The Top Players to Watch at Each Position in the 2013 Senior Bowl

Scott BischoffCorrespondent IIJanuary 22, 2013

The Top Players to Watch at Each Position in the 2013 Senior Bowl

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    The 2013 edition of the Senior Bowl has arrived, and with it comes the need to look at the best players at each position who are here for this year’s event. Make no mistake, this is an event. From the bizarre weigh-in process where players, essentially in their underwear, are paraded in and measured in front of a bunch of guys, to the post-practice race to interview the players, this is an event.

    It is also an exciting time to evaluate prospects up close and personal. Trust me, there is nothing like watching offensive and defensive linemen go at each other in one-on-one drills, also known as the “pit drill.” It is shocking to see how quickly and violently these massive players clash with one another. It is also incredible to see how amazingly fast some of these athletes are.

    While the player evaluation process is virtually over, the Senior Bowl is one of the finishing pieces and it really kicks off the pre-draft process. Let’s look at the top players at each position who are participants of the 2013 Senior Bowl.

Quarterbacks

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    1. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas, 6’2”, 218 pounds

    Wilson is a big-armed quarterback who has great size, arm strength and smarts and a pretty strong pedigree coming out of Arkansas. While in Mobile, he needs to prove that he can be accurate with the ball against great competition. He also needs to show scouts that he can move around and avoid pressure. With a very good week, he could be in a position to be selected high in the 2013 NFL draft.

     

    2. Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse, 6’2”, 228 pounds

    Nassib is an interesting prospect. He has a quick release and an uncanny ability to throw receivers open. He is very accurate and has plenty of arm strength, but he needs to show his accuracy and ability as a quarterback to the evaluators in Mobile. His stock is rising, and with a strong showing in Mobile, Nassib could emerge as the primary target of the Kansas City Chiefs, who hold the first overall pick.

     

    3. Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State, 6’5”, 232 pounds

    Glennon is a prototypical NFL-sized pocket passer with great size and a big arm, but there are a few questions he needs to address. During this week of practices, he has to show the ability to read through his progressions without speeding through them and panicking. He also needs to show some ability to move and avoid pressure with his feet. 

Running Backs

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    1. Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson, 5’9”, 192 pounds

    Ellington is an electric player in space and a player who is deceptively powerful. He does a good job of catching the ball out of the backfield with natural, soft hands. He is also good in pass protection and is a true three-down back. He isn’t overly physical and has a smaller frame, and he needs to show that he can play physically. He needs to answer questions about his size, and with a good week, he can cement himself as the best of this group of running backs.

     

    2. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford, 5’11”, 215 pounds

    Taylor is a big, physical pounder who has played in Stanford’s pro-style offense. He is a hard runner who is always falling forward, finishing runs with a lot of power. In today’s NFL, a running back has to be reliable in pass protection and Taylor needs to show the desire to anchor in pass protection. He also needs to flash the ability to threaten the edge with speed.

     

    3. Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida, 5’11”, 210 pounds

    Gillislee is a tough, physical runner who likes to run downhill. He is a hard-working back who put together a very nice season against SEC competition in 2012. He is very good in pass protection and is an asset blocking on third downs. He does not flash explosion and needs to show some burst to the scouts during this week of practice.

Wide Receivers

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    1. Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech, 6’2”, 195 pounds

    Patton is a smooth, fluid wide receiver with a very good overall skill set. He can win consistently with his smarts as a receiver and his ability to work on the boundary as well as in the soft area of the defense. He can separate from his defender with good quickness and great footwork. A solid week of practice will establish Patton as one of the best receivers in this class and potentially get him selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.

     

    2. Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor, 6’2”, 205 pounds

    Williams is an incredibly fast player with great straight-line speed and the ability to be a vertical threat in the NFL. He has great athletic ability and can consistently beat corners with the combination of his vertical jumping ability and his long arms. If there is anything that he needs to display during this week, it is consistency with his hands and in his route-running. Williams is among a group of highly ranked wide receivers who could get drafted as early as the late first round in the 2013 NFL draft.

     

    3. Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall, 6’2”, 206 pounds

    Dobson has the best pair of hands that I have ever seen from a college player. He has soft hands and catches everything thrown at him. He is a good route-runner with excellent jumping skills, and he has the chance to be a great red-zone threat in the NFL. The one thing that Dobson needs to display during this week of practice is the ability to accelerate and run away from the defense.

Tight Ends

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    1. Vance McDonald, TE, Rice, 6’4”, 260 pounds

    McDonald is a very good player out in space, displaying really soft hands and a nice catching radius. He has good foot quickness and change-of-direction skills, and these attributes allow him to get separation in his route-running. He is a weapon in the passing game, and if he can show some real speed, he has a chance to really help his draft stock.

     

    2. Ryan Otten, TE, San Jose State, 6’5”, 245 pounds

    Otten is another dangerous weapon in the passing game. He has shown great elusiveness and the ability to get open and catch the ball. There are questions about his willingness and desire as a blocker, perhaps because he is a smaller tight end. Without a doubt, he has to put those concerns to rest this week.

     

    3. Nick Kasa, TE, Colorado, 6’6”, 260 pounds

    Kasa is a defensive end convert, and like every player who moves into another position, it is going to take time. He can really run and threaten the defense vertically but is a very raw prospect. He needs to show that he is a willing blocker and that he can pick up tight end concepts quickly. He is a mismatch because of his speed and an intriguing player to watch this week.

Offensive Centers

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    1. Braxston Cave, OC, Notre Dame, 6’3”, 304 pounds

    Cave is a savvy lineman who has experience calling out assignments and plays a tough brand of football. He finishes plays, has a nasty streak and has experience as he has played a lot of football for Notre Dame. He is another player who can really solidify his stock with a good week of practice.

     

    2. Dalton Freeman, OC, Clemson, 6’5”, 285 pounds

    Freeman is a gritty center who plays with tenacity while giving everything he has on every snap. He is underpowered and will have to answer questions about his ability to hold up at the point of attack. He will have that shot this week and can solidify his draft stock with a good week of practice.

     

    3. Brian Schwenke, OC, California, 6’4”, 300 pounds

    Schwenke is a tough football player with a lot of good tape for NFL teams to see, playing at guard and center at Cal. He is reliable and consistently handles himself well against power moves on the inside. With a good week of practice, he'll put himself in position to get drafted.

Offensive Guards

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    1. Lawrence Warford, OG, Kentucky, 6’3”, 343 pounds

    Warford is a big, mauling guard who can easily sink his hips, anchor and redirect defensive linemen on the interior of the line. He is very physical and can help a team in the running game right away. The questions about Warford are about his abilities in pass protection and whether he can get to the second level of the defense consistently.

     

    2. Dallas Thomas, OG, Tennessee, 6’5", 310 pounds

    Thomas is playing both guard and tackle at the Senior Bowl, and the wise choice for an NFL team is to move him to guard where he won’t get exposed on the edge. He moves well and has a good blend of power combined with the ability to move his feet. Thomas will get repetitions at tackle here, and teams need to consider his position going forward.

     

    3. Hugh Thornton, OG, Illinois, 6’4”, 310 pounds

    Thornton is another player that can play at guard and tackle, but his best position is at guard due to his limited movement skills. He is versatile and has shown teams and scouts that he can play both positions, but he is clearly a guard going forward. He needs to be physical in moving linemen off the ball and getting out into space this week.

Offensive Tackles

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    1. Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan, 6’7”, 305 pounds

    Fisher is currently projected to be the second tackle off the board after Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel. He is a plug-and-play prospect with good footwork and the ability to move into the second level. He is one player that has the opportunity to lock down a very early Day 1 pick with a good week of practice.

     

    2. Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma, 6’6”, 303 pounds

    Johnson is a big, tall athlete with a lot of growth potential. He is an athletic tackle who can comfortably get to the edge while having the ability to sink his hips and anchor against the power moves. He is light on his feet and certainly looks the part of a left tackle. As much as it sounds like Fisher is the No. 2 tackle off the board, Johnson could play his way there with a real strong week showcasing his overall abilities.

     

    3. Oday Aboushi, OT, Virginia, 6’6”, 310 pounds

    Aboushi is a technically sound left tackle and a reliable player in pass protection. He slides his feet well and does a good job of mirroring his defender, displaying good footwork. If there is a knock on him, it is how he will hold up versus the power and bull rush of the bigger, more physical players in Mobile. 

Defensive End

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    1. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU, 6’5”, 270 pounds

    Ansah is raw, but he is an elite talent and a player that is going to make a big impact on Sundays. He has an incredible first step and great ability to turn the corner. He also can hit an offensive lineman with a power move when he is expecting a speed move. It is a lethal combination of speed and power from a player who is new to the game. Ansah has to show that he can defend against the run this week, but a big week puts him off the board early in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.

     

    2. Margus Hunt, DE, SMU, 6’7”, 280 pounds

    Hunt looks the part as he is a gigantic defensive end. He is an explosive football player who can impact the offense in many ways. When he plays to his strength with good leverage, he is tough to block because of the combination of his arm length and natural, functional strength. That’s exactly what he has to show scouts this week though, as he doesn’t always play with power. Hunt is an intriguing player with a bright future ahead of him, as he is position versatile and can play in any scheme.

     

    3. Alex Okafor, Texas, 6’5”, 265 pounds

    Okafor is simply a pass-rush specialist, but that’s enough to warrant heavy consideration from a team looking for a disruptive defensive end. He plays with good power and shows a great burst, especially when he uses his hands to go back inside. His weakness is playing the run. He is the kind of player that could drastically improve his stock by beating up on the better tackles in the Senior Bowl.

Defensive Tackles

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    1. Kawann Short, DT, Purdue, 6’3”, 315 pounds

    Short has a wide array of skills and has put a lot of them on film for NFL teams and their scouts. He has been used all over the defensive line, from nose tackle to defensive end. He has the burst to penetrate gaps and the size and strength to hold up against the run. Short is already considered an early pick, but he can guarantee that with some pressure from inside this week.

     

    2. Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina, 6’3”, 320 pounds

    Williams is an interesting prospect, as he has the strength to play nose tackle in a 3-4 and the burst to play as a 3-technique in a 4-3 defense. He has a great get-off and is a run stuffer. Williams can really elevate his stock by showing some ability to get to the quarterback at the Senior Bowl.

     

    3. John Jenkins, DT, Georgia, 6’3”, 358 pounds

    Jenkins is going to be a nose tackle in the NFL. He has great size and strength, and when he plays with leverage, he is difficult to slow down. He displays a great bull rush and very strong hands. When he doesn’t play low with leverage, he looks very average. Jenkins can set himself up as a nice Day 2 pick with a good week, as long as he doesn’t take plays off and takes to the coaching.

Outside Linebackers

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    1. Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford, 6’4”, 248 pounds

    Thomas is a natural fit to play in a 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker. He definitely sets the edge and forces the run back inside and can get to the quarterback as well. Thomas is an asset defending the pass and run and is a very instinctual football player. Thomas is not an explosive pass-rusher, and he could really improve his stock by getting to the quarterback this week.

     

    2. Zavier Gooden, OLB, Missouri, 6’2”, 230 pounds

    Gooden is explosive and can really run all over the field to make plays from sideline to sideline. He is a very fast player who relies upon tracking down the ball-carrier with his speed. Gooden is not overly physical and needs to hold up at the point of attack this week.

     

    3. Khaseem Greene, OLB, Rutgers, 6’1”, 230 pounds

    Greene has been incredibly productive as a college athlete because he stays on the field on third downs and does a good job in coverage. He can stay with running backs and tight ends while defending the pass, and he holds up well versus the run from a physical standpoint. Greene needs to play strong this week to solidify his stock as one if the better OLBs in the 2013 NFL draft.

Inside Linebackers

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    1. Nico Johnson, ILB, Alabama, 6’2”, 245 pounds

    Johnson plays bigger than his listed size and handles himself well inside against offensive linemen because he can shed blocks proficiently. He is an aggressive tackler and a reliable player in the middle of the defense. He looks like a good fit to play inside in a 3-4 defense. A strong week of tackling and taking good angles will help his stock.

     

    2. Kevin Reddick, ILB, North Carolina, 6’2”, 240 pounds

    Reddick is a downhill tackling machine and a very instinctual player. He is an aggressive player who is reliable in bringing running backs down. He is not the type of player to be trusted in pass coverage, which means he's a two-down linebacker. Reddick must put forth great effort this week as the questions about him are about his motor.

     

    3. Vince Williams, ILB, Florida State, 6’1”, 250 pounds

    Williams is a very big, physically imposing linebacker who attacks the line of scrimmage. He is big enough to hold up to pulling guards and tackles and hold up well at the point of attack. He will need to showcase some lateral agility and break down and tackle well during the week.

Cornerbacks

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    1. Robert Alford, CB, Southeastern Louisiana, 6’0”, 185 pounds

    Alford is a small-school cornerback with great ability to run and close on the ball. He can flip his hips, turn and run with his man in coverage, and he does a good job of locating the ball. Alford is one of the most interesting players at the Senior Bowl because of his ability to run and his added impact in the return game. Alford can solidify his already high stock with a good showing this week against better competition than he has seen all year.

     

    2. Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State, 5’11”, 190 pounds

    Poyer can do it all as a cornerback. He can play press and he does a great job of reading routes and locating the ball. He is a great cover cornerback with good athleticism, and he will need it this week as these teams have very good wide receivers. Poyer also returns kicks and can help his stock by running well and showcasing his natural coverage skills at the Senior Bowl.

     

    3. Leon McFadden, CB, San Diego State, 5’10”, 190 pounds

    McFadden is another interesting player because of his skill set. He keeps everything in front of him and reads and reacts well. He is quick out of his break and very intelligent in diagnosing routes with his natural football instincts. The question with McFadden is about his speed. Is he just an average runner who won’t be able to keep up with the faster players in the NFL?

Safeties

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    1. Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International, 6’0”, 210 pounds

    Cyprien is a strong, in-the-box safety that tackles extremely well and likes to deliver big hits in run defense. He can run well enough to stay with backs and tight ends out of the back field. He has good instincts in coverage and is a rising prospect that can solidify his stock with a strong week.

     

    2. Phillip Thomas, S, Fresno State, 6’1”, 215 pounds

    Thomas was an “everything” player for Fresno State. He can hit, close on runners and tackle, cover tight ends down the seam and support the run all the while showing the skills to pressure the quarterback. If he can show that combination to the talent evaluators here, his draft stock will rise considerably.

     

    3. Bacarri Rambo, S, Georgia, 6’0”, 210 pounds

    Rambo is a very talented coverage safety who has great ball skills and the ability to move well for his size. He is a smart football player with good anticipation skills, and he generally takes the right angle to the ball. Rambo was very highly rated coming into the 2012 college season, and his stock suffered a little from a poor season. Rambo needs to show good coverage skills against the better wide receivers here and tackle well to solidify his stock.