The first step for NFL wannabes is over. The 2012 NFL Scouting Combine wrapped up earlier in the week in Indianapolis.
Former Oregon players invited to the combine were LaMichael James, Mark Asper, Cliff Harris, Eddie Pleasant, Darron Thomas, David Paulson and Josh Kaddu.
How did the Ducks do? Did they improve their position or worsen it?
Overall grades for some non-Ducks names you might recognize are Andrew Luck (97.0), Robert Griffin III (95.0), Matt Kalil (94.0) and Kellen Moore (51.0), with a top possible score of 100.
Let's take a look at the Ducks' final results and share some analysis of how the former teammates did against some of their position competition.
I have no idea if Cliff Harris smokes pot on a regular basis or not, and it's none of my business anyway. However, I am starting to wonder.
I honestly believed Harris would light up the combine with his skills (no pun intended). While he finished with a perfectly respectable overall grade of 74.5, I was disappointed in his performance.
On a day with so much at stake, especially for a player with a lot left to prove, Harris looked a little sluggish.
But his overview analysis report says he could excel early on as a zone corner because he plays instinctively and has good vision and awareness. Going into the combine Harris was rated as the No. 23 cornerback, and coming out he's rated at No. 18.
Progress for Harris, but still disappointing to those who have seen him at his best.
Mark Asper finished with a overall grade of 72.5 and is projected as the No. 4 offensive lineman.
As far as I can tell, Asper only participated in the bench press, and he did 23 reps, which is good.
Asper shows great athletic ability and experience. His age (27) is either a sign of maturity and therefore a plus, or a negative because he's well into his prime. He has versatility and good understanding of the game and his strengths.
Asper is projected as a middle-round pick and, with the right team, could expect to start earlier rather than later.
Well, if I was disappointed at Cliff Harris' combine performance, it pales in comparison to my disappointment at Darron Thomas'.
Thomas ended with an overall grade of 55.0 and is now projected as the 16th quarterback. He's behind some dude from Yale, for cryin' out loud.
Thomas was a top performer in the broad jump, but he was slow in the 40-yard dash and abysmal in the three-cone and shuttle drills. Also, I'm fairly certain that if I had nothing else to do but train for the past two months, I could do more than 14 reps at the bench press. Well, maybe not, but you understand what I'm saying here.
Where was that guy that makes quick decisions when it counts? What happened to the accuracy?
Listen to me, Darron, quit hanging out with Harris at the Indy 500 and get yourself ready for the pro day at Autzen. You have some catching up to do.
Josh Kaddu had an overall rating of 51.5. He participated in bench press, vertical jump and broad jump and was respectable in all three.
The analysis of Kaddu is that he is able to catch ball-carriers but might get beat at the point of attack. He is quick off his stance, but is often slow to detect the play.
Kaddu's overall physicality and running ability are strengths, but there is concern that he will not be able to keep up with offenses ran by top NFL QBs. He is projected to be somewhere between the No. 10-17 OLB taken (potentially as high as the third round) and may have a go as a special teams player as well.
David Paulson finished with an overall grade of 54.5 and is projected to be the No. 10 tight end.
Paulson showed more athleticism in the drills than one might have expected by just looking at him. He was a top performer in the 60-yard TD shuttle.
The NFL view on Paulson is that he is consistent and durable and will make the tough catch. However, he moves a little slower than they would like.
Paulson is projected as a sixth-round pick. I think he might improve on that somewhat at Oregon's pro day later this month.
At one game at Autzen Stadium during the 2011 campaign, I was seated next to a good friend's young granddaughter. I asked her whom her favorite player was and she replied, "Eddie Pleasant." Figuring she'd just pulled his name out of a hat—because what young kid wouldn't say "LaMichael James"—I asked her what Pleasant's number was.
She thought for a nanosecond and said "11," which was correct. That day, I figured Eddie Pleasant was going to be successful in the NFL. If he'd captured the attention of this very young fan over all the other star power on the Ducks team, surely he was destined to make his mark in the pros.
Strong safety Pleasant got an overall grade of 54.0. He was a top performer in the bench press with 22 reps and ranked well in the other drills.
Pleasant has more strengths than weaknesses and will most likely get a look in the late rounds as a backup SS and special teams contributor.
As he did all year for the Ducks, LaMichael James excelled at the combine. His overall grade of 78.5 advanced his cause and likely raised his draft stock.
James was a top performer in four different categories: the 40-yard dash (duh), the broad jump, the three-cone and the 20-yard shuttle drills.
He showed many traits that will be desired in the NFL. His strengths, particularly his explosiveness and his ability to score every time he touches the ball, far outweigh his perceived weaknesses (his size and the dislocated elbow suffered in 2011).
There seems to be a lot of movement in the draft stock of the running backs, so it's difficult to predict. My bet is that James goes higher than the experts predicted prior to the combine.