NFL Combine 2015: Matt Bowen's Day 2 Notebook

Matt Bowen @MattBowen41NFL National Lead WriterFebruary 19, 2015

USA Today

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 2.

Click here for notes from Day 1 of the combine.

 

Green-Beckham and the Importance of 'Football Character'

Former Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham has ridiculous size (6'5", 237 lbs) and playmaking ability, and he is expected to test well this week in Indianapolis.    

Based on the tape and measurables, Green-Beckham is a first-round talent and should consistently create matchup issues for opposing defenses. Just look at his ability to climb the ladder, generate leverage and finish at the point of attack. That's a nightmare for any defensive back in coverage—even with safety help over the top.

However, Green-Beckham has off-the-field (or "character") concerns attached to his scouting report that ultimately led to the receiver leaving Missouri for Oklahoma in 2014 after two marijuana-related cases, as relayed by The Associated Press (via ESPN.com) and an alleged assault incident, per Chase Goodbread of NFL.com.

"I was young. I made mistakes," said Green-Beckham on Thursday when he met with the media. "I'm just trying to focus on one thing: being a better person and a better teammate and a better person off the field."

I spoke recently with an NFL scout who ranked Green-Beckham as the No. 2 receiver in this class, behind only West Virginia's Kevin White. That's high praise for a player who didn't even step on the field in 2014.

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Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

And that also brings us back to the discussion of talent vs. character in the eyes of NFL scouts, coaches, general managers, etc. What are they looking for? And how do pro teams grade prospects who have some baggage due to issues off the field?

According to Greg Gabriel, the former Chicago Bears director of college scouting, teams focus on "football character" with prospects. But what exactly does that mean from the perspective of NFL teams?

"Passion for the game, desire to be great, work ethic, intelligence as it relates to your position and the ability to take coaching," Gabriel said.

Green-Beckham has interviewed well this week, according to league sources, but Gabriel says clubs will need to spend a lot of time with him at private workouts before developing a final grade ahead of the draft.

My take here? Green-Beckham can play. And that creates (multiple) opportunities in this league. Given his size and the tape from Missouri, if Green-Beckham shows that he can handle a professional football environment, he is going to climb draft boards quickly.

Mariota's Transition to the NFL Game

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 19: Quarterback Marcus Mariota of Oregon speaks to the media during the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 19, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

As expected, Marcus Mariota was asked about his ability to transition to a pro-style system in the NFL when he spoke to the media Thursday. It's a fair question, based on the tape I've watched of Mariota at Oregon, and based on the recent struggles that quarterbacks from spread systems have shown when making the jump to the league.

Mariota—who will throw on Saturday—did acknowledge that there will be some adjustments next season—working from a huddle, the dropback passing game, etc.—but the projected top-10 pick seems confident he can have an impact as a rookie.

He may not be able to quickly pick up the pro-style route combos, progressions and mechanics that are required to work (and produce) consistently from the pocket. It will probably take awhile, and the team that drafts him should be prepared for that.

Does that mean he can't play in this league? Of course not. But there could be a much longer developmental period compared to Florida State's Jameis Winston.

Impressive Measurements for the Top WR Prospects

Chris Jackson/Associated Press

The 2014 class of wide receivers isn't on the same level as the 2013 class that produced Sammy Watkins, Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, etc. However, this group is pretty deep. And the measurables really stood out on Thursday when the wideouts weighed in.

Take a look at some of the heights and weights for the top prospects:

  • Kevin White, West Virginia: 6'3", 215 lbs
  • Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri/Oklahoma: 6'5", 237 lbs
  • Amari Cooper, Alabama: 6'1", 211 lbs
  • DeVante Parker, Louisville: 6'3", 209 lbs
  • Breshad Perriman, Central Florida: 6'2", 212 lbs
  • Devin Funchess, Michigan: 6'4", 232 lbs
  • Sammie Coates, Auburn: 6'1", 212 lbs

I still believe Cooper is the most polished route-runner of this group, but it's hard to ignore some of the size and speed that we will see on the field this week during drills. Think of players who can win one-on-one matchups and use their size to create separation to go get the football. There is more talent on the way for NFL teams looking to make upgrades at the wide receiver position in 2015.

 

Maxwell's Value on the Free-Agent Market

Matt York/Associated Press

What is cornerback Byron Maxwell's value on the market? I would say around $5 million or $6 million per year. But with a cornerback class coming in that lacks depth, Maxwell could see that number jump up to $8 million or even $9 million, given his ability to play press-man outside of the numbers.

"It would be hard to see him (Maxwell) leave, but I would think his market will be pretty strong," Seahawks general manager John Schneider said Thursday.

Based off the film from 2014, press-man technique in the NFL is poor right now, overall. There are too many cornerbacks who open the hips, fail to use their hands and chase instead of challenging receivers on the release. That leads to big plays outside of the numbers and penalties down the field as defensive backs panic at the point of attack. That's when we see guys grab, pull, etc., because they are beat.

Maxwell might not be a true No. 1 cornerback on some rosters in the NFL, but given his ability to play press and compete on the outside, he should get paid some good money this offseason as a free agent. NFL coaches want corners who can win at the line of scrimmage. That's what you get with Maxwell.

Funchess at WR, H-Back, Tight End?

Tony Ding/Associated Press

Is Michigan's Devin Funchess a wide receiver, or will an NFL team draft the Michigan product and shift him inside to the tight end position? After talking with people I trust in this business, I think Funchess stays at wide receiver.

I had a chance to watch some tape on Funchess last week (check out the Ohio State film when you get a chance). He can run the 9 (fade), work versus press and use his frame to win at the point of attack. But I'm curious to see what type of numbers he can post this week in the 40-yard dash and change-of-direction drills. I didn't see the acceleration or burst consistently on tape.

Funchess can earn his money running the three-step game and winning in the red zone, but does he have enough speed to separate versus NFL defensive backs when they play with technique on the release?

Two Running Backs to Keep an Eye on During Workouts

John Raoux/Associated Press

When the running backs get on the field later this week, keep an eye on Minnesota's David Cobb (5'11", 229 lbs) and Northern Iowa's David Johnson (6'1", 224 lbs). Both backs have NFL size and stood out at the Senior Bowl last month.

Cobb can be the ideal downhill power back in the NFL because of his frame and ability to run through contact at the second level. With Johnson, we are looking at a back who does run high at times, but his footwork is impressive given his size. He can also get out of the backfield and match up against a linebacker in space.

With running backs over 220 pounds, the 40 time isn't going to sell a prospect. I look for anything in the high 4.5 to 4.6 range. However, both Cobb and Johnson can showcase their footwork and change-of-direction acceleration in workouts.

 

Also on Day 2

• NFL scouts have told me to focus on Samford strong safety Jaquiski Tartt during workouts for the defensive backs on Monday. Tartt has size (6'1", 218 lbs) and comes downhill with speed. He's a physical, impact hitter who can play in the box and immediately contribute on special teams. Tartt was impressive during Senior Bowl workouts and can increase his draft stock even more this week by showcasing his transition speed and change-of-direction ability during position drills.

• With the wide receivers reporting, 40 times are going to be a topic of discussion. That's the drill every year with receivers (and cornerbacks). Scouts call it a "stopwatch position." Yes, the 40 time doesn't always translate to the field when you turn on the tape, but scouts want to see the vertical speed (4.4-4.5 range) show up during workouts.

• The quarterbacks weighed in today, with Winston at 6'3", 231 pounds and Mariota at 6'4", 231 pounds. No questions there on NFL size at the position.

• When asked about the future of quarterback Peyton Manning, Broncos general manager John Elway said, "We want him back. He has not given me a definitive decision." I would be a bit surprised if Manning didn't play in 2015. But I'm also curious how he will perform in Gary Kubiak's offense and where his arm strength is at when he gets back on the field. The veteran quarterback's arm looked tired at the end of 2014 and in the playoff loss to the Colts.

• Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates has size (6'1", 212 lbs), speed and big-play ability. He should post a 40 time in the 4.4s later this week. However, will Coates consistently make plays on contested throws at the next level? That was a question I got from an NFL scout recently.

Feb 19, 2015;  Indianapolis, IN, USA; Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon speaks to the media at the 2015 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

• Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon weighed in at 215 pounds Thursday. That's a good number for a potential first-round pick who is expected to test well this week.

• Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said veteran quarterback Carson Palmer is "at least three-four weeks ahead of schedule" in his rehab from the ACL injury he suffered last season. That should put Palmer in a position to get back on the field for some offseason work—a key to the true rehab process for any player who has suffered a serious knee injury. Get on the field and test the knee with functional football movements in minicamp. That's the drill.

• On Wednesday, I talked about TCU's Chris Hackett as the possible No. 2 safety to come off the board, after Alabama's Landon Collins. If you are looking for a game to watch on Hackett, an NFL scout told me to check out the Oklahoma film to get a good feel for his ability to play in the deep middle, support the run and find the ball.

• New 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula said San Francisco will continue to play out of a base 3-4 front this season. There was some talk that the Niners could move to a 40 front with NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis and Chris Borland at the three linebacker spots.

• Miami offensive tackle Ereck Flowers (6'6", 329 lbs, 34.5" arms) did 37 reps Thursday on the 225-pound bench-press test. That's an impressive number for the possible first-round pick.

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

• Running back Todd Gurley said there is no timetable yet on his return from a knee injury suffered during the season. As expected, Gurley isn't working out this week. He also said he won't run at the Georgia's pro day next month. 

• Speculation on team fits can get a little too wild at the combine as we try to project players into pro systems. However, when UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley was asked to compare his college system to an NFL playbook, he mentioned Chip Kelly and the Eagles. That will get people talking here in Indianapolis—especially if Hundley has a good workout this week.

• Miami wide receiver Phillip Dorsett was one of the most impressive players at the Senior Bowl because of the ability to come out of his breaks with speed along with the acceleration he showed after the catch to push the ball up the field. He's an electric player. Dorsett doesn't have elite size (5'10", 185 lbs), but the speed is the key with the Miami product. This guy can fly—and I expect him to run in the low 4.4 range (or even drop a 4.3 time) later this week.

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