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NFL Combine 2015: Matt Bowen's Day 1 Notebook

Matt Bowen @MattBowen41NFL National Lead WriterFebruary 18, 2015

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INDIANAPOLIS — Throughout the NFL Scouting Combine, former NFL defensive back Matt Bowen will bring you his daily notebook from Indianapolis. Here are his notes from Day 1.

 

Where does Iowa's Brandon Scherff fit at the pro level?

Scherff is the top offensive line prospect in the 2015 class, but does he project as a guard or tackle in the NFL?

Talking with scouts, there is a strong feeling that the former Hawkeye will slide inside to the guard position. That's where he can be a nasty, dominant blocker in the run game while using his athletic ability to control defensive tackles at the point of attack in pass protection.

However, Iowa offensive line coach Brian Ferentz believes Scherff (6'5", 319 pounds, 33.375" arms) can play multiple roles when he makes the transition to the NFL.

"I think he is a 4-spot guy," Ferentz said. "He is athletic enough to play tackle, although a lot of people are going to say he can't."

Ferentz mentioned Ravens offensive guard Marshal Yanda as a comparison to Scherff. The Pro Bowler and Iowa alum has played both guard and tackle in the NFL for Baltimore.

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"Yanda has started a boatload of games at both tackles and shouldn't be able to play there. Produces anyways," Ferentz said. "Brandon is bigger, longer and more athletic."

I expect a lot of teams to grade Scherff as a guard, and that's pretty consistent when talking to people here in Indianapolis. But the former Hawkeye should test extremely well and showcase his overall athleticism when he gets on the field later this week. I wouldn't be surprised if he plays some tackle on the right side of the line early in his career.

RG3 is the No. 1 in Washington

Feb 18, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden speaks at a press conference during the 2015 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden took care of the quarterback talk in Washington by stating that Griffin would be the starter in 2015.

"We'll go into the season with Robert as our No. 1 guy," Gruden said.

A surprise? Maybe a little, given that Griffin's tape was inconsistent in 2014 and there are areas of his game that still need to develop before he takes the next step in his progression at quarterback.

However, is there any true competition on the roster? Colt McCoy is scheduled to be a free agent, and Kirk Cousins regressed—at least, based on my view of the tape. RG3 is the best option for the Redskins.

But being named the starter in February doesn't translate to production on the field.

In order for Griffin to take advantage of this opportunity, his ability to manage the pocket and vision of the field must improve. There were far too many situations in 2014 where Griffin failed to make the proper read and get the ball out to maximize the offense.

The combine plan for Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston

Mariota is expected to throw this week, while Winston is still making his final decision, according to ESPN, but is there a negative to working out in Indianapolis for the top quarterbacks?

I understand these quarterbacks have to throw to new receivers, and that can impact ball placement, timing, etc. in the workouts on the field. But I can't remember a quarterback's grade dropping because of a workout in shorts. If Winston does wait until his pro day to throw, it won't have any impact on his final grade. But that will leave the stage open for Mariota to generate a lot of buzz this week with a good workout.

Bears moving to the 3-4 defensive front

This has been expected since the Bears hired Vic Fangio to run the defense, but now that it's been confirmed by head coach John Fox, do the Bears have the personnel to make the switch?

Fox said both Willie Young and Jared Allen will move to the outside linebacker position. I can see that with Young, but Allen standing up on the edge? That's not an ideal fit for the veteran, and he could see his role limited as a situational edge-rusher in the Bears' sub-package fronts (nickel, dime). Last year's second-round pick, Ego Ferguson, should get a look at the nose (along with veteran Jeremiah Ratliff), and the Bears have some options to play inside at the linebacker position.

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

However, this move to the 30 front is important when looking at draft prospects for the Bears at No. 7. Think of edge-rushers/outside linebackers Randy Gregory (Nebraska), Shane Ray (Missouri) and Dante Fowler (Florida). Plus, the Bears could target Washington nose tackle Danny Shelton if the edge speed is off the board when they are on the clock.

The Bears will use a variety of different personnel packages and play an aggressive brand of football under Fangio, but setting the personnel in the base front is key to implementing this new system.

McCown, Bradford and the subpar veteran quarterback market

If you are looking for a quarterback this offseason, the market is slim. But the demand to find a No. 1 has driven up the interest level for veterans with starting experience.

Take Josh McCown. The former Bucs quarterback put together a nice run with the Bears in 2013, but the tape from 2014 is average at best. On Wednesday, McCown talked with the Bears, and he still has more meetings lined up with teams this week in Indianapolis after recently visiting the Bills.

What about Sam Bradford, who's coming off another knee injury? The Rams have given the quarterback permission to seek a trade, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. I don't know what the Rams would get in return for Bradford, but St. Louis could see an opportunity here to unload the quarterback, given the number of teams desperate to land a starter.

Add that to a below-average draft class coming into the league, and there should be some teams entering the offseason in panic mode. There's just not enough quality talent in the league right now at quarterback.

TCU safety Chris Hackett continues to climb draft boards

Alabama's Landon Collins is the top safety prospect on the board, but keep an eye on Hackett when the defensive backs get on the field this Monday for workouts.

According to the NFL scouts I talked to, Hackett could slide in as the No. 2 safety in this class. Listed at 6'2", 195 pounds, Hackett has the range and ball skills to play in the deep half/deep middle of the field, plus he is aggressive coming downhill against the run. He's a physical player who has the tools to play in multiple systems at the pro level.

MORGANTOWN, WV - NOVEMBER 01:  Chris Hackett #1 of the TCU Horned Frogs runs after catching an interception in the first half during the game against the West Virginia Mountaineers on November 1, 2014 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia.  (P
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

There are questions on Hackett's top-end speed, but anything under a sub-4.6 time in the 40-yard dash passes the test from my perspective. That's all you need at the safety position with prospects who can identify route concepts and create positive angles to cover some ground in the secondary. I'm more focused on Hackett's change-of-direction testing (short shuttle, three-cone) and the position workouts here in Indianapolis to get a better feel for his flexibility and transition speed.

Tight ends report to Indy

The 2015 class at the tight end position lacks overall depth, and the buzz on this group is down here in Indianapolis. Minnesota's Maxx Williams is the top prospect at the position, and after watching Miami's Clive Walford make plays on the practice field at the Senior Bowl, I'm excited to see him work out this week. There's a lot of athletic ability with the Miami product.

But what about Oklahoma's Blake Bell? The former quarterback struggled at first with the transition to tight end, but he does project as an H-back at the next level. Bell has the footwork, size (6'6", 252 pounds) and athletic ability to produce as a pro while also contributing on special teams.

 

Also on Day 1

Dez Bryant is the best receiver in the league. But what is the Cowboys' plan if he leaves in free agency? According to league sources, Dallas could use the franchise tag on Bryant this season and might take the same approach in 2016.

Larry Fitzgerald signed a new two-year deal with the Cardinals, but that doesn't change the veteran's role in Arizona. He is a solid No. 2 or No. 3 option behind Michael Floyd and John Brown at this stage of his career, with the majority of his production coming on short to intermediate throws. Think inside breaking routes with Floyd and Brown putting pressure on top of the secondary.

• Keep an eye on Penn State defensive back Adrian Amos when he works out Monday. He reported to the Senior Bowl at 6'0", 214 pounds. Given his measurements, Amos could project as a cornerback in the NFL for teams that value size and length outside the numbers. His speed? There is talk here that he could run in the 4.4 range.

• The Seahawks are looking to upgrade the tight end position, and league sources say Julius Thomas could be in play once he hits the free-agent market. Thomas would give quarterback Russell Wilson a true matchup weapon to target inside the numbers and in the red zone. Think of "50-50" balls that Thomas can go up and get at the point of attack.

• Grading the quarterback position is challenging because of college spread systems, but it's not just limited to the offensive side of the ball. As Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said on Wednesday, the spread systems have impacted the evaluation process for pro 3-4 defenses. With so many 40 fronts and nickel packages in the college game to defend the spread sets, it's becoming tougher to project how college prospects will fit in 30 fronts at the NFL level.

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

• Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson won't work out this week due to an injury (hamstring). Grayson threw the best ball down in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, and this would have been an ideal stage to showcase his talent as the possible No. 3 quarterback in this class behind Winston and Mariota.

• Florida offensive tackle D.J. Humphries played at 280 this past season; however, he weighed in at 307 on Wednesday. Given the weight gain, can Humphries still move laterally and advance to the second level with balance? We will see how he tests this week.

Seven-year NFL veteran Matt Bowen is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.

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