Category:NFL
Posted on: February 28, 2012 7:21 pm
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2012 NFL Combine: Full combine winners and losers

RG3 stole the show en route to helping St. Louis. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

We knocked out a slew of Winners and Losers posts while we were at the combine, and now that the combine's all wrapped-up, it only made sense to do a final one.

It also makes sense to point out that being a "winner" here doesn't mean that someone will be "a great NFL player" or that someone is "worthy of a top pick." It simply means that they separated themselves from the crowd and have boosted their momentum in the eyes of people who follow the draft.
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Winners

Stephen Hill: A bunch of folks were kind enough to have me on the radio while I was in Indy and Hill was the name I kept giving them: he played in Paul Johnson's offense at Georgia Tech, so there's limited exposure for him as a pass-catcher. But he's 6'4" and runs a 4.36 40, looked athletic in the catching drills at the combine and is already an unselfish player who's a proficient blocker. He's not in the first-round group with some other wideouts like Michael Floyd, Reuben Randle and Justin Blackmon, but he's got a shot at making that happen. At the very worst, he's probably pushed himself up into becoming a second-round pick if he performs well at GT's pro day.

Dontarie Poe: Poe was the big winner during Monday's defensive linemen and linebacker workouts, and he's one of the top gainers in terms of draft stock from the combine. There are definitely questions about his production at Memphis (30 starts, 21.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks and 98 total tackles in three seasons) and whether or not he can produce against elite competition. But he dominated the combine, running the 40 in a blazing (for a 346-pound guy) 4.98 seconds, benching 225 pounds 44 times and looking surprisingly athletic for a man of his size. It's entirely possible he could end up being taken in the top half of the first round now.

St. Louis Rams: Robert Griffin III would be a worthy candidate for this spot, because he wowed everyone with his performance on the field and electric personality at the podium. He's going to be the second player taken in the draft. (The only way he's not is if he goes first.) And that's where the Rams benefit -- there's already a report that the Redskins would give St. Louis two first-round picks (2012 and 2013) and a third- and fourth-round pick in 2012 to land Griffin. Which means the Rams, who have needs at many different areas, are in a position to get one of the biggest draft-day hauls in NFL history.

Josh Robinson: Robinson, the 139th-ranked prospect by NFLDraftScout.com, really cranked up his stock during Tuesday's workouts. He led all players at the 2012 combine with a 4.33 40 time, he finished first in the three-cone drill among defensive backs with 6.55 seconds, he finished first in the broad jump among defensive backs, and he finished second among defensive backs with the vertical jump. Rob Rang's actually expected Robinson to work out well, and the underclassman was motivated by the draft advisory board saying he wouldn't be picked in the first three rounds. He's doing good work to prove them wrong.

Morris Claiborne: Claiborne is the consensus top cornerback on almost everyone's draft board. And after Tuesday's workouts, that's even more the case. Janoris Jenkins beat Claiborne in the 40 and Dre Kirkpatrick beat Claiborne in the vertical jump, but Claiborne's the better overall prospect based on Tuesday's performance. Oh yeah: and he has no significant red flags. Jenkins has a pile of them (though he talked about them honestly, which is a plus) and Kirkpatrick's answers to his recent marijuana arrest should prompt further questions from teams.

Losers

Kendall Wright: Wright came into the combine as a top-three wideout on almost every board. With Justin Blackmon not working out, Wright had a shot to potentially even leap to the top of the wideout lists, particularly if he blazed his 40. But he didn't, running a 4.61, and possibly costing himself a shot in the first round. The good news is that Wright's still gets to perform at Baylor's pro day, where he'll have a pile of scouts on hand to view RG3. But in a year with a weak wideout class, Wright really didn't take advantage of an opportunity given to him at the combine.

Vontaze Burflict: We mentioned it on Monday afternoon, but it Bears repeating, because Burflict is almost certainly the biggest loser of the entire combine. There was plenty of discussion, based on Burflict's play on the field, that he could be a first-round pick. That's laughable at this point, and it's possible that Burflict could even go undrafted. He ripped his old coaches, he ran the slowest linebacker 40 time and he didn't look like the elite talent people claim to have seen on tape.

Michael Brockers: The hype surrounding Brockers hit a fever pitch after the LSU defensive lineman weighed in at 322 pounds, 16 LBs higher than when he left college. That's also 80 pounds higher than when he enrolled at FSU. But then on Monday, Brockers looked shockingly unathletic during the various workouts, and certainly has "plenty of red flags" for teams to examine between now and the draft. If he can push his stock back up, he's still a candidate to land as high as the Panthers at No. 9 overall, but it's possible that without a strong pro day, his JPP-like boom-or-bust status could end up scaring away a lot of teams.

NFL Trends: That's a shorter way of saying "teams want big, athletic, pass-catching tight ends and also want safeties who can cover them." Because that's a major trend we saw in 2011, with the development of Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. There are two problems that became clear at the combine. One, there are not a lot of really talented tight ends. (Pete Prisco blames college football.) If someone reaches for one of the top three tight ends -- Orson Charles, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen -- it could be a big-time reach. The same goes for the safety class which, as Rang wrote on Tuesday, is particularly weak. Mark Barron out of Alabama is a real talent but couldn't work out, and Notre Dame out of Harrison Smith didn't blow anyone away either.

Jonathan Martin: As previously mentioned, Martin declared himself the best tackle in the draft ... and then promptly came out flat in his workouts. In fact, it's unlikely that anyone actually considers him the second-best tackle in the draft, with both Matt Kalil and Riley Reiff. 40 times aren't really important for tackles (relative to other positions), but Martin didn't look strong and he didn't look like the upside-riddled offensive lineman who spent his career protecting Andrew Luck.

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Posted on: February 28, 2012 6:05 pm
 

Report: Dielman close to announcing retirement

DielmanBy Josh Katzowitz

San Diego’s Kris Dielman has been one of the best offensive guards in the league, but after suffering a scary seizure on the Chargers flight home from their Oct. 23 contest vs. the Jets, Dielman is close to announcing his retirement, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.

It’s not a stretch to believe that this decision, which could be announced as early as Thursday, is a direct result of suffering a concussion early in the fourth quarter against  New York -- it went undiagnosed at the time -- and then being allowed to fly back with the team afterward.

On the flight, Dielman suffered a grand mal seizure, and a few weeks later, he was placed on the IR list. That incident led the NFL to place mandated officials in league press boxes to monitor potential head injuries.
 
The Union-Tribune writes that Dielman -- a four-time Pro Bowler -- wants to play, but that he won’t on the advice of doctors who are looking to his future. Of course Dielman wants to play. After colliding with Jets linebacker Calvin Pace, a wobbly Dielman waved off an official who had approached to make sure he was OK. The Chargers, who expected Dielman to return in 2012, said at the time that they handled Dielman’s injury appropriately.

If Dielman does, in fact, retire, he’ll leave a $4.5 million salary (and a $1 million bonus) on the table, and considering he was scheduled to be a free agent after the 2012 season, he could have made tens of millions of dollars more.

To Dielman, though, apparently his health is worth more than that.

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Posted on: February 28, 2012 4:59 pm
 

Ahmad Brooks gets 6 years, reported $44.5M

Brooks will keep making tackles in a Niners jersey for some time. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

The 49ers sported one of the top defenses in 2011. They'd like to repeat that success next year, and they took one step towards doing so by signing outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks to a six-year deal the team announced on Tuesday.

It's believed, according to a report from Matt Barrows, that Brooks deal is worth $44.5 million with $17.5 million guaranteed.

Brooks will be in his sixth year in the NFL in 2012, and his fourth with the Niners. He was claimed as a third-round pick in the 2006 Supplemental Draft by the Bengals and then off of waivers by the 49ers in 2008. Prior to 2011, Brooks was given a starter's role under the new coaching staff.

He blew up for a career-high seven sacks and 59 tackles and, according to general manager Trent Baalke, will continue to start opposite Aldon Smith in the Niners lineup going forward.

Brooks also posted three sacks of Saints quarterback Drew Brees in the 49ers somewhat-shocking playoff upset of New Orleans.

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Posted on: February 28, 2012 4:16 pm
Edited on: February 28, 2012 4:49 pm
 

NFL kicks off Wednesday 9/5 to avoid Obama speech

The NFL's popular, but not that popular. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

For the past few years, the NFL's kicked off each season with a Thursday-night game featuring the previous year's Super Bowl champion. This year, though, the kickoff will be on a Wednesday, to avoid Barack Obama's scheduled speech at the Democratic National Convention, Commissioner Roger Goodell announced on Tuesday.

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The specific Wednesday in question September 5, 2012 and it will feature the Giants, as expected. It'll take place on NBC, beginning at 8:30 pm ET, with an NFL Kickoff 2012 special airing at 7:30 pm ET.

Currently the Giants are scheduled to host the Saints, Buccaneers, Browns, Steelers, their NFC East division foes and ... the Packers. Green Bay, as the 2010 champion, makes the most sense as a potential opening game for the Giants.

The NFL has yet to announce that however, but made the information about the move from a Thursday to a Wednesday public early on.

So much for the idea that the NFL was more powerful than the President.

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Posted on: February 28, 2012 3:11 pm
Edited on: February 28, 2012 4:41 pm
 

Report: Teams like idea of Manning, Wayne package

Manning and Wayne could end up playing together again. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

It's presumed that by March 13, when NFL free agency opens, that Peyton Manning will no longer be a member of the Colts. Reggie Wayne, our ninth-ranked free-agent wideout, will be available. We've previously floated the idea that Wayne and Manning could team up again in a new location.

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And according to Peter King of Sports Illustrated, that's an idea that interests several teams potentially in the market for the legendary quarterback.

King cites an NFL source who says that Manning "would love to see it happen," and reports that "at least two potential suitor teams would seriously consider" making a run at Wayne in order to "lure" Manning if/when he becomes a free agent.

The potential suitors are exactly who'd you expect (in order that King lists them): the Dolphins, Jets, Seahawks, Redskins, Cardinals and Chiefs. (The Chiefs, by the by, are coming on strong as a darkhorse candidate to upgrade at the quarterback position.)

Miami makes a lot of sense, as they have a good offensive line, decent running game, and adding Wayne and Manning to Brandon Marshall and Davonne Bess would make for offensive fireworks in South Beach, something owner Stephen Ross has said he wants.

The Jets appear to be a longer shot, but they've been down the veteran-quarterback road before, as the first post-Packers team to land Brett Favre. King believes they'd even be willing to cut Santonio Holmes and take his cap hit, if it meant landing Wayne to secure Manning.

The Seahawks and Cardinals are in a reactionary mode against the 49ers after a successful year, and Rod Graves and Ken Whisenhunt wouldn't rule out the possibility of going after Manning when speaking at the combine. Wayne would quickly be the best receiver in Seattle, while in Arizona he'd probably post monster numbers while teams focused on Larry Fitzgerald.

Washington makes sense as a destination for Manning because of Dan Snyder's penchant for acquiring big-name talent. And the Redskins could use a top-end wide receiver as well. But Mike Shanahan's system is terrible for Manning, and he'd have to be willing to change it to suit a less-mobile quarterback. Additionally, if Washington can procure Robert Griffin III, even if it costs a reported four draft picks, they might actually have more success right away.

And then there's KC, who might have to deal with tampering charges before they can even consider Manning as a potential free-agent acquisition. KC's got the hardest row to hoe in terms of landing Manning or RG3, but there are some nice pieces in place there and, as Romeo Crennel (unwisely) said, they'd be "crazy not to consider" at least trying to get him.

Of course, all of this speculation is null and void if Manning can't prove to teams that he's healthy by the time he starts to work out with free-agent suitors. But if he shows that he can play, anyone who wants to acquire him would be wise to first obtain Manning's favorite target of the past decade.

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Posted on: February 28, 2012 2:16 pm
Edited on: February 28, 2012 5:35 pm
 

Report: Skins willing to deal 1sts, more for RG3

So happy together? (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

We already know that St. Louis "will" trade out of the No. 2 spot in April's NFL Draft. Even before reports of that, there was little debate about the Rams pulling in a haul for Robert Griffin III. That's because, as Clark Judge wrote recently, the Rams are sitting on a "gold mine."

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But we haven't heard any specific potential trade options for RG3. Until Tuesday, when we heard a report about what the Redskins are willing to offer in exchange for the second-overall pick. According to Mike Jones of the Washington Post, Dan Snyder's team is willing to part with two No. 1 picks "plus other selections in the middle to early rounds" in exchange for the rights to RG3.

Presumably, the Redskins would use their No.1 pick in 2012's draft (sixth overall) and package it with their No. 1 pick in 2012 (currently undetermined) and try to create a package similar to what the Giants used in 2004 when they acquired Eli Manning from the Chargers. At that time, the Giants gave up two No. 1 picks (one of which was Philip Rivers) plus a third- and fourth-round pick in that draft in exchange for Manning.

Two things on this. One (and this is something I never thought I'd say), RG3 would be a perfect fit with Mike Shanahan's offense. According to Pro Football Focus, Rex Grossman threw downfield (20 times or more) the 12th-most number of times of any quarterback in the NFL last year. He did that without starting every single game and he did it without being accurate. Rolling out of the pocket and keeping his eyes downfield before throwing a laser is what RG3 does best. It would be fun to watch and he would be quite successful.

But then there's point No. 2: I'm not sure that two first-round picks is enough to land Griffin. If the Redskins are getting their initial salvo out there publicly this soon, it's entirely possible that someone else is willing to package an additional first-round pick in order to land the coveted Baylor prospect.

However, the timing of this should be clear: the Redskins would like to get something locked down before free agency. Though they wouldn't be technically allowed to make a deal until the draft approached, the Redskins and Rams could have a handshake agreement on a deal prior to that. And Washington and Mike Shanahan can't go into 2012 without a quarterback.

If they get to free agency and don't have a sense that they can get Griffin on draft day, they absolutely need to pursue someone in free agency that can improve their play at quarterback immediately, whether that's someone like Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn or just Kyle Orton.

The question then becomes whether or not Washington's potential offer of four very good picks qualifies as enough for Jeff Fisher and Les Snead to take Griffin off the trading block and come to an agreement on the terms of a draft-day trade prior to the start of free agency. That's risky as the value of the No. 2 pick could continue to skyrocket as the draft approaches.

But if teams fill their quarterback issues via free agency, it's also possible that the value of the pick could drop or remain stagnant. By striking early, it's possible the Rams could get the best-possible deal well in advance of the draft, and really begin planning out how to fill their roster with high-end talent.

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Posted on: February 28, 2012 11:52 am
 

Report: Browns 'unlikely' to tag Peyton Hillis

Hillis isn't likely a candidate for a franchise tag. (US Presswire)
By Will Brinson

When the Browns went out and signed D'Qwell Jackson to a new five-year deal last week, it seemed like a good indication that they'd use their franchise tag elsewhere. Perhaps running back Peyton Hillis would be a target.

But that doesn't appear to be the case. Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reports that the Browns are "unlikely" to use the tag on Hillis, but may still attempt to re-sign the running back before free agency begins on March 13.

The price for tagging a running back is $7.7 million, all of which is guaranteed, so it shouldn't be shocking that the Browns will avoid using that on Hillis. Not only would that be overpaying for his 2012 production, but it would be giving Hillis too high a number for baseline negotiations going forward.

Hills struggled badly in 2012, after a breakout 2011 season that landed him on the Madden cover. He played in just 10 games last year, ran for just 587 yards and saw his rushing yards per attempt dip nearly a full yard, from 4.4 in 2010 to 3.6 last season. He found the end zone just three times in 2011 after 13 total touchdowns in 2010. And he had reported issues with his contract off the field as well.

A more likely candidate for the Browns tag? Their kicker, Phil Dawson. Cabot writes that it's "doubtful" the Browns use the tag at all. If Dawson, who turned 37 in January, were to get the tag from the Browns, he'd be guaranteed $3.8 million.

While that's not outrageous, there's something about "using a franchise tag on a 37-year-old kicker" that just screams "we won't contend this year."

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Posted on: February 28, 2012 10:45 am
 

Donald Driver on 'Dancing With the Stars'

Driver was already a fan favorite before appearing on 'Dancing With the Stars.' (US Presswire)
By Will Brinson

It's apparently an aging wide receiver tradition to appear on Dancing With the Stars these days: Donald Driver of the Green Bay Packers will fill the "football slot" on the 14th season of ABC's inexplicably popular reality show about famous people dancing.

The announcement was made on Good Morning America Tuesday, and Driver will join a group of folks that includes Jack Wagner of "Melrose Place," Jaleel White of "Family Matters," and Melissa Gilbert of "Little House on the Prairie." (This was a white-hot group in 1999.)

Drivers, who recently re-worked his contract with the Packers, will be paired with professional dancer Peta Murgatroyd, who's returning for her second season as a pro on DWTS.

He'll look to follow in the footsteps of Steelers wideout Hines Ward, who won Season 12 of DWTS. Jason Taylor, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Warren Sapp, Chad Ochocinco, Kurt Warner and Jerry Rice have all appeared on the show previously.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com