The draft is just three weeks away, which means draft boards are being finalized. Individual team visits and pro days are nearing their conclusions, and agents are actively pushing the stock of their clients (note to one particular agent: stop spamming me with press releases!).
I conducted another interview with a current NFL scout, but we got sort of waylaid by interlopers and other responsibilities. This is shorter than I wanted but still provides some valuable insight.
Jeff Risdon: After his strong pro day, itís a given that Sam Bradford will be taken #1 overall. Iím not sold at all on Bradford and I wonder what your opinion of him going #1 overall might be?
Scout: Weíre damn glad it isnít us picking there. Look, Sam Bradford might wind up being a hell of a quarterback, but I wouldnít touch him at #1. The last two times he got hit, his shoulder got hurt. He doesnít do us any good if he canít stay on the field. Thatís why they need a QB in the first place, because Marc Bulger couldnít take the hits anymore.
JR: How much stock does your team place in health concerns?
Scout: Itís a big deal. ...we look at how the injuries happened. If a kid gets caught in a horse collar and breaks his ankle, thatís one thing. But to go back to Bradford, he got hurt on hits that most guys just shake off. Big Ben (Roethlisberger) gets hit like that 20 times a week. So thatís a real big deal with him.
JR: Keeping on that injury theme, Jahvid Best suffered a nasty concussion last year. Are concussions viewed differently than a shoulder or a knee?
Scout: You know what, we spend so much to make sure these kids with the concussions are clear now. I donít know for sure but I bet we check out (head injuries) harder than we do anything else these days. We had a doctor come in and give us a little presentation about concussions and how they can come back, stuff like that. We are more comfortable than we used to be there. Best has passed every test so weíre not that worried about him.
JR: Aside from Tim Tebow, the player I get asked more about than any other is Jimmy Clausen. I know youíve scouted him extensively.
Scout: Yeah I have. Iíve seen every snap he took and a lot of them more than a few times. The thing about him is that kid just loves football and itís his whole life. All these people talk about him being this or being that, and they sure as hell havenít ever spent time with him. Because that kid is all about making himself the best NFL quarterback, and heís got the physical ability to do it.
JR: But will he be successful?
Scout: I really think so. Look, heís got some warts. That kid was a world class prick when he got there, but he figured it out and grew up. You could really see it over the last year. They ran an NFL offense and (Clausen) made reads and drops that none of the other guys have even thought about. He just anticipates routes so well. Now would I like to see him gun it a little harder sometimes, yeah, sure. But for my money this kid is the surest bet in this draft (at QB).
JR: Weíve talked about this before, but Iím not nearly as high on the offensive tackle crop this year as most people. How do you feel about it?
Scout: You know, I think some of the kids that people arenít looking at as high are gonna be real good. That kid from Indiana (Rodger Saffold), that kid can flat out play. If he came from Oklahoma or Florida heíd be a top 10 pick, no question in my mind. I like (Charles) Brown out of USC more the more I see him. A lot of Brick (DíBrickashaw Ferguson) in that kid but he might be a little tougher. ...I know you really like Kyle Calloway. On the right side heíll be fine but he ainít no zone guy. Even that kid from Abilene (Christian, Tony Washington), he has everything you can want. Love his feet. Heís got some issues but for my money heís better than that Bruce Campbell kid.
JR: What about the guys at the top that I find overrated? Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams, even Russell Okung to some extent.
Scout: Well Jeff, I think youíre wrong about Okung there. Heís a top-five pick and he belongs there. That kid is mentally tough and I think thatís a factor that not enough people consider for tackles. You have to be mentally tough to accept getting beat, because everyone gets beat. That was what was wrong with Tony Ugoh. He couldnít get past his own mistakes. Look at Jacksonville last year. The Monroe kid (Eugene Monroe) they took first has the same problem and we knew it. The other guy they took later (Eben Britton) is a better player and will be a real good one for a long time because he understands how to handle getting beat. Okung is like that, and he ainít gonna get beat too much either.
...I do think people overrate Williams but that doesnít mean I think the kid canít play. We can start him next year on the right (right tackle) and not worry. Heís a kid youíre going to have to keep pushing though, if thatís what you mean. And Iíll tell you this about Bulaga--heís got that mental toughness too. That kid competes. I think he might be a right-sider in the long run but heíll be fine. I think heís like Chris Samuels, one of those guys that isnít in the Pro Bowl every year but you never have to worry about him either. You can win a lot with guys like that.
JR: Getting back to the mental toughness concept. What you said there reminds me of down in Mobile (Senior Bowl week) where we stood with (the GM of his team) and watched Vlad Ducasse beg the coaches to move back inside after a couple of bad plays at tackle. Is that more of what youíre talking about?
Scout: You got it. I know we said right then there ainít no way heís ever gonna make it. Heís afraid of getting beat and looking bad. Thatís the risk you run with the smaller college guys and the kids that everyone calls ďprojectsĒ (yes, he made the air quotes!). There is a hell of a lot of pressure on those kids to try and hit home runs on every pitch and never look bad. Especially early on. Some of the kids can handle it, some canít. He canít, and that ainít gonna change. Move him to guard, whatever...thatís (how they handle it) hard to see from those kids that come from small schools or kids like him that havenít played very long.
JR: Same thing with Jason Pierre Paul, right?
Scout: I donít know him very well. Then again I donít know how anyone could with how little he played. That kid has what, six starts in college? Iíd hate to be the guy responsible for drafting him in the first round, but Iíll bet you someone does. Wonít be us, I can tell you that much.
JR: Tell me why Jermaine Gresham is viewed so highly. I see a player that missed a season to a bad knee injury, runs slower than half the tackles in this draft, and canít block a lick.
Scout: You know what, weíve had that exact conversation a couple of times in working out our (draft) board. There are people in our front office who feel the same way you do, and we will not pick him above the 3rd round because of that. But that kid does have his defenders. I think you understate his speed. Heís not fast but he plays faster than he runs. I love how he uses his body to create a target, and if you throw the ball near him heís gonna catch it. Iíll give you this though--he ainít no blocker, thatís for sure. When you see a kid his size you think he should be able to line up tight and maul, but he canít do that at all.
JR: Give me a couple of players that most people like me believe are first round picks that you think will slide.
Scout: Brian Price, the fat kid from UCLA. Iíll tell you what, Terrence Cody is in a lot better shape than that kid and heís (Cody) comfortable with his size. Price will flash you the ability to get into the backfield, but watch him against good teams and he didnít do sh**. I know a lot of people that think heís going to be a big bust. Enough people that I think heíll get humbled a little come draft day.
JR: What about Taylor Mays?
Scout: You want to talk about physical freaks, thatís your guy right there. Thereís too much to like for him to fall, right or wrong. It wonít be us but someone will get him in the first (round).
JR: Iíll give you a few names and you tell me where you think they will be drafted...
JR: Jimmy Clausen?
Scout: Top 10, no doubt in my mind
JR: Tim Tebow?
Scout: (laughs) no later than #33 (overall)
JR: Colt McCoy?
Scout: I bet someone goes up and gets him in the 20s (overall). Could be us, you never know (laughs with a very wry smile)
JR: Corey Wootton?
Scout: First few picks of the second round
JR: Jason Worilds?
Scout: Middle of the 2nd, maybe higher
JR: Myron Rolle?
Scout: Good question. 4th round probably
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