NEWS AND NEAR NEWS

Tide QB headlines list of those not invited to the combine ... Alabama QB Jake Coker, who led the Crimson Tide to the 2015 national championships back in January, heads the list of players not invited to this year’s scouting combine which gets underway on February 23rd in Indianapolis. Other well-known prospects who did not get invitations to the combine include fellow QBs Everett Golson of Florida State, Marquise Williams of North Carolina, Matt Johnson of Bowling Green, Blake Frohnapel of UMass, and Utah’s Travis Wilson; RBs Aaron Green of TCU and Leon Allen of Western Kentucky; WRs Jay Lee of Baylor and Paul McRoberts of Southeast Missouri State; TEs Henry Krieger-Coble of Iowa, Kyle Carter of Penn State and Darion Griswald of Arkansas State; DEs Aziz Shittu of Stanford and Minnesota’s Thieren Cochran; OLBs Skai Moore of South Carolina and Nevada’s Ian Seau; CBs Briean Boddy-Calhoun of Minnesota and Cre’von Leblanc of Florida Atlantic; and safety Kevin Byard of Middle Tennesse.

Combine invite list announced … The folks that run the NFL’s annual scouting combine have finally released the list of players who have been invited to this year’s event which gets underway in Indianapolis on February 23rd. In total, 332 players have been invited to this year’s combine. And just who is, and isn’t invited to the combine is important in itself in that roughly 85% of the players that will be selected at this year’s draft will be  combine participants. We’ll be back shortly with a list of players that weren’t invited to the combine as well as some notes on surprising inclusions.

GBN projection tweaked, expanded … The GBN projection for the 2016 draft has been updated based on the latest intel; it has also been expended to three-rounds. As we like to note when producing a projection, the likelihood of many, if any of the actual picks, will be spot on; heck, its hard to predict what anyone particular team is going to do 77 days from now when even the folks that run that team really have no idea yet what they are going to do when they get on the clock. The value of a good mock draft, though, is that it can give some idea, what players are likely to be available at the different spots in the draft given current information. So readers are encouraged not to focus on the particular players we have projected to their team, but rather look at the 5 or so players taken before their pick and the 5 or so after to get some idea the kind of players their team will be looking at at that spot in the draft.

Pigskin posts top 100 … As we noted when we posted the GBN Big Board ranking the top 150-plus prospects for the 2016 draft, the goal of the board is primarily to provide our best estimate based on the latest intel as to how NFL teams, in general, have players graded rather than our own ratings. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t have our own thoughts on the subject and so for the sake comparison GBN Associate Editor and Chief Scout Pigskin Paul Guillemette has posted his picks for the top 100 players in this year’s draft.

Path to the draft runs through Indy … The  NFL’s annual scouting combine gets underway two weeks today in Indianapolis. However, the folks who run the combine have yet to release the full list of players who will be at the combine despite the fact that their website indicated that the roster of players invited to the event should have been announced last week. In fact, it may be that the players expected to be in Indianapolis are still being vetted for criminal charges after it was revealed earlier today that any players convicted of domestic violence or gun offenses would not be allowed to participate in the combine, though, they can still be drafted. No question, though, that the path to the draft runs through Indianapolis as players who are invited to the combine make up the fast majority of players who are ultimately drafted … more

Players convicted of domestic violence or weapons charges to be banned from combine, draft attendance … ESPN is reporting at this hour that NFL teams have been told that prospective players who have been convicted on domestic violence, sexual assault or weapons charges will no longer be allowed to attend the NFL scouting combine or draft, although they will still be eligible to be drafted. At this time, its not clear that any players will be banned from this year’s combine, which gets underway in two weeks in Indianapolis.

Titans’ GM hints at O-line for top pick … New Tennessee G.M. Jon Robinson, whose Titans’ have the #1 pick overall at the 2016 draft, didn’t say which player the team will select with the pick during a recent interview with the Tennessean, but left little doubt that fixing the offensive line was perhaps his biggest priority this off-season, especially after the Titans acquired QB Marcus Mariota with the second pick last year. Said Robinson, the former New England personnel exec who spent the past two years as Tampa Bay’s personnel director: “I think we have to take stock of the guys we have here O-line wise and try to add pieces up there to protect Marcus. That’s one thing we did in Tampa last year when I was there. When we took Jameis Winston, we spent our next two picks on offensive linemen … That’s kind of the approach we took. We thought we were going to make an investment in Jameis, so we needed to protect him. With Marcus being a key piece here, we definitely need to make a committed investment to protecting him and keeping him upright. It’s hard for him to throw the ball when he’s lying on his back.” That would certainly appear to make Mississippi OT Laremy Tunsil a likely candidate to be the top pick at this year’s draft, although the Titans have also let it be known that they will be fielding offers for the #1 selection and would not mind dropping down a few spots in exchange for some extra picks. Interestingly, Robinson also stressed that he would like to see the Titans to be able to run the ball which suggests they may be in the market for a RB with a second day pick as the Titans leading rusher last fall barely broke the 500-yard mark.

Orange QB appeal for 6th year denied; will be in draft … Syracuse confirmed yesterday afternoon that the NCAA has denied QB Terrell Hunt’s appeal for a 6th year of eligibility after injuries ended both his 2014 and 2015 years prematurely. Hunt, a fifth-year senior, tore an Achilles tendon in the first quarter of Syracuse’s season opener this past season and missed the rest of the year; he also broke his leg in the 5th game of the 2014, but the NCAA denied his petition for an extra year because in the latter year he had already played in more than 30% of the team’s games when he was injured. Bad timing for Hunt as he would have been eligible for a sixth year if his 2014 injury had occurred in the fourth game of the season, instead of the fifth. All this means that the 6-3, 235-pound Hunt will be available in the 2016 draft where he is not likely to be drafted, although he could get some post-draft free agent interest. Hunt has good size with a strong arm; he’s also a good athlete who ran for 500 yards in 2013, his only full season as a starter. Hunt also completed over 60% of his pass attempts that fall, but had more picks than TD passes in his career with the Orange.

GBN Big Board tweaked … With the annual scouting combine set to start in two weeks and the 2016 draft now just 80 days away the GBN positional rankings (see drop-down menu above) and Big Board have been updated to reflect the latest intel. Again, please note that while these rankings incorporate GBN internal grades, for the most part, the goal is to provide our closest estimate of where NFL teams in general have the players ranked.

First three rounds of 2016 draft now set … Congratulations to the Denver Broncos who capped the 2016 season with a 24-10 upset win over Carolina in the 50th edition of the Super Bowl in a bruising defensive struggle. In leading the Broncos to their 3rd league championship overall and their first since 1998, veteran QB Peyton Manning tied younger brother Eli of the Giants for career rings at two! Of course, the big question around the league is does Peyton return to the Broncos for one more kick at the can next fall, retire or perhaps move on to another team. In fact, the bigger issue for Denver could getting star DE Von Miller re-signed after the free-agent-to-be’s dominating performance in the Super Bowl in which he had 2.5 sacks and forced a couple of fumbles that the Broncos turned into scores. However, other teams thinking of getting in line to try and sign Miller themselves can probably take a pass as the Broncos are expected to franchise him if they can’t come to an agreement before he would become a free agent on March 15th. The Broncos win also finalized the first three round selection order for the 2016 draft – minus any compensatory picks that could be added to the third round. Denver will have the final regular pick in each round, while Carolina will have the second last pick in each round. And because New England doesn’t have a pick in the opening round because of the deflated football issue, Carolina will have the 30thm 62nd and 94th picks this year, while Denver will select 31st, 63rd and 95th. Here is the full selection order for the first three rounds as it stands now. The rest of the picks will be added once the comp picks have been announced late in March or early April.

NFL teams begin to release vets … The new NFL year doesn’t officially begin until March 15th when teams can begin to sign free agents and all teams have to be down to the salary cap; however, teams can start to release veteran players as of today. And Atlanta and Philadelphia got the ball rolling as the Falcons released FS William Moore and LB Justin Durant, while the Eagles cut ties with WR Riley Cooper.

Rams RB; Chiefs CB take top rook awards … With the Super Bowl set to kick-off in just a few hours, the NFL handed out its annual individual player awards last evening. There were no big surprises as Carolina QB Cam Newton was named the league’s MVP, while Houston DE J.J. Watt won his third defensive player of the year honors. Meanwhile, the top rookies of the year were St. Louis RB Todd Gurley on offense and Kansas City CB Marcus Peters on defense. Both were first round picks at the 2015 draft with Gurley going 10th overall, while Peters was taken with the 18th pick. Interestingly, though, neither came without some controversy. Gurley had been considered to be one of, if not the best player in college football in 2014, but tore an ACL late in the year; in fact, he did not play through the first month of the NFL season, but still ran for over 1,100 yards and 10 TDs in what amounted to 12 games. Peters came with even more baggage as he was kicked off the Washington team last year after getting into repeated spats with the coaching staff. All this may give some pause to NFL teams evaluating players like Notre Dame OLB Jaylon Smith and ole Miss DT Robert Nkemdiche this year. Both had been considered to be top 5 prospects this year, but both have seen their draft grades slip, Smith because of a torn ACL and Nkemdiche because of character concerns that became manifest in that bizarre incident in which he was hospitalized briefly after jumping out a local hotel window. Stay tuned!

Second top QB to throw at combine … Memphis junior QB Paxton Lynch has confirmed that he will throw at the NFL scouting combine which gets underway in Indianapolis in just over two weeks. Lynch becomes the second top QB prospect for the 2016 draft to indicate they will be a full participant in the on-field activities at the combine after California junior Jared Goff made the same statement last week. Lynch and Goff are considered to be 2 of the top 3 prospects at the position for the upcoming draft along with emerging North Dakota State senior Carson Wentz who has yet to reveal his plans for the combine. The combine gets underway on February 23rd with the QBs scheduled to their on-field workout on Saturday the 27th.

Injuries end promising Duck RB career … Oregon sophomore RB Thomas Tyner, who looked like a future top pick when he was originally recruited, has decided to give up football because of injuries. Tyner, who was a 5-star recruit at Oregon and would have been eligible for the 2017 draft, ran for over 1,200 yards in the season and a hlf that he played, but he missed the entire 2015 with a shoulder injury that required surgery and decided there were other things in life. According to a report in the local media, Tyner is also interested in art and design.

Senior Bowl game report: LBs and DBs … Because of the Senior Bowl rules limiting what defenses can and can’t do in the game itself, there isn’t a whole lot that one is going to learn from Saturday’s game tape about the LBs and DBs. However, one can always have observations so here goes with some passing thoughts on the defensive back 7 from Mobile as documented by GBN Editor Grumpy Lindsay in his post-game overview of the defensive back 7 players at this year’s Senior Bowl game…

Senior Bowl game skill position review … College all-star games are usually tough venues for the offensive skill position players. As a general rule, they don’t get many reps and for the most part are playing in unfamiliar systems. So what made this year’s Senior Bowl game somewhat unusual is that NFL personnel people saw pretty much what they were expecting to see – both the good and the bad – from the QBs, RBs, WRs and TEs in Mobile this year as there were really few surprises at these positions as documented by GBN Editor Grumpy Lindsay in his post-game overview of the offensive skill position players at this year’s Senior Bowl game.

College football ‘draft day’ underway … Today is national signing day in college football, the first day that high school seniors can actually sign their letters of commitment. And while many have stated earlier where they intended to go to school there is some drama today as DT Rashawn Gray of Paramus, New Jersey, the consensus top recruit in the country, will be announcing his decision – believed to be between Michigan and Clemson – at around 1 PM ET later today. Of course, unlike the NFL draft where worst shall be first, college football recruits are all technically free agents and can sign wherever they want meaning in college football ‘the rich get richer generally prevails’ in that for the most part football factories like defending national champion Alabama, Ohio State and Florida State get the majority of the top recruits, although there are exceptions. This year for example, the emerging program at Ole Miss got two top 5 recruits in QB Shea Patterson and OT Greg Little, while non-Power 5 (but should be) Houston got its top recruit ever by keeping DT Ed Oliver at home. And yes the Nick Bosa, a top 5 recruit from Florida, that shockingly signed with Ohio State is the brother of the Buckeyes’ Joey Bosa who is projected to be one of the first players off the board at the 2016 NFL draft in April.

Senior Bowl offensive line game review … While the top story line out of last week’s Senior Bowl revolved around the number of defensive linemen, and especially the defensive tackles, who have emerged as legitimate first and second day prospects for the 2016 draft, in part as a result of their solid performances in both the practices and game in Mobile, the story for their counterparts along the offensive line wasn’t as positive. However, there was some good with the bad for the Big Uglies in Mobile as documented by GBN Editor Grumpy Lindsay in his post-game overview of the offensive line in this year’s Senior Bowl game.

Pigskin Senior Bowl wrap … After a grueling two weeks at first the East-West Shrine week in St. Petersburg and then the Senior Bowl last week, GBN Associate Editor and Chief Scout Pigskin Paul Guillemette is back home and sends along this final report from Mobile documenting some final observations as well as his game all-star team.

Senior Bowl DL review … Arguably, the top storyline to emerge at this year’s Senior Bowl, and maybe for the whole 2016 draft overall has been the emergence of the defensive line, and especially the defensive tackles, as one of, if not the best unit in this year’s draft class. And that group didn’t disappoint in Saturday’s actual game with several dominating performances as reported by GBN Editor Grumpy Lindsay in his post-game overview of the defensive line in this year’s Senior Bowl game.

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