The 2013 Senior Bowl is set to commence on Saturday afternoon, and when it does, NFL prospects have a chance to catch general manager and ownership eyes one final time before the NFL Scouting Combine and pro days start heating up.
The seniors that have been invited to participate in the Saturday showdown between the North and South squads have completed their four years of college time and are ready to move on to the next level of football—but who is a guaranteed pick and who is sitting on the GM fence?
Scouts, NFL personnel and media analysts have been in Alabama all week making sure to take careful notes on what they notice about these prospects, but practice players don't always translate their skills to games—that's why Saturday afternoon will have a heavy viewership among interested parties.
That in mind, there's more than a few prospects that will emerge as first-round picks come April. Spotlighting three, here's a look at the ones that will seal first-round status with a solid performance in Mobile on Saturday.
Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Fisher has been the biggest name to emerge from the Senior Bowl after this week's practices. NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah calls him a top-10 talent, maybe even more so than the prospect many expect to go No. 1 overall, Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel:
Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher was the best player on the field in either of Monday's practices. He was dominant in one-on-one pass-rush drills, displaying quick feet, a powerful punch and a strong base. Also, he was physical at the point of attack in the run game. He made it look easy during the entire practice, playing like a top-10 pick.
With tackles Taylor Lewan and Jake Matthews heading back to school, Fisher and Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson figure to benefit the most. If the Kansas City Chiefs take Joeckel with the No. 1 overall pick, the Philadelphia Eagles could be in play for his services at No. 4—that's the kind of week he's had.
Playing against top talent along the defensive line, most reports are like Jeremiah's in nature. Fisher is big, physical and doesn't get bullied by rushers, and his stock continues to rise with each mention of his name. Look for his abilities to be on full display as he protects North QBs Mike Glennon, Zac Dysert and Ryan Nassib.
Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Jeremiah was also big on Trufant this week, as noted by this tweet on Wednesday:
Daniel Jeremiah @MoveTheSticks
Washington CB Desmond Trufant looks like a 1st rounder, moves like a first rounder and competes like a 1st rounder. #Prediction #SeniorBowl2013-1-24 04:35:15
Trufant's older brothers Marcus and Isaiah have had careers as high-quality CBs, and it looks like Desmond will follow in their footsteps in the near future. He's had a rough time guarding some of these North receivers, but has responded positively and impressed more than one observer.
Here's what CBS Sports' Rob Rang had to say about Trufant:
Demonstrating the physicality to disrupt receivers while in press as well as the quickness and fluidity to turn and run when playing off, Trufant was effective both inside and out. He was frequently challenged by the North quarterbacks but closed quickly on the ball, breaking up several passes.
Cornerback isn't the deepest position in the draft this year. Dee Milliner from Alabama and Johnthan Banks of Mississippi State are the two biggest names, but Milliner is projected to go very early and teams that lose out on New York Jets CB Darrelle Revis will still need help.
As a late first-round pick, Trufant might be worth the cost. Watch for him against the South receivers—particularly this next prospect—to see if he stacks up in the game the way he did in practice all week.
Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
Williams had a stellar career for Baylor and head coach Art Briles, and he's impressing yet again at the Senior Bowl.
CBS Sports' Dave Richard had high praise for Nick Florence's favorite target from 2012, calling him easily the best of the bunch when it comes to WRs at this year's exhibition:
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 and 1,832 yards in 2012.
All that being said, he'll be going up against some of the best CBs in the country on Saturday—including ball-stopper Trufant.
Williams played in a spread offense that featured many down-the-field throws and a limited route tree, so look for his ability to go over the middle and make plays be one of the big question marks he addresses with a solid performance.
The Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings and Houston Texans all need a receiver, and Williams is auditioning to be the first player taken at his position.