Posts Tagged ‘NFL Scouting Combine’

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GM Jerry Angelo Interview from ESPN 1000 Part I

April 28, 2009

Jerry Angelo joined the Waddle and Silvy show yesterday to talk Chicago Bears football after the NFL Draft on Sunday. It’s one of the first interviews Angelo has done with local sports talk radio in a few years and it was great to hear where some of his motivation lies in regards to making this team better. In part one of the interview we cover what steps the Bears made to trade for Anquan Boldin and cover the motivation behind trading down out of the first day of the draft.

To start things off it’s fair to say that everyone should recognize and mostly does recognize that this draft wasn’t about any of the players taken, but rather about Jay Cutler. The talk of the draft and it’s impact essentially starts and stops with Cutler.

A point that should be made that maybe hasn’t been touched on as much as it perhaps should be, is that lack of overall great talent in this draft. The value in the players from the Top-5 arguably all the way down to the top of the second round wasn’t all that much different. Evidence in this can be seen in some of the players who fell out of the first round and into the second. Ray Maualuga considered by many as a Top-5 talent fell out of the first round. Everette Brown precisely the same thing, arguably a top-10 level pick who fell to nearly the middle part of the second round.

So the talent and the depth not being as strong as it was in past years made it all the more easy for the Bears to trade out. There are players in this draft that are hard to project and have a very high boom or bust factor that was likely taken into consideration when the idea to trade for Cutler came around.

The Bears also made a trade phone call to the Arizona Cardinals about Anquan Boldin. Angelo could not and didn’t want to get into all the specific details surrounding the trade talks (Boldin is still under contract) and he wants to be able to keep a solid reputation around the league with other GMs. Angelo could have said explicitly what prevented the trade from Boldin from happening, but that in turn would hurt any future endeavors he may have in the trade market. He wants to keep a good solid working relationship so the refusal to go into specific details is easy to understand.

A certain level of respect needs to be maintained and he didn’t want to throw the Cardinals under the bus or affix any blame for any possible outrageous demands the Cardinals may have made etc.

However the point of emphasis should that Jerry Angelo did everything within reason, and within his power to explore the possibility of landing Anquan Boldin. Angelo definitely feels that Boldin would make the Bears a better football team and with the line of thought being that the Bears want to win now, Boldin is a player that would help him achieve that goal.

The next segment flowed into the decision to trade down out and out the first round of the draft. Angelo was pretty explicit with this answer as well in that the Bears had an idea of what player they would take at 49 and what type of player gave them the most value at 49. The focus obviously being on the big three receivers that we had all hoped would slide into the second round. In my Chicago Bears Draft Day Thoughts Blog I touched on the exact line of thinking that Angelo went with. The dream scenario being all three receivers fall into the second round, giving the Bears a better chance to grab one at 49. The more likely scenario I gave obviously is the one that panned out and I was right on target with where I thought the Bears could target either Massaqoi or Iglesias. Iglesias turned out to be the player taken at 99th overall in the third.

Angelo did the best thing for this football team by trading back and picking up an extra third and an extra fourth round pick. The third round pick netted him high value prospect Jarron Gilbert (arguably a first or second round worthy target). This immediately boosted the position on the team that cause the most losses on the team in a direct way. The pass rush defensive end problem that was again addressed in the fourth round with the Henry Melton selection.

Angelo touched on the Jarron Gilbert selection by talking about a few points:

A) Jarron Gilbert is a player that they plan to play at defensive end “versus the run but when we get into our third down situation he’s going to shift inside just as he was in his senior year. He’s been exposed to playing defensive end a bit.”

Dick Tomey (San Jose State’s head coach) as Angelo went on to explain has been a college football coach for a number of years. Tomey has been a specialist in developing defensive lineman for a number of years at schools that he’s coached. Tomey is probably most famous for the Arizona Wildcats’ “Desert Swarm” days when the UofA had one of the best and most consistent defensive lines in the country. Tomey is unquestionably a good football coach and any NFL coach or GM (Angelo in this case) receiving advice from him should take it to heart because he’s one of those coaches that’s been around the block a few times. Tomey feels that Gilbert’s best potential is still ahead of him and he’s just beginning to scrape the surface of what he can do on the football field.

I think some of the points to look at here regarding Jarron Gilbert and Henry Melton is the the idea of getting a lot of speed and athleticism up front. The big fad right now in the NFL is the 3-4 because it’s the defense the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl with. However what is consistently overlooked is the New York Giants won the Super Bowl title merely a year ago with the 4-3 defense in place. The Giants led the NFL in sacks with a 4-3 defensive scheme.

The point is and always will be to get the most pressure you can from your front four. This is always accomplished best with speed off the edge and athleticism up the middle. The song remains the same and you could argue that it has since the days of the Bears’ dominating pass rush utilizing the 46 scheme. It’s about getting to the quarterback plain and simple, giving him little no time to throw the ball, it doesn’t matter if it comes from the 3-4, 4-3, 4-4, 5-2, 46, flex-eagle look, ANYTHING that you want to throw out there. The song remains the same get to the quarterback on third down.

Adding speed like Gilbert to the middle of the defense and speed of the edge with someone like Henry Melton is geared specifically towards that idea. The Bears don’t need to switch to a 3-4, they just need to have more speed and with a front four of Israel Idonije, Marcus Harrison, Jarron Gilbert and Henry Melton that is a very fast and athletic front four geared to get to the QB on third down. Much the same way the New York Giants focus their defense so much on speed, the Bears are attempting to do the same things.

With Juaqin Iglesias the Bears wanted to get an established receiver. With Mark Bradley they looked at his ceiling and where he could go. Bradley was a defensive back and was moved around before he was the third best receiver on a team that had two other WRs drafted. Iglesias was THE man at Oklahoma, the established number one target and Angelo felt he really compliments what they are trying to do on offense. It’s not taking an expert to see why the Bears targeted these prospects based on what we saw and what the Bears lack on offense and defense.

Speed to burn: Bears Draft Pick Johnny Knox

April 27, 2009

One of the three draft picks the Bears used on wide receivers today went to a player from a small school with one of the fastest 40-yard dash times at the combine. Abiliene Christian’s Johnny Knox was the Bears’ fifth round draft choice and Bears fans should not be asking why.

Knox is mixture of good size at 6-foot 198-pounds and has shown some pretty good ball skills to go with that speed. He was one of the top performers at the combine that I noticed while scouting it in my live blog earlier this year. He is a very smooth athlete who shows some great athletic promise with an ability to go up and get the ball at it’s highest point and he has excellent body control.

His only downside would be he’s not as strong as you’d like in a receiver. He won’t break a lot of tackles or make a lot of yards after contact because of his small hips and legs.

Overall though he was very productive at a small school. With 118 career catches to go with 2,227 yards and an 18.9 yards per catch average and lastly 30 touchdowns you can see he easily dominated a low level of competition. He may be a bit of a project but he gives the Bears another option in stretch the field.

Reminds me a bit of a young Bernard Berrian a player with a lot of athletic prowess who needs some polish. If he gets that polish and develops he could make an impacct sooner, rather than later.

Bears Draft Jarron Gilbert D-Lineman at 68th overall

April 26, 2009

The Chicago Bears select, Jerron Gilbert defensive lineman from San Jose State. Gilbert of YouTube fame for jumping out of the swimming pool and on to the deck. He is one of those athletic freak type of players 6-foot-5 288-pounds 4.86 40-yard dash, just long and lanky and pretty strong.

Gilbert’s role on defense won’t be all that dissimilar to Israel Idonije’s role a stick your hand in the dirt player for rushing downs, and then flip him inside on pass rushing downs. You have to seriously question what this pick means to the D-Line rotation. The staff has always been high on Idonije, they were very happy with Marcus Harrison last year and then there’s the multi-million-dollar man Tommie Harris he of the arthritic knee.

Gibert’s senior season was impressive against lighter competition than a BCS level school. He had 9.5 sacks and 22 tackles-for-a-loss which is pretty impressive anyway you slice it.

For one of the comprehensive scouting reports on the web click here

The Bears trade the 49th pick in the draft to Seattle

April 25, 2009

The Chicago Bears made a move downward as had been rumored by the Chicago SunTimes this morning the Bears traded the 49th pick in the draft to the Seattle Seahawks.

Trying to recoup picks from the Jay Cutler trade landed No. 68 in Round 3 and No. 105 in Round 4 from Seattle.

The trade means the Bears will not be selecting on the first day of the NFL draft today. We’ll have more on possible selections later tonight. Looks like the Bears may go with a WR in the third and address more needs on defense in the third and the fourth rounds.

Angelo came out and said that the Bears did try to get a deal done for Anquan Boldin. They spoke at length with the Arizona Cardinals but were unable to come to an agreement.

They had hoped things would fall better for them regarding some of the WRs they were targeting. They were obviously looking at Nicks, Robiskie and Britt. Two of those three went in round one, Robiskie early in round two and Mohammed Massaquoi went #50 to the Cleveland Browns immediately after the Bears traded 49 to Seattle.

Some of the other players off the board include Phil Loadholt the OT from OU, Sherrod Martin the safety from Troy, William Beatty the OT from UConn, William Moore the safety is off the board. Paul Kruger the DE from Utah is now off the board as well as David Veikune a DE from Hawaii I covered extensively at the NFL Scouting Combine.

The trade means the Bears will not be selecting on the first day of the NFL draft today. Looks like the Bears may go with a WR in the third and address more needs on defense in the third and the fourth rounds.
We’ll have more on possible selections later tonight.

Prospect Preview: Juaquin Iglesias

April 23, 2009

Finally I get to writing a prospect profile on wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias from the Oklahoma Sooners. I didn’t want to do all of the prospects all lumped together I wanted to try and spread out their prospect previews over a couple weeks time. So I stalled and stalled on doing this write up.

Then I started to do more research on Iglesias who seems like he is quietly the Matt Forte of this year’s draft class. By that I mean the front office seems to like him a lot. They have thoroughly scouted him via the combine, private workouts and the Oklahoma Pro Day. He’s been one of the most talked about possibilities at 49 overall in the draft since the combine.

So I began to ask myself why, why is a receiver from Oklahoma so highly thought of when so many of them have bombed? The more I started to watch Iglesias the more film I watched the more of a sinking feeling I got regarding him possibly being in a Chicago Bears uniform. I’m now officially beginning to wonder if he is so highly rated because he’s from the Sooner nation. I mean his highlight reel isn’t anything spectacular. His production is nothing world beating, he had one big game against Kansas 12 catches for 191 yards ZERO TDs. He makes a lot of catches with defenders hanging on him, which is good but bad at the sametime because it shows he’s not getting a lot of separation.

So I’m looking for the one thing that makes Iglesias worthy of the 49th selection and I have yet to find it. He’s not overly 6-foot-1 210-pounds. He’s not overly fast 4.56 in the 40-yard dash, and his vertical leap isn’t overly special at 34 1/2 inches. So what is it that makes Iglesias an NFL worthy prospect?

He has decent production from 2008 74 catches for 1,150 and 10 touchdowns. His production improved from year to year and he was a three year starter for the Sooners. He sorta does everything average to good but nothing exceptionally well. He’s a good route runner, has good hands, is the same size as Hakeem Nicks so you can’t knock one guy and compliment the other for their size. He is who he is a prospect that is probably a better value later in the third to fourth round and you wonder if you getting a beneficiary of the hype machine that is Oklahoma.

They had a great offense in 2008 arguably the best offense of all time. Against some pretty mediocre competition and they were completely shut down in the National Championship game by the Florida Gators. So you wonder why do so many players get the level of respect that they do coming out of Norman every year?

Some guys just have the benefit of being a good player on a great team therefore that makes them automatically great players compared to the rest of the kids out there.

He has positive attributes that a lot of receivers have but nothing jaw dropping. He doesn’t seem as tough after the catch or even as fast as Hakeem Nicks. He’s not as big or as fast or as polished as Brian Robiskie. So while there is things to like about him, I’m just not feeling it regardin Juaquin Iglesias. If he ends up a Chicago Bear I’ll support him and hope for the best. But if he doesn’t end up sticking around in the league then I won’t be all that shocked either.

The Percy Harvin Effect

April 23, 2009

Word as most draft fans know is beginning to circulate that Florida wide receiver Percy Harvin tested positive for marijuana use at the NFL combine back in February. Harvin by most accounts is considered perhaps the most explosive offensive weapon in the draft and arguably a Top-15 pick in this weekend’s draft.

So already speculation has been building as to the possibility of Percy Harvin sliding all the way to the Bears at the 49th slot of the second round. I can answer this question emphatically and in a way that hopefully will put all of the speculation to rest, NO. Percy Harvin will likely not fall out of the first round of the NFL draft because to many teams see to high a value in him as a prospect and a player.

Charlie Casserly reported tonight on NFL network’s path to the draft show that three teams he already spoke with said that if Harvin begins to slide into their area he IS THEIR GUY at that draft slot. Surely they will have to answer to Harvin’s positive test, but the risk/reward factor for them will be to great to pass up. Harvin is an extremely valuable and multi-dimensional talent that will make a group of fan’s very happy when he does begin to fall in the draft.

For me personally I think Harvin is overrated and think he’ll be one of the 50-percent failure rates that happen every year in the NFL draft. I see Harvin and I see Peter Warrick from Florida State. The speed and the ability in the open field is uncanny and it’s why I look at him with a huge skeptical eye. For me the character concerns even compound the fact that I wouldn’t draft him all that high.

Now the next question generated by the speculation surrounding Harvin might be does he fall far enough to the point where the Bears can trade up to get him later in the first round? As I discussed in this previous blog post about the Bears’ trade options in moving up that idea is also nearly impossible. Most of the ammo the Bears had to trade up with they gave up in the trade for Cutler.

Now with that first part of this blog out of the way, there is reason to believe that Harvin’s positive drug test can positively effect the Bears’ chance of landing a good player in the draft at 49th overall.

A few scenarios I’d like to touch on real quick are pretty easy to follow and likely make the most sense regarding our Chicago Bears:

A) Percy Harvin could slide in the draft to a team that likely would have taken a Hakeem Nicks, Brian Robiskie or Kenny Britt.

What I am saying here is that the Bears have been targeting three solid receivers who project well not only for the Bears’ draft needs, but could have realistically slid to the 49th spot in the NFL draft prior to the Harvin news. Now that the Harvin news has come out there is a team in the first round that will pass on Percy Harvin for another player who has Harvin’s overall value in round one. They will grab the next best player that fits into their needs that is on their big board. This will cause Harvin to begin his slide in the NFL draft to a team that may be likely to take one of Nicks, Robiskie or Britt in the first round.

B) That team will draft Harvin instead of one of those three

Since Nicks, Britt and Robiskie will begin to slide in the draft as a consequence to Harvin’s sliding it means one of those three will be closer to where the Bears are drafting at 49th overalll in the second round. A team that would otherwise be taking Nicks, Britt, or Robiskie late in the first round will now pass on them. Taking Harvin late in the first round and causing the

C) The increase in the likelihood that Britt, Robiskie, or Nicks does fall to the Bears at 49.

There was already by most accounts a chance that one of the BIG THREE will fall to the Chicago Bears. The three that have been scouted over, discussed, profiled, worked out by the Bears coaching staff and scouting personnel over and over again. These three perfectly fit the type of receiver the Bears are looking for in the first place. They fit that role that is open opposite Devin Hester who more closely resembles Harvin’s game-changing explosiveness in the open field.

The likelihood has now increased, by how much? I can’t precisely say, and no one really knows. But the good news for right now is that helped the Bears out at least indirectly. Hopefully on Saturday it will be come a direct positive effect in which the Bears benefit by landing one of the big three receivers that we have been discussing since the end of the NFL scouting combine nearly two months ago.

Higher priority for the Bears wide receiver or pass rusher?

April 21, 2009

Right now both the wide receiver and pass rusher/under-sized DE position is one of the deepest pools of talent in this draft. Plus there is recent talk that certain pass rushers may be falling out of the first round and falling into the second round leaving the Bears on quite the quandary come draft day.

While there is little doubt that the Bears’ offense severely struggled due to the lack of a premiere pass catcher in 2008, conversely the defense lost games because of a lack of a pass rush. You can literally point to three to four games where a lack of a pass rush lost games where as the passing game was consistent enough to win games for the Bears. Plus the addition of Jay Cutler will only help the current roster of receivers improve.

All that is true but the most recent development is the recent talk that premiere pass rusher Larry English’s stock has begin to fall. Apparently at 6-foot-2 255-pounds English is to small to line up as a DE, but when you think to stand him up as a 3-4 OLB suddenly he’s to slow. Not a good problem to have if you’re Larry English, but a nice problem to have if you’re the Chicago Bears.

Why? Because English is a fearsome pass rusher, plain and simple he has speed of the edge and is going to succeed in this league. Pass rushers that are as explosive off the edge as English is are at a premium. If a team is foolish enough to pass English because he doesn’t fit into the ideals of size and speed then that’s their loss.

Another player who fits the mold of a Larry English who I can personally attest to being a great player coming out of college is Terrell Suggs at Arizona State. Suggs didn’t work out at the combine so all his eggs were in one basket at the his ASU Pro-Day. I was there personally to witness Suggs pro-day first hand with all of the NFL scouts in attendance including Bears’ GM Jerry Angelo. Suggs that day went out and ran his 40-yard-dash in the high 4.8 second range. He was as high as 4.87 on some watches and as low as 4.72 on other watches. But the consensus for Suggs was that 4.8 was as good as it was going to get for his 40-yard dash time. I personally clocked Suggs in the 4.93 40-yard dash that day in the hot sun on Astro turf at ASU.

So Suggs went from a sure fire top-five prospect to a player who steadily fell until the Ravens traded up to grab him. A few years later Suggs is a 3-4 OLB who is a consistent Pro-Bowl level player. That to me is the type of player Larry English is that burst off the edge, as Mike Mayock calls it running the arc. That is where pass rushing money is made, not in the 40-yard dash times that so many people zero in on, but that 10-20 yards a DE needs to run to sack the QB.

Two other players who fit into that late first round to mid second round category who could be considered pass rush specialists are Connor Barwin and Aaron Maybin. Both have that size at 6-foot-4 245 to 255-pounds but may fall in the draft because of their timing in the 40-yard dash or their raw abilities may fall. There is little doubt that three are pure pass rushers with threat motors.

Then there is the Brian Robiskie, Kenny Britt, Hakeem Nicks problem. One of those three could fall as far as 49, but all three are deemed late first round worthy. There is the sense that the three together fall into nearly the same category, late first round to second round WR talent. They are among the 35th to 50th best players in the NFL draft in the scope of overall talent. They have been covered in Bears draft talk ad nauseam since the end of the NFL combine in late February. All three would be great big strong receiver who could work the underneath routes with Devin Hester taking care of the deep routes.

So while the consensus near unanimous opinion is that the Bears should take a WR with the second round pick at 49. The question is what do you do with a great pure pass rusher still on the board?

Prospect Preview: Hakeem Nicks

April 21, 2009

Hakeem Nicks is an intriguing prospect if there ever was one. He could have been a good pick up for the Bears at the 18th spot in the NFL draft or he could possibly even fall as low as 49th in the draft. There is no way to say where he is better in his game than either Kenny Britt or Brian Robiskie. The three fit well together for the type of receivers they are and the type of receivers the Bears needs.

For starters it’s hard to argue with Nicks’ production, his hands, his work ethic his run after the catch his route running all the things that are far more important than a guy like Heyward-Bey who has built his reputation primarily on speed. Nicks’ intangibles are greater than Heyward Bey’s and that is enough to sell me on him as a prospect. In our receiver combine report we picked up on the scouting report given by Colts GM and receiver evaluator extraordinaire Bill Polian who gave strong compliments to Nicks.

Plus if you’ve seen Nicks play (I saw two of his games) you came away impressed with his ability. Nicks is a receiver who will be productive in the NFL because he is more polished than a lot of the other WRs who have come before him. A lot of Nicks’ yards came from his solid separation in his route running in short passes that he turned into big gains with ability after the catch.

His performance in the Citrus Bowl is all you need to view to know that he is big time receiver. He almost won the game by himself with his three touchdowns and 213 yards receiving. He just would not let his team lose because of something he failed to do.

Big time receivers show up for the big games and this is one game where Nicks was shining through. As well as the conference game against Miami. He made big catches in that game as well to help put his team in position for a win.

There is little doubt that if Nicks were to fall to as low as 49th in the draft he would be considered a steal if the Bears were able to scoop him up.

Prospect Preview: Mike Rivera

April 20, 2009

As previously mentioned most NFL teams are quite enamored with the hybrid OLB/DE types that fit into the 3-4 scheme. It’s all the rage this year with 10 prospects likely to go in the first two rounds of the draft. Thanks can go to Ware and Harrison of Dallas and Pittsburgh respectively.

On the flip side of the equation though is something of a bit of interest. With so many teams looking at the 3-4 hybrid types, the likelihood that some quality 4-3 OLB types slip to the later rounds of the draft are quite good.

One such prospect is Mike Rivera from Kansas University who showed some explosive athleticism at the KU pro day. By LB standards Rivera about jumped out of the gymnasium with his 38 1/2 inch vertical which would have been a full inch and a half better than all of the other LBs at the NFL Scouting combine. More importantly Rivera is not projected as a weak-side prospect with his 6-foot-3 245-pound frame.

Rivera is a converted MIKE ‘backer who started playing the SAM position in 2006. From that point forward he was a tackling machine racking up over 95 tackles per season over three seasons, including an average of 10 tackles for a loss. These are ideal numbers for a SAM ‘backer prospect who needs to be big and physical to match up with the strong-side run formation where the TEs typically line up.

Rivera’s stock is on the rise and rightfully so with his 4.62 speed in the 40-yard dash to go with his vertical leap. That type of straight line speed will help him match up well with TEs in the 4-3 cover-2 the Bears primarily run. He also showed ability against the pass with seven pass break ups in 2007 and four more in 2008. His seven pass break ups were second on the team and is pretty high for a linebacker prospect who is not typically asked to make a lot of plays in the passing game, where it’s not typical for TEs to be a primary receiving option in college.

Rivera is yet another prospect who is being scouted over thoroughly by the coaching staff and looks like he could be brought in in the later rounds of the draft. It’s no secret that these unheralded but productive college players with solid athleticism are being worked over by one of the most productive scouting departments in the league. Productive by defensive standards as Angelo and his crew have shown time and again that they can unearth project players who develop on special teams and turn into above average pros later in their careers. Perhaps Mike Rivera will be just that type of player come the second day of the NFL draft.