2012 Senior Bowl: North Roster Breakdown

Dan HopeContributor IIIJanuary 24, 2012

2012 Senior Bowl: North Roster Breakdown

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    Senior Bowl week has begun. The most important part of the comes between Tuesday and Thursday with practices featuring a variety of drills, including one-on-one exercises, where scouts will do the bulk of their evaluations.  

    The Senior Bowl features many of the top prospects in the 2012 NFL draft, and in two separate slideshows I am breaking down the North and South rosters with reports and grades for each player heading into the week. Following the week, I will recap with updated evaluations of players whose stock has improved or been damaged as a result.

Quarterbacks

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    Kellen Moore, Boise State

    6', 191 pounds

    Grade: Round 4 or 5

    Kirk Cousins, Michigan State

    6’3’’, 209 pounds

    Grade: Round 5

    Russell Wilson, Wisconsin

    5’11’’, 203 pounds

    Grade: Round 5

    The North roster features a very interesting trio of quarterbacks. All three are likely early third-day selections, so they will be battling for draft position amongst one another during Senior Bowl week.

    The most conventional of the three signal-callers is Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins. Cousins is an efficient and accurate pocket passer with adequate size for an NFL quarterback. Cousins never quite emerged as a star during his career, which is why he is not a second-day draft pick, but he should be a solid backup quarterback at the next level. He should be in the mix early on Day Three with a strong Senior Bowl week.

    For both Boise State’s Kellen Moore and Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson, their biggest weakness is an area they have no control over: their heights. Both quarterbacks are just under six feet, making them quite short for NFL quarterbacks.

    Neither of them is going to be the next Drew Brees, either. Moore comes out of a spread system, is unnatural coming from under center and does not have a big arm. Wilson does not have a big arm, either.

    However, both quarterbacks have great assets that make them third-day NFL draft picks. Moore is the all-time winningest quarterback in NCAA history, has tremendous accuracy and poise, is smart and a terrific decision-maker. Wilson is a very efficient passer who actually led the nation in passing efficiency last season. He rarely turns the ball over and is also a terrific athlete.

Running Backs

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    Chris Polk, Washington

    5’11’’, 224 pounds

    Grade: Round 3

    Doug Martin, Boise State

    5’9’’, 219 pounds

    Grade: Round 3

    Dan Herron, Ohio State

    5’10’’, 212 pounds

    Grade: Round 5

    Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati

    5’10’’, 193 pounds

    Grade: Round 5

    Bradie Ewing (Fullback), Wisconsin

    6', 241 pounds

    Grade: Round 7

    The North roster features a very strong group of running backs. Two of those running backs, Washington’s Chris Polk and Boise State’s Doug Martin, are likely to be third-round draft picks.

    Polk is a big, powerful back that also has great burst and deceptive speed. This makes Polk a very good between-the-tackles runner, but as Polk is able to shed tacklers, he can also run for a big play if he breaks free from a defender or his offensive line gives him a big hole.

    Martin, with good reason, has been one of the quickest-rising prospects at the running back position this year. Martin is a very well-rounded running back prospects: He has good size, speed and quickness, is a very good receiver out of the backfield and has been a very productive back at Boise State, especially in his senior season.

    For a team in need of a running back that is not looking to splurge at the position in the first 50 picks of the draft, they may be able to come up with one of two perfectly good options in Polk or Martin. That said, both running backs will have a chance to break into the second round with a strong showing in Mobile, Ala.

    Ohio State’s Dan Herron was suspended for the first five games of his senior season, but had a solid season upon his return. He does not have any spectacular qualities about him, but he has been a productive runner worthy of a fifth-round pick. He is absolutely a prospect who can help himself in a big way with a strong Senior Bowl week.

    Cincinnati’s Isaiah Pead is also a solid Day Three choice as a running back.

    Wisconsin’s Bradie Ewing is among the draft’s top fullbacks. Ewing is a very good receiver out of the backfield and a solid lead blocker. A strong showing at the Senior Bowl should solidify him being selected in the draft.

Wide Receivers

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    Brian Quick, Appalachian State

    6’4’’, 222 pounds

    Grade: Round 4

    Marvin McNutt, Iowa

    6’3’’, 216 pounds

    Grade: Round 4

    DeVier Posey, Ohio State

    6’2", 209 pounds

    Grade: Round 5 or 6

    Marvin Jones, California

    6’2", 199 pounds

    Grade: Round 6

    T.J. Graham, NC State

    6', 182 pounds

    Grade: Round 6 or 7

    Gerell Robinson, Arizona State

    6’3’’, 223 pounds

    Grade: Round 7

    The biggest asset of the North wide receivers is their size. With the exception of NC State’s T.J. Graham, all of the receivers are at least 6’2” tall and weigh at least 199 pounds.

    Of these big wide receivers, the most explosive of the group is Ohio State’s DeVier Posey. Posey is a big playmaker at the wide receiver position. As of this time last year, he would have received a fourth-round grade.

    However, Posey missed the first eight games of his senior season due to multiple suspensions and only caught 12 passes in the five games that he played. This leaves Posey with some major question marks and with a fifth- to sixth-round grade. That said, Posey has as much to gain as any player in Mobile this week. Knowing that Posey is very talented, he could work his way back up to the fourth round and potentially even higher if he has a big showing in Mobile.

    Two receivers on the North squad who currently rate as Round 4 picks with the potential to move up are Appalachian State’s Brian Quick and Iowa’s Marvin McNutt.

    Quick’s name is deceptive, for he is not known for speed and quickness. Conversely, Quick has terrific size, and he uses his size to his advantage. Quick is very strong, a smooth route-runner, has strong hands and has been very productive at the FCS level. However, Quick really needs a big week at the Senior Bowl to prove he can continue to be productive against tougher competition.

    McNutt already has been very productive against tough competition; he was the leading receiver in the Big Ten Conference this season. McNutt has great size and is a good route-runner, but has an inconsistent motor and may lack athleticism. His talent makes him worth a fourth-round draft pick, but he has something to prove this week.

    The exception to the norm on the North squad, T.J. Graham, is a very explosive player. Graham has tremendous track speed and has proven himself to be a very good kickoff and punt returner. Graham’s athletic ability and return ability give him big upside as a receiver and special teams standout, but he needs to prove that he can actually play wideout this week to solidify himself as being drafted.

Tight Ends

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    Michael Egnew, Missouri

    6’6’’, 251 pounds

    Grade: Round 4

    Brian Linthicum, Michigan State

    6’4’’, 249 pounds

    Grade: Round 6

    Emil Igwenagu (Fullback), Massachusetts

    6’1’’, 245 pounds

    Grade: Round 7 or Undrafted

    Leading the North’s allotment of tight ends is Missouri’s Michael Egnew. After an All-American season as a junior, Egnew had a disappointing senior season. Even still, Egnew remains among the best tight end prospects for the 2012 NFL draft.

    While Egnew is not much of an in-line blocker, he is a very skilled receiver. He has a great combination of size and athleticism, making him dangerous as both a short-yardage and end-zone receiving threat, as well as a dangerous downfield receiver. Egnew is unlikely to be a star at the next level, but would be a good choice in Round 4 for a team looking to upgrade the passing offense at the tight end position.

    Massachusetts’s Emil Igwenagu is coming off a strong showing in the Shrine Game, and was a late addition to the Senior Bowl roster. Pulling double duty was a smart decision for Igwenagu, as he definitely put himself on the draft radar at the Shrine Game, and he could solidly work his way into the late rounds of the draft by backing it up with a strong Senior Bowl performance.

    Igwenagu is a very good blocker whose most likely NFL fit is as an H-back. He is potent both as an in-line and as a lead blocker and is a good receiver out of the backfield.

Offensive Tackles

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    Mike Adams, Ohio State

    6’7’’, 323 pounds

    Grade: Round 2

    Mitchell Schwartz, California

    6’5’’, 317 pounds

    Grade: Round 6

    While there will be more than two players on the North squad lining up at offensive tackle in the Senior Bowl, the others should all end up at guard in the NFL. There is only one potential starting NFL left tackle on the North roster: Ohio State’s Mike Adams.

    Like the aforementioned Herron and Posey, Adams was suspended for the first five games of the season for receiving improper benefits. Upon his return, Adams performed well. Adams has tremendous size and is both powerful and a good athlete for his size.

    Adams is strong as both a pass-protector and run-blocker with great strength, technique and footwork. Adams stands as a second-round selection, but as one of the draft’s top offensive tackle prospects and a potential starting NFL left tackle, Adams has the potential to work his way into the late first round with a strong showing in Mobile.

Guards

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    Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State

    6’5’’, 333 pounds

    Grade: Round 2

    Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin

    6’4’’, 315 pounds

    Grade: Round 2 or 3

    Tony Bergstrom, Utah

    6’6", 315 pounds

    Grade: Round 4

    Senio Kelemete, Washington

    6’4’’, 300 pounds

    Grade: Round 4 or 5

    Johnnie Troutman, Penn State

    6’4’’, 325 pounds

    Grade: Round 7 or Undrafted

    Iowa State’s Kelechi Osemele, Utah’s Tony Bergstrom and Washington’s Senio Kelemete were all collegiate left tackles, but all are best suited to kick inside and play guard at the next level.

    Of the trio, Osemele certainly has the biggest upside. Osemele is an absolutely massive man, highlighted by an 85.5-inch wingspan, the largest in Mobile. Osemele was a very good left tackle at Iowa State, but he lacks the athleticism and footwork to play the position at the next level.

    That said, Osemele has tremendous strength and power, and his frame gives him the ability to really envelope defenders. As a guard and potentially right tackle prospect, Osemele is worth a second-round draft pick.

    Bergstrom and Kelemete were both very good left tackles in the Pac-12, and both should make solid starting guards at the next level. With strong showings this week in Mobile, they should solidify themselves as fourth-round draft picks.

    In addition, there is also a terrific Wisconsin offensive line prospect on the North squad, which should not be to the surprise to anyone who has followed recent drafts. This year, the Senior Bowl features Kevin Zeitler, the Badgers’ right guard from last season, who stepped up to become one of the new stars of an offensive line that had lost left-side starters Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt the year prior, yet continued to be one of the nation’s best.

    Zeitler is a tremendous all-around right guard who is worthy of being a second-round draft selection.

Centers

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    Mike Brewster, Ohio State

    6’5’’, 310 pounds

    Grade: Round 4

    Garth Gerhart, Arizona State

    6’1’’, 301 pounds

    Grade: Round 7 or Undrafted

    The fourth Buckeye on the North offense is the squad’s top center, Mike Brewster. Much as the rest of the offense performed poorly this season, Brewster struggled in his senior season. Brewster came into the year as the nation’s top center, but he failed to be a dominant presence in the middle of a shaky Buckeyes offensive line.

    That said, Brewster is still one of the most solid centers in the 2012 NFL draft, and he has starting-caliber ability for the next level. He ranks as a fourth-round value, but could work his way back into Day Two with a much-needed strong showing at the Senior Bowl.

Defensive Ends

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    Vinny Curry, Marshall

    6’3’’, 265 pounds

    Grade: Round 3

    Cam Johnson, Virginia

    6’4’’, 267 pounds

    Grade: Round 4

    Jack Crawford, Penn State

    6’5’’, 268 pounds

    Grade: Round 5 or 6

    The best pass-rusher on the North squad is ranked among the outside linebackers, as he will almost certainly be playing at that position at the next level, but among the NFL defensive ends, Marshall’s Vinny Curry certainly states his own case for being the roster’s best pass-rusher.

    Curry absolutely wreaked havoc for the Thundering Herd defense in his senior season, finishing the season tied for third nationally with 22 tackles for loss. Curry is a big playmaker, but he lacks the athleticism and explosiveness to be a star at the next level. That said, he will look to prove that he can be a productive starter at the next level during Senior Bowl week, and if he does that, he should solidify status as a third-round draft pick.

    Virginia’s Cam Johnson and Penn State’s Jack Crawford both have much to gain and prove at the Senior Bowl this week. Both players are very talented defensive end prospects but had disappointing senior seasons.

    Johnson is an athletic defensive end who can be an impact player as a 4-3 defensive end, but needs to make an impact in Mobile. Crawford has a great frame for the defensive end position at nearly 6’5’’ and is a good athlete for his size, but the productivity has not been there for him to be drafted higher than the fifth round. However, Crawford can make a push to be an earlier choice on Day Three if he puts up a strong showing at the Senior Bowl.

Defensive Tackles

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    Billy Winn, Boise State

    6’3’’, 296 pounds

    Grade: Round 4

    Derek Wolfe, Cincinnati

    6’5’’, 300 pounds

    Grade: Round 4 or 5

    Mike Martin, Michigan

    6’2’’, 307 pounds

    Grade: Round 4 or 5

    Alameda Ta’amu, Washington

    6’3", 341 pounds

    Grade: Round 4 or 5

    Kendall Reyes, Connecticut

    6’4’’, 300 pounds

    Grade: Round 5

    With a group of five talented but unspectacular defensive tackles, all of whom are expected to be early Day Three draft picks, these five could literally be selected in any order amongst each other come April. The competition within the North squad among these defensive tackles should be fierce all week, as they will all be battling each other for draft position.

    Boise State’s Billy Winn has the most upside of the group. Winn’s numbers are not as impressive as some of the others in the group, and he did in fact have a disappointing senior season, but statistics are not a good measure of him. Winn’s interior presence often freed up Boise State’s defensive ends Shea McClellin and Tyrone Crawford to be playmakers.

    Winn’s motor and stamina are questionable, so he really needs a good showing in Mobile. That said, with a strong Senior Bowl week, he has a chance to move up into Day Two of the draft.

    The most productive of these defensive tackles collegiately was Cincinnati’s Derek Wolfe. Wolfe had an absolutely monster senior season, in which he led all defensive tackles with 21.5 tackles for loss. Wolfe is an athletic, explosive playmaker on the defensive line, a very good interior penetrator. Wolfe may not be a three-down lineman at the next level, but he should be able to make an impact as a rotational tackle in a 4-3 defense, or possibly as an end in a 3-4 defense.

    Washington’s Alameda Ta’amu will draw attention as the nose tackle of the group. Ta’amu had a disappointing senior season, and he may lack the strength and gap presence to be a dominant nose tackle. Ta’amu is also an effective penetrator, so he may be best suited to play a nose tackle variation within a 4-3 defense. A lackluster senior season and raw ability keep Ta’amu as a Day Three pick, but he could work his way into Day Two with a strong week at the Senior Bowl.

    Michigan’s Mike Martin and Connecticut’s Kendall Reyes both stand as early Day Three selections, and will look to make their own impacts to stand out among a deep crop of defensive linemen on the North roster.

Inside Linebackers

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    Lavonte David, Nebraska

    6’1’’, 225 pounds

    Grade: Round 2

    Audie Cole, North Carolina State

    6’4’’, 258 pounds

    Grade: Round 4 or 5

    James-Michael Johnson, Nevada

    6’1’’, 249 pounds

    Grade: Round 5

    Bobby Wagner, Utah State

    6’, 241 pounds

    Grade: Round 5 or 6

    The North roster has a talented group of inside linebackers, led by Nebraska’s Lavonte David.

    David transferred to Nebraska from junior college in his junior season and became an immediate star of the Cornhuskers defense. David is a fantastic tackler with terrific instincts. In his junior season, David ranked third nationally with 152 tackles and has 133 tackles as a senior to finish within the top 15 nationally.

    David is very undersized for the middle linebacker position, which could force him to move outside, but his athleticism, instincts and ability to make tackles all over the field make him worthy of a second-round selection.

    Contrary to David, North Carolina State’s Audie Cole has tremendous size for the middle linebacker position. Cole is not a great athlete, and he struggles in pass coverage, so he is likely only a two-down middle or inside linebacker, but he is a very solid player worth an early Day Three selection.

    Utah State’s Bobby Wagner had a tremendously productive senior season, ranking fifth nationally with 147 tackles, but has nothing overly special about his game and is also undersized. He has to prove himself against top competition in the Senior Bowl to be selected within the top four rounds of the draft.

    To the contrary, Nevada’s James-Michael Johnson has big talent, but was not as productive as expected in his senior. That said, Johnson is strong and athletic for a middle linebacker, and he could work his way up into the fourth round with a strong week in Mobile.

Outside Linebackers

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    Shea McClellin, Boise State

    6’3’’, 248 pounds

    Grade: Round 3 (OLB)

    Demario Davis, Arkansas State

    6’3’’, 230 pounds

    Grade: Round 7 or Undrafted

    Most of the true linebackers on the North squad have been listed at inside linebacker, for that is where they are most likely to play at the next level. On the other hand, Boise State’s Shea McClellin will line up at defensive end this week in Mobile, but will almost certainly transition to linebacker at the next level.

    McClellin is very reminiscent of Brooks Reed, a 2011 second-round pick who had a fantastic rookie season with the Houston Texans. Like Reed, McClellin played defensive end at Boise State, but lined up often in a stand-up rather than in a down stance, and is a very dangerous edge-rusher.

    McClellin has very good pass-rushing ability and is a very good athlete. However, at only 248 pounds, McClellin is too small to play defensive end in the NFL, but he is a perfect candidate to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, much like Reed has done with the Texans and found early success.

    McClellin has been rising throughout the season to his current value as a third-round pick. With a big performance in Mobile, McClellin’s grade could rise up into being a potential second-round selection.

    The Sun Belt Conference gets representation on the North roster with the late addition of Arkansas State’s Demario Davis. Davis was a very productive player for the Red Wolves, but he is on the fringe of being drafted and could really benefit from a strong showing at the Senior Bowl.

Cornerbacks

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    Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska

    5’10’’, 203 pounds

    Grade: Round 2

    Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma

    5’11’’, 202 pounds

    Grade: Round 3 or 4

    Leonard Johnson, Iowa State

    5’10’’, 198 pounds

    Grade: Round 4 or 5

    D’Anton Lynn, Penn State

    6', 205 pounds

    Grade: Round 7 or Undrafted

    Asa Jackson, Cal Poly

    5’10", 193 pounds

    Grade: Round 7 or Undrafted

    The North group of cornerbacks is not tall but far from small. The unit is made up of bulky, physical cornerbacks, rather than thinner, faster cornerbacks.

    Leading this group is Nebraska’s Alfonzo Dennard. Dennard did not quite live up to expectations after taking 2011 first-round pick Prince Amukamara’s place as the Cornhuskers’ top cornerback. That said, Dennard has had a productive career at Nebraska and is a playmaker who plays physically and has good ball skills.

    Dennard is not going to be a No. 1 shutdown cornerback at the next level, but can be a very good second cornerback and can solidify himself as a second-round draft pick with a strong Senior Bowl week.

    Jamell Fleming is a cornerback whose stock has really risen over the course of his senior season. Fleming is a long, physical cornerback who made a big impact as the star of Oklahoma’s secondary as a senior. Fleming’s question marks come in his athleticism and hip flexibility, questions he will look to answer in Mobile.

    Iowa State’s Leonard Johnson is also a solid cornerback looking to move his way up into the second day of the draft with a strong showing in Mobile. The other two North cornerbacks, Penn State’s D’Anton Lynn and Cal Poly’s Asa Jackson, need strong weeks in order to solidify themselves as being drafted at all.

Free Safeties

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    George Iloka, Boise State

    6’4’’, 222 pounds

    Grade: Round 5

    Donnie Fletcher, Boston College

    6’, 201 pounds

    Grade: Round 5 or 6

    Trenton Robinson, Michigan State

    5’10’’, 193 pounds

    Grade: Round 6

    Boise State’s George Iloka has a tremendous combination of size and athleticism, which makes him a potential Day Two selection. However, while Iloka has had a very solid career in the Broncos’ secondary, he has not exactly been an impact player.

    Buyer should be beware with Iloka, because if he was not an impact player collegiately, that may not change at the next level. That said, if Iloka makes a big impact during his time on the field at the Senior Bowl, he could prove he is worthy of being selected much higher than his current fifth-round grade.

    Donnie Fletcher played cornerback at Boston College, but he will likely make the transition to free safety at the next level. Fletcher has good size, solid coverage skills and has great instincts, but he lacks the athleticism to play on the outside of an NFL secondary. Fletcher will likely be evaluated as both a nickel/dime cornerback and at safety, but the emphasis should be placed upon the latter position.

Strong Safeties

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    Harrison Smith, Notre Dame

    6’2’’, 212 pounds

    Grade: Round 4

    The lone strong safety on the North squad, Harrison Smith has been among the stars of the Notre Dame defense over the past few seasons. Smith is a very well-rounded safety. He is athletic, has very good ball skills and covers inside receivers well, but he is also an instinctive and sound tackler.

    Mike Mayock said on the Senior Bowl practice broadcast that Smith is receiving “second-round grades,” which seems like overhype, but Smith is still a very solid prospect, worth at least a fourth-round selection in the 2012 NFL draft. Smith has the potential to work his way up into Day Two with a strong showing in Mobile.

Specialists

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    Kyle Wojta, Long Snapper, Wisconsin

    6’1’’, 239 pounds

    Grade: Round 7 or Undrafted

    Brad Nortman, Punter, Wisconsin

    6’2’’, 207 pounds

    Grade: Round 7 or Undrafted

    Carson Wiggs, Kicker, Purdue

    6’, 222 pounds

    Grade: Undrafted

    It is unlikely that any of the specialists on the North squad will be drafted, but the two Badgers specialists in Mobile have a chance. Kyle Wojta is the second-best long snapper in the 2012 NFL draft, which is unlikely to get him drafted but could draw interest in the late rounds from teams looking to go in a new direction at that position.

    Brad Nortman is not a spectacular punter, but he should at least be good enough to earn an invite to an NFL training camp.

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    Thanks for reading!

    For more coverage of the 2012 NFL draft, follow me on Twitter @Dan_Hope.