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Up today: QB, RB, WR

02.25.11 at 10:29 am ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — We’re back here at Lucas Oil Stadium, where Friday promises to flash a little more pizzazz than the interesting (albeit lineman-laden) first day. Quarterbacks (Cam Newton!), running backs (Mark Ingram!), and wide receivers will talk today. We’ll also keep you filled in on what the coaches and executives around the league are saying.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Cam Newton, Mark Ingram,

Report: Agent calls Pats’ treatment of Mankins a ‘travesty’

02.24.11 at 10:12 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Frank Bauer, the agent for Patriots guard Logan Mankins, told the Boston Globe Thursday that he is unhappy with the current state of affairs between his client and the team. The Pats recently franchised Mankins, who has been a three-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro.

“One of the best players on your football team, that the coaching staff respects ‘€“ it’€™s a travesty what they’€™ve done with this player,’€ Bauer said. “(A new deal) should have been done a long time ago. It could have been done a long time ago. But it got stopped. And right now we’€™re not talking. And they tagged him.’€

The Pats chose Mankins with the 32nd overall pick of the 2005 draft. He sat out the first eight games of last season before signing his tender as a restricted free agent on Nov. 2.

Read More: Logan Mankins,

Raw (and giant) Nate Solder still developing at tackle

02.24.11 at 6:21 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Colorado’s Nate Solder was the latest tackle to be given the opportunity to dispute Gabe Carimi‘s claim that Carimi is the No. 1 tackle in this draft, and he handled it with the same calm, decaf demeanor with which he conducted his entire press conference.

“Good,” he said with a laugh when told of Carimi’s declaration.

Solder is another guy who — perhaps more so than Carimi — stands a chance at being the first tackle off the board when all is said and done. The former tight end is coveted for his size (his measurements Thursday had him at 6-foot-8 and 319 pounds) and athleticism, but he’s a raw prospect.

Solder’s technique is something he admittedly needs to work on in both pass and run-blocking.

“I’ve been playing tackle for three years now, which isn’t a whole lot of time, so there’s things I need to refine with in my technique constantly,” he said. “I take some of that with a grain of salt, but people who know what they’re talking about and that I listen to [say] I need to refine some of that stuff, yeah.”

After playing tight end as a freshman — and actually having three catches for 50 yards — the giant Solder has stuck at left tackle and been one of the draft’s bigger risk/reward prospects.

“Some things came naturally,” Solder said of the transition. “It takes a lot of athleticism to be a left tackle, same as at tight end, but some things aren’t so natural. Knee bend and using your hands, those sort of things.”

Despite issues with technique, it’s hard to see how Solder wouldn’t at least go in the first round.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Nate Solder,

Former firefighter Danny Watkins an old man among boys

02.24.11 at 5:44 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — If Baylor offensive lineman Danny Watkins has his way, he will convince teams here at Lucas Oil Stadium that he’s just capable of preventing sacks as he is of preventing fires.

Now 26 years old, Watkins’ football career was never supposed to happen. A former high school hockey player-turned-fire-fighter in British Columbia, Watkins went to Butte College (the JUCO at which Aaron Rodgers played) to pursue a fire sciences degree. It was there that coaches suggested he give football a shot, and having always been involved in sports, Watkins was willing.

Two years of playing tackle at Butte led to calls from D-1 schools. He chose Baylor and played two more seasons, and now, at 26 years of age, here he is. The Kelowna, British Columbia is considered a second-round pick who could potentially go even higher.

“It’s just kind of taken off,” Watkins said, later adding that when it came to learning a new sport, he “picked it up pretty quick.”

Watkins’ is one of the drafts more interesting stories, as he said hockey and rugby were “the sports to play.”

“I never personally cared to watch football,” he said. “I grew up watching the Canucks, and that was it.”

A reporter asked Watkins whether he watched the CFL as a child. Watkins said he did, but his clarification further drove home that he was able about hockey.

“I mean, the CFL highlights were usually right around after the Canucks’ games. I’d always stay tuned and see who won.”

Watkins is a far superior prospect than Nick Kaczur, another Canadian prospect and one who was 25 when he was drafted. Furthermore, the Baylor product doesn’t seem overly concerned with his lack of experience or his older age. Neither, he said, are the teams he’s spoken to.

“All positive,” he said. “I haven’t heard one negative about being 26.”

Watkins still keeps in very close contact with his friends from his fire-fighting days, saying he had heard from one of them earlier today.

“I miss the guys, but I get that same satisfaction from working with those guys that I do with football,” Watkins said. “It’s a give and take. You’re with the same guys day in and day out, through good and bad.”

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Danny Watkins,

Andrew Jackson: ‘We model ourselves after Logan Mankins’

02.24.11 at 4:56 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — There’s a big guard prospect in this draft out of Fresno State. A “mauler” if you will. Sound familiar? It should, because Andrew Jackson (we’ll get to the nicknames in a bit) and Logan Mankins are cut from the same cloth.

“Fresno State. Pat Hill. It’s all about toughness,” said Jackson Thursday (without sounding like an advertisement).

Jackson is a right guard prospect, and when it comes to the Patriots, he might be a great fit. The Hill connection is there, and that’s been enough for the Pats to bring in guys like Mankins and Ryan Wendell for the O-line.

“I know Ryan Wendell really well,” the 6-foot-5 Jackson said of his college teammate. “I took classes with him regularly. We have a good relationship, we played together.”

Jackson has never actually met Mankins, but he’s a big fan. That’s not a personal thing, as all of those learning under Hill try to be just like the Pats’ guard.

“We model ourselves after Logan Mankins,” Jackson said in his deep bass voice. “When we’re getting pumped up for something, we throw his college film on. The motto is ‘be like that or beat that.’ We try to follow the model of what he did: his toughness, his tenacity, his aggression.”

As for why the tags of “mauler” and “punishing” come up with so many of Hill’s players, Jackson spoke slowly as he explained.

“Coach Hill is a very convincing man,” Jackson said. “He tells you how it is. He’s always up front and honest. You know what to expect out of him, whether it’s him ripping you or congratulating you, but you know what to expect, and you know what’s expected.”

NOW FOR THE NICKNAMES

How does one deal with having the same name as a former president? Jackson, or “Old Hickory” as he was called in high school, seems to be doing fine with it.

“It comes up a lot, but I enjoy it,” Jackson said with a smile. “It’s a good conversation-starter. Sometimes I get some mixed reviews on it. Some people love Andrew Jackson the president, and some people hated him. I kind of take both.

“I definitely did my research as a young kid, learning that we had the same name. I think everybody screws up what president he was — he was the seventh — and what he did. I don’t really know if we want to talk about that because people are so mixed with their opinions.”

—-

Jackson blocked three kicks in his time at Fresno St. He credited special teams coach John Baxter with his success.

“He’s a very detailed man. He put us in a great position to block kicks,” Jackson said. “We’ve studied the game, we’ve studied kicking mechanics, and really it’s about putting guys in the right spots to block kicks.”

A reporter promptly called Jackson on being a bit too modest, asking if others had such numbers if it were all about the system. Turns out he was just telling it like it is.

“No no, we’ve all got numbers. One guy that played next to me on field goal block, he’s got six. I know another has two. Everybody’s getting in there.”

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Andrew Jackson, Logan Mankins,

Rex Ryan guarantees Super Bowl victory, but says Jets are still behind Patriots

02.24.11 at 4:08 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — If you bet that Rex Ryan wasn’t going to spend the first five minutes of his presser at the NFL Scouting Combine talking about CSI and guaranteeing a Super Bowl victory, perhaps betting isn’t for you.

Ryan did just that, telling stories about the cameo he and Mike Tannenbaum made on the show, and saying that he has no reason not to believe that the Jets will win it all next year.

Ryan’s Jets knocked off the Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs this past season after the Pats finished the regular season with a league-best 14-2 record. Despite the Jets going to the AFC Championship in consecutive seasons, Ryan said they have not surpassed the Patriots as the team to beat in the AFC East.

“I would say without question that we’re behind them still,” Ryan said.

The coach added that he isn’t going to get too concerned with the CBA situation, saying that “whatever’s dealt to us, we’re going to handle” and that “we have a plan for every scenario.”

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Rex Ryan,

Gabe Carimi is very confident, and very willing to play right tackle

02.24.11 at 2:41 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — The man that we currently project to the Patriots at No. 33 must strongly disagree with our mock drafts.

Simply put, Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi is a volcano of confidence that erupted for a media session here at Lucas Oil Stadium — not that he doesn’t have good reason.

Outland Trophy winners generally go on to have great success in the NFL, and he figures to follow Joe Thomas as the next stud offensive lineman to come out of Wisconsin.

Still, when somebody declares themselves the best tackle in the draft, it gets your attention, and that’s what he did Thursday.

“I have a better resume of going against better talent than anyone else, so that makes me more ready,” Carimi said. “I’m physically stronger and have more career starts and better knowledge of the game than any other tackle out there. That’s why I’m the No. 1 tackle out there.”

Carimi is in the discussion as one of this draft’s best tackles, but entering workouts it seems BC’s Anthony Castonzo may have the edge. That’s why they come here to work out.

Some notes from Carimi:

– Carimi said that despite having the left tackle positon “locked down,” he is more than willing to move to right tackle at the next level and would take no issue with it.

“Absolutely not,” he said when asked whether he’d have a problem with having to move. “I played right tackle all through high school. … Obviously, I think I can play left tackle. It’s up to the organization what their needs and wants are.”

– A very religious person, Carimi said he will play on Jewish holidays in the NFL. He played on Yom Kippur last season by going on Isreali time. He still fasted, and ended up having “three hours to IV up and eat” before the game.

– He said that felt he plays his best when playing against teams like Ohio State and Iowa.

“Those were my best games,” he said. “When coaches ask me what my best games are, I give them all the first-round past picks and All-Americans. … I do perform better against good talent.”

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Gabe Carimi,
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