Dolphins GM dismayed by lack of running by backs
Pasquarelli: The sons also rise
Pasquarelli: Friday's buzz
Clayton: QB stories
Pasquarelli: Slim pickings
Pasquarelli: Thursday's buzz
Pasquarelli: Always in a rush
Clayton: Outrunning history
Clayton: Ready to go?
Clayton: On the clock
Pasquarelli: Grossman ready to throw
Clayton: What to watch at the combine
Pasquarelli: No sweat
Kiper: Top 25 NFL prospects (Jan. 20)
2003 NFL Draft Combine
Kiper: Ranking sack artists, run stuffers
Kiper: Ranking possession WRs, more
Kiper: Ranking big, deep-threat WRs
Kiper: How RBs can improve
Kiper: How QBs can improve
Kiper's Mock Draft: QB Palmer solid at No. 1
PFW: Mock draft No. 1
Saturday, February 22, 2003
Updated: February 26, 11:04 AM ET
Boss Bailey displaying incredible athletic prowess
By Len Pasquarelli
INDIANAPOLIS -- University of Georgia star Boss Bailey enjoys watching Tampa Bay weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks, and appropriately so, since the Buccaneers' victory in Super Bowl XXXVII is likely to earn the former Bulldogs standout plenty of money in this year's draft.
In a league notorious for its copycat tactics, every NFL team will suddenly be trying to identify a Brooks wannabe, and Bailey is the player most apt to fit that description in the 2003 draft talent pool.
So, who's the Boss? At least for the weakside linebacker position this year, it is Bailey, the younger brother of Washington Redskins cornerback Champ Bailey, a first-round selection in the 1999 draft. Bailey checked in at 6-feet-3 and 233 pounds here for the combine, a significant weight gain over what he lined up at in 2002, and is prepared to demonstrate to scouts that he is easily one of the best pure athletes in the lottery.
"I feel like I'm very fluid, a guy who can chase the ball, somebody who will make big plays if given the opportunity," said Bailey.
The last two seasons at Georgia, it appeared Bailey played out of position, most frequently aligned at the strongside spot. He wasn't asked to rush the quarterback very much at all and, when he suggested Saturday that he was a drop-and-cover linebacker about 60 percent of the time, the estimate seemed to be much too low.
At the NFL level, Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said, Bailey almost certainly will be a weakside linebacker and probably will be turned loose more often. "He's one of those guys, like Brooks, where you want to cover him up and let him just run to the football," Newsome said.
That is precisely the role that Bailey, at his best in pursuit, hopes to play.
Scouts, and even some media members who have heard about Bailey's great leaping skills, are avidly anticipating his vertical jump drill on Sunday. The coaches at Georgia claim Bailey has posted a 48-inch vertical jump, and the scouts here expect him to get into the 46-inch range, several said. If he does that, he will be in NBA territory, and there will be some irony, since Bailey is not much of a hoops fan.
On campus, he was the coach this year for an intramural squad, a team that featured brother Champ Bailey, who is enrolled in school to finish up on his degree work. The team lost by two points in the semifinals, its only other defeat coming when Champ Bailey was a no-show for a game. Asked if he ever yanks his older brother from a game, Bailey laughed and said that he wouldn't dare, not if he wanted to retain his job as coach.
Kidding aside, Bailey acknowledged his older brother as been a tremendous resource for him as he prepared for the combine experience. The two spoke for some time about what Boss could expect and how to deal with the stress of being on display for coaches, general managers and scouts.
"So far," Bailey said, "nothing that's happened here has surprised me. And I kind of owe that to Champ. He told me everything about this place and I feel like I took good notes, believe me, since I kept bleeding him for information on how it all worked here."
Around the combine
Observations from one veteran NFC area scout:
"Watch out for this kid (Robert) Johnson from Auburn. There are some really good tight ends in this class but he's a guy you don't hear too much about, yet he sticks out to all our scouts. The guy is a monster (6-feet-6 ½ and 278 pounds) and he does a lot of things well. He's a pretty decent in-line blocker, and can actually be dominant at times, really seals people off at the edge. One concern is how he uses his strength, because he only did about 18 'reps' on the bench press. His hands are good enough and he will just run safeties over after he catches the ball. Is he a great athlete? No, not really, but he was good enough to get some basketball scholarship (offers) coming out of high school, so it's not like he's a statue, you know? Tough kid and he seems to be hungry, too, two things that stand out. We like him a lot, maybe toward the end of the second (round) or early in the third."
"Every year, you run into a kid who acts like he doesn't even want to be around and my nomination this year is (Texas guard Derrick) Dockery. I mean, he's got some talent, or at least we felt like he did when he did our meetings before coming to Indy. But his head doesn't seem to be in it, he kind of mopes around, and isn't very motivated. Maybe if he finds out he might drop out of the first day (the first three rounds), it'll light a fire under his ass, who knows? He hasn't looked like the same player we watched when he studied him on tape."
"At the opposite end of the spectrum, somebody definitely has kicked (Miami defensive end) Jerome McDougle in the butt. For a guy who got off to a slow start last year, he's got some pep in his step now, and you feel like, just talking to him, he wants to be good. He still has to get more out of his natural (pass) rush skills. But we like him a whole hell of a lot more now than we did four or five months ago. And he moved really well (Saturday). He ran, like, in the 4.65-4.68 range and you could see how he can explode coming off the edge."
"There are a lot of talented kids from the University of Georgia and you can see how they played so well for (coach Mark) Richt last year. But the one guy I'm not at all sold on, even though he was one of their more high profile players and made lots of big plays for those guys, is (wide receiver Terrence) Edwards. You look at these huge wide receivers walking through here and then Edwards comes along and, well, he looks like he might get himself broken in half if he gets hit too hard. And he drops way too many balls when you watch him on tape. This is a draft for the 200-pounders at the position and he's not even 170 (pounds) basically. I think he's really going to have a hard time. We have a low grade on him."
"I saw what (ESPN.com) had (Friday) about Washington State defensive tackle Rien Long. Hey, I'm sure there are teams who really like him and the potential he brings. But, to us, he really looked bad (on Saturday). Really stiff-looking, disappointing, maybe like he was awed by the whole deal. I know we didn't have him rated a first-rounder coming here and we sure as heck won't when we get back home and re-do our board."
Look for (LSU linebacker Bradie) James to be a 'riser' in the two months left before the draft. Yeah, I wish he was a little bit taller (6-feet-1 5/8), but he looks the part. You can tell from interviewing him he loves the game and he has real good football awareness. Plus he's lined up and played at every linebacker position. He really stands up the runner in the hole and knocks him back. Most teams have him (as a middle linebacker prospect), but we think he can play strongside. And we feel like he's got some pass rush skills that they didn't take enough advantage of in college."
Although there was no official announcement, ESPN.com confirmed that Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich was medically cleared by the doctors for all 32 teams. Leftwich, of course, broke his left leg twice in the last two years. He continues to rehabilitate from the fracture suffered this season and still has a surgical rod in his leg from a 2001 injury. But no teams asked for a re-check on Leftwich, two clubs to whom ESPN.com spoke agreed that his rehabilitation is on schedule, and that he should fully recover. Leftwich will not hold his personal workout until April 7, which has angered a few general managers.
The middle linebacker position has de-evolved the last several years into less of a priority but scouts would still like to see some quality there. Some scouts are concerned, though, about the overall lack of talent at the position. E.J. Henderson of Maryland is the consensus top middle linebacker prospect but there are concerns over past injuries, including a bad back from 2001. Pittsburgh's Gerald Hayes is shorter than most teams prefer, is strictly a one-dimensional player (a run-stuffer), and isn't the player he was thought to be at mid-season.
Irony of the day: Texas quarterback Chris Simms got a pretty good chuckle when he read a question on the New York Giants' notorious psychological exam. The question asked, generically, if the prospect ever had any relatives who played in the NFL. Responded Simms, the son of former Giants star Phil Simms: "QB-NYG."
The other prospect with a famous surname, Temple defensive tackle Dan Klecko, didn't hurt himself with his Saturday workout. Klecko moved well in drills, ran the 40-yard sprint in 4.93-4.97, and maybe moved himself up into the higher middle rounds of the draft. Some teams will still penalize Klecko because he is under 6 feet tall, but he is a competitor who comes hard on every snap, and who will find a way to get on someone's roster.
Another defensive tackle prospect who bolstered his stock a bit was Nick Eason of Clemson. He ran in the low 5.0s two times, got off the ball pretty well in drills, and seems to be a guy who can help compress the pocket from the inside, as well as being a very good run defender.
The league may well have a long discussion with officials from the Indiana Convention Center about scheduling events concurrent to the combine. It seems that every year there is some kind of distraction, and this weekend it is a cheerleaders competition. The convention center is attached to the RCA Dome and scouts exiting the arena on Saturday had to navigate a corridor packed with screaming teeny-bopper cheerleaders. Not a pretty scene.
The one element that Texas Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury worked on more than any other in preparing for the combine: taking the snap from up underneath the center. The Texas Tech offense operates almost exclusively from a shotgun formation and, since high school, Kingsbury probably has taken fewer than 100 snaps from under center. His agent, Vann McElroy, retained former longtime NFL quarterbacks coach Jerry Rhome to work with Kingsbury on the snap and on basic footwork involved in getting back away from the center.
James Lee, Oregon State: Regarded as a low middle- or even late-round choice by many teams, Oregon State defensive tackle James Lee may have opened some eyes on Saturday, and perhaps positioned himself to be a first-day selection. A wide-bodied run-stuffer who allegedly didn't have great movement skills, Lee did well in the change of direction drills, according to three personnel directors. Lee was timed in under five seconds by some scouts, quite a feat. He showed that, for a guy in the 320-pound range, he could chase the ball and get upfield a bit more than talent evaluators anticipated. This is another deep draft at the defensive tackle position, the third in a row, and there might be 10-12 players at the position go off the board before some club considers Lee. But down around the third round, if a team needs a big man with better feet than expected, Lee could fit into that spot.
Mike Doss, Ohio State: One of the most celebrated defenders in the college game over the last two years, Ohio State safety Mike Doss is drawing some mixed reviews, could slide out of the first round. The former Buckeyes star remains a big hitter, and an aggressive and sure tackler, but there are concerns about his coverage abilities. Certainly the trend in the NFL, where the safeties with deep range have become all the rage, isn't going to help Doss' cause. The guy who walked down to the line of scrimmage, to create a front with eight defenders "in the box," is becoming passe. And defending the run clearly is the strength of Doss' game. It doesn't help, either, that Doss is a shade under 5-feet-10, more squat than most secondary coaches want at the position, and may not play well in reverse. There is no questioning his football smarts, and his estimable character and leadership, but Doss seems to be slipping.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.