NFL Draft 2012: Things We Learned from the Senior Bowl

Jason Clark@jclark735Correspondent IIJanuary 31, 2012

NFL Draft 2012: Things We Learned from the Senior Bowl

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    The Senior Bowl isn't as much about North vs. South as it is about impressing scouts and preparing for the NFL draft.

    During a process dominated by underclassmen leaving school early for the riches of professional sports, the Senior Bowl offers a unique opportunity to those who chose class over cash and gives them the chance to showcase their abilities.  Some take advantage of the opportunity, and some do not.

    Each year, the Senior Bowl teaches us things about players we thought we knew, introduces us to talents we thought were irrelevant and confirms our beliefs about players we did know.

    Let's take a look at what learned from the 2012 Senior Bowl.

Brandon Weeden Isn't Worth an Early-Round Pick

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    Twenty-eight-year-old Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden was spectacular all season, throwing for 4,727 yards and 37 touchdowns against only 13 interceptions.  But his age is a concern for NFL draft analysts.

    If Weeden was hoping to be drafted in the first two rounds, his performance at the Senior Bowl did nothing to help him get there. After a good week of practice, Weeden completed only 5-of-9 passes for 56 yards and threw two picks to go along with it.

    Weeden will be entering the draft at the same age as Aaron Rodgers is right now, but he will have had none of the time Rodgers did to develop and learn the pro game.

    The only way Weeden would be worth a first or second-round pick would be if he could come in right away and play at a high level. His performance at the Senior Bowl didn't indicate he could do that.

Janoris Jenkins Can Play at an NFL Level

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    Former All-SEC cornerback Janoris Jenkins disappeared from the spotlight for most of his senior year. He played at D-II North Alabama following his dismissal from Florida last April.

    Currently fourth in Mel Kiper's positional rankings, Jenkins has been falling in player rankings and mock drafts everywhere.

    This is mostly a result of his character issues, which have been defined by his multiple arrests over the years.

    But as Jenkins proved during Senior Bowl week, he's still an elite cornerback. According to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, the Dallas Cowboys were interested in Jenkins and were impressed by his ability.

    Jenkins can be a great NFL cornerback if he stays out of trouble. For him though, that's easier said than done.

Kellen Moore Could Be the Next Tom Brady

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    Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore could be the next elite quarterback to be picked in the late rounds of the draft. Think story of Tom Brady, stature of Drew Brees.

    Despite his record of 50 collegiate wins as a starter, Moore's NFL potential has always been in doubt. Standing at only 6' 1", Moore may be too short to see over the massive NFL linemen. His arm strength, although good, is not elite like Drew Brees' is.

    However, it's difficult to argue with results, and that's what Moore produced during the Senior Bowl. He only completed 50 percent of his passes, but he led a game-clinching drive that ate 8:36 of clock and lasted 13 plays.

    Moore showed of plenty of big-play ability while playing on the blue turf of Boise State, so we know that he's capable of that as well. As a proven quarterback with a chip on his shoulder, Moore could be just the kind of player to surprise everybody and make Pro Bowl after Pro Bowl in the years to come.

Courtney Upshaw and Melvin Ingram Are Going to Be Incredibly Valuable

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    Alabama's Courtney Upshaw and South Carolina's Melvin Ingram are two players less defined by the positions next to their names and more by their flexibility on the field. 

    Upshaw, who played linebacker for Alabama's top ranked defense, lined up at defensive end for a lot of the Senior Bowl.

    Ingram, primarily a defensive end for the Gamecocks, was recruited as linebacker and has the athletic ability to switch back at any time.

    In today's world of hurry-up offenses and odd defensive looks, having players that can play more than one position well is a must. In Upshaw and Ingram are two players who can fill more than one hole on a team's defense.

Trent Richardson Isn't the Only Running Back with a Promising Future

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    Heisman finalist Trent Richardson gets most of the attention when it comes to running backs, but the Senior Bowl showed that there may be more than one first-round talent at the position.

    Washington's Chris Polk, Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead and Boise State's Doug Martin were among those who got to show off their talents without standing in the shadow of Richardson last week.

    Polk has been consistently good all year long but has been looked over for most of it. His play in the Alamo Bowl and Senior Bowl finally earned him some recognition and people are taking notice.

    Pead's 129 all-purpose yards earned him MVP honors for the game to go along with a draft stock that had been improving since the first day of practice. He not only showed his value as a running back, but as a punt returner.

    Martin was often overshadowed by Kellen Moore at Boise State, but if his play at the Senior Bowl is any indication, he had as much to do with Boise State's success as Moore did. His stats (four carries for 19 yards) don't jump off the page, but he had a good week of practice and excelled as a blocker.

    Even if their performances don't earn them first-round value, it doesn't mean they won't have great success in the NFL. Some of the league's top running backs—LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte and Maurice Jones-Drew—were all drafted in the second round.

Players Will Need Their Pro Days and the Combine to Improve Their Stock

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    For players like Arizona quarterback Nick Foles and Texas A&M wide receiver Jeff Fuller, the Senior Bowl did nothing to improve draft stock.

    Neither player had a particulary impressive week of practice, and neither player made up for it come game time.

    The same can be said for Ohio State wide receiver DeVier Posey, who needed the Senior Bowl to make up the time he lost during a season in which he only played two games due to suspension.

    All three players are talented and have NFL potential, but they will need to prove it during their pro days and at the combine.