– As the combine started in February, I posted the news several teams ranked Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina over Chance Warmack of Alabama as the top guard in the draft. Over the past few days league insiders have told me they believe its a 50-50 split of teams who prefer Cooper over Warmack, and vice versa. In conversations with one source on Thursday, a former NFL lineman still associated with the league, I was told unequivocally, if teams want the best guard in this draft they will look to Cooper. The feeling is Cooper’s skill set is much better suited for the NFL and his versatility to line-up in multiple blocking schemes is added value. According to sources the hype around Warmack centers on “the big school mentality.” It was compared to much of the hype surrounding Courtney Upshaw last year. Critics feel Warmack is “shoulder heavy” and cannot adjust on the fly while Cooper’s athleticism and movement skills set him apart. While I will still rank Warmack ahead of Cooper it would not be a surprise if the North Carolina product is drafted just ahead of the Alabama senior.
– If Warmack does start to slide I am told the New York Giants would love the opportunity to select him as they feel he’s a great fit for their system. Moving towards the draft it seems one of the Giants early targets, Warmack’s teammate DJ Fluker, will be out of reach. One late round blocker I am told the Giants like is Emmett Cleary of Boston College, who has drawn praise from the teams offensive line coach Pat Flaherty.
– Sources tell me if he remains true to his past, New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese is still compiling data and will start to put the teams draft board together next week.
– Another athletic offensive lineman receiving praise in war rooms is Vinston Painter of Virginia Tech. Painter turned in a terrific senior campaign after breaking into the starting line-up then performed brilliantly at the combine. Painter’s forty times (average of 4.96 electronic) were solid as was his ten split (fastest of 1.70 hand timed). His vertical jump in Indianapolis of 30.5-inches was bettered by just three offensive linemen. How early could Painter be selected? We presently have him rated as a potential 4th rounder in our updated rankings though I am told the third frame is not out of the question. Painter has been on visits to see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Detroit Lions, New York Giants, Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals.
-By all accounts teams were pleased with Luke Marquardt’s pro-day workout on Thursday. Hall of Fame lineman Jackie Slater, who coached Marquardt at Azusa Pacific, put the big blocker through a series of tackle drills on both the left and right side. I was told coaches on hand drooled over the display of size, athleticism and the way Marquardt effortlessly moved his 317-pound frame around the field. Marquardt missed the entire 2012 season after suffering a Navicular fracture in his right foot and may need another minor procedure to stabilize the bone. I am told he will be ready for training camp despite the possibility of a second procedure. Where will Marquardt be selected in the draft? Its not out of the question that a team with double digit picks rolls the dice in round three hoping to hit on Marquardt’s awesome potential.
– While there have been rave reviews about the physical and football skills of Datone Jones, his character and personality has also helped him ascend up draft boards. In a conversation with a team insider yesterday, one with absolutely no connection to Jones, the UCLA defensive lineman was described as someone who is “highly motivated”, “wants to be great” and “will work to get better”. During an interview on The Mike Dempsey Show in Jacksonville on Wednesday, Jones was a player I mentioned when asked who could be drafted much earlier than people expect.
– I am told scouts ranked yesterday’s workout by Eddie Lacy of Alabama from fair to midland and it did nothing to inspire teams in the middle of round one who may be inclined to draft a running back during the initial frame.
– I am told that this year, more than usual, teams are using official 30 visits on players expected to be top 75 picks, which is hurting the late round/free agent prospect. In the past many of the official visits were used on non-combine players. Why such a difference in 2013? I’m told the primary reason is the uncertainty on how players may fall in the first three rounds of this years draft. Coupled with the limitations on interviews at the combine, franchises don’t want to be caught off-guard if certain players fall into their laps once they are called on the clock during the draft’s initial two days.
– I was caught by surprise to learn the Indianapolis Colts, who own the 24th pick of round one, brought DeMarcus Milliner/CB/Alabama in for an official visit on Wednesday. The team would have to make a big move into the early part of round one for to have chance of selecting Milliner. Its not completely out of the question the Colts will part with future picks if afforded the opportunity to make the move north and grab the top rated corner.
– Most eyes will be on the second Alabama pro-day today as Eddie Lacy finally workouts for scouts. But out west I am told almost 20 teams/position coaches will attend the workout of Azusa Pacific offensive tackle Luke Marquardt. There’s a lot to be learned as Marquadt missed all of last season with a foot injury and did not workout at the combine. He’s being compared to both Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder.
– Kyle Juszczyk/FB-HBack/Harvard has been on 12 official visits the past few weeks including the Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers. I am told he could be off the board very early in round four.
– Arthur Brown/LB/Kansas State has been on visits to the St Louis Rams, Cincinnati Bengals and New Orleans Saints.
– I’m told the Miami Dolphins won’t select a running back during the initial two days of the draft. The team is very content with their top two ball carriers.
– Today, April 9th, Cal wide out Keenan Allen is expected to complete a full workout for NFL scouts in Greensboro, North Carolina. Sources tell me there are a lot of nervous nellie’s in the Allen camp as to how fast he will run and how he will perform during the pro-day. As we wrote prior to the combine Allen has not looked all that impressive in training and, as of this past weekend, I am told that still holds true. Word has gotten around in scouting circles Allen has not been focused during his training. Workout results today, coupled with final medical reports on his knee, could determine whether Allen remains in the draft’s top 25 picks.
– Also during the combine I reported quarterback JaMarcus Russell was planning to hold a pro-day this Wednesday as part of his attempt at a comeback. Those plans have been put on hold as the teams interested in watching Russell prefer he perform private workouts. Thus far I am told the Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals have shown the greatest amount of interest. Russell, who tipped the scale at 311-pounds when he began his comeback attempt, is down around 280lbs and hopes the end up closer to 270-pounds when he works out for teams.
– The Carolina Panthers are expected to select a defensive tackle sometime during the draft’s initial three rounds. I am told the team brought Sylvester Williams/North Carolina in for a visit and has worked out Akeem Spence/Illinois and had dinner last night with Datone Jones/UCLA whom they are working out today.
– David Quessenberry/OL/San Jose State could be selected much earlier than most expect. The offensive lineman has been stamped as a “five position player” by a number of teams, who rank Quessenberry as a top 75 choice. The former walk-on has impressed offensive line coaches with his character. Quessenberry is a super-disciplined athlete who comes from a military family and has the make-up of a long term NFL player.
– Versatile punter/kicker Quinn Sharp of Oklahoma State had coaches from the Seattle Seahawks and Miami Dolphins privately work him out.
– Talk of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers acquiring New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis has heated up in the past few days. Sources familiar with the situation tell me if a trade goes down it is likely to occur before the draft. This will give the Buccaneers time to perform a full physical on Revis, who’s coming off season ending knee surgery. Source say the only way a draft day trade occurs would be if the Jets allow the Buccaneers to perform a physical on Revis prior to any official announcement of a trade. Will the trade go down? In conversations with several people since Friday just about everyone feels the trade would benefit all parties; the Jets, the Buccaneers and Darrelle Revis. Many passed the comment the Jets are holding up the process and their recent demand Revis attend the teams off season conditioning program is a way to squeeze more compensation in a trade.
– What will the Miami Dolphins do with the 12th pick of round one? During recent interviews with radio stations in the South Beach area I’ve consistently put forth the notion the team could package some of its arsenal of draft picks to move up and acquire either Dee Milliner/CB/Alabama or Lane Johnson/T/Oklahoma. Conventional wisdom in the draft community has Miami selecting Xavier Rhodes/DB/Florida State with the 12th pick if they can’t or don’t move from the slot. And though Rhodes is still a possibility I’ve been told D.J. Fluker/T/Alabama is in the mix at pick number twelve. Sources tell me the Dolphins will be “drafting big” (as in players) this year and at present time the team seems confident Jonathan Martin can hold down the left tackle spot. Unless they acquire one of the top pass blocking left tackles in the draft, they will look for a mauler on the right side. Remember; most of the decision makers in the Dolphins front office were taught under Bill Parcells, who loved road-grading offensive linemen.
– Who’s the hottest name at the cornerback position? If you said Jamar Taylor of Boise State you would be correct. I reported 10 days ago word from the BYU pro-day was Taylor could slide into the late part of round one. Since then I’ve learned that Taylor has had official visits or private work outs with every team in the late part of round one, from picks number 27-through-32. Taylor has also travelled to visit the Miami Dolphins and is working out for the Atlanta Falcons today.