Scouting Notes from Day 2 of Senior Bowl Practice
Day two is in the bag from Mobile, where we're camped out all week for Senior Bowl practices. What's worth noting from today's sessions?
It's important to watch from day one to day two to see how guys are responding mentally and physically to the practices. Are players sore? Are they tired? Have they developed in the two days of coaching from NFL staffs? Who is emerging as a leader on each squad?
Here's a look inside my scouting notebook for day two.
The most impressive player I saw on Tuesday, hands down, was Eric Fisher.
The Central Michigan prospect looked and moved like an elite left tackle all day. He was playing at another level, showing great first-step quickness getting in and out of his stance into a pass protection set. That's the biggest key for an NFL left tackle, and Fisher has it.
I was also impressed by how physical he was. At 6'7", you can expect a guy to get high at times and show poor leverage, but Fisher does a great job dipping his shoulders and maintaining a solid base for strength.
Fisher has opened my eyes more than any player here. He's moving up into the top 10 range.
The 2013 running back class isn't exceptionally strong at the top due to injuries to guys like Marcus Lattimore, but there's room for several backs to make a case for a second-round grade. Kenjon Barner is certainly doing that at the Senior Bowl.
Barner looked more physical here in practice than what I saw on film. He knows that teams may perceive him as a soft player and outside runner, so he's working to improve his pass protection, strength and inside running. It's paying off.
We all know that Barner can be electric as a runner and as a receiver out of the backfield. If he adds power and learns to run inside effectively, watch out.
It's no secret that Ryan Nassib is my top-ranked quarterback on the North roster, well ahead of Mike Glennon and Zac Dysert. The reason for that was on display again today.
Nassib has much better control of the football than his counterparts, showing better touch on underneath throws and great zip on every pass. Standing on the sidelines with Nassib throwing right at me, I was able to see great spin on passes headed to the boundary on 15-yard out patterns. There's no unnecessary air on his passes, and definitely no flutter from a weak arm.
Nassib is still raw—you see him forcing things underneath at times—but he's blowing away the competition at his position.
Quinton Patton wasn't a sleeper heading into the 2013 draft, but he's not exactly a household name either. He might be after this week.
Patton was on fire in the Tuesday afternoon session, showing off great speed and better hips than I expected. He was executing a nice double-move, showing quick cuts and the feet to fake out cornerbacks who jump his mid-routes. Patton got behind Robert Alford on one such route and left the Southeast Louisiana corner in his tracks.
Patton's moved himself up with a great season, and his showing as a speed threat here will only fuel that ascent.
The Senior Bowl is great for having a chance to see small-school prospects, and Missouri Southern State University defensive tackle Brandon Williams is making the most of that opportunity.
Williams is a natural nose tackle at 6'1" and 341 pounds of raw strength. He needs work on technique—he'll frequently get tied up with blockers who are getting their hands into him—but the blank canvas Williams brings to the table is awesome.
Williams is a first-year starter in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. He can get high at times out of his stance, but you still see terrific power that's good enough to split gaps and/or clog the middle.
Watching him this year, I can't help but think he's the same player as Dontari Poe was last year, just a bit shorter. Poe went No. 11 overall.
While Williams won't go that high, the early second round is a possibility for a team running a 3-4 defense.
The Syracuse program has plenty of talented prospects at the Senior Bowl, and the one I was most interested in Tuesday is left tackle Justin Pugh.
Pugh has a lean build at 6'4" and 301 pounds, but he could easily add 10-15 pounds in an NFL training program. As he stands now, Pugh is a lock for a zone-blocking scheme where his size isn't a negative and his quickness off the ball is a plus.
One thing I didn't see from Pugh today was a strong punch. He has to learn to meet defenders with his arms instead of pausing and waiting on them. That might work in college, but Pugh isn't fast enough to give defenders that edge in the NFL.
It helps that a zone scheme will cover up Pugh's shorter arms (31.5") and also highlight his strengths—moving, locating defenders and drive-blocking. I've never been blown away by Pugh, but he's an incredibly solid player. That might not be enough to get him into the first round, but he won't get through Round 2 without hearing his name called.
I keep waiting to be impressed by Mike Glennon, but it hasn't happened yet.
There are times when Glennon makes an amazing throw, but those are few and far between. You might see highlight reels stitched together post-Senior Bowl that show great passes, but after being here for two days, I can tell you that doesn't accurately reflect what is happening.
Glennon has been all over the place the first two days. Passes are coming out high and soft. He doesn't have great zip on throws to the boundary—a negative for a guy being sold to us on arm strength. On downfield passes, he gets a ton of air on the ball and can throw it all over the field, but his placement is weak and inconsistent.
The idea that Glennon is the best quarterback in this class has never sat well with me, and after two days, it looks to be very far off the mark.
When Matt Bowen likes you as a cornerback, you know you're doing something right.
I was able to compare notes with the former NFL safety today after the North practice, and we were both away impressed with UConn cornerback Dwayne Gratz. Not only does he look the part, he backs it up on the field.
Gratz has the strength to be a press cover corner, and while he doesn't blow me away with the speed to bail after pressing, he'll be excellent in short areas. Like Casey Hayward in last year's class, he's excellent bumping at the line and then squatting in zone coverage. That's Gratz's game, and he'd be a great fit in a Cover 2 defense because of it.
USC safety T.J. McDonald didn't enjoy a great year on a team that really went downhill, but so far in Mobile, he has rehabilitated his stock well after two practices.
The first thing you notice is his great size—McDonald is big with long arms and legs. That translates to good range, as he's able to cover the field well and has the length to go up and get the ball at its highest point.
At one time, we saw T.J. used in the box for run support, and it was impressive to see him making plays there. He's never going to be a guy who locks down elite tight ends, but he's good enough in coverage to take on most NFL tight ends not named Rob Gronkowski. Add in his range and physicality, and you have a solid second-round safety who can start in year one.
Miscellaneous News and Notes
- Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope didn't finish practice in the afternoon session after suffering what appeared to be an ankle injury. There hasn't been word on the severity.
- John Simon, an outside linebacker from Ohio State, wasn't active in the morning session, and no reports were given as to why. This left the North squad with just four linebackers.
- Xavier Nixon is known as the guy who shut down Damontre Moore this season, but the Florida product has shown heavy feet here through two days and looks more like a power right tackle than anything.
- John Jenkins (Georgia) was on my bad list yesterday after an unimpressive weigh-in, but that didn't matter on the field today. Jenkins was quick and powerful off the ball, giving South guards all they could handle.
- Chris Harper (Kansas State) continues to impress at the wide receiver position. He's a big, thick receiver who would be a great fit as a No. 2 option in a West Coast offense.
- Trevardo Williams (UConn) did not participate this morning, but no report was given as to why.
- Tyler Wilson wowed our video team last night with an awesome interview session. There's word here that he is putting on a Russell Wilson-like performance in interviews.
- Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown is here, but not participating, and we've been told by a source that a shoulder injury that's plagued him for two seasons is the reason. Doctors cleared Brown to play this year, but he's playing it safe this week.