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24 Feb 2012

2012 Combine Report: Day Two

by Mike Tanier

REPORTER: "Tim Tebow: your thoughts?"

JOHN ELWAY: "What took you so long?"

So began Day Two of Podiumpalooza at the Combine, a music and culture festival without the music and culture. The press seating around Elway at Podium A was unusually crowded for 10:30 a.m., but any time can be Tebow Time.

Unfortunately, or mercifully, Tebow Fatigue has set in. Elway said nothing of substance, and the handful of questioned lobbed at him to try to lead him into one or another minefield had no effect. Elway, wearing a plum-colored sweater, said all the right things about his quarterback. When he admitted that the Broncos had to get better at throwing downfield from the pocket, he used the royal "we." Somewhere on the Internet, someone has certainly processed all of this into breathless news, but it was clear that everyone here was going through the mania motions. Someone get Brady Quinn riled up, stat!

Ted Thompson can be a great source of wisdom if you ask him the right questions. Asking him to evaluate his team needs or talk about unsigned free agents is not asking the right questions. "I’m not going to stand here and tell the other 31 teams what I think of Matt Flynn," the Packers GM said. Thompson only seemed tight-lipped because he received more than the usual allotment of "betray secrets about your long-range strategies," questions. A reporter in the back asked "what are your needs?" late in the press conference -- sounds like someone has been covering high school track for a few months.

Eventually, someone asked Thompson about the lack of information he offered. He said that he could be like "Opposite George from Seinfeld," but he will not give away secrets, and he will not lie. "I tell my scouts to listen and not talk," he said. No word yet on whether the Redskins are pursuing Opposite Ted for a front office position.

With his windswept hair, grey blazer, and white dress shirt rakishly unbuttoned to the second level, Jeff Fisher looked more like a soap opera villain than a head coach. Fisher said that the Rams have no plans to trade Sam Bradford, which of course could be a smokescreen (opposite Jeff), or it could be because Bradford is an excellent young passer and the second pick in April’s draft is far more valuable as a trade commodity than as a chance to restart the development cycle at quarterback. Fisher did talk about the Rams’ upcoming game in London. "If you are going to play the Patriots, it’s best not to play them in North America," he said.

Thomas "The Dandy Highwayman" Dimitroff took the podium in a beige checkered blazer, navy sweater with black collar, and hair somewhere between Building the Perfect Beast-era Don Henley and a molting cockatiel. Sorry if you hate these fashion updates, but I can only hear the phrase "ongoing process" so many times before going slightly mad. Dimitroff spoke about his willingness to trade draft choices, calling them "trade fodder." "In this day and age you can’t sit on your hands," he said, later speaking of "the precariousness of how the draft is going to land." The Falcons do not select until pick 55 this year, so the precariousness-to-fodder ratio after last year’s Julio Jones trade is rather high. Dimitroff said that he will never regret the Jones trade, and he called Matt Ryan a top-10 quarterback. "I like where Matt is," he said.

Man Crush Alert

Let’s start the player section with Robert Griffin III. As far as public presence goes, the young man is amazing. Poised, polished, bright ... I have tape of his conference, but I don’t feel worthy to transcribe it. In addition to being honest and quick-witted, Griffin demonstrated a knowledge of the NFL that is rare among prospects. When asked about West Coast offenses, he immediately talked about the Browns and Redskins systems and their "verbiage." When pressed about adjusting from a shotgun offense to working under center, he pointed out how often Tom Brady and Eli Manning were in shotgun in the Super Bowl. He compared his game not only to Randall Cunningham and Steve Young, but Ken Stabler. He cracked jokes about how professors made fun of him and other football players when he was a freshman at Baylor, then "all they wanted to talk about was the game" as he (and the program) improved. He actually expressed an opinion about Peyton Manning, saying that he hopes to see the quarterback stay in Indianapolis. And if the Colts kept Manning and drafted him over Andrew Luck, he would learn from Manning and "hold that clipboard with pride."

I can only imagine what is going on in interview rooms with this young man. Keep in mind that he does not come across as arrogant or cocky, just articulate, clever, and self-assured. Griffin said that the Eagles met with him, and I get the impression Andy Reid might have just wanted someone interesting to talk to. Rumor has it that the Browns are in love with Griffin. I might be in love with Griffin. Jeff Fisher sounds sold on Bradford, and I think Bradford is great, but 15 minutes in a room with Griffin and Fisher might forget Bradford’s name.

Okay, this is getting creepy. Let’s just leave it at this: the off-field skills match the on-field skills.

Other non-Griffins

Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor) took Podium C before Griffin and talked a lot about Griffin. He told us all about Griffin’s socks: Superman socks, Hello Kitty socks. Griffin later revealed that he was wearing Ninja Turtle socks today. He showed the socks to the camera. It was so much fun...

Wait, I was talking about Wright. He has a wide smile and is short. He is 5-foot-10, but looked very thick, and he compared his game to DeSean Jackson and Steve Smith, which are accurate-enough early comps. He said that he is working on his route-running and wants to prove to doubters that he can run crisp routes. Wright has a first-round grade in most places. I have not seriously scouted him yet, and I am probably not in the right frame of mind to load up Baylor tape right now.

Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame) is a player I have scouted and I like a lot, a big guy who sets up his deep routes well with head fakes and such. Floyd had several alcohol-related incidents early in his career, and reporters grilled him about them, just as coaches no doubt are doing in interviews. Floyd said that he attended on-campus alcohol classes and got a lot of support from coach Brian Kelly. He said the usual things about being honest, maturing, putting it behind him, and changing his habits and "environment." Who knows what to make of any of this? If you have ever attended a college alcohol class, you know they are not very helpful.

Floyd compared himself to Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, and Andre Johnson. There is no reason to aim low when asked the "compare yourself" question.

Kellen Moore took Podium B and ... I didn’t go. In fact, I am writing this while he is speaking. His Under Armour does not fit. It hangs on him like a Snuggie. I saw lots and lots of Moore in Mobile. He has a bad arm. His accuracy is so-so. His thighs are really just ankles that keep going. I loved him at Boise State, and it would be great to pump out Drew Brees comparisons, but there is nothing NFL about this fine young man.

Robert Quick (WR, Appalachian State) took Podium C while Moore was on Podium B. Scott Pioli was at Podium A. A full house! In Mobile, Quick was asked about the North quarterbacks, and he went on at length about his respect for Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson: his temperament, leadership, and so on. A reporter from Boise (not Andy Benoit; there are apparently two) asked Quick an extremely leading question to get him to provide a positive soundbyte about Moore. Quick, who is not media savvy, smiled, chuckled uncomfortably, and said something else about Russell Wilson.

Later, Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M) opposed Wilson (QB, Wisconsin) and Pete Carroll on the three podiums, while Doug Martin (RB, Boise State) gave interviews at one of the tables. It was officially impossible to keep up. Tannehill said that his injured foot would be ready for his Pro Day. Carroll said that the Seahawks would draft a quarterback "if it fits and the timing is right." It was refreshing to hear a coach suggest, even in the most general way, that his team has a need and that there is some specific plan to meet it.

Alshon Jeffrey (WR, South Carolina) is a prospect I really liked in 2010, but he had weight issues last year. He was playing at around 230 pounds, provoking Mike Williams comparisons that I think were a little overblown. Jeffrey is now at 216 pounds, and he looked lean at the podium. He has not been this svelte since high school, and he says he owes it all to "drinking a lot of water." Jeffrey said that his favorite food is lasagna, making him the Garfield of this wide receiver class.

Luck Time

Andrew Luck arrived on the tail end of the RG3 afterglow and cut a fine figure himself. Luck was patient and as open as possible while fielding Manning questions -– "these questions have to be asked," he said -– and reiterated Griffin’s remarks about being willing to learn behind a Hall of Famer. "If that opportunity arises, you have to take advantage of it," he said. Luck cracked a few jokes of his own; when asked if he knew about Jim Harbaugh’s legacy in Indy, he said "I am familiar with Captain Comeback."

Luck said that he is working on quickening his release, noting that "those milliseconds count." He is also working on making his drops as smooth as possible. Not all quarterbacks are this poised; it is important to remember that last year Cam Newton came across as scripted and defensive, while Ryan Mallett was downright off-putting. Impressing reporters is not important, though media relations are part of a quarterback’s job, but clear speech is often (not always) a sign of clear thought.

So if Tebow Fatigue is giving way to Luck Love and Griffin Groping, at least we have two interesting, amusing, and eminently worthy prospects to obsess about for the next two months. Luck and Griffin are great athletes with their acts together and an awareness of how this process works. Draft hype gets stupid as the weeks pass. Luck and Griffin will make it a little smarter.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 24 Feb 2012

24 comments, Last at 27 Feb 2012, 2:26pm by Karl Cuba


by BaronFoobarstein :: Fri, 02/24/2012 - 6:39pm

Someone should follow up with Ted Thompson about the expansion team he apparently thinks is entering the league.

by Marko :: Fri, 02/24/2012 - 10:32pm

I've seen it reported in several other places that he referred to the 31 other teams, not the 32 other teams, so it may be that Tanier just got the quote wrong.

by Mike Tanier :: Sat, 02/25/2012 - 9:31am

Yeah, I botched the quote. I Tweeted it properly, then got mixed up while writing 3 articles at once.

by fyo :: Fri, 02/24/2012 - 6:55pm

Mike, Elway didn't use the royal "we". He used "we" to refer either to the team or to his quarterback, neither of which would qualify. The royal "we" is when "we" is used to refer to one self... and I'm assuming Elway wasn't saying that HE himself needed to get better at passing.

by tuluse :: Fri, 02/24/2012 - 7:07pm

Well I don't see him suiting up these days, maybe he could use some improvement.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 02/27/2012 - 6:16am

I'm betting he's still more accurate than Tebow . . .

by battlered90 (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2012 - 7:23pm

Kellen Moore seems like he could have a pro career to me. I haven't watched a ton of his games but I did see him in the Boise State Va Tech game a few years back. National night game in DC so essentially a home game for VT. Moore calmly led his team down the field in the two minute drill to score the winning touchdown. Evoked early Tom Brady with Patriots with mastery of two minute drill. He has the record for career wins in NCAA. True this is at Boise State but still... He also had nearly a 70% completion percentage. And we know this guy will not be a good pro quarterback? I would definitely take a swing at him in the 3rd round or later if he is still available.

by Displaced Bolthead (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2012 - 2:12pm

Kellen Moore needs to get stronger. His intangibles (judgement, leadership, toughness) won't matter if he can't physically perform at the position. A draft analyst said if a QB can't throw a deep out to the opposite side of the field, then he can't make all the throws at the NFL level. Haven't really seen Moore throw outside the numbers to the opposite end of the field, but didn't watch many Boise games this year.

There are Drew Brees comparisons to be made, but Brees is an anomaly. I think a better comparison would be Jimmy Clausen or Colt McCoy (though McCoy is more athletic): smart QBs, but physically limited.

by Harris :: Fri, 02/24/2012 - 10:31pm

It's a shame there's no QB whose name starts with "F" this year or Tanier could have dropped something like "Freeman Frottage."

by BaronFoobarstein :: Sat, 02/25/2012 - 4:04am

Foles Frottage? Is that anything like Griffin Groping?

by Karl Cuba :: Sat, 02/25/2012 - 2:48pm

After PFT tricked me into googling 'Cleveland Steamer' yesterday, which also referenced 'Boston Pancake', now I've got frottage on my search history. All of which are things I wish I didn't know. Who makes this stuff up? One thing is for sure, I'm never moving to Cleveland or Boston.

by Dave0 :: Sat, 02/25/2012 - 7:15pm

oh Karl, the internet has *so much left* to surprise you with.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 02/27/2012 - 12:32pm

From now on, he's "Hot" Karl Cuba.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 02/27/2012 - 2:26pm

I always was.

by nath :: Sun, 02/26/2012 - 10:36pm

"Tannehill Tugging"?

by Michael LaRocca (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2012 - 6:59am

I've certainly enjoyed watching the Tebow phenomenon, and mocking it. But for John Fox, after coaching Jake Delhomme, Tim Tebow is a definite upgrade.

by Dales :: Sat, 02/25/2012 - 10:18am

In my dynasty league, I have the #1 overall pick this year due to getting fortunate in the lottery.

I am absolutely certain that, if only one of RGIII and Luck is going to be a star, I will choose the wrong one.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 02/27/2012 - 6:25am

Is it clear that you want one of them, rather than Trent Richardson? Obviously I don't know your league's rules, but in mine (two round draft for rookies, $200 auction for veterans, unlimited keepers at last year's price +10% rounding up +$1 for each player on the teams which contested the previous season's championship game, various slightly unusual bits of passing scoring) I would view that as a difficult 3-way call, not 2. And I fully expect all of them to succeed, to be honest.

by Alex (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2012 - 1:16pm

It's BRIAN Quick, not Robert

by Dean :: Sat, 02/25/2012 - 3:19pm

I always thought it was Mike.

by Harris :: Sat, 02/25/2012 - 8:03pm

I always preferred Jesse.

by Mike Tanier :: Sun, 02/26/2012 - 2:42pm

We will never give away the equation that imparts super speed ... just by speaking it.

by MC2 :: Sun, 02/26/2012 - 4:14pm

Am I the only one who likes Strawberry?

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 02/27/2012 - 8:58am

Ah, the delightful concoction that makes milk taste like sugar, but look like Pepto Bismol!