That special time of the year is once again upon us. That time when football players are judged not for their ability to play the game but instead on their appearance in shorts and a t-shirt. That time when millions are either gained or lost in a few hundreds of a second.
I’m speaking, of course, of the NFL Draft Combine.
For many, the combine is an opportunity to see the top prospects in the draft up close and personal. It is the chance to poke and prod human beings like meat in an open air market.
For Al Davis, it is the time to dispatch his coaching staff and talent evaluators to Indianapolis with the true divining rod of NFL talent in hand – the stopwatch.
You won’t find Mr. Davis anywhere near the facility in Indianapolis but his presence will certainly be felt. With each click of the stopwatch a potential millionaire is born.
Last year it was Darrius Heyward-Bey covering 40 yards in 4.30 seconds that would equate to $23-million.
Last year the Raiders were in the market for a wide receiver. This time around they should be considering an offensive tackle. Of course, that should have been the aim last year as well – what with a bonanza of talent at OT in the ’09 draft.
If you think 40 times don’t matter for offensive linemen then you haven’t seen Charles Brown of USC and Bruce Campbell of Maryland in action. Depending on how the offensive linemen perform this weekend, there is a good chance of Davis picking between either of the aforementioned prospects. Both are athletically gifted and both are sure to turn heads on Saturday. Brown might be a better fit in the Zone Blocking Scheme employed by Tom Cable.
Campbell is projected as a top 10 pick whereas Brown could benefit from a good showing at the dog and pony show on Saturday. Russell Okung of Oklahoma State is viewed as the top prospect at offensive tackle but chances are he’ll be gone before the Raiders are on the clock with the 8th pick. Same could be said for Oklahoma’s Trent Williams who could also move into the top 10 with a strong performance.
While offensive tackle is the position of greatest need, the wide receivers and running backs are also on this weekend’s schedule.
Who has a chance at grabbing Al’s eye?
Jacoby Ford of Clemson could be the fastest receiver in the draft. He’s not seen as a first round pick but if he’s there in the fourth round – like Louis Murphy was last year – Davis might find it hard to resist. Especially if Ford goes sub 4.4 in the 40, then you’d better believe he’d be all over Al’s radar.
As far as running backs go, well, you would assume that the Raiders are set there.
Then there’s the position of quarterback. The QB’s will also do their thing on Sunday. While it would be farfetched to think Davis might consider a quarterback in round one, there is a chance he could be looking to grab one late. JaMarcus Russell might still be on the roster but his grip on starting job was gone halfway through the ’09 season.
Tony Pike of Cincinnati might be just the guy to grab the attention of Davis. His size (6’6”/223) and arm strength are two qualities Davis covets. Pike is projected as a second or third round pick at best. But that could all change come Sunday.
We’re two months away from draft day and there will be plenty of discussion in the ensuing weeks. For now, just pray that C.J. Spiller doesn’t run a 4.20 in the 40-yard dash on Saturday. If that happens then you can expect to see Cornell Green getting penalized again on Sundays in 2010.
Of course, these are just the first groups. By Tuesday Al will get his porn as the defensive backs take the field in Indy.