NFL Draft Update: February 16

Scout.com's Ed Thompson shares updates and insight from his conversations with six players who are heading to the NFL Scouting Combine this week: Virginia's RB Cedric Peerman and TE John Phillips, Penn State WR Deon Butler, Purdue RB Kory Sheets and WR Greg Orton, and Buffalo QB Drew Willy.

Virginia running back Cedric Peerman had 44 catches out of the backfield for the Cavaliers during his senior year, which will be a real asset as teams evaluate his ability to be a standout performer in the NFL.

"It's something we really focus on at UVA. The running backs are expected to be able to do more than just carry the football," he told Scout.com. "Being able to pass protect, play special teams and also catch the ball out of the backfield is something that Coach Groh really wanted us to do."

With his experience as a kickoff return specialist, Peerman is hopeful that he can play that role for an NFL team during his rookie season. And while he's face-to-face with NFL coaches and general managers this week in Indianapolis, he wants to be sure that they can sense his love for the game and what he's going to do to ensure that they'll be getting a player that they can count on from the start.

"I just want them to know that I'm coachable and I'm willing to do anything and everything to be a part of the team," he said. "I want to show them that I'm a good guy, that I work hard, have a great work ethic and a lot of determination."

Purdue wide receiver Greg Orton, who has been preparing for the NFL Combine at Palisi Speed School, believes that he's ready for all of the drills that he'll be put through in Indianapolis this week.

"I've been making sure that I'm as prepared as much as I can be. I've been going through the drills in my mind, focusing on trying to stay calm, getting ready to go out there and perform," he told Scout.com over the weekend. "One of the things that has been the most valuable in my training so far is eating right. I never ate like this before in my life, watching your intake on sugar, sodium and everything that is geared to help you to be faster, more lean and stronger."

Orton led the Boilermakers with 69 catches in 2008 for 720 yards and five touchdowns. And he believes that he's got what it takes to succeed in the NFL.

"My biggest strengths are my ability to be physical with the defender, going up and getting the ball at its highest point during jump balls, and catching the ball really well in traffic," he said.

When the 6-foot-3, 199-pound receiver was asked about his favorite moment of his college career, he picked Purdue's 48-42 victory over Michigan, a game in which he snared eight passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. 

"It had been a while since Purdue beat Michigan," he explained. "Being part of that win and being part of the key winning drive, that was really fun for me and important to me."


Penn State WR Deon Butler makes a diving catch for a touchdown against Texas A&M.
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Penn State's all-time leading pass-catcher, Deon Butler, believes that his consistency as a receiver is going to be noticed and appreciated by NFL talent evaluators.

"I'm a consistent player day-in and day-out. I'm real smart because I study a lot of film," he said during an interview with Scout.com. "So I pretty much have a quick read of the defense and I know what's going on, and that definitely helps me get separation and create the big plays that I've been able to create over the years."

A key advantage for Butler is that he was a walk-on at Penn State as a defensive back during his redshirt freshman season before switching to wide receiver as a sophomore.

"I was willing to do whatever it took for the team to win games, and I felt comfortable on offense," Butler said. "It also helped that I was on defense the year before. I knew how to make defensive backs uncomfortable by knowing the schemes that they were trying to play and what they were trying to get me to do."

During his senior year, the Nittany Lion receiver set a school record when he made his 168th career catch during a November matchup against Indiana.

"At that point in time it really didn't come across my mind because it was early in the game. I knew that it was the reception that was going to pass Bobby Engram, but it really wasn't until after the game when I really sat and thought about it that it really hit me,"  the 5-foot-10, 168-pound receiver recalled. "When you think about how long Penn State has been playing football and with all that tradition, for me to be at the top of the list above guys like Bobby Engram or Kenny Jackson or Bryant Johnson and other great receivers, it really meant a lot."

While some draft eligible players may see the daily preparation for the NFL Combine as a bit of a grind, Virginia tight end John Phillips isn't one of them.

"It really hasn't been all that tough, they've really done a great job at Sportstars," he told Scout.com. "I'm actually training with running back Cedric Peerman, so I've got some guys up here to hang out with. And I just enjoy working out, so I'm really just enjoying the whole process."

At 6-foot-5 and 251 pounds, Phillips certainly has the physical frame to knock heads with NFL defenders, and the Senior Bowl tight partcipant believes that he can play at the next level for a very long time, partly due to his work ethic, but also because of the roles he played in Virginia's offense.

"I think that with what we do at Virginia, being very versatile in what we do—like playing fullback and going in motion and flexing out—I can play a variety of positions," he said. "I think that's good for NFL teams when they can have people who can play multiple positions."

Although Phillips set the bar for ACC tight ends with 48 receptions in 2008 for a total of 385 yards, the accomplishment that he's most proud of from his college career was being elected team captain.

"It's a very prestigious honor to be elected team captain by your peers," he said.


Purdue RB Kory Sheets runs for a gain at the Senior Bowl.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Ever since one encounter with a scout at the Senior Bowl, Purdue running back Kory Sheets has been on a mission to make sure everyone notices his speed and agility.

"Some of the people I've talked to don't think that I'm a 4.3 guy, they think I'm a 4.4 guy or a 4.5 guy," he told Scout.com. "It's been a real big motivation thing, at the Senior Bowl, a scout told me that my speed wasn't all that amazing and that somebody else's speed was a lot better than mine. From that point on I made my point to show everybody that I'm a lot faster than a lot of people out there."

During his final season, Sheets showed plenty of speed to cause opposing defenses to be concerned, rolling for 1,131 yards rushing and catching 37 passes for 196 yards.

"When Purdue recruited me, receiving was something they noticed that I could do in high school," he said. "So they used that to their advantage when I was out there and had me catching balls out of the backfield, getting me into open field so that I could make a lot of plays."

With experience as a return specialist, Sheets is confident that he could handle that role at the next level. But if the team that selects him already has a firmly-entrenched veteran returning kicks and punts, he'll still be eager to play a role on special teams. 

"I can get in there and block with the best of them," he said.

Keep an eye on University of Buffalo quarterback Drew Willy this week, a smart and efficient signal-caller who was the only true freshman to start for the Bulls since they moved up into Division I-A. 

"It was a tremendous honor, I didn't know if it was going to happen during my freshman year," the Randolph, New Jersey native told Scout.com. " During the second game against Syracuse, I was put in there late in the fourth quarter and after that I pretty much just kept playing. 

"Obviously, as a freshman quarterback, you're going to take some bumps. There's not too many freshmen around the country who don't experience some ups and downs. But I learned a lot that first year, and I think it helped me in the long run to become more mentally tough."

During his senior year, the 6-foot-4, 213-pound quarterback completed 65 percent of his throws for 3,304 yards and 25 touchdowns. And he only threw six interceptions all year.

"It's just a credit to all the guys around me who helped me get to that level," he said. "I had been playing with a lot of them since we were freshmen or sophomores, so knowing your teammates and gaining a lot of experience together made it that much better when we won a MAC championship together. To get to a bowl game was our ultimate goal, and a lot of the individual stats just take care of themselves when you're trying to win games."

Even though he may not be heading into the Combine as well-known nationally as some of the other top quarterbacks from around the nation, Willy is confident that he'll have a good week in Indianapolis. 

"I love competition and I'm looking forward to showing myself against the best guys in the country, and I think I'll do well for myself. I respect a lot of guys around the country and I'm going to learn from them just like they're going to learn from me," he said. "In the spirit of competition, I'm ready to after it and to prove to the NFL scouts and coaches that I'm a guy they want to take because I'm going put everything out there on the field for my teammates and all the fans."

Click the player names to learn more about Cedric Peerman, Greg Orton, Deon Butler, John Phillips, Kory Sheets, and Drew Willy.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.

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