The Schein Nine  

 

Jadeveon Clowney, Sammy Watkins dazzle as myths, truths swirl

Ah, the NFL Scouting Combine, where rumors and hyperbole sizzle more than the steaks from legendary Indianapolis institution St. Elmo's.

It's not easy to do as smokescreen season gets underway, but let's try to separate the truth from the hype with regard to some of the "major" developments to come out of Indy, Schein Nine style.

1) Jadeveon Clowney is the best player in the draft.

Verdict: Truth

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Jaws hit the ground nationwide on Monday as Clowney ran a majestic 4.53-second 40-yard dash. Coaches in attendance had to be wowed; viewers on NFL Network had to be amazed.

Some have knocked Clowney's performance in his final season at South Carolina, specifically with regard to his motor. But let's not act like he didn't dominate at the collegiate level. Let's not ignore how he practically oozes an ability to get to the quarterback.

"If he practiced harder and didn't have so many inconsistencies, he would be the best prospect to come out in years," one general manager explained to me. "But you cannot ignore what he should become."

Yes, there's risk; there's no question about that. But Clowney is the single best and most disruptive player in the draft. Or, as one general manager told me via text Monday night: "He's a freak."

Clowney told Jim Rome on Showtime earlier this month that he would've stayed in college another year if he were getting paid. He likely wanted to protect his body last season to make sure he was healthy for the NFL. Criticize him for that if you wish. But if I'm a GM, I'm thinking Clowney will be motivated by a chance to earn a big second contract. You can't pass on a talent like this.

2) Khalil Mack will be drafted ahead of Clowney.

Verdict: Myth

NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock said last week on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports," that he would pick Mack over Clowney, given Mack's skills and the questions about Clowney. Mack, who has star linebacker written all over him after a sensational, playmaking career at Buffalo, ran a 4.65 40. And I think he'll be a leader at the next level.

That said, one general manager suggested that it would be a "stretch" to expect Mack to go ahead of someone with Clowney's upside.

3) Sammy Watkins is the best offensive player in the draft.

Verdict: Truth

I think Watkins, who backed up his braggadocio about dominating in Indy with an official 40 time of 4.43, is special. The Clemson product has the hands, size, speed, physicality and attitude to be an instant-impact player. I've said before that I could see Watkins going as high in May's draft as No. 2 overall to the St. Louis Rams, who need a true No. 1 receiver, and I stand by that take.

4) It's a big deal that Teddy Bridgewater didn't throw or run.

Verdict: Myth

I know combine junkies don't want to hear this, but not throwing really doesn't affect top-flight quarterback prospects. Bridgewater will throw at his pro day, and his body of work is on film. If the Louisville star were the only quarterback to skip throwing in the history of the combine, that would be a big deal. In reality, this is totally irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

5) Bridgewater will be the first quarterback picked.

Verdict: Myth

Nothing is ever certain, especially with the Houston Texans drafting first overall and needing a quarterback -- but keeping their plans close to the vest. And Houston could, of course, trade down. The Rams, who pick second, continue to reiterate that Sam Bradford is their franchise QB. Do the Jacksonville Jaguars want a quarterback at No. 3? I don't think so. The first team to grab a signal-caller could be the Cleveland Browns at No. 4, and I think their pick will be Johnny Manziel.

Johnny Football had a good week in Indy, all things considered. He was measured at 5-foot-11 3/4, with huge 9 7/8-inch hands. That's a good thing. He's basically six feet tall, and his big hands make him less likely to commit turnovers. He also did a good job with the press. Ultimately, the Texas A&M product will be the first quarterback off the board -- and he's a great fit for Cleveland.

6) There's a top-tier QB in this draft.

Verdict: Myth

In a recent column breaking down the various categories of NFL quarterback, I explained just how rare truly elite signal-callers are. I don't think there's a quarterback in the newest bunch -- not Bridgewater, not Johnny Football, not Central Florida's Blake Bortles -- who will ever be considered elite. They should all start, and they could all win, but I don't think there's a slam dunk in the mix -- and many of the team executives I've talked to about this QB class agree.

7) The receiver crop is strong.

Verdict: Truth

Not surprisingly, Mike Evans dominated, and the Vincent Jackson comparisons came fast and furious. This Texas A&M product is going to be a great one. I don't think he'll last past the middle of the first round. He's just too good. And It was a good combine for USC's Marqise Lee, too, highlighted by a 10-7 broad jump, among the best in his position group.

Picking a receiver in the first round is often a risky proposition, but that won't be the case this year, not with Watkins and the other cats who'll be available.

8) Michael Sam's performance decimated his draftability.

Verdict: Myth

Yes, Sam's 40 (4.91) was slow. But remember the film comparisons to Trent Cole. Remember how Sam played on Saturday afternoons. Remember the brilliant news conference he gave over the weekend, in which he discussed being the first openly gay player to go through the draft process.

Jason Collins helped paved the way for Sam when he took the court for the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday as the NBA's first openly gay player. Sam proved himself as a good player at Missouri, where he was a well-respected leader and teammate. That counts when considering a late-round pick. Sam will get drafted -- as he should.

9) Aaron Donald made a lot of money.

Verdict: Truth

The Pittsburgh defensive tackle turned heads with his 4.68 40. Coming off a dominant season and a dominant week at the Senior Bowl, Donald proved his explosiveness with a cherry-on-top combine performance. He doesn't have the classic size to play in the middle of an NFL defense, but he has burst and he can make plays. Simply put, he's going to be an impactful pro.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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