BOUND FOR INDY – Now I can finally pack in peace for the NFL scouting combine.
(NOTE TO SELF: Warm-up suits, one dress suit, two bow-ties, sneakers, shoes, belt, socks and personal garments. DON’T FORGET THE COAT!!! (Remember the 2008 combine and ESPN’s John Clayton giving you directions to the Burlington Coat factory.)
BACK TO THE BLOG: I finished my review of the 330-plus bios late the other night around 2:30 a.m. I discovered some gems to share with you all. My man Rick Gosselin from the Dallas Morning News is super thorough. He’ll have this three-ring binder with background police reports and, I think, juvenile records on prospects.
He’ll ask, “What happened when you were 14 during that situation at the Wal-Mart?”
My goal is to arrive in Indy with a handle on the guys the Falcons maybe interviewing (Defensive ends, wide receivers and late round quarterbacks are my targets) and on the players with Georgia ties.
In all, there are 31 players with Georgia connections on the official invite list to the NFL scouting combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Some more, like UGA’s Jeff Owens last year, could be added to the event.
Here’s a quick look at the group (Rating and Draft round grades have been provided by NFLDraftScout.com. NFLDraftScout.com is working in conjunction with CBSSports.com to provide the most comprehensive year-round NFL Draft service with a staff of full-time draft experts):
CLINT BOLING, OT (Chattahoochee High): Named All-SEC first team by SEC Coaches and second team by Associated Press. Selected as team’s offensive captain. Draft grade: Third or fourth round.
SHAUN CHAPAS, FB: Selected as the team’s permanent captain at the end of the season. A hard-nosed football player.
VANCE CUFF, DB, (Colquitt County): He has elite speed and plays fast. He’s run the 40-yard dash in 4.24 seconds.
JOSH DAVIS, OT: At 6-6, 310, he has NFL size. He graduated in December with a degree in Speech Communication.
AKEEM DENT, LB, (Douglass High): Started all 13 games and had a team-best 126 tackles, including 6.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks. He also forced and recovered two fumbles. Graduated in December with a degree in Housing.
DEMARCUS DOBBS, DE, (Savannah Calvary Baptist): Appeared in 13 games making 10 starts, recording 28 tackles and 15 quarterback pressures. Graduated in December with a degree in Consumer Economics.
A.J. GREEN, WR: Appeared in nine games and made eight starts. Caught a team-leading 57 passes for 848 yards and nine touchdowns. Check out A.J.’s NFL draft diary. Draft grade: The 4th rated player with a first round grade.
JUSTIN HOUSTON, DE (Statesboro): Considered one of the top hybrid defensive end/linebacker prospects in the country. He was named a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Dick Butkus Award and a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award. Draft grade: He’s the 28 rated player and is projected to go in the first or second round.
ANTHONY ALLEN, RB: Teams like his explosiveness and ability to hit the hole with some authority. Started his career at Louisville.
MARIO BUTLER, CB: Was a two-year starter. Has good striking ability, but there are questions about his range and coverage ability.
JERRARD TARRANT, S: Declared for the draft after his redshirt junior season. He will have to talk with teams about his sexual assault case even though the charges were eventually dropped. Draft grade: He’s the 121st rated player overall and is a projected third or fourth round pick.
DARVIN ADAMS, WR, AUBURN (Harrison): He led Auburn with 52 catches last season. He had 963 yards and seven touchdowns. Draft grade: He’s the 175th ranked player and is a projected fifth rounder.
LADI AJIOBYE, DT, SOUTH CAROLINA (Banneker): Played in all 14 games and had 41 tackles. He had five tackles for loss and two sacks.
MARIO FANNIN, RB, AUBURN (Lovejoy): He was a double-threat quarterback in high school. He was named to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Super Southern 100. Had a solid career at Auburn.
DWAYNE HARRIS, WR, EAST CAROLINA (Tucker): He was a quarterback in high school. He led the Pirates with 101 catches for 1,123 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Draft grade: He’s the 158th ranked player and a projected third or fourth round pick.
CHAS HENRY, PK, FLORIDA (East Paulding): He made 7 of 11 field goals last season with a long of 47 yards.
Averaged 45.1 yards on 50 punts last season. Draft grade: He’s the 203rd rated player and is a projected sixth round pick as a punter.
CAMERON HEYWARD, DE, OHIO STATE (Whitefield Academy/Peachtree Ridge): Son of former Falcons great and NFL star Craig “Ironhead” Heyward. Was a destructive force for the Buckeyes. Draft grade: He’s the 30th ranked player in the draft and a projected first or second round pick.
BRUCE MILLER, LB, CENTRAL FLORIDA (Woodstock): He was the defensive player of the year in Conference USA and was a first-team all-conference pick. He started all 14 games and had 63 tackles including a team-high 13.5 tackles for loss, a team-high 8.5 sacks, two interceptions returned for touchdowns, two pass break-ups, 18 quarterback hurries, and two forced fumbles.
CAM NEWTON, QB, AUBURN (Westlake): Won the Heisman Trophy and guided the Tigers to the BCS national championship. He transferred from Florida to Blinn Junior College before landing at Auburn. In 14 games at Auburn, he completed 185 of 280 passes (66 percent) for 2,854 yards and 30 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He also ran for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns out of their spread offense. Draft grade: He’s the 11th ranked player and is projected to be selected in the first round.
Da’ NORRIS SEARCY, DB, NORTH CAROLINA (Towers): Projects as a strong safety in the NFL. Draft grade: He’s the 226th ranked player and is a projected sixth or seventh round pick.
KELVIN SHEPPARD, LB, LSU (Stephenson): He runs 4.64 in the 40, which is excellent for an inside linebacker prospect. Draft grade: The 136th ranked player and is a projected fourth round pick.
DARRYL “BUSTER” SKRINE, CB, TENNESSEE-CHATTANOOGA (Etowah): (Last name pronounced “Screen.”) He has a nice combination of strength and speed. He can bench press 360 pounds, has a 35-inch vertical and runs a 4.22 in the 40-yard dash.
WILL RACKLEY, OG, LEHIGH (Riverdale): A three-time All-Patriot League pick. Projects as a Guard in the NFL. Draft grade: He’s the 100th ranked player and is a projected third rounder.
T. J. YATES, QB, NORTH CAROLINA (Pope): The Marietta native established 37 school records, including career passing yards, single-season passing yards and single-season total offense. Yates led the Tar Heels to an 8-5 mark in 2010, including a 30-27 double-overtime win over Tennessee in the Music City Bowl. Draft grade: He is the 230th ranked player and is a projected sixth or seventh rounder.
ALLEN BAILEY, DE, MIAMI (McIntosh County Academy): Played some tackle and end last season for the Hurricanes. He’s stout at 6-4, 285 pounds and blazes the 40 in 4.65 seconds. Draft grade: He’s the 62nd ranked player and is a projected second rounder.
JAMES CARPENTER, OT, ALABAMA (Augusta Hephzibah): Started his career at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College. He started 27 straight games at left tackle for the Crimson Tide. Draft grade: He’s the 93rd ranked player and is a projected third round pick.
RAY DOMINGUEZ, OT, ARKANSAS (Bainbridge High): He selected the Razorbacks over Florida State, South Carolina, Southern Miss, Alabama-Birmingham, Central Florida and Marshall.
MAURICE HURT, OT, FLORIDA (Baldwin): The Milledgeville native played right tackle, right guard and left guard for the Gators last season. He battled injuries early in his career and is coming of a December knee surgery.
MARK LeGREE, FS, APPALACHIAN STATE (Pacelli Catholic): Had five interceptions last season and seven as a junior.
RICARDO LOCKETTE, WR, FORT VALLEY STATE (Monroe): Last season he had 23 receptions for 262 yards. He averaged 11.4 yards per catch and caught one touchdown pass. NFL teams are intrigued by his sprinter’s speed and size (6-3, 200).
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog