Senior Bowl 2012: 10 Most Impressive Players
MOBILE, Alabama — Players from around the country flock to Mobile, Ala. to show off their goods to every NFL team at the Senior Bowl. A good week of practice here can make or break a player's draft stock. The pressure is on.
Which players stood out in practices this week? We take a look at the 10 most impressive, letting you know what's so good about each player.
Zach Brown, Outside Linebacker, North Carolina
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Zach Brown has shown this week that the athleticism he shows on film is the real deal. Brown is among the more athletic players here at any position, and it was evident early on that he could be a dominant force on the roster.
Brown's best attributes are his speed and his ability in coverage. There is room to work at the point of attack, where he tries to slip blocks more than take them on, and in finding the ball against the run. When placed at weakside linebacker, Brown should be a top-20 pick.
Audie Cole, Inside Linebacker, North Carolina State
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Watching Audie Cole work with Mike Singletary was one of the best moments of the week. Don't be surprised if the Minnesota Vikings look at the NC State linebacker if they choose to not re-sign E.J. Henderson.
Cole is big, both in person and on the field. He stalks the middle of the defense and has the size to take on blockers and rip through the line. Cole isn't a great athlete, but he makes up for it with good vision and instincts. His read and react skills were the best of the North inside linebackers.
Jamell Fleming, Cornerback, Oklahoma
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The best cornerback in Mobile was Oklahoma's Jamell Fleming. And that's not a close argument.
Fleming is a big man—our own Deputy NFL Editor Dylan MacNamara commented that he looked like a safety in pads. His physical development fits his very aggressive, powerful style of play.
As more NFL teams start running off-man coverage, they will need cornerbacks strong enough to punch and quick enough to bail into the route. That's where Fleming excels.
Cordy Glenn, Offensive Line, Georgia
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NFL teams looking for a versatile offensive lineman will fall in love with Cordy Glenn, if they haven't already.
Standing 6'5.5" and weighing in at 346 lbs, Glenn is a massive man. That size is impressive, but it's worth noting that Glenn has lined up at left tackle during his senior season and again this week. He's more mobile and agile than any other player I've seen at his size.
Glenn projects best at guard, mostly due to the prevailing thought that he's too big at tackle. No matter where he plays, Glenn has the look of a Pro Bowler.
Melvin Ingram, Defensive End, South Carolina
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Melvin Ingram entered the week playing second fiddle to the hype of Courtney Upshaw. He ends the week as having been the more dynamic player in Mobile.
It would be foolish to grade Ingram—or any player—only on this week's practices, but you walk away impressed with his overall ability. Ingram spent time at right defensive end and a small amount of time at outside linebacker this week and was good in both spots.
What I like most with Ingram is that he doesn't try to run past every blocker. Instead he'll lower his body and drive through the left tackle when needed. He's a solid football player who has to be considered a safe pick.
Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback, North Alabama
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There are character problems in every draft class, and this year is no different. One player headlining the group of players looking to move past their previous transgressions is Janoris Jenkins.
Long story short, Jenkins was a potential first-round cornerback at the University of Florida before being released from the program by new head coach Will Muschamp after a third drug-related arrest. Jenkins landed on his feet at North Alabama and is in Mobile trying his best to rehabilitate his image and cover skills.
Jenkins started the week rusty, but by the second practice, he was showing the power and quickness that made him a future first-rounder at Florida. The talent is all there, and in interviewing Jenkins he was contrite and mature in responding to questions about his past. All it takes it one team, and my bet is that one team likes him in the first round.
Chris Polk, Running Back, Washington
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The running back group in the 2012 Senior Bowl isn't great top to bottom, but one player stood out all week.
Chris Polk of Washington has carried a Round 1 grade from me since midseason. Watching him here doesn't change that grade, but only solidifies the attributes shown on tape.
Polk is more than just an inside runner, showing off a good ability to flex to the slot and run routes, as well as staying in to chip and protect on blitzes. Polk did show off his vision both in team and individual drills. He's very light on his feet through the hole and has the vision to make cuts and find space.
Those questioning Polk's straight-line speed are overrating the need for sprinter speed at running back. Much like Arian Foster out of Tennessee, Polk will make his mark with vision, patience and burst.
Brian Quick, Wide Receiver, Appalachian State
There is a load of talent at wide receiver this year, mostly in the second and third round. One player quickly impressing is Brian Quick of Appalachian State.
A small-school guy, Quick was nearly impossible to gain quality film on during the season. For myself and even NFL teams, the Senior Bowl and scouting combine give us a chance to see Quick against real competition and talent.
The all-around game of Quick is solid. He's very big, 6'3.5" and 223 lbs, and has the length to be a factor in the deep game. We asked Quick what he can do that separates him from other receivers, and he replied, "My big body lets me box out and keep coverage away from me while I go get the ball."
There's work to be done, but Quick has the potential to be a small-school developmental guy worth taking a chance on in the middle rounds.
Brandon Weeden, Quarterback, Oklahoma State
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There is a strong debate surrounding Brandon Weeden, the uber-productive passer from Oklahoma State who will be 29 when his rookie year begins.
The argument is that Weeden has at best (and this is a stretch) 10 years in the NFL. The trouble is, Weeden is really good. If he were 22, we would be talking about him as a top-15 pick. As an NFL team, do you pull the trigger on a shorter investment, and if so, when?
I look at Weeden like this: Would you rather draft a rock solid quarterback for seven to 10 years or take a chance on a guy like Nick Foles in the second round that may do nothing over a 15-year career? That's the beauty of the NFL draft; it's a gamble and inexact science.
All we can look at are Weeden's traits and abilities. On film and in person, Weeden exudes a leadership and confidence found in few men straight out of college. His pocket presence dominated the group of quarterback, as did the zip he puts on the ball when throwing strikes all over the field.
Weeden will continue to be a hot topic this draft season, but I like him more and more in the early parts of Round 2.
Russell Wilson, Quarterback, Wisconsin
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During the season, a good scout spends at least three full games getting to know a player, which is where the grading and scouting process begins. Grades you see now from myself and others are just a starting point.
When watching film in-season, it is easy to formulate strong opinions on a player based on intangibles, like height or character (both good and bad). Russell Wilson started the process to change my opinion of him this week.
The only knock on Wilson when the season ended was that he's 5'10.5" and therefore was taken way down the board at quarterback. When viewing Wisconsin game film, Wilson didn't jump out as a downfield passer, both due to the scheme and (I thought) his height.
Watching Wilson throw in Mobile, it's clear that he can see over and around linemen to find windows. He's connecting on seam routes that he couldn't throw accurately without seeing the player.
Remember, these players have been together four days, Wilson is not familiar enough with the wide receivers yet to make 100 percent of his throws based on timing and familiarity with the route tree. He's seeing the receivers, and answering the questions and doubts about how well he can see downfield.