INDIANAPOLIS -- I spent most of the morning on Day 2 at the NFL Scouting Combine workouts sitting with coaches and personnel types discussing what this event meant to them, as well as how they self-evaluated their programs. The afternoon was spent talking with some of the outstanding prospects in Indianapolis. It was a full day of football and I want to share it with you.
St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo is in a rebuilding process, and said his organization is not opposed to moving out of the top spot if the right deal came along. He also put to rest the idea that the team would trade Steven Jackson for draft picks, saying "Steven Jackson is the Rams, and I can't imagine going out on that field without him next year."
The early reports on Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford are encouraging, and he's going to help the Rams whether they pick him or not because the No. 1 overall pick doubles in value if the QB can push his way to the top. Many people I spoke with think Bradford will do just that by the end of March.
Sean Payton, coach of the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, said that as the bus pulled away from the stadium and the Lombardi Trophy was in his hand, he realized this was the last time this football team would ever play together. What a statement from a coach who understands you can't rest on your laurels, even if the ultimate prize has been captured.
Payton knows he has to take a long, hard, objective look at his team, then changes must be made if the Saints are going to continue to grow. Payton recognized that he and his staff are behind the other organizations that have been preparing for free agency and the draft since the end of the regular season. The Saints could be replacing a number of starters and with needs, especially on defense, look for the Saints to aim for a linebacker, defensive tackle and safety with their first three draft picks.
In catching up with San Diego Chargers coach Norv Turner, his running back situation came up. He knows Darren Sproles is a much-desired player for the organization, but he also knows Sproles has to test the free-agent market and then give the Chargers a chance to retain his services when the market is established. Nonetheless, the Chargers have to study the draft class of running backs.
There are some very intriguing prospects. Turner didn't mention names, but I really liked Fresno State's Ryan Mathews as a compliment to Sproles. If Sproles heads off to another team, keep an eye on Mississippi's Dexter McCluster. McCluster not only rushed for 6.4 yards per carry, but he also had 130 receptions. With Philip Rivers under center, McCluster would be a dynamic playmaker in Turner's system.
While Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher made it clear that his team is in a youth movement, he would like to find a way to keep veteran linebacker Keith Bulluck for the rest of his career. Fisher also talked about the rising trend in the league to build pressure defenses that also make the receiver releases tough to achieve. As Fisher said, "If you sit in zone coverages, these quarterbacks will pick you apart."
The Titans should go defense in this draft, and the more pressure skills the young men demonstrate the more likely Tennessee will be interested.
Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said his team will return to a 4-3 penetrating, aggressive defense. Just like the Titans, the Jaguars will be looking for aggressive front seven defenders in this draft.
Thomas Dimitroff, general manager for the Atlanta Falcons, likes the cornerback class. He also has to keep an eye on the progress WR Harry Douglas is making in his rehab to ensure Matt Ryan has enough weapons in the passing game.
Kindle is an outside linebacker/defensive end that has big hands, an intense look in his eye and a real passion for rushing the passer. He talked about his 16 sacks in college, but was even more proud of the number of pressures he got on the quarterback. He has a spin move he modeled after Dwight Freeney, as well as a counter move.
I was initially lukewarm on Odrick after watching two game tapes six weeks ago, but then he showed how hard he works at the Senior Bowl. On Saturday, I sat down with Odrick and told him I wasn't sure about him earlier. He convinced me that he is ready for the NFL with his technique, work ethic and knowledge of the game. He can play all across the defensive front and it doesn't matter if it's a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. He would be a great fit for the Jaguars.
Everyone is talking about Suh as the first or second player taken in the draft. After spending 20 minutes with him and watching his game tapes, I agree. This kid was the highlight of my day. He is humble and so ready for the NFL game. He prides himself in physically dominating his opponent, getting rid of the blocker as soon as he can and exploding to the ball carrier. Suh takes it personal when some people don't believe he's a three-down player, and he's going to prove he belongs on the field all game long.