Final Scouting Notes from the 2013 Senior Bowl
NFL teams have packed up their bags and grabbed their Mardi Gras beads en route to the airport. For all intents and purposes, the 2013 Senior Bowl is wrapped up. What'd we learn?
This wasn't an exceptionally great group if you love watching quarterbacks, but for X's and O's savants who crave line play and secondary technique, this was a fun week. Many players from those units helped solidify their draft stock with a great week of practices.
It's time to open the scouting notebook one last time. Here's my position-by-position rundown of the week.
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Top Performer: Ryan Nassib, Syracuse
There will be plenty of disagreement about who looked best this week, but Nassib takes the award for me. He showed off a strong arm and validated film study that shows great velocity, quick feet and some ability to make plays outside of the pocket. Nassib does a good job squaring to throw when forced to move his feet.
Worst Performer: Zac Dysert, Miami (OH)
Dysert was very erratic in his placement and timing throughout much of the week. While other quarterbacks struggled the first day, Dysert never improved over the course of the three practices I saw. He has good athleticism, but the overall package is lacking if accuracy isn't improved.
Mike Glennon has an impressive arm, but he hasn't learned how to use it yet. Too often he's putting un-needed air under the ball when throwing to all areas of the field. He also needs to gain 15 to 20 pounds.
EJ Manuel is a top-level athlete, but he's not a passer yet. Manuel must work on improving his accuracy and his timing before he can be viewed as an NFL starter.
Landry Jones looked good against air, but once again we saw him struggle when pressured. That's a major knock on Jones, and it's one that isn't going away.
Tyler Wilson looked as good here as he does on film, but the same mistakes seen during the season were evident in Mobile. Wilson makes three great throws and then one or two absolutely terrible decisions. He has to become more consistent.
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Top Performer: Mike Gillislee, Florida
In a group of impressive running backs who tend to all look the same, Mike Gillislee stood out most. Gillislee was the most electric in the hole and in space. He's shifty enough to make guys miss when he picks his running lane and has the second gear to hit the open field and make big plays.
Worst Performer: Robbie Rouse, Fresno State
Rouse's week didn't start out well when he measured in at 5'5 7/8" and just 186 pounds. Those aren't measurables a player can't overcome, but to be small you have to be fast, and Rouse isn't that fast. I expected much better balance and speed from the tiny Fresno State back.
Stanford back Stepfan Taylor had the second-most impressive week of any running back here when looking at all-around play. He's a powerful runner who hits downhill hard and can break tackles between the hashes.
Johnathan Franklin made the most big plays of the week of any running back, showing more burst than expected. Franklin was able to stretch plays with a nice plant-and-drive cut when he found a hole.
Kenjon Barner did well as a runner, especially on runs from the tackle to the hash mark. Where Barner struggled was in pass-pro situations and as an inside runner. He has to get stronger.
Fullbacks Kyle Juszczyk and Tommy Bohanon both looked good, but Juszczyk stood out as the better all-around player.
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Top Performer: Marquise Goodwin, Texas
Combine the speed of an Olympic sprinter with high-level quickness and hands, and you get Marquise Goodwin. While he's not a finished product at receiver, Goodwin showed enough burst, lateral quickness and catching ability to be viewed as a solid second-round pick.
Worst Performer: Denard Robinson, Michigan
Robinson struggled this week in making the move from quarterback to wide receiver. I waited three days before making a negative judgment on Robinson, but the fact is he didn't develop from day to day at the position. He looks like a project at best.
Quinton Patton of Louisiana Tech moves like a first-rounder. I wouldn't be surprised to see him emerge as the No. 2 wide receiver in this year's class.
Marshall receiver Aaron Dobson didn't impress me. He's a stiff, rigid body, and with long legs he's not able to make quick cuts to change direction.
Ryan Swope had a solid first day but eventually was pulled due to an ankle injury. Teams should be happy with what they saw from the slot receiver, who, if healthy, can be a steal in the middle rounds.
Markus Wheaton reminds me of a Mike Wallace lite. He's a one-speed route runner who can get deep but must work on changing direction at top speed.
Chris Harper isn't a speed guy, but with his size he can be a very good underneath receiver. I see Anquan Boldin when watching Harper.
Alec Lemon impressed as a late add to the roster. He's very quick in and out of breaks and has positive hands.
Terrance Williams has the size, speed and strength of a No. 1 wide receiver. He's carrying a late first/early second grade.
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Top Performer: Vance McDonald, Rice
McDonald was hands down the best receiver among the tight ends in Mobile. He showed off good quickness post-catch too but must get better as a pass protector. He was definitely eye-opening though.
Worst Performer: Michael Williams, Alabama
Williams may be better off adding 20 pounds and becoming a tackle, a la Jason Peters. I didn't see the feet of a tight end, or the hands of one. Williams' stock is dropping fast.
Nick Kasa (Colorado) was the best receiver of the tight ends on the North roster, but he had trouble securing passes over his head that required him to extend.
Ryan Otten impressed at times but was too inconsistent as a pass-blocker for me. He's a late-round guy.
Mychal Rivera is a really likable player, but he's without a true position. Similar to James Casey of the Houston Texans, he'll have to move around for the best matchup.
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Top Performer: Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
My winner of the Senior Bowl, Eric Fisher made himself a lot of money this week by showing a dominant streak at left tackle. Fisher has prototypical size and length, and he backs that up with grace and balance in his lower body. Fisher's a top-10 pick walking away from Mobile.
Worst Performer: Braxston Cave, Notre Dame
You never want to see an offensive lineman getting walked backward by defenders, and that's really all we saw from Cave this week. He's gone from mid-rounder to undrafted.
Lane Johnson finished a close second to Fisher as the best offensive lineman here. He showed off exceptional athleticism and was much stronger than anticipated. He is now a top-15 pick.
Justin Pugh can't make his arms any longer, but he does a good job sliding his feet to make up ground. Once he learns to punch and initiate contact, he's going to be a star.
Rick Wagner looked like a starting-caliber right tackle in run situations, but he's still getting bent back in pass protection. Teams who love him and run heavily may value Wagner higher than I do. For me he's a fifth-rounder.
D.J. Fluker weighed in but didn't participate in practices due to a strained calf.
Cal center Brian Schwenke helped himself out with a very strong week of practice. In a weak center class, he's moving up the board.
The best guard here was Larry Warford from Kentucky. He's a bowling ball of a player with great power to push the pile. He wasn't great in pass protection but excels as a combo blocker on the inside.
Jordan Mills may see a move to guard. He's short-armed and not quick enough to play on the left side.
Xavier Nixon earned the nickname "Elephant Feet" for his heavy steps. He's a right tackle on my board now.
Terron Armstead was a late addition, and an impressive one for a small-school kid. He's worth a late-round pick as a developmental player.
Kyle Long missed two days of practice with the flu but told me Thursday that he was back to feeling normal and was looking to make up for lost time in the game.
Datone Jones NFL Player Comparison
Top Performer: Datone Jones, UCLA
The one man who got the best of Eric Fisher this week, Datone Jones showed off an all-around skill set as a power edge-rusher. Jones' stock is rising after showing a high motor, great intensity and the strength to bull rush and anchor off the edge.
Worst Performer: Malliciah Goodman, Clemson
There were no overly bad performances, but Goodman never flashed potential to me as more than just a guy. He lacks quickness as a pass-rusher and wasn't particularly strong against the run.
Alex Okafor had a good week off the edge, but he needs to learn to stay low when trying to bend the corner and get to the quarterback. He's still a first-rounder.
Margus Hunt is an exceptionally large man at 6'8" and 277 pounds, but he lacks a position right now. I'd like to see an NFL team add 30 pounds to his lean frame and play him as a 3-4 defensive end.
Michael Buchanan had some moments in one-on-one drills where he looked like an outside pass-rusher, but far too often he was losing battles against the talented tackles of the North.
Ezekiel Ansah is as athletic as advertised, but he's really a project at this point. He needs to be taught to use his hands more effectively and to work outside on rushes. He's not strong enough to beat tackles inside.
Top Performer: Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern State University
It's rare that a Division II player would stand out most, but Brandon Williams was unstoppable at times. His 341 pounds move much faster than you'd expect, matching what I saw on film and in person against small-school opponents. Being able to win against top-level-talent offensive linemen earned him a ton of cash.
Worst Performer: Everett Dawkins, Florida State
I went back over my notes twice looking for positive plays from Dawkins and found none. That's not to say he didn't have any, but in a full day of watching defensive linemen he did nothing to wow me. That's not good.
Kawann Short had a great week, showing the burst and inside pass-rush moves to cement his status as a top 3-technique defensive tackle.
Big John Jenkins moves very well for a 360-pound man. He's quicker and more violent than most players with his size, but he also disappears for stretches. Poor conditioning is to blame.
Penn State's Jordan Hill looked good rushing the passer against right tackles and guards but really struggled when facing more athletic players on the opposite side.
Sean Porter NFL Player Comparison
Top Performer: Sean Porter, Texas A&M
Porter showed more of the flashes we saw in 2011 when he played more of an outside role in the A&M defense. Porter's quickness and fluid style of play will make him valuable as a potential inside or outside linebacker.
Worst Performer: Nico Johnson, Alabama
Johnson's lack of speed and agility are a major factor. He's someone who can play inside in a 3-4 defense but would be exposed on the outside or if asked to play alone in the middle of a 4-3.
Stanford's Chase Thomas is purely a 3-4 outside linebacker. He'll struggle in coverage early in his career and is much better moving forward than backward.
Zaviar Gooden is a fantastic athlete but limited football player. His instincts were better than seen on film and in person, but he has work to do in terms of mechanics.
Khaseem Greene struggled to get home as a blitzer, but that's expected for a former safety. He looked fluid in coverage and can be an asset in a 4-3 scheme on the outside.
Sio Moore is undersized for the position, but I liked his upside as a pass-rusher off the edge.
Vince Williams is a high-energy 'backer but didn't match his on-field play to his pre-snap vocals.
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Top Performer: Desmond Trufant, Washington
Trufant owned the Senior Bowl's secondary drills, showing off great ability to stick receivers at the line and then turn and run with them. Even when he missed on his jams, he's fast enough to recover and ride the hip pocket. He's a first-round lock.
Worst Performer: Jamar Taylor, Boise State
Taylor really struggled to keep up any time receivers made double moves. He's a straight-line guy who I'd rather see in zone than man coverage.
Dwayne Gratz was pleasantly surprising in bump-and-run situations. He's a thick, physical cornerback who has potential on the edge and in the slot.
Jordan Poyer is scrappy as they come, but he didn't look great when asked to change direction. His backpedal and plant-and-go need work.
I wanted to see a better week from Will Davis. He struggled in man coverage throughout most of the three practices I saw.
Sanders Commings looks the part but got too high at times and would peek back at quarterbacks when going over the middle.
Leon McFadden was super fast and fluid in and out of breaks. He'll be an asset in man coverage if he can overcome his lack of great size.
Robert Alford made waves in coverage and as a return man. He was the fastest defensive player I saw all week.
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Top Performer: Johnathan Cyprien, Florida International
Cyprien had one of the biggest impacts of any player at the Senior Bowl. In a week where few players want to go at full speed, Cyprien wasn't afraid to show off his physical abilities. He impressed from day one, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him enter the discussion in Round 2.
Worst Performer: Robert Lester, Alabama
The Senior Bowl isn't a great venue for Lester, who is an in-the-box safety only. He struggled in coverage all week in team drills, making his performance the least ideal of any safety. That said, Lester wasn't terrible; his competition was just much better.
T.J. McDonald will never be able to cover small receivers in the slot, but he has great size and length for the strong safety position. He'll be a nice matchup safety against bigger tight ends.
Phillip Thomas is one of my top free safety prospects, and he showed why this week. Thomas is very fluid in coverage—he has smooth hips that allow him to quickly change direction and attack the ball.
Bacarri Rambo loves to hit, but I don't like him as much in coverage. He's an in-the-box safety who will excel in the run game.