The Under Armour Senior Bowl is one of the premier events for NFL personnel to scout incoming college talent.
Scouts from every team attend the week of practices and interviews, keying in on players who could potentially help their respective franchise in the very near future. It’s an arduous process for these players, but many are presented with an opportunity to shine. Senior Bowl week is an audition.
Given the amount of eyes on Senior Bowl players, it’s no surprise that so many get drafted the following April. This year will be no different, and there are many talented players who could end up being first-round candidates in this year’s draft.
We’ll take a look at how the first round may shake out, and focus on those players whose Senior Bowl performance could bolster their draft stock.
*Note: Picks that focus on Senior Bowl players are in italics.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Chiefs could go a couple different directions with this pick. They badly need a franchise quarterback, and Andy Reid loves to develop them. But with left tackle Branden Albert’s future still up in the air, Kansas City could decide to go with the best player in the draft in tackle Luke Joeckel.
Because of Reid’s affinity for malleable quarterbacks, he’ll like opt for Smith, though. He isn’t as talented as some first-round quarterbacks in recent years, but he’ll certainly be an upgrade over the signal-callers Kansas City fielded in 2012.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Jacksonville has several holes to fill on both sides of the ball, and selecting the best player available is the best option with the No. 2 pick. The Jaguars need a pass-rushing present on their defensive line after finishing dead last in the NFL in sacks last year. Werner is one of the best pass-rushers in the draft, and he’ll be able to step in immediately and fill a major hole on Jacksonville’s defense.
3. Oakland Raiders: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
The Raiders have some quality pieces in place, but they are also lacking in several key areas. Like Jacksonville, Oakland didn’t have much of a pass rush in 2012, and it badly needs to address that shortcoming. Moore isn’t a freak athlete, but he is an overall terrific player with the ability to get to opposing quarterbacks—exactly what Oakland needs off the edge.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Philadelphia would be extremely lucky to land Joeckel at No. 4. He’s the best player in the draft, and would also fill a huge need. The Eagles' offensive line was atrocious in 2012, and even with some players returning from injury, Joeckel is their best option to anchor the offensive line.
5. Detroit Lions: Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
The Lions’ biggest needs are on the defensive side of the ball, and there’s a pretty good chance they go defense with this pick. Cornerback Dee Milliner may be an option, but Jones is the best player on the board. Detroit has been known to draft the best player available in the first round, and Jones would also fill an area of need. Detroit’s linebacking corps needs some work.
6. Cleveland Browns: Barkevious Mingo, LB, LSU
The Browns may decide to switch back to a 3-4 with Ray Horton as their new defensive coordinator. They’ll need some pieces to make it work, though. Cleveland is lacking dominant pass-rushers as well. If they switch back to a 3-4, Jabaal Sheard will likely transition to outside linebacker, but the Browns still need a quality pass-rusher opposite him. Mingo would be a terrific fit.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Fisher has been impressive at the Senior Bowl, as noted by Bleacher Report’s own Matt Miller:
Eric Fisher is owning people. I'm sold.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 22, 2013
With Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan returning to school for another year, Fisher becomes the clear-cut No. 2 offensive tackle this year. He’s big, strong and nimble, and he’ll be an exceptional tackle at the next level.
Arizona badly needs offensive line help. The Cardinals shuffled through a handful of quarterbacks in 2012, due in large part to an inability to keep Kevin Kolb healthy. They need to address needs on the offensive line, and Fisher would certainly be a huge upgrade.
8. Buffalo Bills: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
With the top of this year’s quarterback class being such a logjam, pre-draft performance becomes that much more important. According to Adam Caplan of PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Wilson has stood out in Mobile:
Out of the three QBs on the South team, Tyler Wilson has improved the most over the three days of practice.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) January 23, 2013
Ryan Fitzpatrick should be done in Buffalo, and new head coach Doug Marrone needs a franchise quarterback around which to build. Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib would be a logical choice, but it’s hard to envision Buffalo passing on Wilson if he continues to impress this offseason.
9. New York Jets: Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State
Glennon’s measurables are impressive, but it’s what he has done on the field this week that has scouts interested. According to Bucky Brooks of NFL.com, Glennon is “arguably the most talented drop-back passer” in this draft class, and his play this week could give NFL teams a lot of answers.
New York needs to address the quarterback position, even with Mark Sanchez likely to be on the roster in 2013. If the Jets choose to continue forward with Sanchez, they can develop Glennon for a future role at the position.
10. Tennessee Titans: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Lotulelei is a top-five talent, and the Titans would be lucky to land him with the No. 10 pick. Tennessee needs a run-stuffing presence in the middle of its offensive line, and Lotulelei is one of the best in this class. He’s highly disruptive and does an excellent job plugging up running lanes and getting penetration.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
San Diego would probably love to get Fisher here, but he’s already off the board. Johnson is the next-best thing.
Johnson will be working to impress scouts in Mobile this week with his excellent athleticism and quick feet. He’s a former tight end who might prove to be the most athletic offensive tackle in this draft class.
The Chargers need to find a suitable replacement for Marcus McNeil at left tackle. Their biggest priority in the first round should be filling that hole and finding a tackle around which to build their offensive line.
12. Miami Dolphins: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Miami needs playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, especially with Ryan Tannehill under center. He didn’t have much with which to work in 2012, though Davone Bess and Brian Hartline each had nice seasons. Still, Miami lacks a true No. 1 receiver and Patterson fits the bill.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
After trading Aqib Talib to the Patriots, the Buccaneers were left with a big void at cornerback. If Milliner is available at pick No. 13, they’ll likely run to the podium to select him. Milliner doesn’t stand out in any one particular area, but he’s an overall terrific cover defender, and is the best defensive back in the draft.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Panthers had trouble stopping the run in 2012, and they need to add some beef to their interior line. Finding a run-stuffing defensive tackle should be a top priority, and Richardson is one of the best in the class. He’ll garner some attention from other teams, but the Panthers will be lucky to land him in the middle of the first round.
15. New Orleans Saints: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Entering Senior Bowl week, Ansah was Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller’s top prospect in Mobile:
My top ranked Senior Bowl attendee? BYU DE Ezekiel Ansah.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 21, 2013
He’s shown flashes of dominance at times, though questions remain about his NFL readiness. Ansah is still a raw prospect who needs some coaching.
Still, the Saints need an edge rushing presence. They recorded just 30 sacks in 2012 (No. 25 in the league), and finding a pass-rusher early in the draft should be a priority. Though he needs some work, Ansah is one of the best pass-rushers in the 2013 draft.
16. St. Louis Rams: Dallas Thomas, OT, Tennessee
The Rams need to focus on the offensive side of the ball this year. After keying in on defensive improvements in recent years, it’s time to give Sam Bradford something with which to work.
Thomas isn’t a household name, but he’s one of the best tackles in this year’s class. The Rams would be wise to add an offensive lineman or two, and Johnson is the best available at pick No. 16.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jesse Willians, DT, Alabama
With Casey Hampton nearing the end of his career, it’s time to start thinking about finding a replacement and bolstering a rushing defense that, despite finishing No. 2 in the league, allowed too many plays between the tackles. Williams is a space-eater, and could prove to be a terrific anchor for the Steelers 3-4 front.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Warmack is one of the best offensive linemen in this class, but guard isn’t a position of critical need for most teams. Dallas badly needs interior offensive line help, and Warmack would be a gift at No. 18. He is an exception run-blocker and can also help relieve some of the pressure that got to Tony Romo so often in 2012.
19. New York Giants: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
Justin Tuck has been largely ineffective and Osi Umenyiora will likely leave in free agency this offseason. With a hole to fill opposite Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants would be wise to address that need.
According to Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, the Giants would love Lane Johnson with this pick, but he’s already off the board:
From a physical standpoint, loved how Lane Johnson looked. Had one NY Giants scout tell me, "that's my left tackle."— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 21, 2013
With no quality left tackles available, the Giants will turn their sights on the defensive side of the ball and another position of need.
20. Chicago Bears: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Because of Fluker’s size, he’s probably only going to play on the right side of the line in the NFL. Still, he’s an impressive player, and his run-blocking abilities are superb.
Fluker weighed-in at 355 pounds at the Senior Bowl, but the added weight shouldn’t hurt his draft stock. He’s a mauler, and with a good week of practices at the Senior Bowl, he should rise up the draft board in the coming months.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Bengals don’t have a lot of needs, and this selection would be an excellent value pick at No. 21. Vaccaro is one of the best defensive backs in this year’s draft class, and his playmaking ability will put him near the top of a lot of team’s draft boards. It’s somewhat of a luxury pick, but the Bengals get a good one in Vaccaro.
22. St. Louis Rams: Keenan Allen, WR, California
With offensive tackle no longer a need, the Rams turn their sights on the wide receiver position. Allen is one of the two best receivers in this class, and despite his lack of elite speed, Allen finds ways to get open. Sam Bradford needs a No. 1 target, and Allen can fill that role.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
With Percy Harvin on the shelf, Minnesota’s offense became one-dimensional. The Vikings needs another playmaking wide receiver who can take pressure off Harvin and make some big plays in the passing game. Hunter is one of the most physically gifted players in this class, and would be a good fit in Minnesota.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
The Colts used many of their draft selections on offense in 2012, and the focus this year should be beefing up a defensive line that did not fare well against the run last season. After switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 before the 2012 season, the Colts found themselves without the proper personnel to fit the scheme. Floyd can play multiple positions in a 3-4, and fills an area of extreme need.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
Hankins has an extremely high motor for a player of his size, and the Seahawks could use him in a lot of situations. He’s big and versatile, and very adept at shooting gaps and disrupting the flow of plays. Without a lot of positional needs, the Seahawks can use this as a value pick and select one of the top defensive tackles available.
26. Green Bay Packers: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Jermichael Finley hasn’t panned out in Green Bay, and his time is nearing an end. With Greg Jennings potentially leaving in free agency, the Packers need to consider adding another receiving threat. Eifert is a former wide receiver with excellent hands and route-running ability. He would fit in nicely in Green Bay’s pass-heavy offensive attack.
27. Houston Texans: Tavon Austin, WR West Virginia
Without another offensive weapon, Houston had to rely on an aging Andre Johnson to shoulder its passing offense. Johnson still has gas in the tank, but he needs another receiver to take pressure off him. Austin is simply explosive, and even in the slot will garner extra attention from defensive backs. Houston needs another receiver, and Austin is the most electric in this class.
28. Denver Broncos: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Champ Bailey is past his prime, and it showed in the playoffs this year. Bailey was torched by Baltimore’s receivers, so it becomes time for Denver to consider drafting a replacement. Rhodes is one of the top corners available, and with Milliner already off the board, this is the smart pick.
29. New England Patriots: Matt Elam, S, Florida
The Patriots need to get better at defending the pass, but with Rhodes off the board one pick earlier, the Patriots must look for help at another position. Elam is the best safety available, and selecting him would allow Devin McCourty to move back to cornerback, strengthening a pass defense that could lose Aqib Talib to free agency.
30. Atlanta Falcons: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
Jenkins weighed in at a whopping 359 pounds at the Senior Bowl, and that kind of size is exactly what Atlanta needs to boost its run defense. The Falcons had trouble stopping the run this year. Jenkins is especially good at doing just that.
Jenkins needs to show he can carry his weight well and stay on the field for more than two downs this week, but with a good performance, several teams should consider adding him in the first round, including the Falcons.
31. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
Te’o's recent drama shouldn’t have much of an effect on his draft stock. He’s a terrific player with a ton of talent, but his shortcomings were exposed during the championship game against Alabama. The Crimson Tide offensive line pushed Te’o around, and he needs to be drafted into a system in which he won’t be the primary run-stuffing element up the middle.
With Ray Lewis set to retire, Baltimore needs to add some youth at inside linebacker. Te’o is a terrific option, and a good value pick at the end of the first round.
32. San Francisco 49ers: Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
Hunt’s name isn’t well-known yet, but it will be. He’s an impressive player, and he’s already getting a lot of attention in Mobile, as highlighted by Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller:
And I just heard the first Margus Hunt/J. J. Watt comparison. Love it.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 21, 2013
Hunt may not be as special as Watt, but he’ll certainly garner some first-round attention in April. San Francisco doesn’t have many needs, and Hunt would be a luxury pick at No. 32.