2012 NFL Draft: 5 Players Who Most Need Impressive Senior Bowl Week
With many of the best prospects leaving school and entering the NFL draft before they become seniors, the Senior Bowl has become an opportunity for some of the lesser-known players from the senior class to show NFL teams they can contribute at the pro level.
Players get a chance to practice in front of hundreds of scouts, coaches and media personnel while being coached by an NFL staff in the week leading up to the game.
The Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings coaches will do the coaching this year with the Redskins staff handling the South team and the Vikings coaches working with the North's players.
I'll take a look at five players here that aren't first-round prospects but have a chance to improve their draft stock with a good showing during Senior Bowl week.
1. Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Fuller was considered a potential first-round pick coming into the 2011 season after a junior year in which the Texas A&M receiver hauled in 72 catches for more than 1,000 yards and 12 TDs.
This year has been a tough one for Fuller as he has battled injuries and was benched to start the Kansas game. Fuller caught nine fewer passes than he did in 2010, but for 357 fewer yards.
Weaknesses in Fuller's game have become apparent as he has trouble getting off the line and into his route and doesn't do much with the ball in his hands after the catch.
Fuller has also had trouble concentrating at times, dropping easy passes at critical moments, leading A&M QB Ryan Tannehill to rely on Ryan Swope more than Fuller.
An impressive week at the Senior Bowl could help Fuller regain some of his draft stock, possibly moving up into the second round. As it looks now Fuller will probably still be on the board after the first two days of the draft.
2. Ryan Lindley, QB, San Diego State
Leon Halip/Getty Images
Lindley is a four-year starter who has had the benefit of being tutored by former NFL star QB Brian Sipe. Although Lindley has thrown for more than 12,000 yards in his college career, he has struggled with his accuracy slipping to a 53 percent completion rate in his senior season.
At 6'4" and 230 pounds, Lindley has the size of an NFL QB in addition to arm strength to make any throw. He will put too much faith in that arm, though, forcing the ball into coverage leading to interceptions.
The coaches at the Senior Bowl will want to see how Lindley reacts to being under pressure as he has trouble feeling the rush and his accuracy falls off greatly when his feet aren't set.
Lindley will be drafted as a developmental QB, but a poor showing in Mobile, Ala. could lead to him sliding down draft boards into the sixth or even seventh round.
3. Jaye Howard, DT, Florida
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Even though Florida had a disappointing 7-6 season, Jaye Howard was a bright spot, making 10 tackles for loss and managing 5.5 sacks.
Howard has shown the versatility to play at DE and DT but his best position would be as a DT in a one-gap scheme where he can use his quickness to penetrate the opponent's backfield.
Teams should understand Howard needs time to gain some strength to hold up against the run, but the Senior Bowl offers Howard the chance to showcase his versatility and the ability to be part of a rotation all along a defensive line.
4. Will Blackwell, OG, LSU
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Blackwell has only been a starter for one full season at LSU after missing most of his junior year due to a broken leg on LSU's first offensive play of the year.
At 6'4" and 290 pounds, Blackwell has just enough size to hold up inside in the NFL but would be best served to add about 15 pounds or so.
The strongest part of Blackwell's game is his pass blocking as he is able to get out of his stance quick enough to slide and get position to stop opposing pass-rushers and blitzers.
Coming out of a three-point set, however, Blackwell tends to shoot into an upright stance and loses leverage against defenders.
Blackwell came under fire for ripping officials after the national championship game, coming off sounding like a sore loser.
On the fringe of draftable prospects, Blackwell will need to impress at the Senior Bowl for a team to take a chance on him this April.
5. Terrance Ganaway, RB, Baylor
Sarah Glenn/Getty Images
Ganaway began his college career at Houston before taking a year off from football and then transferring to Baylor after his freshman year. Once at Baylor, Ganaway was a backup at running back before becoming the starter as a senior.
As part of an explosive Baylor offense led by Robert Griffin III, Ganaway racked up 1,566 yards on the ground and scored 21 TDs. His size allows him to break arm tackles with ease and he wastes no time in finding the hole and making a cut to get through it.
The knock on Ganaway is the fact he looks like nothing more than a short-yardage back in the NFL as it takes him a few steps to get to full speed and isn't overly fast once he gets there. He also lacks agility and has limited experience catching the ball as he only caught six passes his senior season.
The coming Senior Bowl week will give Ganaway a chance to prove that his breakout senior season was more than just a by-product of defenses keying in on Griffin.