It may be the offseason for football, but things are just starting to heat up as far as far as the NFL goes, because in multi-million dollar sports franchises, there is no offseason.
One event above all the rest, before the draft and before training camp, gives NFL personnel a clean look at the talent available in a given year. Coaches and GM’s become kids in a candy shop as scouts with itchy trigger fingers on stop watches evaluate prospects every move. It’s time for the NFL Combine.
On Wednesday, Feb. 24, more than 330 NFL prospects reported to Indianapolis for the biggest job interview of their lives: the 2010 NFL Combine. Who are this year’s players to keep and eye this next week for your favorite NFC North team? I’ll lay it out.
We’ll start with the Lions, the cellar dwellers of the division lately with no other way to put it. Detroit’s finest once again holds a top 10 pick in the upcoming draft, this time a familiar number two spot. They sit at a good position to take the draft’s number one overall prospect, Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (N-dom-ah-ken Soo), a rare player who dictates the way of a game much like a quarterback would, wreaking havoc play-in and play-out. Anyone who watched the Texas game this season saw Suh make the Longhorns look like Alma College. Suh could bring the same amount of excitement to Detroit as the day Joey Harrington was let go from the black and blue. Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy, another defensive tackle, would be a viable choice for Detroit if Suh just happens to be gone at two.
The Packers are coming off of an 11-5 productive season. Taking anything other than an offensive linemen at pick 23 may be a slap to the face to quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers was sacked a league high 50 times last season, a beating no quarterback can take year-in-year-out, just ask ex-Texan David Carr. Iowa offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga or Maryland tackle Bruce Campbell should be available around 23 and would bring immediate help to an ailing offensive line. Campbell is a raw prospect, but a rarity athletically. The combine should help sort out the two player’s footwork and NFL potential.
The Vikings seem to be the most complete NFC North team heading into the 2010 NFL season. That is until a few questions are answered. Will Brett Favre return to the purple and gold, then retire, then come back once again? Will mammoth defensive tackle Pat Williams, a 13-year league veteran, be back to anchor possibly the NFL’s best defensive line? Sitting at 30th overall in the first round still gives the Vikings plenty of options. More than likely, the Vike’s will go defensive tackle or cornerback. Tennessee defensive tackle Dan Williams or Penn States Jared Odrick would fit nicely. If they decide on a corner to learn under the veteran Antoine Winfield, then a prospect like Boise States Kyle Wilson, a rising ball-hawking corner, would be a good choice.
Now it’s onto the Chicago Bears. I’m sorry, Chicago fans, I really am. The Bears have used draft picks as trade-bait the last two seasons like they were going out of style. Chicago traded its would-be top 10 pick of this year’s draft to Denver in the Jay Cutler trade. Cutler came in and threw 26 interceptions to lead the league. Chicago’s second round pick was traded to Tampa Bay in exchange for defensive end Gaines Adams, who died unexpectedly of a cardiac arrest on Jan. 17 this year. The Bears first pick in the draft won’t come until the 11th pick of the third round. If the Bears try trading for a pick instead of getting rid of one for a change, I would recommend Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas a 6-3, 230 pound freak. Thomas caught 46 balls for over 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns in a run-first option offense. A non-severe broken foot will sideline the star for the combine, but it may just push him into round two where the Bears can make a move on a wideout, a position deep in need of depth.