Will Denard Robinson bounce back from a rough week of practice to shine in the Senior Bowl?
The 2013 Senior Bowl is not short on intriguing skills players despite the staggering amount of strong defensive prospects that headline the impending NFL draft class.
A certain prolific college quarterback is making a position change and an extremely speedy receiver from Texas headline the North roster's explosive playmakers. For the South, a game-breaking tight end and productive collegiate running back are looking to improve their draft stock.
Here is a breakdown of these captivating prospects that are sure to make several plays during Saturday's game in Mobile, Alabama's Ladd Peebles Stadium.
North: Denard Robinson, WR, Michigan
Despite his exceptional college career as the Wolverines' signal-caller, it's been known for some time that Robinson wasn't going to cut it as a passer at the pro level.
However, as one of the best athletes in the draft, the man they call Shoelace designs on using his outstanding speed and dangerousness in the open field to convert to the wide receiver position. Robinson will be best suited as a shifty slot target, and his experience as a QB gives him a leg up in understanding route concepts.
It may be a struggle for Robinson to create separation off the line of scrimmage against physical nickel corners, and he hasn't been very impressive in Senior Bowl practices.
With impressive field vision and uncanny ability to make plays when everything seemingly breaks down, it may be game day on Saturday when Robinson flashes a big breakthrough.
Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press spoke to an AFC scout who said Robinson's showing in practices may have dropped his draft stock from the third or fourth round to the sixth or seventh. Another NFC scout noted that Robinson has to catch the ball much better.
It's still extremely early in the process, and Robinson is just becoming acquainted with this new spot on the field. Don't be surprised if his natural talent translates to a big play or two in the Senior Bowl.
South: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
Running backs are becoming increasingly risky to select high in the draft, but Taylor has an all-around game and football savvy that should help him improve his standing with scouts this weekend.
Taylor experienced a dip in production in his senior season with the Cardinal, but that was mostly because of inconsistent play at quarterback in lieu of 2012 No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck.
Although he doesn't possess elite speed or a particularly imposing physique, there is plenty to like about Taylor. He is a strong receiver out of the backfield and is a powerful, physical runner who has played in a pro-style scheme in college unlike many of his draft classmates.
An appropriate comparison that could be made would be to San Francisco 49ers RB Frank Gore.
Taylor doesn't quite possess the natural talent that Gore has, but plays the game in a similar way and could easily have a productive NFL career thanks to his ability to get north and south in a hurry.
In an interview with CBSSports.com, Taylor expressed that he had been watching Gore and liked his tough running style, and noted that the Niners are running the same offense under Jim Harbaugh that he installed at Stanford.
Doug Farrar of Yahoo! Sports is certainly high on Taylor at the moment:
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
As mentioned earlier, the running back position is becoming more volatile by the year, but whatever team takes a flier on Taylor will likely be handsomely rewarded. He should continue to impress with a strong Senior Bowl outing.
North: Marquise Goodwin, WR, Texas
There are obvious concerns about Goodwin's viability as a receiver at the next level due to his size at just 5'8" and 173 pounds. He may be somewhat of a featherweight, but Goodwin more than makes up for it by being fleet-footed.
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah alluded to a slice of pop culture to summarize his interest in the Longhorns' explosive receiver:
Every time I watch Texas WR Marquise Goodwin take a rep, I think of spaceballs. "Prepare ship for ludicrous speed." #SeniorBowl— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 24, 2013
With an increasing amount of college spread schematics being utilized at the NFL level, there is a good chance that Goodwin could even be dangerous by motioning into the backfield and taking a handoff on a jet sweep run.
Goodwin's lackluster numbers at Texas are a bit of a red flag, as he hovered around 30 catches per season in each of his four years. Whenever the ball is in his hands, though, he's a threat to take it to the house from anywhere on the field. He has also flashed big-play potential on kickoff returns.
The Longhorns may not have made the best use of Goodwin and his blinding speed based on how impressive he's been in Mobile throughout the week.
With a little more added strength, he has the agility and shiftiness to create enough space in press coverage to be a factor in the pros. Goodwin could very well emerge as a nightmare to defend both as a deep threat and on short passes that give him the ball in the open field.
South: Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
There is a noticeable lack of quality wide receivers in the early draft big boards. But according to Dave Richards of CBSSports.com, Williams is making a strong case that he's the best receiver in Mobile.
Williams could easily wind up in the first round with a big day on Saturday and a strong showing at the combine and his pro day workout.
Despite the departure of Robert Griffin III at quarterback and top target Kendall Wright, the No. 1 receiver role for the Baylor Bears was filled exceptionally by Williams. He caught 97 passes for over 1800 yards and 12 touchdowns, one score more than he had in 2011.
At 6'2" and 201 pounds, the Baylor standout has the size to play right away and emerge as a threat on the outside from Day 1.
As documented by Richards, there was innate chemistry between Williams and Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson during the week of practice. Expect that to translate to the field when the two highly touted prospects suit up on Saturday afternoon.