Sources Tell Us: What we heard on Day 1 of Scouting Combine

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL Scouting Combine is always a collision of the NFL and college football worlds. It's the beauty of the annual event. We listened in on what every NFL coach and general manager had to say on Wednesday, and when they weren't addressing their current team's roster, they were discussing the draft.



Here's some of the more interesting things we heard on Day 1 of media availabilities at the combine, and an attempt to make sense of it all:

The scoop: "The bottom line with all players who have concerns, you have to figure out whether the guy's a bad person or just an immature person. And there's a big difference." -- Buccaneers GM Jason Licht when asked about Florida State's Jameis Winston and the QB's well-documented off-field issues

The skinny: Licht was the director of player personnel in Arizona when the Cardinals drafted Tyrann Mathieu in 2013. Mathieu, who was kicked off the LSU football team by head coach Les Miles, told an NFL coach at a pre-draft team workout that he had failed more drug tests than he could count. The Cardinals took a chance on Mathieu, and now he is "one of the best leaders in our locker room," Cardinals GM Steve Keim said Wednesday from the combine. Licht also made reference to Mathieu when asked about Winston. Earlier in the day, Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith said the Buccaneers, at this point, are comfortable with the idea of Winston as the face of the franchise, although he admitted he had yet to meet Winston face to face. Starting at the combine, the Buccaneers plan to spend a lot of time -- "A LOT of time," Licht emphasized -- with Winston over the next two months to help determine if Winston's issues are a matter of the player being a bad person or an immature one. NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah said last week he's hearing most teams are already satisfied it's the latter. If that remains the case April 30, expect the Bucs to take Winston with the No. 1 overall pick.

The scoop: "Derrick and Lovie are very, very close, and I think the world of Derrick. So, I'll listen." -- Bucs GM Jason Licht, when asked if the endorsement of Jameis Winston by former Bucs great Derrick Brooks would have any influence on the team's decision with the top pick

The skinny: Brooks has taken a liking to Winston. Some have even suggested the former Florida State linebacker could even mentor the quarterback if Winston ends up in Tampa, where Brooks has a residence. Former Bucs coach Tony Dungy, meanwhile, has strongly endorsed Marcus Mariota for the Bucs and said he would have a hard time taking Winston. Licht said Wednesday that these two differences of opinions is all helpful information from two people he greatly respects. Smith is very close with Dungy (some say he owes his career to his former boss), so it will be interesting if Dungy's warning of Winston has any effect on the team's final decision. "Keep in mind," Licht said, "our head coach is one of the finest human beings I have ever met, inside or outside of football. Character is very important to him."

The scoop: "You have to know the reality of the situation and don't go along with perception. Give the player, I don't want to say benefit of the doubt, but do your research. We have done a lot of work on Jameis." -- Titans GM Ruston Webster on Jameis Winston

The skinny: Webster didn't divulge the results of the Titans' background check, but you have to believe Tennessee would pounce on Winston with the second overall pick if the Bucs passed. Neither Webster nor coach Ken Whisenhunt gave glowing endorsements to Zach Mettenberger, who failed to do anything as a rookie to earn the job long term.

The scoop: "We need a quarterback that can throw the ball and make a variety of throws; we need a leader, a guy who makes great decisions. We'd like to have a guy who is mobile in the pocket. A guy who has won football games." -- Bucs head coach Lovie Smith

The skinny: If the Bucs are set on taking a quarterback at No. 1, and what their coach laid out above are the requirements, it would actually be a close race between Winston an Mariota. The only category the two probably wouldn't split is making all the throws -- the edge goes to Winston with that one. In actuality, however, most believe the gap between the two players is much wider and that Winston will be the Bucs' pick on April 30.

The scoop: "I know over the years we've talked about devaluing running backs. At the end of the day, you have to have a few guys who can carry the load. This year, I think a couple of those running backs at the top have a chance to be special." -- Arizona Cardinals GM Steve Keim

The skinny: Keim didn't name names, but we're assuming those two running backs are Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon. Many believe the second and third tiers could be special, too. NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock said Monday he has eight running backs with third-round grades or better. NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah has Gordon as 11th overall and Gurley 13th in his top 50 prospect rankings.

The scoop: "I'm thankful the media did him a disservice, in my opinion, last year by judging him on his pro day." -- Vikings GM Rick Spielman on Teddy Bridgewater

The skinny: The media was pretty harsh on Bridgewater after his poor pro day, but Bridgewater didn't help himself by not throwing at the combine. He wasn't alone -- only Blake Bortles threw among the top four quarterbacks. The quarterbacks this year appear to have learned a lesson; almost all the top ones, including Winston and Mariota, are planning to throw Saturday when quarterbacks hit the Lucas Oil Stadium field.

The scoop: "The offensive and defensive lines are very strong, and the receiver group is right up there. I think it's more than just the first-round receivers. I think they go deep, all the way through the draft." -- Chargers GM Tom Telesco

The skinny: Yes, there is depth in this year's WR class, but don't confuse it with the epic 2014 class that St. Louis Rams GM Les Snead said Wednesday would be the subject of a "30 for 30" ESPN feature. The strength of this wide receiver class is at the top with Alabama's Amari Cooper, West Virginia's Kevin White and Louisville's DeVante Parker viewed as consensus top-20 picks. Mayock sees talent but also a lot of questions after those three.

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