NFL Combine Stock Watch
The 2009 NFL Combine has come and gone, and that means that prospective pro football careers for eight Nittany Lions have started to take form. While we originally promised updates throughout the combine, nothing monumental happened to warrant coverage of former Penn State players. Andre Smith may have foolishly cost himself a top-10 selection, Michael Crabtree discovered a critical stress fracture in his foot, and the Detroit Lions gave a hint as to who they are considering for the first pick, but Old State was generally under the radar. But that doesn’t mean the combine didn’t hold implications on when – and if – the latest class of Penn State Nittany Lions will get drafted.
Below we’ve organized the eight pro hopefuls by change in stock (yes, I know this isn’t the best time to use this metaphor). Keep in mind that this is the synthesis of our speculation and that of other news sources – there’s no telling what NFL scouts thought of Penn Staters these past few days.
Players With Rising Stock
Deon Butler – WR
Butler immediately comes to mind as he posted the fourth-best 40 yard dash time – with a brisk 4.38, he was 0.03 seconds faster than the ballyhooed, high-profile speedster that is Florida’s Percy Harvin. This doesn’t eliminate the concern scouts have about his stature, but does give him a better chance of being drafted on the second day.
Derrick Williams – WR
What separates Williams from the other two smurfs is his versatility. His hat trick in the unforgettable Illinois game this past season – scoring touchdowns on a kick return, rush, and reception – is a great example why he could go as early as the second round.
While D-Will suffers from the same slight – height- as his fellow Nittany Lion wideouts, his designation as a top performer in the bench press shows that despite his size, he may not have as much difficulty adjusting to the increased physicality of the professional ranks.
A.Q. Shipley – C
2008’s best center in college football performed admirably at the combine, registering ‘Top Performer’ designations in the bench press, vertical jump, 3-cone drill, and 20-yard shuttle. Throw in his reputation as a “character guy,” and Shipley looks poised to be drafted earlier than originally perceived.
The main factor in his relatively low draft projection – which seems to be a theme with this year’s draft class – is his size. Even at center, Shipley is considered slightly undersized, limiting the potential of playing at a high level at other positions on the offensive line for a team.
Aaron Maybin – DE
Unlike some of the lower-profile Lions (who you’ll find below), Maybin didn’t have to knock scouts on their butts with unexpected numbers – he’s already a known commodity and a draftnik darling. Both Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay (along with nearly everyone else) have projected the end to go within the first 32 picks. He’s known as a high-upside guy who will be worth a few years of development.
The main knock on Maybin is that he should have stayed in school to get a little bigger. Whether this is true or not, Maybin showed scouts he’s already growing, gaining 14 pounds since the end of the season. That alone will quell some of the concerns of NFL teams considering #59 as their first pick.
Gerald Cadogan – OL
The Combine’s profile on Cadogan cites him as one of the reasons why Penn State’s offense flourished in the “Spread HD” attack. Like it or not, football is becoming a faster, more mobile finesse game – whether we’re talking about the NCAA or the NFL. For a lineman like Cadogan – who could play either tackle or be moved to guard – it’s fortunate that he ranked as a top performer in the 40-yard dash. Faster play requires faster big men, and the Ohio native’s speed may be the thing that gets him selected as a late-round pick.
Players Who Saw Little, If Any, Change in Stock
Lydell Sargeant – CB
The NFL Combine’s website lists Sargeant as a wide receiver, which reinforces speculation that the Penn State corner will most likely play in the NFL by contributing on special teams. He did play at the position in nine games for the Nittany Lions, so the designation isn’t a stretch.
Sargeant did well in the 60 yard shuttle, but doesn’t have the freakish athleticism that typically catapults lower-profile players into the combine spotlight. At this point, it’s likely he’ll sign with a team as an undrafted free agent.
Jordan Norwood – WR
It wasn’t that Norwood did anything wrong – in fact, he did many things right. He’s listed as a top performer in the vertical jump, 3-cone drill, and 20 yard shuttle. But Norwood finds himself in a position similar to Sargeant – a good player who isn’t NFL-prototypical size, and didn’t put up eye-popping stats.
Norwood will likely be an undrafted free agent despite his highlight-laden career in Happy Valley. Keep in mind that this isn’t out of the ordinary – Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky’s Fiesta Bowl heroics earned him the cover of Electronic Arts’ NCAA Football 08, but not a selection in the draft.
Players With Falling Stock
Maurice Evans – DE
Evans had a considerable amount at stake here – keep in mind that it was his involvement in the marijauna scandal that allowed Aaron Maybin to come off the bench and become a star on the Penn State defense. Add in that many scouts feel that Evans is more physically prepared for the NFL than Maybin, and there’s an opportunity to prove not only why Evans was ahead of a first-round talent on the depth chart to start the season, but why he left after a turbulent sophomore season.
Evans was tied for the slowest 40 time among defensive ends at the combine, as well as tied for fewest reps on the bench press at the position. Sports Illustrated went as far to say that he may not even get drafted. The good news is that he’ll have a second opportunity to make an impression on NFL scouts at Penn State’s Pro Day in March.
While a majority of the players representing Penn State did well, don’t immediately assume that they will be drafted. A lot can change between now and the 2009 NFL Draft, and no one really knows what scouts take away from these workouts. For now, it only seems that Maybin and perhaps Derrick Williams are the only sure-to-be-drafted players of the eight. The rest of the graduating members of this year’s Big Ten Championship team’s fate may decide on just having the right team select at the right time.