- John Clayton, NFL senior writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- No wonder Virginia left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson's stature in the NFL draft continues to grow. He's still growing.
Considered the best left tackle prospect in the past two drafts, Ferguson checked into the NFL scouting combine and surprised even himself. He weighed in at 312 pounds, 14 pounds heavier than his 298 weigh-in at the Senior Bowl. The tale of the tape was a bigger surprise.
"I was 6-foot-5½, but I was 6-6 this week," Ferguson said with a smile.
Ferguson proved at the Senior Bowl what he showed all season at Virginia: He's a dominating blocker even though he's not the biggest lineman. He grew up in the New York area and liked former Giants tackle Lomas Brown, who had a great career even though he weighed only 275.
Nowadays, NFL teams like their left tackles weighing in the 320-330 range, to give them a stronger base for blocking. If there was one early concern about Ferguson, it was his weight. With the third widest wingspan among the offensive linemen and the fact he's gaining weight -- and height -- there shouldn't be any concern about whether he could grow into being a future Pro Bowl tackle.
Ferguson actually had a Brown-type body midway through his college career. He was in the 250-260 range when he was a sophomore. His best growth spurt was between his sophomore and junior years. How did he do it?
"I was able to work on my diet and my eating habits, and I really tried to pay more attention to the things I was consuming," Ferguson said. "I was 250ish, 260ish. Being a 260-pound tackle, you're not given the opportunity to exert yourself on other defenders as you can at 290 pounds. I felt I would have an advantage with the additional weight and size, and I didn't think it would hurt my movement."
It didn't, and -- fortunately for Virginia -- his growth as an NFL prospect didn't affect his movement from the college ranks. He felt he wasn't close to being a pro, so he stayed in school for his senior year. He got his degree and received the benefits of getting coached by a former NFL head coach, Al Groh.
For years, NFL teams have been looking for a good class of tackle prospects because things have been drying at the top of drafts. Jammal Brown and Alex Barron were first-round picks last year, but they ended up at right tackle. In 2004, Robert Gallery went to the Raiders but ended up at right tackle. Shawn Andrews went to the Eagles in the first round and ended up at guard, although he eventually will be a right tackle. Mike Williams, the first tackle taken in 2002 -- by the Bills -- ended up being a bust and was released Thursday.
This year is different. Ferguson is a top-five pick. Winston Justice of Southern California, Ryan O'Callaghan of California, Jonathan Scott of Texas and maybe even Eric Winston of Miami are possible first-round picks.
"The tackle depth is actually pretty good," Steelers vice president Kevin Colbert said. "You think you can get a good tackle throughout the first day, maybe early the second day."
Teams such as the Browns and Bills plugged the left tackle position with one-year fixes but could look to possible long-term solutions now.
"It's one of your impact positions, that left tackle spot," Browns general manager Phil Savage said. "In our eyes, it's almost a skill position in terms of the abilities it takes to play out there."
But the list starts with Ferguson. He grows on you.
Around the combine
• Leak still bothers agent: Leigh Steinberg, agent for Ricky Williams, said he filed his paperwork to appeal Williams' positive drug test and one-year drug suspension approximately 10 days ago. Williams told Steinberg he didn't take any drugs, and Steinberg won't reveal which drug test was failed. Steinberg continued to say how disappointed he was in the lack of confidentiality in the league's drug program. Williams has failed the test before for marijuana use. It will take until at least April for the case to be presented.
• Palmer making progress: Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said Carson Palmer continues to rehab his surgically repaired knee in Southern California and is on schedule to be available to play at the start of the regular season. Lewis wouldn't elaborate on details of the injury and the rehab other than to say the recovery period for the two ligaments is nine months.
• No rushing Favre: Packers general manager Ted Thompson said that Brett Favre is still in the decision-making stage and that he doesn't know when Favre will decide about his future. Favre is considering retirement, but Thompson isn't pressuring him to make a quick decision. "I think it's important for he and Deanna to think this through and make the right decision for them," Thompson said. "We've had conversations, he and I and coach [Mike] McCarthy and Brett, and I've talked to [Favre's agent] Bus Cook, and they'll make their decision when they make it. I have not tried to set a timetable, but obviously there are times when the organization will have to know. The last time I talked to him, I don't think he'd decided. Quite honestly. I don't think he's trying to keep it secret. The last time I talked to him, I got the impression he hadn't decided yet."
• Holmgren resigns from committee: A tired Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren informed the NFL Competition Committee that he is resigning. Holmgren wasn't blaming the officiating from the Super Bowl, but he thought it was time to give up the position. Holmgren's role in the committee was important because he has perhaps the longest history of play calling on offense in the room. He's considered the conscience of the committee. Plus, as a former teacher, he's great at organizing thoughts and helping achieve consensus opinions.
• White eating well: USC running back LenDale White arrived at the combine weighing 238, about 3-4 pounds more than his normal playing weight. He also revealed that he was at 253 pounds during the Rose Bowl. White blamed Thanksgiving and Christmas for the extra weight. He felt he had too much body fat at that time, but he still was able to carry the ball with power. "At Thanksgiving, I ate the whole turkey and the whole can of macaroni and cheese that my mom made," White said when asked what he ate. He's getting in shape for his individual workout.
• Culpepper staying put? Minnesota's Brad Childress sounded like a coach who isn't going to trade quarterback Daunte Culpepper. "The whole focus for me is just getting him back to where he was in 2004," Childress said of Culpepper. "Before we do anything else, we've got to get him back to health. He's three months out from a major knee injury." Childress spoke to Culpepper on Wednesday. Childress said the injury takes nine to 12 months to recover from. Three ligaments in the knee were torn. Culpepper's gesture of delaying the payment of a $6 million roster bonus due March 17 was received by the Vikings via e-mail Wednesday. The news was received positively by Childress. "If it's friendly to us, surely," Childress said. "I'm not sure he knew what was friendly and what wasn't friendly to us, but it was a good gesture on his part." Asked whether Culpepper could be released, though, Childress said, "You never say never at this time of the year."
• Airing it out: Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler explained why he is willing to throw at the combine and Vince Young and Matt Leinart aren't. "It's just throwing," Cutler said. "I have been doing that a long time. I have never really shied away from something like this, and there is no reason to start now."
John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
Former Virginia standout D'Brickashaw Ferguson leads an impressive group of left tackle prospects.