The 2009 NFL Scouting Combine List has been released and just like the years before, there are some eye popping additions and omissions. I like to look long and hard at this list as it shows us who the NFL Scouts are taking an interest in.
Quarterback: It’s a little surprising to see Hartwick QB Jason Boltus invited, but not guys like Willie Tuitama (Arizona) or Mike Teel (Rutgers). The Division-III QB could hear his name called on Draft Day, a first since 1991 for a Division-III QB. Tuitama had his best season as a senior, throwing for 3,088 yards and 23 TD. He (Tuitama) had a run of bad luck (coaching/scheme changes) in his career that stunted his development. A disappointing start to 2008 hurt Teel, but he came on late and he’s a good QB with potential to develop into something in the NFL.
Running back: How did they skip Wyoming’s Devin Moore or Arizona State’s Keegan Herring? Herring was hampered by a hamstring injury all year but had been one the top player is the nation before that. Moore proved in 2008 that he was capable of a larger workload and could go a lot higher. Moore and Herring come to mind before Texas’ Chris Ogbonnaya or UCLA’s Kahlil Bell with the lack of elite speed at RB this year.
Fullback: I’m a little disappointed with Alabama’s Travis McCall and BYU’s Fui Vakapuna not getting an invite. McCall could have gone as a TE or FB and Vakapuna should at least be intriguing after rushing for 8 TD and averaging 4.8 yards per carry (YPC) in 2006. He has taken to the FB role in 2008 and could earn a spot as a FA.
Wide receiver: Can’t argue too much with the invites but Jamarko Simmons (Western Michigan), Greg Carr (Florida State), Jeremy Gilchrist (Hampton) and Dobson Collins (Gardner-Webb) should have been invited. Simmons is 6’ 2” 241 lbs. and ranked fourth in the nation this season in receptions and eighth in receiving yards. While Simmons gives you size and strength, Carr gives you height. The FSU senior is 6’ 6” but is a lanky 215 lbs. He’s (Carr) terrorizing on fades in the end zone and jump ball situations (28 TD). Gilchrist must prove his speed but has been productive at a lower level with 109 catches the last two seasons. Also has potential as a punt returner (6 TD). Dobson Collins is an intriguing Division 1AA prospect, he has blazing speed and got my attention on October 11th against Georgia Tech when he caught 7 passes for 97 yards.
Tight end: Boston College’s Ryan Purvis could have been invited. He didn’t look as great once Matt Ryan left (54 catches in 2007; 20 in 2008), but he has the size and strength (6’ 2” 255 lbs) needed to be an effective blocker. I would have also liked to see Ball State’s Darius Hill and Delaware’s Robbie Agnone. Hill is super talented with nice size at 6’ 6” 246 pounds, last year he caught 40 passes for 670 yards and 7 touchdowns. We all know about Raven’s QB Joe Flacco, but the Cardinals’ TE Ben Patrick caught a touchdown pass in Superbowl XLlll and he is also from Delaware. Agone played with both of those guys and the ultra athletic, former QB is a talented tight end at 6’ 6” 260 pounds.
Offensive Tackle: Houston’s Sebastian Vollmer looked really good at the Shrine Game and was a coaches Conference USA First Team pick. This is a disappointing oversight. Florida’s Phil Trautwein is a name player who is a surprise non-selection but that may say a lot about what people think of him.
Offensive Guard: T.J. Lang from Eastern Michigan has climbed draft boards this year so it’s surprising that he wasn’t invited. Cedric Dockery (Texas) and Roland Martin (MSU) are from top schools that surprising we’re not selected while Paul Fanaika from Arizona State got the call instead.
Center: Nothing to argue about here, the 2009 NFL Draft is going to be a great year for Centers. There are about four guys that can come in and start as rookies, Alex Mack, Eric Wood, Jonathan Luigs and Antoine Caldwell. The NFL Network’s Mike Mayock is an idiot if he thinks Mack is the third best center in this draft. Mack is one of the best centers to enter the NFL Draft in a number of years and could be in the Pro Bowl in a few short years. I like Max Unger, but as a guard or tackle, not center, Unger is very mobile and quick, but he doesn’t anchor good enough to hold up against the massive nose tackles in the NFL.
Kicker: South Carolina’s Ryan Succop should be here. He might have the biggest leg in the draft (55 long). He lacks long accuracy though (3 of 7 form 50+).
Defensive End: The biggest surprise to me is the omission of Minnesota’s Willie VanDeSteeg, what’s not to like, he has nice size (6’ 4” 258 lbs), he played in the Big 10 and he was very productive. Steeg finished ranked 11th in the nation in tackles for loss (TFL) with 19 and ranked 14th for sacks with 10.5. One of the stars of the Texas vs. Nation All Star game was also locked out of the NFL Scouting Combine; Pierre Walters from Eastern Illinois is a talent with excellent size (6’ 5” 265 lbs), Walters finished last season with 48 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and five sacks.
I would have also liked to have seen Northern Iowa’s Everette Pedescleaux at the combine. He is 6’ 5” 300 pounds and will perk the interest of teams running a 34 scheme. Pedescleaux imight be a better prospect than Jarius Wynn (Georgia), Maurice Evans (Penn State, Jr) and Ian Campbell (Kansas State).
Defensive Tackle: I would have liked to see Indiana’s Greg Brown and Northwestern’s John Gill invited. Brown has nice size at 6’ 3” 300 pounds and he started all 12 games at defensive tackle last year. He finished the year with 37 tackles, 22 solo, and 4.5 tackles for loss. A pleasant surprise was East Carolina’s Khalif Mitchell, he (Mitchell) is another prospect with decent size (6’ 6” 308 lbs). He (Mitchell) only played in seven games last year due to a bad ankle, but the former transfer from North Carolina is monster and dominated at the Texas vs. Nation All Star Game.
Inside Linebacker: Frantz Joseph (Florida Atlantic), Michael Tauiliili (Duke) and even Daniel Holtzclaw (Eastern Michigan) are glaring omissions. Joseph was Defensive MVP of the Texas vs. Nation game, Tauiliili was Defensive MVP of the East-West Shrine Game and Holtzclaw has been a four year starter and had 100+ tackles the last three seasons plus a very good 91 tackles and 5 INT in 11 starts as a true freshman. Tauiliili has major character concerns as well as average height (5’ 10” 230 lbs) that may keep his stock down.
Outside Linebacker: With Boston College's Brian Toal with health issues, his replacement, Robert Francois, could have gotten an invite. Coming into 2008 with only 9 career starts, Francois posted 82 tackles, 9 TFL and two sacks while having a great week at the East-West Shrine Game. Toal may be the bigger name, but Francois will get drafted; Toal is unlikely.
Cornerback: Ellis Lankster (West Virginia), William Middleton (Furman), Londen Fryer (Western Michigan) and Sean Smalls (Massachusetts) could have easily been included. Lankster will be coveted by teams with zone systems because of a lack of speed (4.5/40). Fryer is the son of NFL great WR Irving Fryer, but didn’t inherit Irving’s hands recording 27 Pass Break ups (PBU) but only 7 INT in 3 years as a starter. A small school sleeper, William Middleton recorded 194 tackles, 7 TFL, 7 INT and 19 PBU in his career. Middleton has potential as a zone corner and held his own at the Texas vs. Nation Game. Smalls had started 36 consecutive games at cornerback before cracking a bone in his hip in early October (2008). Smalls is an extremely talented cornerback with nice size (6’ 0” 205 lbs) and should have been healed up enough to work out at the combine. Northern Arizona’s K J. Gerard is a long shot but he has great potential and was a first team Football Championship Series (FCS) All American (FCS formerly known as Division 1AA). Gerard intercepted five passes and broke up 14 for the nation's top-rated rushing defense.
Free Safety: Not many top prospects at FS this year, but Javorris Jackson from Savannah is 6’ 4” 210 pounds and could have opened some eyes with a good combine. He has questionable speed (4.65/40) but he’s made plays in his two years at Savannah (9 INT, 14 PBU). Jackson is a tweener linebacker/safety type.
Strong safety: Reshard Langford was productive for Vanderbilt and could make a great special teamer. I'm a little surprised he wasn`t invited but there`s no bad omissions here. Langford could be a sleeper LB with some bulk (6’1” 220lbs). He has 48 career starts and 247 tackles. Another prospect that I wanted to see more of was Montana’s Colt Anderson, he really caught my eye at the Texas vs. Nation All Star Game and he was a first team FCS All American. Anderson led Montana with 129 total tackles and helped Montana reach the 2008 Division I Football Championship game.