Ta'amu, one of four Huskies in Indianapolis for this week's NFL scouting combine, had a disappointing senior season but gets his shot to impress scouts.
It’s too soon to call it a comeback.
After all, Alameda Ta’amu has yet to arrive in the NFL. But after a senior season that fell well short of exceptional, the defensive tackle from Washington has spent the first couple of months of this new year trying to rebuild his draft stock.
First, came an impressive week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., last month. Now, Ta’amu arrives in Indianapolis for the league’s annual scouting combine that takes place this week for what isn’t so much a first impression as one of the last chances for Ta’amu to bolster his draft position.
“I would say he should be drafted in the third or fourth round,” said Rob Rang, analyst for NFLDraftScout.com. “He has a chance to go in the second just because there’s so few of the wide-bodied, nose-guard types.”
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Not a bad forecast, but not nearly as good as some expected six months ago when the 6-foot-3, 337-pound Ta’amu was considered by many a potential first-round draft pick. After an uneven senior season, he’s trying to reclaim some of that buzz one workout at a time, and the scouting combine will be the most prominent of these auditions.
It has been called the NFL’s underwear Olympics and its spandex Super Bowl. For four days, more than 300 invited college players pass through Indianapolis to perform feats of speed and strength and answer a whole bunch of questions from the 32 teams that count as potential employers.
It’s as close as the NFL comes to staging a job fair, and Ta’amu is one of four Huskies who’ve been invited this year. For Ta’amu, this is just the next opportunity to rebuild his résumé.
There might not be more than three types of sports stories: the rise, the fall and then — sometimes — the redemption. It’s possible Ta’amu could experience all three in less than a year and a half.
He entered his senior season characterized as a potential first-round pick after showing steady improvement over the course of his junior season. His standout performance against Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl in December 2010 was supposed to set the table the following year.
“There was a lot of expectation that he might have a monster senior season,” Rang said.
It didn’t turn out that way. Ta’amu started all 13 games, didn’t have more than five tackles in any of them and was an honorable mention Pac-12 selection.
Ta’amu appeared a little heavier, and at times, he looked a little slower. By December, some thought he might not be chosen until the second half of the seven-round draft.
But here’s the thing about reputations in the NFL: They may not always be fair, but they’re not written in permanent ink, either.
Last month at the Senior Bowl, Ta’amu played more consistently.
Now comes the combine, and while it can be an important part of the predraft appraisal, it is just a part.
The combine won’t overwrite a four-year college career as scouting reports don’t get rewritten so much as augmented and Ta’amu has the kind of size that makes teams think long and hard and imagine what could be if he’s able to play as consistently as he did last month in preparing for the college all-star game in Alabama.
Ta’amu probably isn’t going to be part of the first wave of defensive linemen who get chosen, guys like Michael Brockers of LSU, Devon Still of Penn State and perhaps Dontari Poe of Memphis, who at 345 pounds is one of the only players in this draft bigger than Ta’amu.
Ta’amu’s challenge this week is to show NFL teams that he’s still capable of having that big season that so many expected.
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @dannyoneil.
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