With all the off-season smack over Cam Newton being a "sore loser" after meeting Peyton Manning at the end of SB 50 and smiling and congratulating him when Manning himself, never branded a "sore loser," had left the field in a loss in a previous game and was nowhere to be found, and on a smaller stage, not much attention has been shown to the NFL Combine this year.
After all, it's not like Carolina has massive loads of gaping needs, having lost but being competitive in their Super Bowl loss, aided by poor officiating (planned, if you ask me; refs hired via nepotism and not talent if you ask anyone who knows of it) and forcing the over-40 generation through what I considered a highly offensive and thoroughly hypocritical halftime show as Beyonce "sang" an anti-police "song," of course, after being protected BY police on her way to and away from the arena.
Needless to say, I'm not the fan I was before the ball game, and won't be spending any more money with the NFL. If the 2016 NFL Combine is any indication, the game is headed south for more than off-field reasons.
Every Combine is unique, but this year's has stood out like a throbbing thumb that just got whacked by a hammer. Here are some of the happenings:
The Good - Interior Defensive Linemen
Holy Toledo, Dark Knight Josh Norman, but this year's crop of defensive tackles is as deep as any class I've ever seen. There were gobs of guys running sub-5.0 40 times, which is unusual enough. There might be ten to twelve DTs that appear to have first-round talent - bad news for the run-heavy Carolina Panthers and their own interior offensive linemen.
What it means for Carolina: In the short run, it shouldn't affect the Panthers much other than the fact there are so many available, if Dave Gettleman truly DOES practice the "best player available" mantra, it's very likely the "BPA" when we draft at 30 could be a defensive tackle. It's an area of very little "need" for Carolina - especially with their first pick - so that drafting the BPA might mean we get another DT. If that's the case, It's certainly being done with a mind to both of Carolina's starting DTs entering their contract year from their rookie deal. Looks like re-signing Kawann Short is a must, while letting Star Lotulelei test free agency for money purposes is a real possibility now. Drafting a DT with the first round pick gives the Panthers a huge financial windfall if DG approaches the draft with his penny-pinching ways first and foremost.
The Bad - Edge-Rushers are Thin this Year
I don't see anyone jumping off the screen at me as I watch the proceedings as someone who is a must-have at #30. The best hope is that a bunch of those greatly athletic DTs get drafted ahead of Carolina; each one represents other positions still on the board and the very deep class at DT could ultimately afford the Panthers of more like a #20 pick if you back those big guys, which we already have, out of the picture.
Joey Bosa, considered the top DE prospect by many, ran a 4.86. While 40-times have little correlation to production for a defensive lineman, since they do their damage within ten yards of the line of scrimmage anyway, but it shows he's not an elite athlete...at least not in my book. His arms aren't that long for a guy 6'5" tall. Some like his "pedigree" such as it is - his Dad was John Bosa, a 1st-round pick by the Miami Dolphins and his uncle was the infamous Erik Kumerow, taken in the first round by Miami the following year, according to NFL.com. Are those two guys the best comparisons to have in an NFL pedigree? Hardly. The pair TOGETHER had all of twelve sacks in their careers. Combined. I find it very hard to believe, however, that Joey Bosa is "like Jared Allen" as they said at the Combine. I just am not seeing ANY eye-popping talent aside from a couple of guys running a little faster than I'd think (defensive tackles) and Bosa didn't show me much. During the linebacker drill, he didn't catch either pass, albeit one was behind him and would've been a "circus" catch, he didn't "wow" me in the least.
What it means for Carolina: The most athletic edge-rushers will be long gone by #30 as well - no secret there as pass rushers are a "premium" position especially in the days of the rookie wage scale where you don't overpay for a flop. I have seen a number of people "mocking" Penn State's Carl Nassib to us at #30. Mike Mayock of NFL Network doesn't even have Nassib in his top-five DE prospects, so a guy like that could fall to #30. He's a guy with some questions, as he was a walk-on who was told "you'll never play in the NFL" talent-wise. Six months later, he was offered a scholarship so the story goes. Nassib was #13 in defensive linemen in the 40, posting a humdrum 4.84. Look at 10-yard split times for a better idea of game speed from linemen on both sides of the ball. Nassib's combine didn't seem to help him, so he could well be around for Carolina to fit a need at the end of the first round. In fact, this year it looks like a GOOD thing that the Panthers aren't picking high and possibly choosing between two future busts. I'm certainly not saying Joey will be a bust, just that I'm not feeling the love for anyone in this year's draft class as a franchise-changing player. Players are going to have to rely on game tape more this year than ever as the Combine hasn't seemed to help any of the higher picks jump out and say "Draft me tops overall!" That player, at least this year, does not exist. Possibly Emmanuel Ogbah helped himself up the draft somewhat, but he didn't come out of relative obscurity (he's from Oklahoma State) like Dontari Poe (Memphis) did.
The Ugly - Slowest WR Class I've ever Seen
Yes, these WRs reminded me more of TEs than WRs. I only saw two - count 'em: one, two - who ran a sub-4.4 40-yard dash. The 40 IS a "Big Deal" among WRs, CBs, and RBs the most, so when I saw so many receivers putting up 4.7s, I wondered why these guys even played the position.
I know the NFL has been trending towards bigger receivers while at the same time going for smaller, quicker offensive linemen, but when they run about the same speed, it makes ME wonder why they don't just draft an "athletic offensive tackle with hands" to split wide. 4.7 won't scare ANY SINGLE NFL defensive back; therefore, I say why not try a "power passing game?"
Tongue firmly in cheek, but I say why not? I'd take a 6'6" 295 lbs OT that runs a 4.85 over some kid at 6'2" 215 that runs a 4.7. Will Fuller of Notre Dame (6' 186) and Kolby Listenbee of TCU (6' 197) are the only two receivers running under a 4.4-40. That's it. Both guys are tiny by today's standards and will be relegated to the slot, most likely, leaving the outside for the bigger guys.
4th-fastest in the 40 among WRs was Auburn's Ricardo Lewis, who has Ted Ginn-like hands and Mike Remmers' route-running ability. One unnamed scout says he's not a draftable kid. 3rd was Cal's Trevor Davis (6'1 188) - another slot guy.
With the defensive backs ending up the combine today, and looking much, much faster than the wideouts have, defenses look to improve more than offenses in the back end of the passing game for 2016.
What this means for Carolina: WR is no longer a "need" position for Carolina, having just spent a high draft pick in consecutive seasons to get theirs with first-rounder Kelvin Benjamin and trading up last season to nab Devin Funchess near the top of the second. Both are huge even by today's standards and obviously are young and still possess upside. Should Carolina dip into the draft for DBs and grab a nickel-corner, the defense should improve while the rest of the NFL's offenses get a year older and slower on the outside. Younger and slower isn't something to aspire to.
With Carolina's draft needs, the "Year of Molasses" on the outside won't come burn the Panthers as they likely either won't take a receiver of this year's group at all, or grab one in the 6th or 7th for depth or for a guy they just want to get a great look at without having to worry about him going undrafted to another team. Since Carolina should have the pick right before Mr. Irrelevant, keep an eye on whomever they choose in the 7th round, assuming they don't use it with other picks to trade up. That'll be the "marginal" kid who intrigues the organization, and might in fact be the most interesting one to watch as the offseason progresses.
As for the incoming group overall, Rich Eisen of "Run, Rich, Run" fame put it well. To paraphrase, he said he, as a semi-informed fan just watching things going on and without having the insight of a pro scout like Mike Mayock, that he didn't see ANYBODY this year who jumped out at you (like, say, a Jadeveon Clowney did with his size and 4.55 speed.) He went on to say that while there were a few guys who showed well and helped their draft stock, there's no guy like Clowney or a Dontari Poe this year, and everyone commented on how SLOW this year's group of WRs is.
He seemed as impressed with the overall group of defensive tackles as anyone, but beyond that, this year's group frankly looks sub-par overall. For me, it sounds like the NFL is picking right up where they left off with their interpretation of a "Super Bowl."
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