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5 Things To Wonder About the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine

With the combine kicking off and the measurable testing set to get underway in less than 24 hours, all relevant parties should have arrived in Indianapolis by now.  It's time to wonder what can be gleaned from the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine.

BTB has already given you a primer on the combine and it's history, as well as Rabble's post here and here, that expound on the physical drills the players are put through. We'll leave the elephant out of the room and not worry whether there will even be a season for these prospects to play in. I'll also avoid individual player performances, as we all have our various pet cat prospects by now that we'll be intently following.  For discussion purposes, here was my personal pre-combine Cowboys seven round mock: (trade downs not allowed, availability based on Wes Bunting's rankings at the time):

Dallas trades picks #40, 140, next year’s 3rd rounder (~600 pts) to Pittsburgh for pick #31 (600 pts)

Round #1, pick #9 – Brandon Harris, CB Miami
Round #1, pick #31 – Anthony Costanzo, OT, Boston College
Round #2 pick #40 – TRADED
Round #3, pick #71 – FS, yes FS not SS, Ahmad Black, Florida (Black can play every position in the secondary, so should one of the other young prospects develop he can be utilized still)
Round #4, pick#109 – Kenrick Ellis, DT Hampton (STEAL!!!!!!)
Round #5, pick #140 – TRADED
Round #6, pick #171 – John Moffitt, OG, Wisconsin (in the chance he actually lasts here)
Round #7, pick #209 – Casey Matthews, ILB, Oregon (in the chance he actually lasts here)
UDFA – Pat Devlin, QB, Delaware

Without further ado, here's my take on the 5 things to wonder about this year's combine.

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#5 - Which position will sport the fastest time in the 40 yard dash, cornerbacks, receivers or running backs?

We all know that timing the 40-yard dash in biker shorts isn't an accurate representation of how fast a player is in pads. We know that the cone and shuttle drills are more inline with the quickness necessary to compete at the professional level. However, the straight line race is a staple of athleticism at any level. Remember racing your friends as little kids?

Racing is fun, and the cause for bragging rights world wide. Heck, I wish they'd bring back the NFL's fastest man competition.  So who will have the best run? The fastest time ever recorded at the combine was set by two different people. WR Rondel Melendez ran a 4.24 in 1999. Tennessee's Chris Johnson holds the record for running backs, matching that mark in 2008. Fabian Washington has the fastest time recorded by a cornerback, running a 4.25 in 2005.

So which position has the fastest athlete? I think it's a safe bet to eliminate the offensive linemen and Rich Eisen, not necessarily in that order.

#4 Will Cam Newton's measurables vault him into being a top 3 pick?

As I state below, I am against picking a quarterback in the first round for us, no matter who falls. However, we should all be ecstatic if Missouri's Blaine Gabbert and Auburn's Cam Newtown are top 8 selections. Newton has the national championship and the Heisman, but a limited body of work. Should he ace the combine, and he's expected to be one of the top athletes so he should, will it be enough to overcome the lack of game film and the character concerns being bandied about due to his father allegedly prostituting his son to colleges?

#3 Which middle linebacker, offensive linemen and safety will score the highest on the Wonderlic test?

The Wonderlic test is a twelve-minute, fifty-question test used to assess the aptitude of prospective employees for learning and problem-solving.  Here's a recap at the average score, by position:

Offensive tackle - 26
Center - 25
Quarterback - 24
Guard - 23
Tight end - 22
Safety - 19
Linebacker - 19
Cornerback - 18
Wide receiver - 17
Fullback - 17
Halfback - 16

Most of the time, you only hear of the Wonderlic scores of the quarterbacks. But what about the other positions? The intelligence of the other guys up the middle are highly important factors as well. The center/guards have to make the line calls, the middle linebackers put the defensive front seven in position and the safety is responsible for protecting the largest areas of open space. You see what has happened here in Dallas when the safety doesn't correctly place his secondary teammates in the right places.

#2 - Which player will hurt his draft stock the most with a bad combine performance?Will that player be a draft day steal or will the combine results bear out?

Every year, you hear of players that do not perform well under the scrutiny of the combine. The combine doesn't exactly put the players in game situations, and sometimes the lights are too bright for some prospects. That doesn't always mean that they will underperform in the pros, and occasionally a team will find a steal in the draft based on a player's poor combine results. These are often mitigated by the Pro Days that are held on campuses over the next several weeks. Will there be a gem, someone who had impressive results in college, waiting in the mid rounds for the Cowboys?

#1 - Is there a mid round quarterback that meets the 26-27-60 rule that Dallas could draft and use as the heir apparent to Romo, or future trade bait?

Let's get this straight. I am against using a 1st or 2nd round draft pick on a quarterback. Romo is my guy. However, I'd love to see a scenario where Dallas is able to trade a quarterback prospect like the Atlanta Falcons did with Matt Schaub a few years back.  Atlanta traded Schaub for the right to move up two slots in the first round of the 2007 draft, plus got Houston's 2nd rounders in 2007 and 2008. Both teams went D-Line in the first round, so Atlanta got a better prospect in their eyes (Jamaal Anderson and Amobi Okoye), plus they picked up G Justin Blalock in the 2nd. Atlanta then parlayed that 2008 pick (as the primary resource) into a 1st round selection of tackle Sam Baker in a trade with the Redskins.  Not a bad haul for what was originally a third rounder.

I was reminded of the 26-27-60 rule a few weeks back when Kevin Ewoldt of our brother blog Hogs Haven posted a summary. John Lopez of Sports Illustrated recaps the rule:

If an NFL prospect scores at least a 26 on the Wonderlic test, starts at least 27 games in his college career and completes at least 60 percent of his passes, there's a good chance he will succeed at the NFL level.

Kevin summarized the charts nicely already, so I'll regurgitate it.. it's a pretty phenomenal assessment.

QBs that have passed this rule: Sam Bradford, Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, TONY ROMO, Matt Schaub, Kyle Orton, Kevin Kolb, Matt Ryan, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Matt Stafford. 

QBs who did not pass this rule: Jamarcus Russell, Ryan Leaf, David Carr, Heath Shuler, Jimmy Clausen, Jay Cutler, Joey Harrington, Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, Tim Tebow, Alex Smith (1 game short), Jeff George, and Vince Young (horrible Wonderlic). Yes, these are all huge busts but were all VERY high (or projected) 1st rounders.

Exceptions: Brett Favre (22 Wonderlic), McNabb (14 Wonderlic), Matt Leinart - who at USC played over 30 games, 35 Wonderlic, and threw over 63% all three years. Aaron Rodgers averaged 63.8 completion percentage, 35 Wonderlic, and 26 games (1 game short). Ben Roethlisberger scored a 25 on the Wonderlic (1 point short) but easily had the number of games and high completion %. Josh Freeman met all the rules except completion % at KSU (59.1%) - so close.

So is there a guy that scores in this range that we can target in the middle rounds, and parlay it into either a quarterback of the future or trade bait? Inquiring minds want to know.

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