SOMEWHERE IN THE NFL, there is a scout, personnel man or coach who doesn't like something, anything about Knowshon Moreno. But I haven't been able to find him.
If the Eagles land the University of Georgia running back in the first round of the draft tomorrow, they will get nods of approval from most of the league's other 31 war rooms.
"I really like the guy a lot," a personnel man for an NFC team said. "Everybody wants a downhill runner, but he's a downhill runner who has moves. You've got to have two good running backs now. [Brian] Westbrook's not a kid anymore. They need to lighten his load. Moreno will be able to step in as a rookie and do that."
"He's a perfect fit for their offense," said another NFC scout. "He's a great screen guy, which Andy [Reid] likes. I think he's going to be a great screen runner in this league because he's got acceleration and great vision. If they get him, that's a great pick for them.
"Plus, he's a combative, competitive guy. He's got to be the first guy off the ground [after a play]. I like that kind of stuff in a guy."
The 5-11, 217-pound Moreno isn't the fastest running back in the draft. His best predraft 40-yard dash time was 4.50 seconds (at the scouting combine). Beanie Wells, the draft's other top-rated running back, ran a 4.38 at Ohio State's Pro Day.
"The 40 time isn't a big deal for me," said a scout for an AFC team. "Most of the better runners are 4.5-4.6 guys. If you're fast, if you're a 4.4 guy, you're generally off your feet too fast. And that's not always good. They become crease runners.
"This guy, he runs fast enough. The field's not that big. If you're on your own 10, somebody might catch him before he gets to the end zone. But if he's at the 40 or 50, there's no difference As long as you can get to the corner, as long as you can make a long run, which he can . . . will he finish every run? Maybe not. But he'll finish enough of them."
Learning curve for WRs
Five or six wide receivers could be taken in the first round. But don't look for many of them to make immediate impacts.
A total of 41 wideouts were taken in the first three rounds of the last three drafts. Just eight of those 41 had 40 or more catches as rookies. Only nine had 500 or more receiving yards, and just four had four or more touchdown catches.
The Eagles' DeSean Jackson, who had 62 receptions for 912 yards last season, was just one of three rookie wideouts in the last 3 years to catch 60-plus passes. The Broncos' Eddie Royal (second round, '08, 91 receptions) and the Chiefs' Dwayne Bowe (first round, '07, 70 catches) were the others. Jackson, Royal and Bowe also were the only three of those 41 wideouts to have 900-plus receiving yards as rookies.
Why is it so difficult for wideouts to make the college-to-pro transition?
"In college football, there are a very minimal number of press corners that are any good," said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. "Colleges don't play press coverage. So, you get a free release on literally every snap in college football. In the NFL, [your off-the-line release] is the first thing they're going to challenge.
"The second hurdle is the sophistication of the offenses and defenses in the league. They're going to ask wide receivers to make a lot of decisions on the run. So, when you do finally get off the line of scrimmage, the two safeties that looked like they were lined up in a Tampa-2 pre-snap [two deep safeties splitting the field] all of a sudden rotate to a single high safety. And now, you're running a completely different route than you thought you were running presnap.
"So there's a physical issue and there's a mental issue. It's a very short line of wide receivers that can come out of college and handle both of those issues at a level where they can catch 50, 60 or more balls."
Around the league
* Two years ago, Jason Peters played as well as any left tackle in the NFL. Last year, he stunk. Here's how one member of the Bills' organization explained the drop-off in Peters' play last season.: "Most of it was self-induced. He held out and came in late. He's not a good offseason guy, so he wasn't in very good shape. No matter how good you are, you need to have work. When you don't have the work, bad things happen. We had some young quarterbacks and there were several games early on where we were behind and had to throw it and people knew it. Plus, I think he just lost a little bit of interest. It's going to be up to him to leave all that on the back burner and get back to where he was. But there's no reason he can't. He's a very talented player. I think [the Eagles] are going to get a real good year out of him, and they may get a lot more. There's nothing that holds him back from being real good other than himself."
* Florida wide receiver Percy Harvin may have cost himself a spot in the first round by reportedly testing positive for marijuana at the scouting combine. The character issue already was a major concern with teams before the test result. Another player who could slide out of the first round because of the character issue is Illinois cornerback Vontae Davis. Davis didn't flunk the combine drug test, but there are other off-the-field red flags that have teams reluctant to take him in the first round, despite the fact that he may be one of the 10 best players in the draft.
* Mayock thinks the Broncos, who own the 12th and 18th picks in the first round, absolutely, positively have to trade up and get USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. "They've got to package whatever they have to package to go up and replace Jay Cutler," he said. "If they don't try to get Sanchez, I think
they're crazy. The bottom line for me is if their head coach [Josh McDaniels] goes 4-12 with Kyle Orton, he probably gets fired this year. If he goes 4-12 with Sanchez, he's rebuilding. There's only six, seven franchise quarterbacks in this league and they got rid of one of them. I don't get that. But now they've got to go get another one. The guy that fits them the best is Sanchez."
* In early December, NFL scouts were gushing about Ball State quarterback Nate Davis. He was being mentioned as a possible top-10 pick if he came out. But a couple of poor late-season performances and a disappointing 40 time at the combine (4.95) sent his draft stock spiraling. Now, he's projected to go no earlier than the third round this weekend. "He's got a pretty good skill set as far as arm strength," Mayock said. "But he's inconsistent and not very accurate. He's a little bit of a project."
Davis has admitted that he has a learning disability, but says it is not an issue in football.
"When you put all that into the hopper, he's skidded a little bit," Mayock said. "It doesn't mean he won't get drafted or get a chance to play in the league." *
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