Friday brought us access to skill position players: quarterbacks, runningbacks and wide receivers. Now, you would think that would mean that Friday was an extraordinarily busy day, that journalists were running rampant hunting down top 10 picks as they were convoyed from the concourse to the podium. Not necessarily so. Take a look at the Scouting Combine participants at these positions and you'll quickly realize something: this is not a sexy skill position player draft.
That's not to say that there aren't exciting skill players in this draft, but Matt and I agreed that this is a defense and trench-heavy draft class. Today has just confirmed that sentiment. Blaine Gabbert and A.J. Green drew the biggest crowds of the day -- with Cam Newton being a notable no-show (he's slated to make an appearance tomorrow) -- but reporters here rarely swarmed anyone else. This day was full of table talks, interviews conducted by just a small gathering of scribes, and that is reflective of the media's view of skill position players in this draft.
All that said, we were hardly disinterested in today's proceedings. There were some interesting players available and obviously access to the players was much more straightforward than yesterday's efforts of fighting the media mob at a podium. After the jump, we'll take a look at Friday's skill position players and what was gained from chatting with them.
We largely ignored the quarterback position for obvious reasons (I think that Peyton Manning guy just might hold onto his starting job), but there were some receivers and runningbacks around to interview today.
Matt caught WRs Randall Cobb (Kentucky), Leonard Hankerson (Miami-FL) and Jonathan Baldwin (Pittsburgh.) Baldwin was the most physically-imposing prospect at the position, measuring in at 6-4 3/4" and 228 pounds with a 79-inch reach and 10 1/2" hands. He likened himself to former Pittsburgh and current Cardinal wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, citing their similarities in size, leaping ability and athleticism. Baldwin asserted that he'll be engaging in post-Combine training with NFL stars like Fitzgerald, Darrelle Revis, Greg Jennings, Roddy White and Aaron Rodgers, which immediately drew attention to the kid. Can't cite him for weak training competition, that's for sure.
Cobb, who Matt projects as an inevitable Patriots or Steelers draft pick, is a small, versatile receiver able to play multiple positions, including emergency QB, holder and kick/punt returner. Matt noted that he was bursting with confidence and really sold himself well as a do-it-all athlete.
And Hankerson, seemingly a fan favorite here at Stampede Blue, didn't disappoint in his measurables either: 6-1 4/10" and 209 pounds. Hankerson said he models his game after Andre Johnson and is honored to be following in a long line of prospects from "The U" attempting to make an impact at the next level.
On my end, I sat in on Houston head coach Gary Kubiak's press conference and had the opportunity to ask the Texans' head coach what his team needed to claim an AFC South title after punching the Colts in the mouth in their first game last year but quickly losing their hold of the division.
Well, they punched back real good about seven or eight weeks later. They have been the standard in our division for a long, long time and the one that we are all trying to catch, so to speak, and they do a great job. They are about consistency. That's something we are trying to find as a football team and an organization in Texas. I think it's about 16 weeks, not opening week, or not four or five weeks throughout the season. But it's about being a good football team 16 times.
(Hopefully somebody informs Kubiak that you should actually strive to be a good football team up to 20 times in a season.)
I also spoke with some locally-recognized names: wide receiver Terrance Turner (Indiana) and runningback Darren Evans (Virginia Tech.) Turner finally grew into a featured role as a Hoosier receiver in 2010, hauling in 67 catches for 681 yards, and Evans is a former Warren Central product who soldiered through an injury-ravaged career at Virginia Tech, where he platooned with fellow draft prospect Ryan Williams.
Turner was mobbed by local reporters, undoubtedly because of his Hoosier playing career. He sold himself on his size and speed and said that he and fellow Indiana University prospect Tandon Doss have really pushed each other in the process leading up the Combine to perform at peak levels. I asked Turner about something I had heard Doss say on local radio this past week, that the Indiana receiving corps was vastly underrated in terms of run-blocking, and Turner agreed with that sentiment, saying that position coach Billy Lynch pushed them hard to finish plays downfield and open up big play opportunities for running backs. Turner agreed with Doss' sentiments, saying that he too felt the Hoosiers' blocking ability from the receiver position is underappreciated on a national level.
Evans drew a smaller crowd but gave a smart, humble interview. He asserts that his knee is 100 percent and he is completely cleared for the Combine, with no medical red flags. He realizes that NFL teams are going to have concerns about his health but maintains that those issues are in the past and he's looking toward the future. Evans sold himself as a power back, and measuring in at 6-0, 227 pounds, he looks the part. The former Warriors runningback was also quick to point out that he's three classes away from graduating and is currently taking all of those classes online, as he wants to be academically-accomplished as well. I informed Evans that I still carry a grudge against what his Warriors did to my high school (Hamilton Southeastern) in our senior years of high school (I a scribe, he an athletic dream-crusher) and asked him if he felt confident about transitioning into a potential feature back role in the NFL after being utilized in a runningback platoon in high school and college, and Evans assured that he's ready for whatever role is presented, whether as a relief back sent in to move the chains or as a back in the spotlight.
Maybe I'm biased, but I hope Evans can recover to play some sort of role in the NFL, even if a fourth-string runningback or special teams player. He's worked hard to come back from multiple injuries and, in my opinion, is the finest Indiana prep prospect I have seen play live. He was a Parade All-American in 2006.
Elsewhere along the receiver front, a trio of typical Indianapolis prospects in Jeff Maehl (Oregon), Greg Salas (Hawaii) and Ryan Whalen (Stanford) were scheduled to appear today, but only Salas and Whalen did. What do they have in common? Hate to stereotype, but all three are scrappy, white receivers not afraid to go over the middle (though I would argue Maehl is more of a wideout than the other two.) I wouldn't mention it if it weren't the prototypical Indianapolis receiver (see also: Anthony Gonzalez, Austin Collie, Blair White.) Salas and Whalen both sold themselves as physical prospects not afraid to go over the middle. I'm sure Bill Polian heard them, though Matt and I agree over-the-middle possession receivers should be in less demand for Indy than wideouts who can stretch the field and open things up underneath.
No-shows today, as far as prospects we wanted to interview, were both Boise State receivers (Titus Young and Austin Pettis) as well as IU's Doss. Unsure which, if any, of the three will show up tomorrow, but I've learned not to read too much into no-shows. Sometimes, it means there is a medical concern and they're held up in a physical examination, but more often than not the guy just couldn't make it for one reason or another. It's why Tyron Smith (USC) and John Moffitt (Wisconsin) took the podium today instead of yesterday.
That wraps up our second day of coverage here at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine. Tomorrow, workouts begin at 9 a.m. and we will have access to defensive linemen and linebackers in interviews. Keep following us here, on SB Nation Indiana and on Twitter (mgrex03 and cmccollo.) Also please not that we will have an open thread for tomorrow's Combine drills, starting at 9 a.m. Feel free to join us!