Is Alabama RB Richardson the best player in the draft?

“Winning” the NFL Draft is all about getting the best value. To that end, NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks suggests the best player in this year’s draft might not even go in the first 10 picks.

Brooks writes: “…the valuation of (Alabama RB Trent) Richardson doesn’t match his talents. With an exceptional combination of speed, quickness and power, Richardson is a feature runner capable of grinding between the tackles or producing big plays on the perimeter. He routinely strings together three- and four-yard gains before breaking off explosive runs as defenders wear down in the game’s late stages. He finished the season with nine 100-yard games, with most of his production coming in the SEC. Given the conference’s esteemed reputation in NFL circles, scouts view Richardson’s output as a strong indicator of his pro potential.”

Top 100 college prospects

Music has the Billboard Top 100. We have Gil Brandt‘s “Hot 100″ — prospects, that is.

Brandt lists the best young players in the country, some of whom will be in attendance at the NFL Scouting Combine. Find out whom our draft and scouting guru has chosen for his initial list.

Five teams who could trade up to draft Griffin

Stanford’s Andrew Luck is presumed to be the No. 1 overall pick after being hailed by scouts across the league as the most pro-ready prospect to enter the NFL draft since Peyton Manning. However, the prospect generating the most buzz heading into the NFL Scouting Combine is Baylor’s Robert Griffin III.

NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks looks at five teams that are most likely to trade up to select the Heisman trophy winner.

Barron’s draft status could take a hit after surgery

With reports coming down Friday that Alabama safety Mark Barron has undergone double hernia surgery and will miss the NFL Scouting Combine, NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks looks at how Barron’s injury will affect his draft status.

Widely considered the top safety in the draft, Brooks says that Barron’s draft status could take a hit due to the extended absence from workouts.

Combine cred: Strength or speed?

The NFL Scouting Combine has wrapped and everyone has filtered their way out of Lucas Oil Stadium, but two notable players cracked the high marks in this year’s drills.

Oregon State’s Stephen Paea pumped his way to the most bench-press reps in a decade, and Miami’s DeMarcus Van Dyke tied for the third-fastest 40-yard dash in the same time span.

So which record holds the most promise for NFL success? Does beast mode top blaze historically, or is it the other way around?

When we posted Paea’s feat to NFL’s official Facebook page, more than 760 comments poured in — mostly with people bragging about their own bench-press feats — but perhaps the most telling came from a Carl Stickland in Jacksonville who wrote, “Keep that name in mind because he will be out of the league in three years.”

Valid?

If we check out the best benchers list, most are washouts like Kudla, Young and Owens:

Pos Player School Combine Reps
DT Stephen Paea Oregon State 2011 49
G Mitch Petrus Arkansas 2010 45
DE Mike Kudla Ohio State 2006 45
DT Leif Larsen Texas-El Paso 2000 45
DT Jeff Owens Georgia 2010 44
DT Brodrick Bunkley Florida State 2006 44
G Scott Young Brigham Young 2005 43

Even Justin Ernest, who owns the record for the most reps of all time with 51 in 1999, was a one-and-done with the Saints.

But Paea, who was born in Auckland, New Zealand (which is somehow inexplicably a place that last week’s Wheel of Fortune contestants have never heard of) might be the exception since he’s slated to go in the first round, according to NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock.

Comparatively, the list of the quick guys are pretty recognizable, with the top time going to CJ2K himself:

Pos Player School Combine Time
RB Chris Johnson East Carolina 2008 4.24
CB Stanford Routt Houston 2005 4.27
CB DeMarcus Van Dyke Miami 2011 4.28
WR Jacoby Ford Clemson 2010 4.28
WR Jerome Mathis Hampton 2005 4.28
CB D. Rodgers-Cromartie Tennessee State 2008 4.29
CB Fabian Washington Nebraska 2005 4.29

And if we go back all time, Champ Bailey also ran a 4.28, and it’s safe to say that his 12-year career as a consistent Pro Bowl corner has gone pretty well – so much so that he just signed another deal with the Broncos.

Welcome to your future, DeMarcus. Speed wins.

Inside a combine tradition

(Ben Liebenberg/NFL)

INDIANAPOLIS — Here’s an inside look at an NFL Scouting Combine tradition that takes place on the final day of workouts among defensive backs.

For the victors (above) of Tuesday’s early group, it resulted in a celebration huddle, led by Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara. For the losers (below), the price to pay was in push-ups.

As each of the two groups of defensive backs reach the final on-field drill of their session, they split into two smaller groups for the competition. A player from each group takes the field about 15 yards from one of the combine throwing quarterbacks, who then throw at the defensive backs as they’re in various stages of running forward, left and right. Each player takes a turn, and the coaches running the drill count the drops.

A couple of observations: One, there’s an awful lot of trash talk. Players in the opposing groups will say just about anything (but mostly PG-rated) to distract players from catching the ball. Two, a lot of that chatter also is directed at the two quarterbacks, who are encouraged to throw as hard as they can by the opposing group and chided when they don’t.

For the second group of defensive backs Tuesday, the competition ended in a tie. Each group picked one player — they were LSU CB Patrick Peterson and North Carolina SS Da’Norris Searcy — for a catch-off. Each succeeded on the first throw, and the coaches called it a draw in an effort to wrap up workouts. Not the perfect ending, but everyone is pretty eager at this point to finish the combine.

(Ben Liebenberg/NFL)

Officially, Van Dyke is combine’s fastest player

INDIANAPOLIS — Miami CB DeMarcus Van Dyke will leave the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine as No. 1 on two lists.

Van Dyke ran an official time of 4.28 seconds in his first 40-yard dash Tuesday, making him the fastest cornerback and the fastest player at the combine.

Van Dyke’s time is the third-fastest 40 at the combine since 2000, behind just East Carolina RB Chris Johnson‘s record of 4.24 in 2008 and Houston CB Stanford Routt‘s 4.27 in 2005.

Official 40-yard dash times for DBs:

1. Van Dyke, Miami: 4.28
2. Patrick Peterson, LSU: 4.34
3t. Chimdi Chekwa, Ohio State: 4.40
3t. Chris Culliver, South Carolina: 4.40
5. Prince Amukamara, Nebraska: 4.43
6. Joseph Lefeged, Rutgers: 4.43
7t. Ras-I Dowling, Virginia: 4.46
7t. Curtis Marsh, Utah State: 4.46
7t. Byron Maxwell, Clemson: 4.46
7t. Jimmy Smith, Colorado: 4.46
7t. Shareece Wright, USC: 4.46

Here’s a short list of top official combine times:

1. Van Dyke, CB, Miami: 4.28
2t. Peterson, CB, LSU: 4.34
2t. Da’Rel Scott, RB, Maryland: 4.34
4t. Edmond Gates, WR, Abilene Christian: 4.37
4t. Ricardo Lockette, WR, Fort Valley State:4.37
6. Mario Fannin, RB, Auburn: 4.38
7. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: 4.39

LSU’s Peterson doesn’t hit goal in 40, but blazes

UPDATE: Peterson officially clocked in at 4.34 seconds, second-best among cornerbacks and tied for second-best among all players at the combine.

INDIANAPOLIS — We don’t see a lot of cornerbacks like LSU’s Patrick Peterson. At 6-foot 1/4 and 219 pounds, he has more size than most players at the position and also is an outstanding athlete in every sense of the word.

A natural cornerback, it’s believed that Peterson’s cover skills and versatility will allow him to play multiple roles in an NFL secondary. For good measure, he’s also an outstanding special-teams player.

So the consensus top cornerback available in the draft — who could grade out as the draft’s best player — certainly did nothing to hurt his stock by running unofficial times of 4.32 and 4.37 seconds Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Even if Peterson came to Indy believing a sub-4.3 time was a realistic goal, his time qualifies among the fastest at the combine. Looking at unofficial times, he trails just Tennessee-Chattanooga CB Buster Skrine, who ran a combine-best 4.29 on Tuesday.

Peterson is a player whom NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi calls the “cleanest” in the draft, meaning he carries limited risk, much like safety Eric Berry last year. With no red flags in his draft profile and combine workouts that translate to game tape, the only thing that might keep Peterson from being the top overall pick is the fact he’s a cornerback.

Peterson gets up and after it

(Ben Liebenberg/NFL)

INDIANAPOLIS — We made sure we were near the vertical jump station to catch a glimpse of LSU CB Patrick Peterson, one of the best overall athletes (size, speed, strength) among the defensive backs at the NFL Scouting Combine. Here’s a ground-level shot of Peterson’s 38-inch jump.

Chekwa posts top 40 among first group of DBs

INDIANAPOLIS — The 40-yard dash doesn’t tell us all that much about football other than straight-line speed, but one of the few positions where that matters is at defensive back.

The first group of defensive backs ran the 40 early at the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday, and we have the unofficial results.

Here’s a look at the top 10:

1. Chimdi Chekwa, Ohio State: 4.33 seconds
2. Chris Culliver, South Carolina: 4.36
3. Prince Amukamara, Nebraska: 4.37
4. Ras-I Dowling, Virginia: 4.40
5t. Brandon Harris, Miami: 4.43
5t. Davon House, New Mexico State: 4.43
7t. Cortez Allen, The Citadel: 4.45
7t. Chykie Brown, Texas: 4.45
9. Marcus Gilchrist, Clemson: 4.46
10. Dejon Gomes, Nebraska: 4.47

Amukamara answers questions about speed

UPDATE: Amukamara officially clocked in at 4.43 seconds, fifth-best among cornerbacks at the combine.

INDIANAPOLIS — The first group of defensive backs finished their 40-yard dashes at the NFL Scouting Combine, with three prospects posting unofficial sub-4.4-second times.

The prospect whose time might have been most critical was Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara, who has faced questions over his straight-line speed. He answered them Tuesday, running times of 4.37 and 4.44. Let’s defer to NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, who has Amukamara listed as his No. 2 overall cornerback.

“I like what I saw from Amukamara,” Mayock said. “He did what he had to do.”

The 6-foot, 206-pound Amukamara has ideal size and a tremendous build, but it would seem he took another step in solidifying his status with his performance in the 40.

Dowling down with hamstring injury

INDIANAPOLIS — It appears that Virginia CB Ras-I Dowling‘s day at the NFL Scouting Combine has been cut short.

Dowling didn’t run his second 40-yard dash Tuesday because of what was announced as a strained right hamstring. Dowling clocked in 4.40 seconds in his first run, the fourth-fastest among the first group of defensive backs.

Dowling’s status for the day hasn’t been confirmed, but he is on the trainer’s table on the sideline at Lucas Oil Stadium with the hamstring wrapped in ice.

Dowling’s injury history could be a concern for NFL teams. He missed five games last season because of hamstring and knee issues, and he missed the last two games of the season with a fractured left ankle.

A look ahead at Day 6

The first group of defensive backs prepare to run the 40-yard dash Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s Day 6 of the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, and defensive backs will take center stage on the final day of workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium.

We’re looking forward to what we expect to be some very fast 40-yard dash times from the 56 cornerbacks and safeties on the field. Among the bigger names in the first group to run the 40 are Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara, Florida SS Ahmad Black, Oklahoma FS Quinton Carter, Clemson CB Marcus Gilchrist, Miami CB Brandon Harris and Temple FS Jaiquawn Jarrett.

The fastest combine 40 time among cornerbacks since 2000 is 4.27 seconds by Houston’s Stanford Routt in 2005. Arizona State’s Josh Barrett has the best among safeties with a 4.34 run in 2008.

Don’t forget that you can watch the day unfold live on NFL.com/combine/live.

Mora’s mock: Locker lands in top 10, but where?

NFL Network analyst Jim Mora was the latest to unleash his mock draft Monday.

Mora already said that defensive end was the safest position in the draft. So who does he have going No. 1? And what about Cam Newton? Which quarterback-starved team in the top 10 does Mora have selecting the enigmatic Heisman Trophy winner?

The biggest surprise might be Jake Locker going in the top 10. But where? Check out the video to find out.

Alabama WR Jones worked out on fractured foot

Julio Jones‘ impressive performance Sunday at the NFL Scouting Combine became even more eye-opening Monday, when NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly revealed that the Alabama WR worked out despite a fracture in his foot.

Jones will have a screw inserted in the foot, which will be followed by an eight-week rehabilitation period.

“This guy really helped himself with that workout on Sunday,” Casserly said Monday on “NFL Total Access.” “Showed a little toughness, too.”

Casserly said it will be “touch-and-go” whether or not Jones will be able to work out before the April draft, but added that he had a conversation with a member of an unnamed team’s medical staff, who believes the wideout will fully recover.

“Teams probably aren’t going to shy away from him,” said Casserly, a former NFL general manager.

Jones was impressive during the gauntlet drills Sunday, showing fluidity, good hands and body control while maintaining focus. And while his broad jump was best among receivers (11 feet, 3 inches — 2 inches below the combine’s best since 2000), what caught notice was Jones posting the third-fastest 40-yard dash time at 4.39 seconds. Impressive, given that Jones measured in at 6-foot-2 3/4 and 220 pounds.

Casserly speculated Sunday that Jones would be drafted in the middle of the first round. NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks doesn’t expect Jones to last past the Rams, who pick 14th.

“Jones ran faster today than I think anyone thought he would,” Casserly said Sunday. “I don’t think people thought this guy would run a 4.43 (the unofficial time on his first run). He doesn’t play that fast. But he’s a big guy who is physical.”

The news on Jones brought back memories of 2009, when Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree worked out at the combine with a stress fracture in his left foot. Crabtree eventually was taken with the 10th overall pick by the 49ers.

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