Day Four was the most publicized day of the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine so far, which is to be expected, since the skill positions were on display (QB, RB, WR). For the second day in a row though, the leading story revolved around injured WR Michael Crabtree. Crabtree stated that his injury was not even causing him pain; therefore, he would still perform drills, including the 40 yard dash, at Texas Tech's pro day. While many have differing opinions on whether this is wise, it appears that Crabtree wants to solidify his place as a top five pick. In doing so, he will postpone surgery that will then keep him out of OTAs for whatever team drafts him.
With Crabtree's absence, the attention immediately was put onto the WR drills to see who would shine in his absence. The group did not disappoint, as several posted sub 4.40 40 times. Notable WR prospects Jeremy Maclin (Mizzou) and Hakeem Nicks (UNC) both were injured during drills, but neither of them appear to be serious, especially Maclin, who returned to finish the day with the rest of the group. Overall, the WRs that seemed to help themselves the most were Brian Robiskie (OSU), who ran a 4.51 40 and also showed superior receiving skills, and Darrius Heyward-Bey, who ran the fastest 40 with a sizzling 4.3 time. Although I believe there is a fair chance that Crabtree will be the only WR taken before Houston's selection, there is a good chance that an unprecedented run of WRs could occur between our first selection and our second round pick.
Like the WR group, the top QB prospect, Matthew Stafford (UGA), did not participate in drills, although this was by choice and not due to injury. This was seen as a chance for Mark Sanchez (USC) and Josh Freeman (K St.) to promote their respective values, but neither did anything to impress or deter scouts. The one QB prospect that had analysts talking was Pat White (WVU), who said he was willing to play other positions besides QB. After strong Senior Bowl and Combine performances, Mike Mayock projects him now as a second round pick who has added value as a "wildcat QB'. As for the Texans' state of the QB situation, one of the analysts stated that he had spoken with 49ers coaches who show little to no interest in Sanchez, so it looks like he will still be there when we pick. I think there is a real possibility of trading spots with a team like Minnesota or Detroit, who desperately need help at the QB position.
The RB group was the last to perform, and they had big shoes to fill after last year's crop of blazing RBs. Unfortunately, no one showed the kind of speed we saw last year, and overall the group was mediocre. Front runners Knowshon Moreno (UGA) and Beanie Wells (OSU) probably cemented their places as the first and second RBs taken in the draft. I have to concede that it is looking less and less likely that someone will want to trade spots with us for a RB this year, as no one really looked worth losing draft picks for.
In other news around the Combine, Patriots Coach Bill Belichick got nostalgic with the media about several of his former rivals who are no longer in the biz. Also, senior NFL.com analyst Pat Kirwan claims that if teams want a LT this year, they better get them in the first round while they last. Hopefully this still applies to Andre Smith (Ala). My dark horse team to chose Smith? The Raiders. They need a LT, and since when did Al Davis ever care about character issues over physical talent?
Tomorrow will showcase DL and LB, the day we've been waiting for. They already conducted the bench press with somewhat notable results. DT B.J. Raji was fifth among defensive lineman with 33 reps (37 was tops), and Brian Orakpo (UT), who is curiously listed in the LB category, had the highest total among that position with 31, barely edging out Brian Cushing's 30. What also impressed me was Michael Johnson's (GT) 28 reps. We all know that his athleticism isn't the issue, and 28 doesn't sound like that much, but that's not taking into account the nature of the bench press. Short guys are supposed to bench a lot; guys who are 6'7" and therefore have the wingspan of a terradactyl are not. Johnson's strength was supposed to be one of his detractors, and he did weigh in at 266, which consequently was 8 more pounds than he weighed about a month and a half ago. Just a thought.