him.

Both Mayock and Kiper believe that Timmons can make a big move if he blows up - that is, has an outstanding performance - in Indianapolis. Timmons is projected to be on the bubble between the first and second rounds.

A semi-sleeper is LSU wide receiver Craig Davis, Kiper said. A projected second-round pick for the moment, the 6-foot-1 Davis is not as big as the top-rated wide receiver prospect - 6-foot-4, 228-pound Calvin Johnson from Georgia Tech - but is faster.

"Is [the combine] the end-all and be-all? No," Kiper said. "For the most part, we're just talking about athleticism."

And, consequently, measurables. How fast does a player run? How high can he jump? How agile is he?

"If I like three receivers going into the draft," Kiper said, "and one runs 4.38 [and the other two are slower] ... I'll pick the guy who has the 4.38."

bill.ordine@baltsun.com

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