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Post-combine Mock Draft: Offensive linemen dominate top 10 02.28.13 at 9:20 am ET
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With the annual scouting combine in the books for 2013, it’s time to take another look at the overall landscape of the first round.

Lane Johnson is a big riser after the combine. (AP)

Lane Johnson is a big riser after the combine. (AP)

The overall takeaway from Indianapolis is that this is a draft that’s all about offensive linemen, boasting depth at tackle and featuring two blue-chip guard prospects. None of the tackles may be Joe Thomas, but there are enough of them that any team in need of someone to protect its quarterback’s blind side should have options.

One team need changed at the top, as the Chiefs don’t even have to think about reaching for Geno Smith after trading for Alex Smith.

1. Chiefs (2-14) — Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
I don’t project trading of picks in mock drafts, but I’ve never wanted to more in my life. Now that the Chiefs have addressed the quarterback position with their second-round pick, they should re-sign Branden Albert, trade down and fill another need. Left tackle isn’t a big need, and letting Albert walk just so they can draft another good left tackle to replace him wouldn’t provide them with much organizational progress.

2. Jaguars (2-14) — Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
A lot of folks think that Dee Milliner could be the pick here. Yes, he ran well at the combine, but Milliner as a top-five pick, let along a top-two pick, is a bit of a stretch. The Jaguars need sacks almost as much as they need a quarterback, so Jones is the better fit.

raiders 3. Raiders (4-12) — Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
This might be a tad high for Floyd, but he helped his stock immensely at the combine and could now be the first defensive lineman selected in what is a very deep class at the position. Both Richard Seymour and Desmond Bryant are free agents, the latter of whom was arrested over the weekend.

4. Eagles (4-12) — Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Mike Mayock says that Fisher has closed the gap between he and Joeckel considerably, so there’s a chance that the Central Michigan product won’t even be on the board by the time this selection is made. If teams trade up with teams not from Kansas City, he would likely be their target.

lions_455. Lions (4-12) — Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Lions would have a really tough decision to make if this scenario were to arise: Do they add a potential star corner and address what is seemingly always an area of need, or do they grab a defensive end to replace the aging Kyle Vanden Bosch? Both Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril are free agents.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Mike Mayock weighs in on potential Patriots and whether Lane Johnson is the next Nate Solder 02.24.13 at 9:44 pm ET
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Mike Mayock agrees that comparing Ziggy Ansah to Jason Pierre-Paul might be a stretch. (AP)

Mike Mayock agrees that comparing Ziggy Ansah to Jason Pierre-Paul might be a stretch. (AP)

INDIANAPOLIS — One of the most beneficial parts of the NFL scouting combine is being able to bounce stuff off Mike Mayock‘s head on the final day of media availability. Mayock, who of the big-name draft analysts is far and away the most accurate, provides a trustworthy perspective after extensive scouting of players.

Mayock’s press conference is usually among the most crowded on the final day, so while it’s hard to get a ton of questions in, we were able to get his thoughts on a few guys who have been linked to the Patriots.

On West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin, who ran a 4.34 40-yard dash and could be a fit in the slot for the Pats:

“You’ve heard me say a thousand times probably: Fast guys run fast, and it’s not a story. So I expected him to run fast. But what it does for him is that worst-case to me, he’s a second-round pick. Worst case. If you buy into him as a route runner and toughness, and if you can get him enough touches every game for him, he might be a first-round pick.

“The NFL has evolved into more and more of a college look — spread the field, get the football in the playmakers’ hands, and that’s what he is. He’s a playmaker, he’s a mismatch. I can only imagine being a nickel [back] or a safety and having to line up across from him in a slot knowing he runs a 4.35, knowing how quick he is. He’s really a difficult matchup and that’s what this league is. So I think all that time does is just endorses exactly what we thought of him on tape.”

On fellow West Virginia receiver Stedman Bailey, who had 25 touchdowns last year but doesn’t measure off the charts at 5-foot-10 with a 4.50 40 time:

“Stedman Bailey is really a good football player. There are questions about his size. How fast is he? He’s probably a 4.5 or whatever he is. What I see is an instinctive, smart receiver that catches [the ball]; he’s a natural hands-catcher, and because [Tavon] Austin and Geno Smith get all of the attention, he kind of fell into the background. But if you watch him in the red zone on tape and his understanding and knowledge of route running and defenses, he’s one of the more smarter and instinctive receivers in this draft. I’d be surprised if he gets out of the third round.”

On receiver Da’Rick Rogers, who transferred from Tennessee to Tennessee Tech after failing three drug tests in three years and also having coachability issues.

“He’s a gifted guy. I don’t think he ran as fast as he had hoped to today. You put his tape on against Oregon at Tennessee Tech, and you go, ‘Wow.’ He caught four or five balls early against a team way better than them and they double-teamed him the rest of the way. He has some drops on tape, he’s a gifted kid. The more important thing is how do you figure the kid out? He’s had some significant off the field question marks and that’s going to hurt his value.”

On former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu:

“I like him. He’s a better football player than he is an athlete. He’s short and he’s probably speed-deficient, which is not a good combination. But what I think he is is a hell of a football player. He’s a slot defender, a nickel-type guy with return skills. How he handles not the public meetings because I would expect him to say all of the right things, but how he handles things
privately with all of the teams and whether they buy into him or not are the most important issues.” Read the rest of this entry »

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South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger: ‘I like the New England style of defense’ at 1:35 pm ET
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D.J. Swearinger meets the media on Sunday. (WEEI.com photo)

D.J. Swearinger meets the media on Sunday. (WEEI.com photo)

INDIANAPOLIS — D.J. Swearinger certainly has the sort of resume that would catch the eye of the folks in Foxboro.

The defensive back out of South Carolina has played all four positions in the secondary for the Gamecocks over the course of his college career, and the 5-foot-11, 210-pounder is known as a physical defender who has good versatility. He was a four-year starter for Steve Spurrier, and had six picks and 16 passes broken up at USC.

So it’s no wonder that Swearinger said Sunday afternoon that he met informally with two Patriots scouts already. He added that he’s always had an affinity for the way New England plays defense.

“I like the New England style of defense and I like coach Belichick and how he does things and how disciplined he is,” Swearinger said Sunday at the combine. “They win championships, and I think I can help them be a part of that.”

At South Carolina, he played in 52 of the 53 games in four seasons, making 33 starts and recording 244 tackles while moving back and forth in the secondary. He said he doesn’t have a preference as to where he ends up at the next level.

“I’m a leader, first and foremost. I have great ball skills. I’ve played every position on the back end, from corner, strong safety, free safety, to the nickel. I’m a versatile player. I’m not only just a safety — I’m an athlete,” he said. “I want to be a ball hawk. I really don’t have a preference — I just want to make plays.”

The Patriots are usually at or near the top of the league when it comes to takeaways, and Swearinger’s approach to forcing turnovers sounds like it would fit nicely with New England’s style.

“It’s the playmaker mentality — teams want to see turnovers. They want to see you make plays. Just going in and securing the tackle and hoping to get a turnover at the same time. Just being a playmaker,” he said. “It’s a big risk, but that’s why you have to secure the tackle first and then strip the ball.”

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Will Matt Elam be the next Gator in New England? at 1:17 pm ET
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Florida safety Matt Elam models his game after Ed Reed. (AP)

Florida safety Matt Elam models his game after Ed Reed. (AP)

INDIANAPOLIS — The Patriots need help in the secondary any way they can get it, whether at corner or safety, so the idea of a guy who was recruited by Urban Meyer and tries to play like Ed Reed would have to be in Bill Belichick’s wheelhouse.

Florida’s Matt Elam, the younger brother of Chiefs safety Abram Elam, fits the bill there. Though he hasn’t met with the Patriots yet, the rangy and versatile defensive back should get a good look from the Pats as they determine how to spend the 29th overall pick.

Elam hits hard and covers a lot of ground despite not being the biggest guy at 5-foot-10 and 207 pounds. He figures to be the second safety off the board behind Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro on draft day, but Elam feels confident that he’s this draft’s premier safety.

“I play very hard, and I love to strike people,” he said. “I feel like that’s what helps me stand out the most. I’m very versatile. I can cover slot receivers, I can go down and cover, I can go in the [tackle box], I can play in the post. I feel like that makes me stand out the most.”

Elam has former Gator safeties to look up to (Reggie Nelson among them), but he models his game after Reid, a Miami product who has been linked to the Patriots should he not return to the Ravens.

“I watch film on Ed Reed all the time, every week,” he said. “I look forward to [watching] him all the time.”

Although Meyer’s days in Gainesville are in the past, one should never overlook the connection between his guys and the Patriots. With mixed results, Bill Belichick brought on Brandon Spikes, Jermaine Cunningham and Aaron Hernandez in 2010, among other Gators that have landed in Foxboro in recent years.

“When they come back, I always talk to those guys about [the NFL],” Elam said of his former teammates currently playing in Foxboro. “They tell me it’s a different league. A lot of bigger and tougher guys, faster guys, but that’s expected. That’s why I go out to work every day.

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Damage done for Tyrann Mathieu, so what’s next? at 12:48 pm ET
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Tyrann Mathieu says he hasn't smoked marijuana since last October. (AP)

Tyrann Mathieu says he hasn’t smoked marijuana since last October. (AP)

INDIANAPOLIS – Tyrann Mathieu was woken up at 4 a.m. on Sunday morning to take a drug test. He passed.

That kind of thing is standard operating procedure at the combine, but the outcome was especially good news for the talented, undersized and highly troubled former LSU cornerback who was dismissed from the football team for repeatedly violating its drug policy.

Mathieu, also known as “Honey Badger,” didn’t play football last season, and his exit from LSU was followed by an arrest for possession of marijuana on Oct. 25. He says he hasn’t smoked since Oct. 26 (puzzling timing), and has since been to rehab. He has a sponsor now, and admitted that he spent more time getting his life back on track over the last several months than worrying about how his time away from the field would hurt his career. He doesn’t know what’s ahead of him, but he promises that his darkest times are behind him.

“I know what it’s like to be humiliated,” he said. “To go back down that road? Not a chance in this world. Not a chance in my lifetime. Every day is process. I’m not saying that I’m totally there, but I am taking strides every day to be the best person that Tyrann can be.”

Mathieu, who won the Chuck Bednarik award in 2011 as the best defensive college player in the country, could have followed in the footsteps of Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne as LSU cornerbacks to go high in the draft. Instead, he’s just hoping he hasn’t been taken off too many draft boards and that he’ll get a chance to resurrect his football career at the next level.

“I think my football skills speak for itself,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve lost a step, but I’m not totally focused on football right now. It’s more about the person and more about getting the things that I’ve done wrong, getting those things corrected.”

Mathieu, who is listed at 5-foot-9 and 176 pounds, probably isn’t on the same level as a guy like Peterson was. Not only does he have less experience, but he’s also a bit of a work in progress. Even with his college production, he’s still got a ways to go in coverage and his speed isn’t overwhelming (he’s hoping to run the 40-yard dash in the 4.4 range, but that might be wishful thinking). In that respect, and considering he’s spent the last year away from football, he should be a bit more of a project than a guy like Tennessee Tech wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers, whose issues with marijuana were well-documented, but is polished and played last season after being suspended from Tennessee.

All it takes is one team to Maurice Clarett him (select a troubled player way too early), but it’s tough to project what the draft range is for Mathieu. Maybe he’s a third round pick, maybe he’s undrafted. Given the skillset but work that needs to be done, maybe he winds up like Alfonzo Dennard, a troubled second-round talent who was grabbed by the Patriots in the last round last year. For what it’s worth, Mathieu has not yet met with the Patriots, though their secondary issues and history of overlooking marijuana concerns would make the two a potential fit should they fancy what he brings on the football field.

What he brings on the field isn’t the next Peterson or even the next Claiborne, but he’s highly instinctive with great ball skills. The rest of the package, which includes the speed and footwork, makes him less than a blue-chipper, and the character concerns further cloud the situation.

So the questions are there for Mathieu, and he doesn’t blame teams for having them, saying he “respects and totally understands” teams being skeptical, saying he’s “not totally asking them to trust me right now.”

If they do, Mathieu swears that the paycheck and the limelight won’t let him stray from the sober path he’s taken.

“I know there’s marijuana in the NFL,” Mathieu said. “I know there’s marijuana everywhere you go, but at the end of the day, none of those people are Tyrann Mathieu.”

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Manti Te’o press conference joins list of combine’s memorable podium moments at 11:17 am ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — The Manti Te’o press conference that dominated things on Saturday now goes down in combine history as the latest in a series of surreal podium moments over the last five years at Lucas Oil Stadium. While none of the appearances with the media carry much weight in the eyes of the NFL talent evaluators, here’s a look at some of the most notable Q&A’s with the media over the last five years:

Te’o: The linebacker out of Notre Dame went for roughly 14 minutes with the media at the combine on Saturday afternoon, facing all sorts of questions about the fake girlfriend hoax that had reduced him to a pop-culture punchline. He acquitted himself well in the spotlight, and while there wasn’t enough time to get into every aspect of the sideshow that has dominated his life the last month-plus, it was a step in the right direction.

Ryan Mallett: The quarterback had a memorable session at the podium in 2010 where he faced down character questions that had dogged him over the course of his career at Arkansas and Michigan. He ultimately dropped to New England in the third round.

Tim Tebow: The quarterback was the star of the 2010 combine, but didn’t appear too ruffled by his time in the spotlight. He helpfully arranged the recorders at the podium for some media members, and breezed through a session that lasted more than 10 minutes with the national media. He ended up going in the first round to the Broncos.

Cam Newton: The year after Tebow, it was Newton who drew the largest crowd, where he was asked about saying he was “not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon.” In an opening statement he read from the podium, he said his commitment was to be the “best possible football player I can be.” (He also referred to himself in the third person on several occasions.) Newton participated fully in all the drills, and went No. 1 overall to the Panthers.

Michael Crabtree: In 2009, the wide receiver out of Texas Tech walked to the podium with a smile and delivered a 20-second statement on why he wouldn’t be running at the combine that week before strolling away. (He had a stress fracture in his foot.) He was later drafted by San Francisco.

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40-yard dash times for wide receivers at 10:02 am ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Everyone loves them some 40-yard dash times, so we’ll update this post throughout the day with the results of some guys the Patriots could potentially look at. Click on the players’ names for stories we’ve written about them at the combine. Times are unofficial.

Tavon Austin, West Virginia: 4.25, 4.31
- Austin’s an explosive guy who models his game after Wes Welker. Could be intriguing at 29th overall if he’s there. His first time is one-tenth of a second slower than Chris Johnson‘s record.

Stedman Bailey, West Virginia: 4.50
- One of the WEEI.com draft binkies this year, I’d like Bailey in the middle rounds over Austin. That time isn’t great for his size, so maybe this drops him to the third round. Had 25 touchdowns last year.

Justin Hunter, Tennessee: 4.41, 4.44
- Good time for the 6-foot-4 Hunter. A possible first-rounder.

Da’Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech: 4.52

DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson: 4.50 

Terrance Williams, Baylor: 4.52 

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