The hype machine is cranking at the 2013 Senior Bowl, but some NFL prospects aren't getting the kind of hype that will make them money in April.
The game has yet to be played, but practices are just as important. NFL coaches, scouts and general managers are all there taking notes, watching to see how players respond to instruction, how they compete in practice and what kind of shape they're in.
We've heard rave reviews about players who were under the radar before this week, while some players who were being pegged as top picks have floundered. Follow along as we examine the hype surrounding these top prospects and determine if it's warranted or not.
HYPE: Top-10 Prospect
Before this week, most NFL mock drafts had Geno Smith going before Tyler Wilson, but the quarterback from Arkansas has impressed scouts with his natural passing skills, his ability to learn from his mistakes and the way he's improved every day in practice.
Needless to say, the hype surrounding Wilson at this point is that he may be taken ahead of Smith, and some are wondering if he wouldn't be a perfect fit for Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs with the No. 1 overall pick of the draft.
DraftBreakdown.com's Ryan Lownes writes:
Like most, I look at Tyler Wilson and he may not be the biggest or have the strongest arm in the class, but he looks most like an NFL QB.— Ryan Lownes (@ryanlownes) January 24, 2013
One thing that works in his favor right off the bat is that Wilson measured in at just over 6'2", which is a big deal as far as most scouts are concerned.
Wilson is an athletic quarterback with a strong enough arm to make all the throws—though he'll never be compared to Joe Flacco in the arm-strength department. His best qualities, though, are leadership, the ability to bounce back from mistakes and his willingness to put the ball into tight spots.
HYPE: Possible No. 1 Pick, Likely Top-10 Pick
Ryan Nassib has been mentioned as a perfect fit with former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone and the Buffalo Bills, and many a mock draft had him pegged at the No. 8 spot.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller recently tweeted:
Had Ryan Nassib going No. 8 overall last week in my mock draft. Seeing him talked about as No. 1 overall is shocking, but possible.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 20, 2013
But Nassib didn't exactly impress at Senior Bowl practices, not like a top-10 pick should, anyways.
CBS Sports' Dane Brugler wrote:
Entering the season I gave #Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib an early to mid 2nd round rnd grade. After his SR season and SR Bowl wk, I stand by that— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 24, 2013
And even more damning for Nassib is the fact that recent reports suggest the Bills aren't as high on him as we all thought they'd be, considering his connection with Marrone, per DraftInsider.net.
HYPE: Top QB in the Draft
Not everyone was sold on Mike Glennon, but Mel Kiper had him ranked higher than any other quarterback in the draft before the Senior Bowl (ESPN Insider), and that's enough to get the hype train rolling full steam ahead.
Scouts have been intrigued by Glennon's arm for weeks now, but from what we've seen in Mobile, Alabama, he may not have as strong an arm as we were led to believe.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller wrote this in his Day 2 notes blog:
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.
NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal agrees:
N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon hasn't stepped up this week. He's been erratic with his accuracy. NFL Network's Mike Mayock said he's been a little disappointed by the big-armed Glennon thus far.
Miller also tweeted recently that an NFL scout told him his team had Glennon rated as a late-round quarterback.
HYPE: Surging Up Draft Boards
Before practices began at the Senior Bowl, Stepfan Taylor was being ignored in large part by most draft pundits and the national media.
He's not a flashy player, and he isn't particularly fast, which is why he flew under the radar. But his performance during practices this week has enlightened many to the fact that he may end up becoming one of the best pro backs from this year's draft class.
I personally had him ranked as my No. 5 running back before the Senior Bowl, due to his ability to consistently gain positive yards between the tackles, his excellent hands and his quick burst.
It seems like many scouts are starting to place that kind of high value on him now.
Yahoo! Sports' Doug Farrar tweeted this after seeing Taylor's work in practice:
I like Barner/Franklin a lot, but all in all, Stanford's Stepfan Taylor seems the best overall back. Power/speed/elusiveness. No major flaws— SC_DougFarrar (@SC_DougFarrar) January 24, 2013
Taylor has been far and away the best running back in Mobile, Alabama, and he'll be a steal if he falls out of the top 50 in the 2013 NFL draft.
HYPE: Draft Stock Plummeting
Denard Robinson is attempting to redefine himself at the Senior Bowl, and so far, the results haven't been pretty.
The former dynamic running quarterback from Michigan won't make it as a signal-caller at the next level, so if he wants to have a future in the NFL, he needs to prove his value as a receiver.
That hasn't happened the way he planned.
According to the Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett:
A scout's critique of Denard Robinson at the Senior Bowl: "Not good." Said he's still draftable, but not nearly as high as he thought— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) January 23, 2013
Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey, who is watching him firsthand, was even more blunt:
Also at receiver, Denard Robinson was a train-wreck. We knew he would be a project, but he's got more work to do than anyone thought.— Michael Schottey (@Schottey) January 24, 2013
Needless to say, it sounds like Robinson has a lot of work ahead of him to boost his draft stock, which is tanking at this point. He isn't a big guy, at 6'0" and 197 lbs., and watching him struggle to do even the simplest things during practice doesn't give me hope he'll be able to succeed.
HYPE: Draft Stock Way Up
Most casual fans won't even recognize Marcus Wheaton's name.
The speedy wide receiver from Oregon State wasn't a player we've seen featured in mock drafts, and he has flown under the national radar...until now.
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks seemingly fell head-over-heels in love with him after watching him in practice the past few days, writing:
Wheaton has been the most impressive receiver at the Senior Bowl -- by far. The Oregon State product has displayed excellent speed, quickness and burst, routinely separating from defenders out of breaks. Most impressively, Wheaton has shown strong hands...Wheaton has created quite a buzz in the NFL scouting community.
DraftBreakdown.com's Ryan Lownes went a step further, writing:
The more I watch Markus Wheaton, the less sure I am about Cordarrelle Patterson and Keenen Allen as my top two WRs.— Ryan Lownes (@ryanlownes) January 24, 2013
Wheaton's size may be the only thing keeping him from being a sure-fire first-round pick at this point. The senior wide receiver isn't quite 6' tall, and he weighs in at 182 lbs.
Considering the success that DeSean Jackson has had in the NFL, though, it's not a stretch to believe that his rise up draft boards might be one of a permanent nature.
HYPE: Surging Up Draft Boards
In the NFL, speed is a prized commodity.
Texas wide receiver and Olympian Marquise Goodwin has it, and he's making the most of his time at the Senior Bowl by showing he's more than just a one-trick pony.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller gushed over Goodwin's skills in his Day 3 scouting notes:
Goodwin is known for his speed, and it's definitely there. But unlike most track guys, his quickness translates well to the field. He's agile and able to change direction quickly; he's not just straight-line speed. He's catching everything catchable that's thrown his way.
Goodwin was never utilized properly during his time at Texas. Teams would be wise to use him in a Wes Welker-type role, because he'll be dynamic in the slot.
Due to his lack of size (5'9" and 180 lbs.) and the fact that he's still quite raw from a technique standpoint, I'd say Goodwin is a late-second-round pick, at best. But his stock has certainly benefited from his outstanding play this week in practice at the Senior Bowl.
HYPE: Mid-To-Late First-Round Pick
Terrance Williams has been featured in the bottom half of mock drafts for months now, and it's not hard to see why. NFL.com's Gil Brandt recently mocked him at No. 14 to the Carolina Panthers.
The 6'2", 205 lbs. senior wide receiver was highly productive at Baylor in 2012, catching 97 passes for 1,832 yards with 12 touchdowns, improving upon what was an impressive junior season that saw him catch 11 touchdowns.
Williams has performed as advertised during practices this week, drawing rave reviews by just about everyone covering the Senior Bowl.
CBS Sports' Dave Richard has Williams as his best wide receiver this week, writing:
Williams started the week with a bang Monday with a couple of highlight-reel catches while establishing himself as one of the fastest players on the field...Considering size and skills, he's the best receiver in Mobile, which frankly shouldn't come as a big surprise since he had double-digit touchdowns the last two years...
Considering the need some teams in the bottom half of the first round have for a playmaking wide receiver (St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Houston Texans, etc.), and considering how productive Williams has been in college, I don't see him falling out of Round 1.
HYPE: Top-Five Pick
Eric Fisher was already shooting up draft boards before this week, especially after Taylor Lewan and Jake Matthews made decisions to stay in school in 2013.
The Central Michigan lineman has done nothing but impress this week, standing out as the best lineman on either side of the ball during practice.
Luke Joeckel is thought of by most to be the best offensive tackle prospect of this year's draft class, but from what we've seen of Fisher, he's not far behind.
MLive.com's Kyle Meinke writes:
He entered the week slotted as the No. 2 tackle on most draft boards behind Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel, and most projections pegged him outside the top 10 overall. But his stock appears to be soaring, and likely will draw interest early in the first round from teams looking to upgrade at tackle. That could include the Detroit Lions, who have the No. 5 pick.
But he might not last that long, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jeff McLane:
Fisher is making his case as a top-five pick, and given the value placed on elite left tackles in the NFL, it's not hard to believe he'll be one come April.
HYPE: Top-15 Pick
Before the Senior Bowl, Lane Johnson was considered by most draft experts to be a fringe first-round pick, if not a second-round pick. He was somewhere around No. 40 on many big boards, but after his performance this week in practice, his draft stock has skyrocketed.
Johnson has performed admirably at both tackle spots this week, dominating most of the one-on-one drills and holding up well in scrimmage.
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks writes:
Johnson has demonstrated impressive footwork, balance and body control while snuffing out pass rushers in drills. In one-on-one drills, Johnson's capacity to anchor and redirect rushers has earned him high marks from scouts closely monitoring his game.
NFL Draft Bible has a shocking prediction:
Would not be surprising if Luke Joeckel, Lane Johnson, DJ Fluker, Eric Fisher all go top-10. Toss Chance Warmack into mix, could have 5 OL.— NFL Draft Bible (@NFLDraftBible) January 24, 2013
Here's where I stand on Johnson: He's been really impressive this week, and his stock has been steadily improving since the middle of the season. That said, the lack of pass-rushers at the Senior Bowl makes me wonder if the hype isn't a bit too overblown at this point.
Johnson is still a bit raw, and he isn't as technically sound as Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher. I give him a late-first-round grade at this point.
HYPE: Top-15 Pick
NFL teams are constantly looking for players with extraordinary physical traits—especially when seeking pass-rushers.
Ezekiel Ansah seems to be a player who fits this mold. The 6'5", 270 lbs. defensive end has been drawing comparisons to New York Giants pass-rushing sensation Jason Pierre-Paul for the past couple of months, but from what I've seen this week, he isn't nearly as dynamic a player as JPP.
He has raw abilities, but he seems sluggish off the line at times and doesn't have a repertoire of moves that will threaten NFL tackles.
NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah seems to agree:
During pass-rush periods, he repeatedly tried to work through the numbers of the offensive tackle, but his bull rush was rarely effective. He flashed one inside-spin move, but otherwise was predictable and unsuccessful in his pass-rushing attempts.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, who I highly respect as an evaluator of NFL personnel, believes it won't be a stretch to see the Detroit Lions grab Ansah with the No. 5 overall pick.
I just don't think he's pro-ready at this point, though, and I have him rated as my No. 20 player in this year's draft class.
HYPE: Late-First-Round Pick
For months now, we've seen John Jenkins' name show up anywhere from the middle to the end of the first round in mock drafts.
He's a talented player with the potential to be great, but potential is a scary word sometimes, and Jenkins seems to have character issues that would scare me away from taking him in Round 1.
First off, Jenkins was academically ineligible to play in Georgia's bowl game against Nebraska. That's never a good sign.
Then, Jenkins showed up this week looking like he'd spent all his spare time eating pizza and drinking beer. He weighed in at 359 pounds, and according to Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey, "big," "sloppy," "oh my goodness" were the comments he was hearing while Jenkins was on stage.
Jenkins has shown flashes of his natural ability during practice, but he's easily winded and fails to play with discipline.
Showing up for one of the biggest job interviews of your life like Jenkins did won't help him in April. He has the potential to become a dominant player in the NFL, but he needs to prove he wants it before I'd risk a first-round pick on him.
HYPE: First-Round Pick
Desmond Trufant wasn't even on the radar as a first-round pick until this week.
But the cornerback out of Washington has turned heads on a consistent basis during practice, and a strong showing in the game on Saturday will only further cement him as a first-round talent.
Most teams that I spoke with prior to the Senior Bowl had Trufant pegged as a middle-of-the-second-round-type player. Following three days of practice, nearly every personnel executive I spoke with considers him a likely first-round pick.
The National Football Post's Matt Bowen observed:
DB that stood out at North squad practice this AM: Washington CB Desmond Trufant. Can play press, smooth in his transition skills.— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) January 23, 2013
Trufant isn't a big corner, at 6'0" and 186 pounds, and he didn't exactly have a standout season for the Huskies in 2012, posting just one interception. But if he continues to impress throughout the rest of the scouting process, nobody will be surprised to see him taken in Round 1.
Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
HYPE: Late First-Round Pick
Poyer has flown a bit under the national radar this year, playing at Oregon State. But judging by his performance this week at the Senior Bowl, and judging my what his game tape shows, he has the potential to become a lockdown cornerback in the NFL.
Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
HYPE: Rising Up Draft Boards
Hunt is a physical specimen, at 6'8" and 275 lbs. Some have wondered if he'd be a good fit as a 3-4 defensive end as a J.J. Watt-type player.
He has reportedly met with the Dallas Cowboys (h/t ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins), and if he can show better technique and strength at the point of attack, he could sneak into the middle rounds in April.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78