Performing well in the vertical leap helps a tight end or receiver prospect prove that he can elevate for difficult catches
The 2010 NFL Scouting Combine is just hitting its stride this weekend, but it's already been a good visit for several draft prospects, including Pitt tight end Dorin Dickerson, Auburn running back Ben Tate and even Jared Veldheer, the fast-rising offensive tackle from tiny Hillsdale College.
NFL scouts are quick to dismiss the impact of a "Workout Warrior" type of performance, and to some extent the importance of the on-field work as a whole at the Combine. Still, it certainly doesn't hurt a draft prospect to confirm his talents for the assembled personnel pros in Indianapolis, and that's exactly what Dickerson, Tate and Veldheer have already begun to do.
Dickerson ran a 4.40-second 40-yard dash on Saturday, a stunningly good time for a tight end. He also performed well in the 20-yard shuttle and had the best marks among tight ends in both the vertical leap (43.5 inches) and the broad jump (10 feet, five inches).
Tate, who had a nice showing in the Senior Bowl in January, followed that up with a good showing in his first drill at the Combine, the bench press. Tate tied Fresno State's Lonyae Miller with 26 reps of 225 pounds, the most among the backs in Indy so far.
And Veldheer, one of the few Division II prospects invited to the Combine, only increased the buzz that is surrounding him by blowing through a series of drills. Obviously quick for a 6-8, 312-pound man, Veldheer tied for the best scores in both the three-cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle and also scored well in the vertical leap, the broad jump and the 40-yard dash.
Every year, a certain percentage of the 300 or so prospects who accept invites to the Combine choose not to do portions of the on-field drills, though they still submit to medical examinations and sit down for 15-minute interviews with team officials. This year, a group of quarterbacks have chosen not to throw in Indy, including Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, Florida's Tim Tebow and Texas' Colt McCoy.
However, there are still hundreds of sprints, leaps and bench press sessions to watch, and that's why most of the NFL has convened in Indianapolis this week. That includes Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Raheem Morris, who saw mostly linemen and tight ends work out on Saturday.
"They all have something to prove," said Morris of the players who choose to work out at the Combine. "Tape is what it is. They've all put it down on tape. What they've done right now is already put their resume out there. What they're doing now is really coming to their last job interview, so to speak, and they're going to go out there and put their best performances on. All these guys are competitors. They all want to go out there and compete. They all feel like this is a great opportunity for them, their families and all parties involved. They really all have a lot to prove and we enjoy watching them compete."
Even without Bradford and Tebow participating, Sunday morning and afternoon are highly anticipated sections of the Combine, as that's when the quarterbacks and receivers put their talents on display. Among the receivers who could impress the scouts with good 40-times or precise route-running on Sunday are Missouri's Danario Alexander, Illinois' Arrelious Benn, Cincinnati's Mardy Gilyard, LSU's Brandon LaFell and Notre Dame's Golden Tate.
Throughout the week at the Combine, the top marks in the various drills will be reported here on NFL.com.
Since it is based on the final standings of the 2009 season, the order in which the NFL's 32 teams will pick in the 2010 draft was mostly set as soon as the final regular-season contest was played in early January.
On Friday, the final pieces were put in place.
Teams are ranked first by their places in the overall standings, from worst record to best. Within any group of teams with identical won-loss records, the order is determined by strength of schedule; that is, the combined win-loss records of all of a team's opponents. If that still fails to break a tie between teams, the NFL goes to a simple coin toss. The winner of a toss between two tied teams gets slotted ahead of the loser within that group, and then the teams rotate from the bottom to the top of the group as the draft progress from round to round.
Three such coin flips were necessary this year. Chicago and Jacksonville were tied for the 10th and 11th spots, Tennessee and Carolina were tied for the 16th and 17th spots and Atlanta and Houston were tied for the 19th and 20th spots.
Team officials executed the three coin flips at the Combine on Friday, with Jacksonville, Tennessee and Atlanta all winning their tosses. That means Jacksonville will pick 10th, Denver 11th (having acquired that pick from the Bears in a trade), Tennessee 16th, San Francisco 17th (having acquired that pick from the Panthers in a trade), Atlanta 19th and Houston 20th.
The first of those three flips also affected the Buccaneers' draft status. Tampa Bay owns Chicago's second-round pick this year as a result of the Gaines Adams trade in October. Because the Bears will pick 11th in the first round, they will rotate up to the 10th spot in the second round, or 42nd overall. Had Chicago won that toss on Friday, they would have picked 10th in the first round and then rotated back to 12th in the second round, or 44th overall, as Miami is also in a tied segment with the Bears and Jaguars.
The Buccaneers' own picks are slotted third in each round, as they were the only team to finish with a 3-13 record last year.
Reminder: Cheerleader Auditions Begin Soon
Woman interested in trying out for the 2010 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders squad are reminded that the auditions will take place at One Buccaneer Place from March 22-24. Optional Pre-Audition Workshops will be held on the University of South Florida campus over a total of four sessions on March 16 and 17. Potential applicants can attend any one or all four of the sessions.
Women must be 18 years old by July 1, 2010 to try out for the squad. There is no maximum age limit. For more information, click here to visit the audition page. You can also download registration forms for the workshop and the tryouts and read a list of frequently asked questions by following this link.