2012 Senior Bowl: Biggest Impressions from Practice Week

Dan Hope@Dan_HopeContributor IIIJanuary 28, 2012

2012 Senior Bowl: Biggest Impressions from Practice Week

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    Yes, Allen Iverson, we’re talking ‘bout practice.

    The 2012 Senior Bowl game will be played on Saturday, but it is Friday, and the week is already almost over. The Senior Bowl is a rare occasion where scouts actually focus more attention on the practices during the week than the game itself.

    That is not to say that the game is not important; while many scouts do leave Mobile, Ala., on Wednesday and Thursday and return home, they will watch the game tape to see how well the players’ performance in the game backs up or differs from their performance in the practices.

    After the game, I will begin my full review of the Senior Bowl, with all of the evaluations I have gathered from both practices and the game. But for tonight, on the eve of the game, I present my nine most significant impressions from the week of practices in Mobile.

1. Melvin Ingram, Courtney Upshaw, Quinton Coples Are All Worthy Round 1 Picks

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    Going into the week, I only gave first-round grades to three players participating in the 2012 Senior Bowl. As it turns out, all three of them are on the South roster, and all three of them are defensive front-seven players.

    Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw has the best grade of any player in Mobile; he is the only player at the game legitimately worth a top-10 draft pick. Upshaw may not have raised his stock at all, but it certainly did not drop.

    Upshaw did not look terrific athletically this week, but had a very solid showing, displaying that he can get into the backfield both as an edge rusher and as a bull rusher.

    That said, South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram has been the most impressive player in Mobile this week. Ingram’s biggest question mark comes with his measurables, as he is short for a defensive end at only 6’2’’.

    However, Ingram has been absolutely dominant this week, and showing that he has the athleticism and explosiveness to be capable of being a very good edge player in the NFL, whether that be as a defensive end or as an outside linebacker.

    Ingram has won almost every battle in one-on-one drills, whether he has been using his speed and burst off the edge to get around a blocker, or overpowering his opponent with his strength.

    Ingram is a very good athlete for his size, and he has solidified himself as a top-20 draft pick with his performance this week.

    North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples has also had a very solid showing this week. He has ideal size for the defensive end position, but what has really shown this week are his explosiveness and burst. He has a terrific first step, and beat many blockers off the line in one-on-one drills this week. Coples established himself as a worthy first-round selection.

2. Mike Adams and Cordy Glenn Are the Best Offensive Linemen in Mobile

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    Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams and Georgia offensive lineman Cordy Glenn both had second-round grades coming into the week, the highest grades of any offensive linemen in Mobile. After great weeks by each of them, both now have a great chance of being first-round picks.

    Left tackles are always among the positions drafted at a premium. Adams affirmed this week that he has the skill set to be an NFL left tackle. He was the most consistent offensive lineman in North practices all week.

    In one-on-one drills, he was often matched up against Marshall’s Vinny Curry, one of the draft’s top pass rushers, and won most of the battles.

    Adams is not quite at the level of the draft’s top three left tackles (USC’s Matt Kalil, Stanford’s Jonathan Martin, Iowa’s Riley Reiff), but once those three players are off the draft board, Adams will become a very valuable commodity.

    Cordy Glenn was a terrific left tackle at Georgia, but he has been viewed as a guard prospect at the next level, due to a perceived lack of athleticism. That said, Glenn is an absolutely massive man: he measured up at 6’5’’, 346 pounds, 35.125-inch arms, and an 84.625-inch wingspan! No matter where Glenn lined up in practice this week, he was dominant.

    During Wednesday’s practice, Glenn spent most of the day at left tackle, and was a dominant presence. These repetitions included going up against Ingram, Coples, and Upshaw, and he held his own against all of them.

    Glenn is still probably better suited to kick to right tackle or guard, but his versatility is impressive, and by showing that he truly has NFL potential as a left tackle, his stock is well on its way up. He has likely worked his way into the late first round.

3. Chris Rainey Has the Best Speed in Mobile, and More Than Just Speed

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    In my South Roster Breakdown, I said that Chris Rainey is “more sprinter than football player.” After a tremendous performance by him during Senior Bowl week, my opinion is starting to change.

    Obviously, to say Rainey is a sprinter is not a knock on him; he has tremendous speed, and that is what makes him such a dangerous player. However, Rainey showed this week that he has the skill set to make an impact in the National Football League.

    Rainey played running back at Florida, but looked natural as a wide receiver this week. One of the highlights of the week came in one-on-one drills, as he went up against his former teammate, Janoris Jenkins.

    Rainey accelerated to full speed, then put a fantastic double move on Jenkins to beat him and separate for a deep catch. Rainey consistently made plays as a receiver all week, and started drawing comparisons to another former teammate, Percy Harvin.

    If Rainey continues to look impressive as a wide receiver on game day, he should establish himself as no worse than a fourth-round draft pick.

4. Ladarius Green Is the Best Tight End in Mobile

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    Coming into the week, Missouri tight end Michael Egnew had my best grade at the position, a projected fourth-round pick. Egnew’s stock has not fallen at all, but another tight end has displayed that he may very well be worth a third-round draft pick. That player is Louisiana-Lafayette’s Ladarius Green.

    Green has huge upside. At 6’6’’ and 237 pounds, Green has ideal size for the position, and is a tremendous athlete. Green is known for his receiving ability, and he looked very natural running routes and making plays downfield this week.

    What really impressed me this week about Green, however, was his blocking ability. Green did a very nice job in the 11-on-11 portion of practices in making blocks in the run game. Green has great size, and he put his strength on display this week too.

    Green showed this week that he has star potential, and as I watch more tape of him, my grade on him may increase even further. He is certainly an impressive specimen, and one of the players who caught my eye most this week.

5. Brandon Weeden Is the Best Quarterback in Mobile

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    Whenever Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden is discussed as a draft prospect, his age always has to be mentioned, given the fact that he is 28 years old, considerably older than a typical draft prospect.

    That said, he is a very talented quarterback who was clearly the best among the quarterbacks in Mobile this week.

    Weeden is not the typical quarterback to come from a college spread offense; he has a NFL-caliber arm, and the ability to make accurate downfield throws.

    Weeden’s stock is certainly hurt by his age, but at a time where there are many teams in need of NFL quarterback, he is one of the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft, and that makes him worth taking a chance on during Day Two (Round 2 or 3) of the draft.

    Another South quarterback, San Diego State’s Ryan Lindley, was very unimpressive. Just as he has throughout his senior season, Lindley really struggled with his accuracy this week. Lindley has prototypical size and a big arm, but his lack of accuracy makes him worth no better than a sixth-round draft pick.

6. Kendall Reyes, Jaye Howard Have Very Intriguing Skill Sets

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    Connecticut defensive tackle Kendall Reyes and Florida defensive lineman Jaye Howard both came into Senior Bowl week with fifth-round grades, but are likely to leave Mobile with higher grades.

    Reyes and Howard are both very impressive athletes for their size and have utilized their athletic ability to their advantage this week.

    Reyes has been dominant at the line of scrimmage in practices all week, using all 300 pounds of his frame well and athletically.

    He has consistently won in one-on-one battles, and was the standout of the North defensive line in practices. With a strong game-day performance, he has a chance to be selected in the third round.

    Howard is also a defensive tackle, although he is best suited to play defensive end in a 3-4 system. Howard is 292 pounds, but he is also a fantastic athlete for his size. Unfortunately, Howard was injured during Wednesday’s practice, but was an absolute standout on Tuesday. '

    Whether he was beating an offensive tackle around the edge, making a spin move at the line of scrimmage, or coming on a bull rush, Howard was winning most of his battles at the line of scrimmage.

    Hopefully Howard is able to participate in the game, but even so, he has made a big move to improve his stock with his impressive performance early in the week.

7. Kirk Cousins, Not Kellen Moore, Is the Best Quarterback on the North Roster

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    Boise State’s Kellen Moore was my highest-rated quarterback on the North roster coming into the week, but he has had a tough week in practice.

    He has looked very uncomfortable under center, and has struggled with his accuracy on downfield throws. He fumbled numerous snaps, and missed too many receivers. He should now be selected no higher than the fifth round.

    On the other hand, Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins did not have a standout week of practices, but he was by far the most solid of the three North quarterbacks.

    Cousins was the only of the three quarterbacks comfortable under center, and looked comfortable in the pocket and threw accurate downfield passes. He should be able to solidify himself as at least a fourth-round draft pick with a good day in the game.

8. Emil Igwenagu and Lennon Creer, Late Invites Taking Advantage of Opportunity

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    Neither Massachusetts tight end Emil Igwenagu or Louisiana Tech running back Lennon Creer were on the initial Senior Bowl rosters, but after strong performances in the Shrine Game by each of them, both received late invitations to the game.

    Igwenagu proved himself as a very solid receiver as well as a lead blocker, with the ability to play both tight end and fullback, during the Shrine Game.

    Igwenagu has continued to perform well at the Senior Bowl. He has very good hands, and has looked good catching passes this week. Before all of this, Igwenagu was a long-shot to be drafted at all, but he seems to have solidified at least being drafted at this point.

    Lennon Creer also was unlikely to be drafted prior to the Shrine Game. However, Creer was the game MVP at that event, and since being added to the Senior Bowl roster, he has had another very impressive showing.

    Creer has displayed great vision, and when he finds the hole, he has an ability to hit it hard, and run over free tacklers. Creer has worked his way up to being a sixth- or seventh-round draft pick.

9. I Need to Spend Senior Bowl Week in Mobile as Soon as Possible

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    Watching the television coverage on NFL Network simply does not allow for full evaluations of Senior Bowl practices.

    The coverage was much better this year: there was much more footage of the important one-on-one drills shown, and much less coverage of quarterbacks throwing at uncovered receivers without any defensive pressure.

    That said, it only allows one to be able to see a very limited portion of the action, and forces one to try to make evaluations on an incomplete reel.

    Unfortunately, being a full-time college student at Ohio State University in the midst of an academic quarter presents great difficulty in the potential of being able to spend a whole week in Mobile.

    That said, as soon as I can find a way to work it into my schedule, I plan on being in Mobile for every practice.

    The week of practices are now over, and the final event is the game itself. The game will be played on Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. at 4 PM ET. The game will be televised on NFL Network.

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    Thanks for reading!

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