ESPN.com

Winners and losers from the combine
 
 
March 05, 2001
 
By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS - Scouts leaguewide have developed a mantra in recent seasons, a chant they intone to all draft prospects, strongly suggesting to the collegians that the annual combine sessions here are not the be-all or end-all in talent evaluations.

To a large extent, that's true, since football remains a game of blocking and tackling and not running around in shorts and T-shirts. Still, the combine is a significant component of the whole scouting process and can't be overlooked. And while it's difficult to quantify just how essential the combine results are, there are some players who dramatically enhance their stock here, as well as those who create doubts.

Here's a look at some of the winners and losers from the weekend here, gleaned from discussions with a number of personnel directors and scouts:

Winners

DE Ryan Denney (Brigham Young): The lanky Denney has added some bulk and he officially checked in at 6-feet-7 and 276 pounds. Scouts were impressed when he did 36 "repetitions" of the standard 225-pound weight in the bench press. What made that total even more notable is that Denney has extremely long arms, a positive for rushing the quarterback but a marked liability in the bench press drill. Denney ran consistent 40-yard times, 4.83 and 4.84, and show pretty good explosiveness and very nice agility. He's been a productive two-way player his entire career, surprising solid against the run for a guy with such a thin frame, and with some pass-rush skills. He has good instincts and is able to keep blockers off his long legs. He can probably get up to about 290 pounds in the next year. One team suggested that, with the dearth of "edge" players in this draft, Denney can still get into the bottom of the first round with good on-campus workouts.

QB Patrick Ramsey (Tulane): Like several other quarterbacks, he came here to establish himself as the No. 3 prospect at the critical position after Fresno State's David Carr and Joey Harrington of Oregon. He certainly delivered more than the others and, while it's still relatively early in the evaluation process, he seems to have grabbed the third spot and could be a second-round choice now. Next to Harrington, he threw the ball better than anyone else in Sunday's workout, and his performance had the scouts buzzing. Certainly he built on his strong showing at the Senior Bowl game. Ramsey is a bright and outgoing youngster, has graduated cum laude with a 3.5 grade point average in accounting and finance, and has the same kind of presence as both Harrington and Carr. He played in a run-and-shoot offense at Tulane, working principally from the shotgun, and so he needs some work on footwork mechanics. But he is a hard worker and has dropped 19 pounds in the past month and really concentrated on his conditioning.

WRs Tim Carter (Auburn), Andre Davis (Virginia Tech), Javon Walker (Florida State) and Cliff Russell (Utah): We're entering this quartet as our sprint relay team because all of them had terrific times Saturday on the notoriously slow RCA Dome track. More than that, however, each of them caught the ball well. Carter was clocked at 4.33 and 4.34 and had just two drops. People new Davis, who averaged 16.0 yards per catch in 2001, would run fast but didn't expect him to be as polished a receiver. He had four punt returns for touchdown the past two years and that will add to his value. He ran 4.42 and 4.37. Walker had a nice workout and ran 4.39 twice. He's long and lean, agile, and averaged 21 yards per catch last season. Russell was clocked at 4.36 and 4.42 and has always been a terrific run-after-catch player. His route-running is still not disciplined but his elusiveness and rare burst are notable.

C LeCharles Bentley (Ohio State): Center never seems to be a priority position, but Bentley really helped himself in Indianapolis, and didn't need a lot of flashiness to do so. He didn't do anything exceptionally well but was above average in every drill. Bentley (6-2 3/8, 299 pounds) showed good strength and quickness and ran the 40-yard dash in 5.18 and 5.19. He has good feet, seems to use his hands well and had pretty good pop. He made a good enough impression to be a first-day pick now.

DE Derrius Monroe (Virginia Tech): Explosive outside defender who might only be regarded as a situational defender, but whose quickness is hard to ignore. Covered 40 yards in 4.51 and 4.58 seconds, faster than some of the running back prospects did, at 6-feet-3 and 269 pounds. Still needs to gain some functional strength, and a bit more weight in general to help him hold up at the point of attack, but looks like a solid player.

OLB Napoleon Harris (Northwestern): OK, so the Wildcats star didn't so much help himself as he did solidify his status as the top linebacker prospect this year. The '02 draft is considered a very thin one at the linebacker position but Harris is flat-out phat after Monday's workout. A onetime basketball player at Northwestern, he showed very nice movement skills, and some of that can be attributed to his hoops background. Harris is fluid in his backpedal, seems to be a defender who will play well in space, and has good size (6-feet-2 7/8, 253 pounds). Harris is a versatile player, who has lined up at weakside and strongside linebackers and at defensive end, too, in 2001 because of injuries. He ran in the mid-4.5s and showed good awareness.

DE Will Overstreet (Tennessee): A consummate overachiever, a defender who certainly isn't the most physically gifted player, but who possesses a huge motor and loves to play the game. He may always be kind of an in-between guy, at 6-feet-2 7/8 and 259 pounds, but can probably play a couple different positions. He ran a pair of 4.66 times in the 40 and showed good movement in most of the drills. He solidified his status as a first-day selection.

Losers

OT Mike Williams (Texas): The mammoth Longhorns right tackle weighed in at 378 pounds, which raised a few eyebrows, but still had good body definition. His weekend got a lot worse, though, when the doctors from at least two franchises expressed concerns about "looseness" in his right knee and requested an MRI exam of the joint. Williams vehemently denied the rumors he has at least a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament. He did hyperextend the knee early in the 2001 season and played the rest of the campaign with a brace on it. It's still uncertain if there is damage to the knee, or how much, and Williams needs to expeditiously resolve the issue. He's still a top 10 pick for now, but there may be no worse predicament than to leave the combine with medical question marks hanging over you, especially when some team is getting ready to make a pricey investment for a player.

WR Antonio Bryant (Pittsburgh): About six weeks ago, some pundits were tabbing the 2000 Biletnikoff Award winner as a potential top five selection, but even then he was vastly overrated. When some of the other underclass wide receivers, particularly Donte Stallworth of Tennessee and Hawaii's Ashley Lelie, committed for the draft his stock began to drop. Now Bryant might need a parachute to break his fall. He ran two very pedestrian 40 times here, at 4.64 and 4.59, did not catch the ball particularly well, and looked stiff at times. His standoffish attitude didn't quite endear him to scouts either.

SS Michael Lewis (Colorado): At 6-1 1/8 and 211 pounds, with a body seemingly chiseled out of granite, the former Buffaloes standout sure passes the eyeball test. But he plays stiff and, from his 40 times, runs stiff as well. Lewis ran just 4.68 and 4.72, didn't explode in any of the drills and didn't catch the ball well. He looks like a 'tweener, maybe not quite quick enough for safety and not big enough to play linebacker. The guy had 222 tackles the past two years, played close to the line, and made some big plays. He's got too big a motor to write off, plays with way too much passion to overlook, but he probably dropped a round over the weekend.

DT Alan Harper (Fresno State): The defensive tackle spot is loaded again for the second year in a row but, with a good workout, Harper had a chance to nudge himself into the top five or six. He can probably forget it now. Harper was sluggish in the workouts and in the 40-yard spring as well, running times of 5.22 and 5.31. His footwork in drills was just average and he was shorter (6-feet-1 7/8) than scouts thought he would be.

QB Kurt Kittner (Illinois): On Sunday afternoon, when most of the quarterback prospects had very good workouts, the Illini star struggled. Although he is well-schooled, having played for head coach Ron Turner, a gifted offensive mind, Kittner lacks the arm strength of most of the other well-regarded quarterbacks in this draft and isn't especially athletic. Kittner does have nice touch and solid decision making ability. But in the chase for the No. 3 quarterback spot, behind Carr and Harrington, he lost some ground. Some scouts, like those from Cincinnati, arrived here whispering that Kittner could be a second-round choice. Now he might be a second-day pick.

RB Joe Burns and WR Kelly Campbell (both Georgia Tech): Let's call it the Yellow Jackets daily double, and you can just rip up the losing ticket. Because of academic difficulties, Burns really had no choice but to enter the draft as an underclassman. But he is small to begin with (5-feet-8 7/8 and 211 pounds) scouts nearly broke out the sun dials to clock him at ponderously slow times of 4.72 and 4.82. The good news for Burns, a former 1,000-yard rusher at Tech, is that Atlanta has a new Arena League franchise. Campbell ran a 4.52 time in the 40, announced he could not run a second time because of a muscle pull, then participated in the receiving drills, where he did not distinguish himself. Campbell is dangerously thin and could use about 10 additional pounds.

CB Keyuo Craver (Nebraska): Given the recent track record of cornerbacks from Nebraska, he had plenty to overcome, but ran poorly and looked upright in his backpedal. Craver was timed at 4.59 and 4.58, hardly burner's speed, and was generally subpar in most drills. There's a battle raging for the No. 3 corner spot after Quentin Jammer of Texas and Miami's Phillip Buchanan, and most scouts felt Craver was the guy. He still has time to recover from the combine, but he just wasn't as fluid as everyone believed him to be, and he has some work to do in the next few weeks to erase the impression created here.


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