Combine realities: Titans have options; Leonard Williams entices

Print

The NFL Scouting Combine is over, but the stories, gossip and hyperbole have just begun to really flow. The hot takes are flying; you need oven mitts to handle it all.

Below, I sift through some of the storylines spinning out of Indy, Schein Nine style -- and lay out the corresponding realities in bold.

1) The Titans don't have to pick a QB at No. 2

Quick quiz: Name five members of the Tennessee Titans.

I thought so.

The Titans have morphed into the most nondescript, innocuous team in the NFL. They need juice. They need players. And the reality is, they cannot rule anyone -- or anything -- out when it comes to what they do with the No. 2 overall selection.

What are their needs? Is "everything" an acceptable answer?

If the highest-rated player on their board is defensive lineman Leonard Williams, they should pick him. If it's receiver Amari Cooper, they should grab him.

Of course, if Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota are on top of Tennessee's board, then the Titans need to go in that direction. If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers inevitably make the wrong call (I wrote about what I would do if I were them earlier this month) and select Winston first overall, I would pick Mariota without hesitation.

I like Zach Mettenberger. I argued he should've been a third-round pick last year. I wasn't surprised to see him prove to be the third-best rookie quarterback (behind Derek Carr and Teddy Bridgewater) on the field. I think he can play in the NFL. Phil Simms was similarly taken with Mettenberger, telling me on my SiriusXM Radio show "Schein on Sports" on Tuesday that "the number of big-time throws he made in his playing stint was really impressive."

But having Mettenberger, who was selected late on Day 3, on the roster doesn't prevent you from drafting a potential franchise quarterback. The idea that it would is simply crazy.

The bottom line is, Tennessee needs to draft the best player available. This franchise must start winning.

2) Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota were combine "winners"

Well, this is reality. Many quarterbacks historically haven't participated in workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine, wanting the controlled, scripted environment of a pro day to serve as the sole addendum to their college game tape.

This year, though, the top quarterbacks actually competed and did everything. What a concept! And Winston and Mariota both performed well. While I still have major questions about Winston's maturity, he deserves credit for what transpired Saturday in Indy.

3) Kevin White is the best receiver in the draft

Twitter was set ablaze as White lit up Lucas Oil Stadium with his lightning-quick time in the 40-yard dash (4.35 seconds, tied for the fourth-best among all participants). It was dazzling. And I love White as a potential impact star out of the first round.

But let's pump the breaks. Amari Cooper is the best receiver in the draft. He's everything. Cooper was the best receiver in college football, and he has the physique and hands to dominate. Oakland shouldn't wait a second if the Raiders get an opportunity to draft the can't-miss stud from Alabama.

4) The ultra-deep RB class will re-establish the position's profile

Yes, today's NFL is a passing league. But if you ignore the running back position, you're making a big mistake. Consider that the Pittsburgh Steelers have a star quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, but they had no chance to advance in the postseason once Le'Veon Bell was hurt. The Dallas Cowboys and Tony Romo got back to the playoffs behind a reshaped run game and a commitment to focus on DeMarco Murray. The Seattle Seahawks went to back-to-back Super Bowls behind the legs of Marshawn Lynch -- and they lost Super Bowl XLIX because they didn't give Lynch the pigskin to win.

Melvin Gordon is going to be a great pro. A healthy Todd Gurley can play. And there are a bevy of solid second-round-type runners who can make a difference. Think of the back-to-back Round 2 gems the Cincinnati Bengals have plucked (Giovani Bernard in 2013 and Jeremy Hill last year). Look at the amazing success of Eddie Lacy, who went in the second round to the Green Bay Packers two drafts ago.

The running back position isn't what it used to be, and first-round busts (see: Richardson, Trent) hurt. But you still need to run to win in the NFL.

5) Dorial Green-Beckham is worth the risk

His combine was jaw-dropping. His off-the-field problems are well documented. If he checks out during the interview process, a team would be right to take a chance on Green-Beckham, a talent who compares favorably to Calvin Johnson.

6) Leonard Williams is J.J. Watt 2.0

Well, I'm not ready to get nuts here. But I think Leonard Williams is a freak. He could be the best player in the draft, the one who makes the biggest and most long-lasting impact as a disruptive defensive lineman. As I wrote earlier, Tennessee should consider him at No. 2. Heck, I've argued that the Bucs should hold on to Mike Glennon and think about taking Williams at No. 1, though that won't happen.

Whoever picks Williams is going to get very lucky.

7) Josh McCown should sign with the Bills

The free-agent quarterback would be a fantastic fit in lovely Western New York. He'd be great for the New York Jets or Cleveland Browns, too. But I think he should pick the Chicago Bears.

When the Bears' new brass spoke at the combine, it was crystal clear that coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace were not enamored with incumbent starter Jay Cutler -- and rightly so. Fox thrives on energy. He can't have the mopey and seemingly disinterested Cutler suck the life out of his team.

A return to Chicago for McCown helps on and off the field -- and it could let Fox start fresh.

8) Mike McCarthy made a mistake giving up play-calling duties

I've devoted a lot of space on NFL.com to explaining why McCarthy is an elite play caller, and why the relationship between the Green Bay Packers coach and star quarterback Aaron Rodgers is special. I've similarly spent a lot of airtime on SiriusXM Radio discussing the subject. So when Packers GM Ted Thompson admitted in Indy that McCarthy's decision to stop calling plays caught him by surprise, I was reminded how much I loathe the move.

PATH TO THE DRAFT
(Weekdays at 6 p.m. ET on NFL Network)

"Path to the Draft" previews the 2016 NFL Draft by providing in-depth expert analysis of the top prospects and each teams' needs.

Yes, after Green Bay collapsed in the NFC title game, we questioned McCarthy's conservative strategy, especially late in the fourth quarter. But let's all take a breath. McCarthy helped Rodgers have another MVP season. And if Green Bay had simply recovered an onside kick, the Packers would have been playing in the Super Bowl.

This is a horrendous overreaction. Green Bay is best with McCarthy calling plays. The coach is fantastic, and his rapport with Rodgers is unique. I hope, for the Packers' sake, that he reconsiders.

9) The combine isn't that important

This is and isn't true. In the grand scheme of things, the combine has a purpose. It's a tool. It's a part of the process. But that's really what it is.

The combine has been wonderfully built into must-see TV, with eyeballs drawn at incredible and unprecedented levels to the sight of NFL hopefuls running in shorts. The coverage and the conversation are the sell. NFL coaches, general managers and agents turn the combine into the most epic NFL convention, churning out the gossip and laying the groundwork for the offseason.

Team executives, though, will tell you that the most important part of the combine is the player interview. As for the rest of the evaluation process heading into the draft, the most important things are how players did on the college gridiron and how they project as fits on an NFL team's roster, in the locker room, on the practice field and -- most especially -- on game day.

But we'll keep that between us.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop