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An incomplete list of guys to keep an eye on in Indianapolis

02.23.11 at 9:21 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS ‘€“ Finally, the combine has arrived. The groups are flying into Indianapolis, and Thursday we’€™ll get access to the offensive linemen, tight ends, and special teamers. Of course, that’€™s just part of the process, as all positions will work out and undergo major scrutiny over the weekend and into next week.

Make no mistake: Everybody invited is worth keeping an eye on, and everybody has something to prove. For that reason, it is impossible to really get a sense of who is worth keeping an eye on, and for that reason we’€™ll be posting content on as many players as possible from Lucas Oil Stadium.

Still, if you’€™re wondering which guys will be interesting to watch and who might have a little more to gain (or lose), here’€™s an incomplete list:

The other top cornerbacks: Ras I Dowling, Jimmy Smith, Aaron Williams, Brandon Harris

Quick: Who is the third-best cornerback in this draft? Everybody knows that Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara should go in the first 10 or so picks, but there are lots of other teams that may seek a corner in the first round, and the talented bunch that follows Peterson and Amukamara doesn’€™t have a clear-cut leader at this point. Harris should impress in the 40-yard-dash, but if Smith posts even a modest one, would his size/speed combo make him more draftable? Dowling, who could have potentially been ahead of these guys if his senior season not been derailed by injuries, just needs to prove his health.

Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech

Many draftniks see Williams as the second-best back in this draft and someone capable of going in the first round. What teams might be seeing is somebody who was good as a freshman. What he hasn’€™t been able to produce on the field he will have to make up for in the 40-yard-dash if he wants to separate himself from the rest of the quarterbacks in the second-to-third round range.

The offensive tackles

There isn’€™t a consensus top offensive tackle in this draft, and the reigning Outland Trophy winner (Gabe Carimi) could go as late as the late first or early second round. That means lots of guys have the opportunity to stand out. Nate Solder‘€™s got the size and Tyron Smith has the athleticism. Boston College‘€™s Anthony Castonzo has the benefit of a long line of Eagle linemen before him that have found success in the NFL. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Aaron Williams, Anthony Castonzo, Brandon Harris

Pre-Combine Mock Draft: How much will Cam Newton help himself?

02.23.11 at 1:39 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS ‘€” It’€™s the most wonderful time of the year: the NFL scouting combine. Christopher Price and I will be bringing everything from reports on players, videos, and CBA goings on at a sickening rate.

Before all the fun starts, let’€™s take one last pre-combine look at how things might shake out. After all, the combine can change things drastically, and there are sure to be a few names entering the mix when all is said and done.

1. Carolina (2-14) Da’€™Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson Last season, it appeared a defensive lineman could have gone with the first pick of the draft, but the popular line of thinking changed to Sam Bradford around the time of the combine despite the quarterback’€™s shoulder reconstruction surgery. This year, another quarterback is flying up the board, but the safe line of thinking is that Bowers or Auburn’€™s Nick Fairley will be the first defensive lineman to go No. 1 overall since 2006 (Mario Williams).

2. Denver (4-12) Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn What better way to switch to a new defensive scheme (John Fox’€™s Broncos will have a 4-3 defense) than to add a ferocious presence on the line? Fairley’€™s MVP performance in the BCS championship game gives him a bit more star appeal than Bowers at the moment, but both prospects seem worth it this high.

3. Buffalo (4-12) A.J. Green, WR, Georgia I’€™ll still try to stay ahead of the curve and predict that Lee Evans might not be in this team’€™s plans going forward. The 13th overall pick of the 2004 draft is coming off a down year, and it’€™s debatable whether the team would willingly pay him his $1 million roster bonus or go the route of trading/releasing him. With the emergence of Stevie Johnson at one receiver spot and last year’€™s eighth overall pick in C.J. Spiller potentially stepping it up in year two, the Bills actually could boast a few offensive weapons with the selection of Green.

4. Cincinnati (4-12) Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU The Bengals took cornerbacks in the first round of both the 2006 and 2007 drafts, but neither Jonathan Joseph (2006) nor Leon Hall (2007) were as highly heralded. Joseph has been the less impressive of the two at the professional level and is set to become a free agent. Hall’€™s contract has just one year left, so this pick both gives them an elite corner to pair with Hall for the time being and insurance should the Michigan product leave down the road.

5. Arizona (5-11) Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina Interviews with teams this week will really help them get a feel of what Quinn’€™s all about, and in turn will help us figure out whether talent will win out over all that he’€™s been through. Quinn was considered one of the best pass-rushers in the nation after his 11-sack sophomore season, but was suspended for his junior season for improper dealings with an agent. With his speed and 6-foot-5, 270-pound frame, it makes sense that 3-4 teams would use him at outside linebacker.

6. Cleveland (5-11) Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M Miller was previously projected to go No. 5 to the Cardinals, but one shouldn’€™t rule out the possibility of teams passing on the speedy outside backer due to his lack of size (6-foot-2, 237 pounds). This pick would greatly help a defense that finished tied for 25th in the league with 29 sacks. Miller, whose athleticism makes him a favorite to put on a show here in Indianapolis, had 11 sacks in his senior year.

7. San Francisco (6-10) Cam Newton, QB, Auburn A year ago, everyone was astonished that a mid-round prospect named Dan LeFevour thought he was too cool for school by refusing to throw. Now, Cam Newton is fully participating in the combine. He says he’€™s doing it to be as transparent as possible in the pre-draft process, and it should pay off. The more teams see Newton’€™s athleticism and potential (he still remains a project but with tremendous upside) the better standing he’€™ll be in with talent evaluators. This might be a big premature, but assuming he wows everybody in Indy, he could be the first quarterback taken in a pretty weak class. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, A.J. Green, Akeem Ayers, Cam Newton

It Is What It Is Cast, Episode 2: Focus on the Combine

02.22.11 at 8:04 pm ET
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In the second edition of the It Is What It Is Cast, Christopher Price and D.J. Bean discuss the NFL Scouting Combine, what the Patriots look for when they assess a prospect at the combine and how some teams fail to put the combine in the proper perspective when it comes to evaluating a prospects chances for success at the NFL level. Check out the full podcast here.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Christopher Price, D.J. Bean,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Miami WR Leonard Hankerson

02.22.11 at 3:00 pm ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2011 NFL draft.

Leonard Hankerson

Position: Wide receiver

School: Miami

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 205 pounds

Achievements: Broke Michael Irvin‘s Miami single-season record with 13 touchdown receptions in 2010.

What he brings: Hankerson has good size and great hands. He is one of the best receivers in the draft when it comes to going up and getting jump balls. That could make him an immediate asset to a Patriots offense dominated by smaller, shifty receivers. Hankerson isn’t seen as a first-round pick because he doesn’t have great top-end speed. He runs good routes, though, and he does a good job creating separation from defenders.

Where the Patriots could get him: No. 33 or 60

Notes: Hankerson led the Hurricanes last season with 72 catches, 1,156 yards and 13 touchdowns, all of which were career highs. He had just 17 catches for 203 yards and three touchdowns during his first two seasons at Miami, but broke out with 45 receptions, 801 yards and six touchdowns as a junior.

Video:

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Leonard Hankerson, Potential Patriots,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Colorado OT Nate Solder

02.22.11 at 11:00 am ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2011 NFL draft.

Nate Solder

Position: Offensive tackle

School: Colorado

Height: 6-foot-8

Weight: 314 pounds

Achievements: Consensus First Team All-American (2010)

What he brings: Solder has been praised by scouts and analysts alike for his great footwork, agility and strength. He is a highly regarded run blocker who gets to the second level quickly and doesn’t give up until the whistle blows. He still needs work as a pass blocker, as he is prone to getting beat by speedy pass rushers, and he does not project as an immediate starter. However, his talent, size and work ethic are enough to land him in the middle of the first round in most mock drafts.

Where the Patriots could get him: No. 17

Notes: Solder became the first ever offensive tackle at Colorado to earn consensus All-America honors. He has no injury history and has displayed remarkable durability, as he was on the field for all but two offensive snaps over his final three years at Colorado.

Video:

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Nate Solder, Potential Patriots,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Missouri DE/OLB Aldon Smith

02.21.11 at 6:36 pm ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2011 NFL draft.

Aldon Smith

Position: Defensive end/outside linebacker

School: Missouri

Height: 6-foot-5

Weight: 260 pounds

Achievements: First Team All-Big 12 (2010)

What he brings: Smith surprised some by leaving school early for the draft. Many analysts think he could’ve used another year in school to bulk up, develop more moves on the pass rush and enter next year’s draft as a top-10 talent. Despite that, most of them are still projecting him to go in the middle of the first round because of his upside. Smith registered 19 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks last season and is lauded for his great burst off the line of scrimmage and ability to get to the quarterback quickly.

Where the Patriots could get him: No. 17, No. 28

Notes: Smith has been labeled a ‘tweener because he isn’t quite strong enough yet to line up as a down lineman in the NFL, but he doesn’t have any experience as a stand-up outside linebacker. Although it certainly seems like he has the tools to be an effective pass rusher in a 3-4 scheme like the Patriots’, the fact that he’s never had to drop back in coverage certainly raises some questions about whether or not he could be an every-down linebacker.

Video:

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Aldon Smith, Potential Patriots,

Ellis Hobbs expected to retire

02.21.11 at 3:51 pm ET
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According to a report from Fox Sports, former Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs III is expected to retire due to neck injuries. Just 27 years of age, Hobbs suffered a neck injury as a member of the Eagles while returning a kick against the Giants on Nov. 21. He did noy play again and was placed on injured reserve.

The Patriots selected Hobbs in the third round of the 2005 NFL draft out of Iowa State. He played four seasons for the Patriots and set the NFL record for longest kickoff return on Sept. 9 2007 against the Jets. Hobbs was traded to the Eagles during the 2009 NFL draft for a pair of fifth-round picks and played two seasons in Philadelphia.

Hobbs was placed on injured reserve with separate neck injuries in each of his two seasons with the Eagles. The second such hit, a helmet-to-helmet hit from the Giants’ Dave Tollefson on the play below, proved to be the final play of his career.

Read More: Ellis Hobbs III,
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