PFW personnel analyst Nolan Nawrocki kicks off his series of draft-related "Way We Hear It" postings today, in which he regularly deals with hot draft rumors, pro-day workout results and what NFL insiders are saying behind closed doors. These postings will occur Tuesday through Thursday each week leading up to the April 22-24 draft. For more draft insights from Nawrocki, go to PFWstore.com to purchase the 2010 Draft Preview or the four-issue Draft Newsletter series.
Impressive. Best ever. As good as advertised.
That was some of the praise that evaluators heaped upon Sam Bradford to describe his scripted workout Monday in Norman, Okla., almost five months to the day since he had surgery on his right throwing shoulder.
"What else could you want," one evaluator said. "He completed 49 of his 50 passes, and the one he didn't (complete) was a drop. His placement was outstanding. He looked bigger and bulky at the Combine, but he was down eight pounds from Indy. He was 228 pounds and looked smooth and fluid, just like you see him on tape."
Bradford's workout was so impressive that the running joke after his workout was that he could be worth the ransom Mike Ditka traded for Ricky Williams in 1999, when the Saints dealt all of their draft choices to get into position to land the talented but enigmatic back. Bradford whipped the ball around so well that he eliminated concerns about his shoulder.
One team official confided that the biggest concern about Bradford was not even about his shoulder. It was about his left knee, on which he wore a bulky brace for protection and which at times he gingerly set on as a junior. Nevertheless, none of the three teams that PFW consulted expressed any reservation about his durability.
"Everyone is going to poke holes in him," an executive said. "We do not have any concerns about his medical, and our doctors tend to be very conservative with results."
The workout drew a heavy crowd, including full contingents from the Rams, Redskins, Seahawks and Browns, all of whom are in need of a future franchise quarterback and possess top-seven picks.
Paying particularly close attention were Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo, GM Billy Devaney, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and assistant head coach/QB coach Dick Curl. The Rams have scheduled to meet privately with Bradford again just three days before the start of the draft and appear intent on filling their greatest need.
The way we hear it, the Rams feel they cannot afford to bypass the only bona fide quarterback in this class after undervaluing Matt Ryan two years ago (when sources say Scott Linehan thought he was too average to select second overall) and skipping past Mark Sanchez last year, when they had bigger concerns about drafting a quarterback who wouldn't have protection.
Now that Jason Smith has been given a year to develop, the Rams must find an answer at quarterback, as the four-year contract Spagnuolo signed is really seen as a two-year deal in league circles, given that new ownership is expected to come in with an urgency to win now in a fickle league.
"There is no time to redshirt or wait now," a Rams executive said.
The way we hear it, the Rams have no interest in dealing the top pick despite their many holes on the roster. However, they will seriously entertain trades at the top of the second round, where they can expect to field many offers given the available overnight period during which to execute a trade before Round Two commences Friday morning under the NFL's new three-day format for the draft this year.
The possibility still remains, however, that the Redskins' interest in Bradford is so strong that they could put together a package that is too enticing for Rams brass to resist, and would include this year's fourth overall pick and future first-round compensation. If such a trade were to take place, our sources say that Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen would not warrant consideration from the Rams at the fourth spot, however, and a trade would have a higher likelihood of occurring if a more highly rated defensive lineman coveted by the defensive-minded Spagnuolo were available in the fourth slot.
Expected to be included as part of a trade package, to fill the Rams' pressing QB need, is Redskins veteran Jason Campbell, whose long release does not fit Mike Shanahan's quick-hitting offense. Additional first-round compensation is also believed to be a minimum requirement, but the way we understand it, a trade should not be expected to occur until the Redskins are on the clock at No. 4 and the Rams can see who is available to them, in what could be another blockbuster deal similar to the one former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi made to bring Eli Manning and an eventual Super Bowl championship to New York.
Wootton still not fully recovered from injury
There was much anticipation for Corey Wootton to work out Monday at Northwestern after an injury-ridden senior season, when he was estimated to have played at 65 percent nine months removed from an ACL injury. Teams employing "30" fronts were particularly interested, as Kansas City showed up to work him out as a rush linebacker, and New England, Denver, Baltimore, Cleveland and Cincinnati — all of which employed variations of 3-4 packages last season — were well represented.
The general sentiment by evaluators in attendance, however, was that Wootton's value will be greatest as a left defensive end in a "40" front. He clocked in the mid-to-high 4.8s in the 40 on most watches and did not show a lot of foot energy or burst at 274 pounds.
"He needs to get stronger. He did not have a lot of juice or explosion," one evaluator said. "He might grow into a five-technique — he has some core strength and power. He has some first-step quickness. I don't see him ever being a flamer off the edge."
Another evaluator said, "He is a good athlete for his size and agile but not explosive."
Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Seattle, Carolina, Tennessee and Jacksonville all have legitimate needs at the DE position, and the need for big-bodied ends could still bring Wootton off draft boards as early as the second round. Three teams that PFW consulted, from both even and odd fronts, said they would be quick to pull the trigger in the third round if Wootton happened to be available.
Nolan Nawrocki will answer selected questions from readers each Tuesday leading up to the draft, beginning April 6. Send your draft-related questions to Nawrocki at ASKquestions@pfwmedia.com.
For the most authoritative NFL draft news and free-agency analysis, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.