NFL Scouting Combine kicks off Thursday

February 23, 2011|By Jamison Hensley, The Baltimore Sun

INDIANAPOLIS — — A group of 330 hopeful players will make its way to the annual NFL Scouting Combine where they will run, jump, lift and interview in an effort to improve their draft status this week.

But NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock already has earmarked this draft class before the first drill has been conducted.

"The first round will probably be dominated by defense," Mayock said.

The Ravens could follow suit with the 26th overall pick in the draft, which is 10 weeks away. Their biggest needs are cornerback, pass rusher and wide receiver.

Mock drafts have linked the Ravens from such players as cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (Colorado) and Aaron Williams (Texas), defensive end J.J. Watt (Wisconsin) and wide receivers Torrey Smith (Maryland) and Titus Young (Boise State).

Cornerback is considered the most pressing need because last year's starters, Chris Carr and Josh Wilson, are expected to become free agents once the new collective bargaining agreement is signed. Domonique Foxworth, who started in 2009, is coming off season-ending knee surgery, and nickel back Lardarius Webb is a year removed from one, as well.

The dilemma facing the Ravens is the consensus top two cornerbacks in the draft, Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara, will be long gone before they are on the clock. That leaves the second-tier cornerbacks: Smith, Williams and Miami's Brandon Harris.

"There is a big drop off after the first two in my belief," Mayock said. "If you're looking for a corner at the end of the first round, you might have a problem. If you're looking for a defensive end, a defensive tackle or maybe an offensive tackle, you're in luck."

The Ravens are in the market to find a pass rusher to compliment Terrell Suggs because Sergio Kindle sustained a serious head injury before his rookie season started. The uncertainty surrounding Kindle, who is looking to be cleared for contact over the next couple of weeks, could force the Ravens to select someone in the first couple of rounds to help boost a defense that produced 27 sacks from last season, which is three fewer than any Ravens defense has ever had in a season.

The top pass rushers available at the bottom of the first round include Missouri's Aldon Smith and Cal's Cameron Jordan.

"I think those kind of guys make a lot of sense," Mayock said.

As in previous years, the Ravens will send over 50 members of the organization – which includes every coach and scout along with three trainers -- to the combine. Outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino and offensive line coach Andy Moeller will lead position drills.

While the 40-yard times and number of reps in the bench press will help and hurt some players, another important aspect of the combine is the interviews. Each team will meet with 60 players for 15-minute intervals, which allow coaches and scouts to address character issues.

"Eighty percent of the combine, in terms of value to teams, comes from the medical exams and the interview process, getting to know these guys," ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said.

Jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/jamisonhensley

NFL Scouting Combine

When: Thursday through Sunday

Where: Indianapolis

Who: 330 draft-eligible players

Schedule: Offensive linemen, tight ends, kickers, punters and long snappers on Thursday; quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers on Friday; defensive line and linebackers on Saturday; defensive backs on Sunday.

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