Our heavy lifting is done as 710-scouting reports are complete and have been delivered to SI.com, besides the bulk of our pro-day coverage being complete.  Now the fun starts- nothing but insider news and notes for the next four weeks!!!  We’ll be updating this column three-to-four times a week or as information breaks.  So take a load off and be the first to know!!!  April 26th:  Updates on the UNC prospects…UF’s Jenkins already looking at supplemental draft

April 26th

- Florida Gator cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who was dismissed from the team on Tuesday after a second drug related arrest in three months, is already sending out feelers looking for representation for July’s supplemental draft. Sources have told us soon after the news publically broke of Jenkins dismissal from the program phone calls were received by potential agents from those representing Jenkins. This is a clear sign that the junior cornerback, who surprised many when he decided to bypass this week’s draft in large part due to a shoulder injury, will enter the supplemental draft.

- Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been following and harvesting a story on Tar Heel senior Quan Sturdivant.  Formerly rated as our top inside/middle linebacker prospect, Sturdivant has been dropping down a number of boards recently.  Scouts were initially disappointed when Sturdivant did not play at the Senior Bowl.  During the linebacker workout at the combine Sturdivant was initially announced to run the forty but a second announcement later stated he had hurt his hamstring warming up and Sturdivant chose not to run.  He later participated in linebacker drills with the rest of the invitees.  Sources close to the situation told us after the combine there were no plans for Sturdivant to run.  During the UNC pro-day Sturdivant ran 4.69-seconds, which many were disappointed with, then looked shaky in the drill session. Separate sources on hand told us his body language was awful and he had to be prodded by coaches to pick up the tempo.  In further research we found that several of his former teammates admitted Sturdivant rarely showed up at the teams workout facility after the combine ended, though he was constantly seen in Chapel Hill.  We’ve not found out whether he was at another facility training.  Last night came word that the linebacker was out of shape during a workout for the Atlanta Falcons, who traveled to Chapel Hill to workout the teams top defensive prospects.  Where does Sturdivant end up in the draft?  On film he’s a top 75 pick but numerous sources expect him to land in the draft’s final day.

- On the other hand several sources have told us defensive tackle Marvin Austin may just slide into the late part of round one- an improvement from where he was projected two months ago.

- This brings us to Greg Little.  We’ve had several different reports on the talented receiver but today a league source summed it up best calling Little, “this years version of Mike Williams” the physically gifted wide out that fell into the fourth round in the 2010 draft due to off the field concerns then went on to have a terrific rookie season for the Tampa Bay Bucs.

- One player that’s getting good reviews of late in Kenrick Ellis of Hampton.  We’ve been critical of his effort in the past but during conversations with opposing coaches from the MEAC the opinion was Ellis pulled it together in 2010 and was consistent on the field.

April 25th

-  During our previous two podcasts we spoke about the possibility of the federal judge lifting the lockout before the draft, which is what transpired today.  As of this moment the 2011 NFL season will be played under the 2010 uncapped rules.  Teams are now allowed to speak with players and trade veteran players. Sources have told us players and their reps will be on the lookout for any potential collusion by the owners.  And while the owners are expected to appeal the ruling numerous sources have told us they (owners) would be happy to play under last years contract and are in no rush to negotiate a settlement.  On the other hand as time passes the lockout is becoming an ugly situation from the players point of view.  Several people close to the situation offered numerous reasons, including the following:

  • Second tier free agents will not be in line for the big payday they expected as the rich crop of potential veteran free agents will be reduced as, once again, unrestricted free agency begins after the sixth year and not the fourth.  We’ve heard from several fifth year veterans that signed one year deals or tenders for the 2010 expecting to be free agents in 2011 and they are furious.
  • The rank and file are not getting updated on the situation or finding out about the ins and outs of the lockout.  One player admitted he gets most of his information and updates from the media rather than relying on the union or his team representative.
  • Players are wondering why the union started handing out lockout payments now rather than withholding the money in case the situation continues through September.  Players have done without checks at this time of year and rely on an income stream come September.  Players with 3-plus years of service in the league receive lockout payments of $10,000 monthly with a maximum payout of $60,000.  As one league insider close to the players told us, once the payments stop there will “be a bloodbath” of players against NFLPA if the lockout has not ended.

-   Will the Carolina Panthers select Cam Newton with the first selection?  Many we’ve spoken with feel it won’t happen.  Those who say yes think it only happens if owner Jerry Richardson signs off on the decision.  If they don’t take Newton we hear Marcel Dareus and AJ Green are the front runners to be the first pick of the draft.

-  The topic of the New England Patriots drafting a quarterback of the future has been broached several times and surrounds the visits of several high profile signal callers to their facility recently.  We hear the Patriots will draft a signal caller though it will be somewhere between rounds 4-through-7.  We’ve been told the team is targeting Mike Coughlin of Boise State, who’s been compared to Matt Cassel as well as Taylor Potts of Texas Tech.

Taiwan Jones is gaining a lot of momentum based off his personal workout from April 14th.  We hear he could go as early as the Pittsburgh Steelers late in round two.  We’ve also been told there are a number of teams that have removed Jones from draft boards due to a litany of injuries which include issues with his foot, groin and hernia problems, that date back to his high school years.

-  Speaking of players being removed from draft boards, our story about Jimmy Smith being removed from boards holds true- yet another fact we wrote about seems to have gone by the wayside.  The teams that have kept Smith on the draft board still rate him highly.  We hear the Baltimore Ravens will grab him at 26 if he’s available.

-   Where will Illinois junior Corey Liguet end up?  Right now we hear if he’s available the defensive lineman is the target of the Chicago Bears at 29 as he’d be a replacement for Tommie Harris.

-    Greg Romeus is getting healthier by the day and has been given clearance to do a few drills for teams at this point if it is requested.  His back has been given full clearance by doctors  who are targeting the second week in May to give the senior clearance on his knee.  When will Romeus be selected in the draft?  We hear as early as the late part of round three.  Teams are looking at the talented pass rusher as both a 4-3 defensive end as well as a rush linebacker in a 3-4 alignment.  Many feel the former basketball player has the movement skills and hip flexibility to flip his hips then drop in coverage.  We’ll have more on the teams interested in Romeus later this week.

April 19th

- The Dallas Cowboys may deviate from taking Tyron Smith with the 9th pick if they can’t trade down.  We hear the recent knee issues which have surfaced on the junior tackle from USC have not scared the team but they are also considering picking up a veteran free agent tackle, once free agency begins, then taking a defensive lineman with their first choice.  The thinking is a veteran free agent tackle could break into the starting line-up sooner than Smith, especially since the lockout will reduce every rookies time spent in mini-camp, OTA’s, etc. Sources have said the defensive lineman they are targeting is Cameron Jordan- in our minds the most underrated player in this draft.  Ultimately they’d still prefer to trade down, collect some extra picks and then select an offensive tackle later in the first frame.  The other team very high on Cameron Jordan at this point are the Washington Redskins.

-  Several sources have told us Nick Fairley has not made rehabbing his slightly separated shoulder a priority the past month.  Part of the problem has been the many trips Fairly has taken to visit NFL franchises, a justifiable reason- yet the times Fairley has not been actively visiting teams he’s not been diligent in his rehabilitation of the joint. Fairley has slid down draft boards for a variety of reasons and we’ve been told since the combine the shoulder has been a factor in the drop.

- How far will Da’Quan Bowers fall?  Not as far as many are predicting.  Sources have told us if they can’t come away with either Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert look for the Minnesota Vikings to grab the junior defensive end with the 12th pick of the draft.

- Idaho safety Shiloh Keo looked terrific in combine drills and ran some solid shuttle and three cone times during his workout only after turning in a poor forty time.  So what’s a team to do?  We hear a few squads have moved Keo to their linebacker board and project the college safety to weak-side OLB in a 4-3 alignment.

- Another quasi-projection is former defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye of South Carolina.  We understand the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins are looking hard at Ajiboye and project him as a two-gap end in their 3-4 systems.

April 11th

- Travel the world wide web and you’ll find mock draft after mock draft, including  several posted on this site by our own Brent Sobleski.  But what do NFL teams think of how the first round may shake out?  We asked yesterday and found the answer incredibly interesting. Without getting into specific names one team shared their breakdown of round one will shake out and it looked like this:

10 Defensive Linemen

6   Defensive Ends/3-4 Outside Linebackers

2   Quarterbacks

2   Wide Receivers

4   Cornerbacks

8   Offensive Linemen

——————

32

At first glance there is no running back on the list, which means a number of teams have Mark Ingram graded as a second round choice.  The qualification was made that teams in the bottom third of round one will select need over best player available, hence such a large number of offensive linemen entering the top 32 picks.  Obviously with so many college defensive ends projecting as 3-4 outside linebackers at the next level they DE/OLB’s were lumped together.

After speaking with a number of people we tried to break it down and this is what we came up with:

10-Defensive Linemen: Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley, Da’Quann Bowers, Cameron Jordan, JJ Watt, Cameron Heyward, Muhammad Wilkerson, Phil Taylor, Adrian Clayborn, Corey Liuget

6- Defensive Ends/3-4 OLB: Von Miller, Robert Quinn, Aldon Smith, Ryan Kerrigan, Justin Houston, Akeem Ayers

2- Quarterbacks: Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton

2- Wide Receivers: A.J. Green, Julio Jones

4- Cornerbacks: Patrick Peterson, Prince Amukamara, Jimmy Smith, Aaron Williams/Brandon Harris

8- Offensive Linemen: Tyron Smith, Anthony Castonzo, Gabe Carimi, Nate Solder, Michael Pouncey, Derek Sherrod, Danny Watkins (7)

That makes seven offensive linemen- so who is the eight?  In conversations the eight player could be Marcus Cannon of TCU, who’s drawing rave reviews.  The trainers from API in Arizona where Cannon worked out before the combine have raved about his skills to position coaches that have inquired.  The likely spot would be the Pittsburgh Steelers, though sources have said the Steelers have not worked out Cannon or brought him in for a visit.

We posted on Twitter mentioning the recent story on Cannon having cancer is untrue.  In conversation with sources several facts were pointed out.  Cannon did have a benign tumor back in 2006 but was medically cleared and the issue is known to all 32 teams.  He was not asked to return to the combine for the medical re-check last weekend.  TCU is expected to release a statement some time today, once they have the doctors report in hand.  There are also false rumors spreading around the internet that Cannon has had no visits/workouts.  We can confirm he’s combined for almost a dozen workouts/visits.  We’ll have more on this as it breaks and are expecting word from the workout of Taiwan Jones momentarily.

Update on Cannon- 2:30PM: In conversations with officials from TCU they have confirmed that Cannon does not have testicular cancer.  They are not planning to release any statement today, as we previously reported, but are willing to verbally  confirm  Cannon has not been diagnosed with cancer.  We asked about the 2006 diagnoses posted earlier today and, while the school we not directly confirm our information verbatim, they did say there were issues that were quickly cleared up.

Update on Taiwan Jones: 27 teams in attendance including 8 running back coaches.  forty times between 4.28-4.35.  Forty inch vertical jump and 11-inch broad jump.  Measured 6-feet, 198-pounds.  Work out handled by Richie Anderson and Tom Rathman.  Improved his draft grade almost a full round.

April 8th

- Much has been written about Cam Newton is the past week; about his smile, sincerity and other extra-curricula intangibles.  We’ll be the first to tell you we don’t feel qualified to speak of those things considering our relationship with Newton does not extend to more then a handful of press conferences and a lot of film watching.  We can tell you this; there are a number of teams that hope Newton does not fall into their laps in round one.  As one insider told us earlier today, “Newton is the type of player teams hope another team selects.”  The reference being Newton is such a boom or bust prospect there are a number of quarterback needy teams that don’t want him as an option when they are called to the clock.  As far as “boom or bust” we’ve stated in TV and radio interviews all along we not only think Newton fits into this category but so does Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett.

- Despite the strong recommendation by Judge Susan Richard Nelson to seek out mediation and end the current labor conflict, most we’ve spoken with feel the judge will eventually hand down some sort of ruling before the draft.  If her ruling ends the lockout it will have a profound effect on the value of a few positions in the draft, offensive tackle leading the way.  The free agent landscape presently looks strong at the offensive tackle position.  Yet if the lockout is lifted and the ruling states the league must play under the 2010 agreement with no cap, the pool of talented edge blockers will quickly diminish as a number of highly rated FA’s will be restricted since they’ve been in the league less than six years.  Many have told us this will automatically increase the value of the top offensive tackles in April’s draft.

- We understand earlier this week Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers had a great meeting with the Buffalo Bills and the team doctor cleared his surgically repaired knee.

- Its getting tougher to get information from teams as employees are under lockdown, in large part because of the lockout.  A number of teams are openly saying they must document all phone calls that come into their facility.  Some have told us messages that were left for specific front office personnel had their calls returned by secretary’s in the organization.

- Stanford junior defensive end Tom Keiser is hoping to piggy-back off the workout of another junior, Taiwan Jones.  The Eastern Washington running back is working out for scouts on Thursday.  Keiser was not invited to the combine and was unable to perform the shuttle run, three-cone or participate in position drills at the Stanford pro-day after tweaking his hamstring on his first attempt at the forty.  It will be a last opportunity for Keiser to workout in front of scouts, assuming they show up.

-  Julius Thomas continues to build a buzz around himself as well as momentum up draft boards.  He’s been working with former USC and NFL pass catcher Billy Miller on improving his game.  Scouts not only love his athleticism but his smarts as well.  Thomas has already graduated from Portland State.  He has a workout scheduled with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

April 3rd

- SI.com picked up a story this weekend we’ve been holding for ten days.  Sources have told us a while ago they expect the Denver Broncos to draft a quarterback this year and it could be early.  Many familiar with the situation told us Tim Tebow is not the quarterback for John Elway- and with the future Hall of Fame passer calling many of the shots for the franchise a signal caller is a priority.  Colin Kaepernick of Nevada at the top of round two makes the most sense.  The team has already worked out Kaepernick and will bring him in for a visit next week.  Sources have also said the team will draft a playmaking tight end at some point in the draft. Julius Thomas is one of the players they seem to be targeting.  Teams have been impressed with his football smarts and love his upside.

-  Two players that are rising up draft boards to keep an eye on include tight end Lance Kendricks of Wisconsin and safety Jeron Johnson from Boise State.  We hear this as much a result of the poor crop of players at each position as it is the talent of Kendricks and Johnson.

- We continue to hear the Dallas Cowboys are looking to do to things in the draft with their first pick 1) trade down and 2) grab an NFL ready right tackle.  If they cannot move the ninth pick we understand Tyron Smith presently sits atop their draft board.  As we reported last week head coach Jason Garrett and line coach Hudson Houck were in Los Angeles for the USC pro-day and the team is scheduled to bring Smith in for a visit.

- At present time defensive lineman Cameron Jordan of Cal is set to visit the Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Bucs, Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons.  We hear New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum were scheduled to fly out west for a private workout with Jordan but were held-up at the owners meetings and had to cancel the trip.

- Combine invitee Andre Holmes/WR/Hillsdale will be visiting the Dallas Cowboys and workout for the New England Patriots.