This is my first time covering the NFL Scouting Combine, so I'll use this blog to share my experiences. Here's a recap of my time in Indianapolis from Saturday through Sunday:
- Like Friday, Saturday was another 12-hour workday full of media access at Lucas Oil Stadium. The parade of top defensive line prospects -- Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers, Alabama's Marcell Dareus, North Carolina's Robert Quinn and Wisconsin's J.J. Watt visited the media center -- highlighted the festivities as far as covering the Browns beat was concerned. Of course, national media were occupied with the interview of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. In the afternoon, Browns General Manager Tom Heckert stopped by to offer his analysis on several elite defensive linemen whom the Browns might consider selecting with the sixth overall pick in this year's draft. Browns coach Pat Shurmur also held a news conference (I had to transcribe it for the database mentioned in a previous post), but he declined to reveal his evaluations of the aforementioned players. He did, however, answer a question many readers and fans have been asking lately: What exactly is the West Coast offense? Anyway, back to the defensive linemen. Here's a brief breakdown of the impressions I got from each of them: Bowers was the best speaker and most charismatic; Dareus displayed the most swagger; Quinn showed genuine remorse for illegal benefits from agents and sitting out last season with a suspension; Watt was all business. And all of them looked the part of top-notch players. If I had to guess now whom the Browns will select at No. 6 on April 28, it would be Quinn. In my mind, Heckert offered some hints, which point in that direction. When asked if character counts while drafting players, Heckert inserted Quinn into the conversation and later said the latter's one-year suspension was not a big deal. "I'm assuming you're referring to the North Carolina guys," Heckert said. "There's different levels in all of those guys that are there and you just have to sit with them and meet with them and talk to the coaches and as many people as you can and find out if it was a legit deal. Was it a mistake? I don't think anybody's ready to crucify a guy for making a mistake." Heckert also said the Browns' need at defensive end is much stronger than their need at linebacker as they switch to a 4-3 defense. Plus, he said "everybody's looking for pass rushers," adding a 6-foot-5 end would be ideal to fill that role. Of course, my interpretation of Heckert's comments doesn't guarantee anything. The Browns could easily go in another direction. But if I had to make an early bet, my money would be on Quinn because of what Heckert said, the Browns' lack of defensive ends on their roster and the fact that I think he'll be available at No. 6. By the time I filed my stories Saturday night, it was about 9:30 p.m. In case you didn't know, it's not easy to stay healthy in my line of work, and late-night dinners are certainly one of the culprits. I ate at a downtown restaurant with a few other writers at about 10 p.m. On our way back to the hotel, we saw former Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips, who's now the defensive coordinator of the Houston Texans, former Browns linebackers coach Matt Eberflus and former Browns executive Trip McCracken.
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton topped New York Jets coach Rex Ryan by drawing the largest crowd of reporters to his news conference, which resembled a concert from my point of view, this past weekend at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Media reviews of his interview were mixed. Some writers called him charming while others said he was a phony. Either way, almost everyone stopped by to listen.
- Media access to the combine ended Sunday, except for the likes of NFL Network and ESPN. At about 2:30 p.m., I had to catch a ride home with another local writer while Beacon Journal sports columnist Marla Ridenour stuck around to interview LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson. Before I left, I caught a few news conferences, including that of Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley. He answered his critics when questioned about being a dirty player and taking plays off, thus giving me a subject for my next combine-related story. I also caught the news conference of University of Miami cornerback Brandon Harris, who was extremely impressive during his exchange with reporters. He is the son of a noted high school football coach, and it shows. His answers were insightful and sharp. I also hear he's expected to become a pretty good pick late in the first round or early in the second round. Not long after Harris' time at the podium, I had to flee for Ohio. And after another five-hour car ride, I made it home in time to watch the Oscars, which proved to be way more predictable than a typical NFL Draft.
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