COLUMBIA, Mo. –
– The NFL world converged on the campus of the University of Missouri on Thursday as the Tigers put on their pro day for scouts, coaches, personnel guys ane media alike. Mizzou holds a pro day or two every year but this one took on a decidedly different feel as the league turned its eyes to the heart of the Show me State to see what the local quarterback would do.
– A year ago, the Rams would have been among the teams sending a huge contingent here to take a look at Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert. Of course that was last year, and the Rams did do extensive homeworks on that crop of signal callers before making the relatively easy decision to grab Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford with the first pick in the draft.
– Bradford’s record-setting rookie season effectively removed the Rams from the market for a signal caller, meaning their trip here on Thursday much less pressing. Sure, the Rams wanted to get another look at Missouri DE Aldon Smith, who also projects as a first round pick and could potentially be a consideration if he’s on the board when the Rams pick at 14.
– But for the most part, the Rams came here to turn over the final rocks on players they’ve already spent a lot of time scouting and vetting. All told, 19 players worked out here on Thursday, with a combination of draft-eligible Mizzou players and some smaller Missouri school prospects going through the workouts. That put the onus on Mizzou scouts to search for potential diamonds in the rough and pay attention to guys they might not yet have looked at.
– In fact, most of the scouting hay is in the barn and there’s not much left to do when it comes to the top guys for the Rams scouts. So now, they are looking at guys who weren’t invited to the combine and possible undrafted free agent types.
– For the record, Smith mostly stood by his NFL scouting combine workout, electing not to run the 40-yard dash again. He did the broad jump, vertical jump and position drills and by most accounts was solid if unspectacular. Perhaps the most impressive part of his day was his wing span, which checked in at 84 3/4.
– Of course, the story of the day was Gabbert and his long anticipated workout. After opting not to throw at the combine on the advice of agent Tom Condon, Gabbert had been building toward this day by working with quarterbacks coach Terry Shea in Arizona.
– Gabbert came prepared to show scouts he could work from under center, taking snaps and showing good footwork in his drops. He worked through a 49 throw script and by all accounts did well. It wasn’t quite the show Bradford put on last year in Norman but by my count, of the 49 throws he made, only five hit the turf. Three of those were drops by receivers (none of whom Gabbert had thrown to before) and two were errant passes.
– Among the NFL luminaries in attendance: Denver President John Elway and head coach John Fox, Minnesota HC Leslie Frazier, New York Jets HC Rex Ryan (who appeared to be more interested in Smith), Cincinnati HC Marvin Lewis, San Francisco HC Jim Harbaugh and television draft analysts Todd McShay and Mike Mayock. Former Ram Ricky Proehl was also in the house. He’s now on the staff in Carolina.
– Gabbert is expected to work out in Arizona and Carolina this weekend so those teams didn’t have quite the big contingent that others did. Denver, for instance had Elway, Fox, OC Mike McCoy, GM Brian Xanders and QB coach Adam Gase in attendance.
– According to McShay and Mayock, Gabbert did nothing to hurt his stock and perhaps might have done enough to solidify his stock as a top five pick. And make no mistake, he’s in play to be the first overall pick to the Panthers.
– Gabbert is a graduate of Parkway West High in St. Louis. Best of luck to the local kid.
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– ESPN draft pundit Mel Kiper Jr. graciously answered two hours worth of questions on a conference call this morning with reporters from all over the country. Kiper has been in the draft business for a long time and is one of the most respected around for his extensive film work and networks within the league.
– With the Rams preparing to draft 14th overall in the first round, I asked Kiper about the Rams’ position, whether Alabama WR Julio Jones is the type of talent you’d make a trade to move up for and if the Rams stay at 14, what other options they could consider.
– In the first incarnations of his mock draft, Kiper had the Rams taking Jones at No. 14 but in recent weeks he has changed his mind and has Jones going before the Rams pick. In his current mock draft, he has the Rams taking Illinois DT Corey Liuget.
– Here’s what Kiper had to say about the Rams’ position…
(On directions the Rams could go with the 14th pick)
“If the top two receivers are gone then they could look defensive tackle because that’s the value. Outside linebacker, I don’t see anybody that would fit what they are doing defensively there if you are looking for a traditional outside linebacker. Maybe an interior offensive lineman they could look at. It’s a little early maybe for (Florida OL Mike) Pouncey, who I don’t think is as good as his brother Maurkice. That’s early. I wouldn’t take Mike Pouncey ahead of where Maurkice went because I don’t think they are similar players. I think Maurkice was a much better prospect.”
(On if it’d be worthwhile to trade up for someone like Jones)
“Jones would be worth trading up from 14 maybe to 10 or 9. If you are sitting there and Washington doesn’t want to go with a receiver though I think they could. It may be tough. It may be difficult to find somebody and you may have to get ahead of 10 or 11. I could see Washington looking at Jones. I could see Houston looking at Jones before the St. Louis Rams are up. Now if he falls to St. Louis, I think you’ve got to take him. I’d like to see him have a little more consistency catching the football, he had some drops, the durability issue is real. He’s had a variety of injuries. Now it’s the foot. So he has to stay healthy over the long haul in the NFL. But hey, they drafted (Sam) Bradford and he didn’t have any injury issues after being hurt at Oklahoma. Maybe Jones had injury issues at Alabama, comes in and goes to the Rams and they have the magic touch and the guys that had troubles in college don’t get hurt in the NFL. But is he talented enough? His combine was unbelievable. He’s a big, physical, hard nosed, great blocker that will help that running game and a guy that I really thought stepped it up this year as a main pass catching option for Alabama. He’s certainly worthy of being 14, he’s worthy of being as high as 8, 9 if you have to go up to get him. Right now he is No. 13 (on my board) so he’s right ahead of where they are picking. He’s worthy of being that guy. (Georgia WR) A.J. Green is certainly worthy of trading up to get if he drops into that 6, 7, 8 range.
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