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Todd McShay on D&C: Patriots should focus on defense with 17th pick

03.02.11 at 10:40 am ET
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ESPN’€™s Todd McShay joined Dennis & Callahan Wednesday morning to discuss the NFL combine and draft. He talked about how Cam Newton did at the combine and where he might go in the draft, as well as who the Patriots might be looking at with the 17th pick.

McShay discussed why the combine has become so popular. ‘€œIt’€™s hard to explain,’€ he said. ‘€œMy guess is the more we get to understand it and the more fans get to know more than just the 40-yard dash and understand all the different drills and the importance of it, I think that’€™s part of it. They can watch things and realize what’€™s going on.

‘€œAnd secondly, let’€™s face it, this whole draft process is all because we’€™re NFL fans and fanatics and lunatics, and it’€™s just a chance to be talking during the offseason about the NFL.’€

Despite that, McShay said the combine itself is still only a small part of what goes into scouting player. ‘€œIt’€™s really difficult to do a percentage. But if I had to, I’€™ve always gone by the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the entire process is game tape and studying and realizing what you’€™re looking for. Then 20 percent is the all-star game, the interviews, the 1-on-1 and obviously the whole combine experience.

‘€œIf you were to break the combine down into percentages, I’€™d go 80/20 there as well. Eighty for the medical and interview and then 20 percent is what you actually see in the workouts and the 40-yard dash.

‘€œThose things are nice and it’€™s good to see,’€ McShay continued. ‘€œSometimes it’€™ll be a red flag and you’€™ll have to go back and take a look at things and say, ‘€˜Maybe I gave him too much credit for his speed and agility because he was going up against poor competition.’€™

‘€œIt can be helpful in that way, but the reality of it is you have to pass these medical exams. And you have to be a player when the 15 minutes are over, in the interviews, those teams, especially the position coaches and head coach, have to have a good feel about you.’€A lot was made of Newton’€™s performance at the combine. The Auburn quarterback struggled with some of his throws, and he was reportedly caught off guard by a question about why he disobeyed a call for a kneel-down at the end of the national championship game.

‘€œI had questions about Cam Newton the individual and the leader and just how his character was going to mesh with an NFL team,’€ McShay said. ‘€œAnd to be honest with you, I have more questions now than I did when I arrived in Indianapolis. I met with him and I talked to him, and he can be a charismatic guy and he can be funny, but ultimately it comes down to, ‘€˜How do you handle adversity?’€™

‘€œHe was great when all the rumors were going around, to departmentalize it and just focus on football. But how’€™s he going to react when something goes wrong in football? How’€™s he going to react when he’€™s hurt and he has to go play another down and he doesn’€™t want to go on the field?

‘€œThere were reports of him taking that final snap before the field goal and deciding personally that he was going to go in for the touchdown, that he was going to sneak it instead of knee it and get his kicker a better angle for the game-winning field goal ‘€¦ and there were also a lot of reports about him not wanting to go back on the field right before and them having to call a timeout because they couldn’€™t get him back on the field.’€

McShay said he’€™s taken some heat for having Newton going lower than most people. ‘€œI’€™m getting banged on by a lot of people because I’€™m a Cam Newton hater now,” he said. “I have him as the 14th-best player in the draft and that’€™s not good enough, evidently. I know this, there are two reasons we’€™ve had a lot of busts in recent years, from Matt Leinart to Vince Young to JaMarcus Russell. Go back to Ryan Leaf if you want.

‘€œIt’€™s accuracy and/or the mental makeup of that individual. You can really find one or both of those characteristics. If you’€™re not accurate, you can’€™t play in the league. And if you are not the mentally toughest, best leader, hardest worker and all of those things, you’€™re really putting yourself in danger of not being a success at the NFL level. I would be very, very cautious of spending top-10 money on a player that I’€™m not 100 percent sure of.’€

McShay said he thinks Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert is the better prospect, but that he would be surprised if either of them goes first overall.

‘€œI will be,’€ he said. ‘€œIronically, I’€™d be less surprised if Newton went than Gabbert. I can see a team saying, ‘€˜You know what, we get it, we hear all the reports, we have a little bit of concern, but man, this guy looks the part.’€™ We saw it this year. That Auburn offense was not very good, guys. You’€™re not seeing a lot of them at the combine or the Senior Bowl.

‘€œHe was a one-man show and led them to a national championship in the toughest conference in the country. As much as I’€™m concerned about the mental aspect, the physical aspect can be blinding, and that’€™s why it won’€™t shock me if it’€™s one to Carolina or 3 to the Buffalo Bills.’€

The hosts asked McShay if Alabama running back Mark Ingram could be available at No. 17 for the Patriots. ‘€œHe could be there,” he said. “I’€™m not a big fan of drafting a running back that high, especially a guy that has had a knee injury and there’€™s a little bit of concern about the shelf life. I really believe that the Patriots would be better off going defensive front seven. This class is loaded.’€

So who will be there for defensive linemen and linebackers? ‘€œAldon Smith, maybe, from Missouri,’€ McShay said. ‘€œHe’€™s a big guy and I think he can play outside, especially the way the Patriots look for their outside linebackers, those taller guys. I think Aldon Smith would be a fit there. Even at defensive end, there are a lot of fine pickings. I don’€™t think [Wisconsin'€™s] J.J. Watt‘€™s going to be there, but Cameron Jordan from Cal is another guy. He had a great Senior Bowl, worked out very well.

‘€œMuhammad Wilkerson from Temple might be the most underrated defensive lineman in this class. He’€™s big, he moves well, he can take on blocks. You can get a defensive end in the mold of Richard Seymour, someone who can play that two-gap and take on blocks, but also give you something on third down. I think that’€™s what the Patriots were missing to a certain extent.’€

The guys also asked McShay if Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich will be drafted. ‘€œYes. Day 3,” McShay said. “You’€™re drafting him with the hope, obviously, that he’€™s going to get closer to what we used to see in 2008. At some point on Day 3, if that guy’€™s still on the board, you take a chance on him just because you have to have him on your football team. You get a guy like that who’€™s going to work every day the way he works, who loves the game, who’€™s a leader the way he is.

‘€œYou’€™re telling me Mark Herzlich can’€™t figure out a way to contribute on special teams for a year while we take a look and continue to get him stronger and stronger? This kid’€™s something else. I want to be around Mark Herzlich as much as I can be around him. I want him around my guys on the team and I want them to see every day what you can do and where you can be and how far you can go.’€

McShay finished up by talking about which players might have cost themselves some money at the combine. ‘€œI think the only guys that cost themselves were the ones who interviewed poorly and didn’€™t handle their business,” he said. “Cam Newton is one. I think [Auburn defensive tackle] Nick Fairley is going to be an interesting player to watch, I’€™ll just say that, because there’€™s a lot of buzz about him not handling his business and acting mature and like a pro in Indianapolis.

‘€œAnd Jimmy Smith, unfortunately, the Colorado cornerback, who I really enjoy watching on tape and think is a good player, but there’€™s a lot of different character issues coming out with him.’€

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Aldon Smith, Cam Newton, Mark Herzlich
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