25 Things We Learned from the 2013 Senior Bowl

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJanuary 27, 2013

25 Things We Learned from the 2013 Senior Bowl

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    The end of the road has come for the players and scouts who converged on Mobile, Alabama, this week, as Saturday's 2013 Senior Bowl brought to a close a week of practices, workouts and endless speculation as to how the performance of the players in attendance would potentially affect their draft stock.

    Frankly, most of what can be gathered from the Senior Bowl happens in practices, as the game is usually a choppy affair where the individual battles are more important than the outcome of the game itself.

    However, that's not to say that we didn't glean anything on Saturday. So, whether it was earlier this week or just earlier in the day, here's a look at some of the things we learned from the 2013 Senior Bowl.

This Isn't the Year to Need a Franchise Quarterback

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    This isn't exactly a news flash, but the performances of the quarterbacks on display in Mobile just hammered the point home:

    This is a weak crop at the quarterback position.

    Granted, West Virginia's Geno Smith chose not to attend the Senior Bowl, but the quarterbacks who were there were generally inconsistent and did little to separate themselves from one another.

    I'll let Bleacher Report's own Sigmund Bloom sum things up for you:

    This Senior Bowl QB group might be pushing/solidifying Geno Smith in the top 5, because, well, look at the alternative

    — Sigmund Bloom (@SigmundBloom) January 26, 2013

It Was an Up-and-Down Week for Tyler Wilson

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    Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson was named the most outstanding performer among quarterbacks in Mobile for his performance in practice, but an uneven performance in the game knocked some of the shine off that honor.

    In particular, a badly underthrown deep ball that should have been intercepted stood out and led Bleacher Report NFL draft analyst Ryan Lownes to question Wilson's arm strength:

    Noticed that on tape too with Tyler Wilson. Good arm strength, but will leave that deep ball short too often. NFL DBs will make him pay.

    — Ryan Lownes (@ryanlownes) January 26, 2013

Mike Glennon Was Jekyll and Hyde

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    North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon is one of those players who has pundits all over the place: Some are in love with his arm strength, while others bemoan his inconsistency and thin frame.

    After an uneven week of practice, Glennon looked awful in the game's first half but much better in the second, and while the NFL Network's Mike Mayock praised Glennon's arm during the telecast, draft analyst Dan Hope of Bleacher Report wasn't as impressed:

    It's almost certain that a GM of a QB-needy team will end up as enamored with Mike Glennon's arm talent like Mayock, and draft him too high.

    — Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) January 26, 2013

Ezekiel Ansah Was Up, Then Down, Then Up Again

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    It was a wild week for BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah.

    The 270-pound Ansah was one of the most hyped players entering this week, but after a week of practices in which he struggled shedding blocks, much of that hype had died down.

    Until Saturday's game at least, when Ansah was a force, consistently disrupting the backfield, forcing a fumble and drumming that hype right back up again:

    Ezekiel Ansah just might have secured himself a top 10 pick after the big game he is having.

    — Ahmad(@BigARashad) January 26, 2013

Kawann Short Is a Borderline First-Round Pick

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    Either all 32 first-round picks are going to be defensive linemen or someone's getting left out in the cold; because in a loaded class on the defensive front, the number of defensive linemen being talked about as first-round picks seemingly grows by the day.

    The latest name to be thrown around as a potential first-rounder is All-American defensive tackle Kawann Short of Purdue, who followed a solid week of practice with a strong showing in Saturday's game.

E.J. Manuel Helped Himself Saturday

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    It's often said that you shouldn't read too much into these games themselves, but if one quarterback helped himself Saturday, it was Florida State's E.J. Manuel.

    Manuel, who is as inconsistent as he is talented, threw a pretty touchdown pass in the game's first half, but as Bleacher Report NFL draft Lead Writer Matt Miller was quick to point out, that's Manuel's M.O.:

    That's what EJ Manuel will do when he's good. Problem is the inconsistency in ball placement and timing.

    — Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 26, 2013

    This brought out a reply from Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey that really tells you all you need to know about E.J. Manuel:

    Is EJ Manuel a finished product? Heck no. Does he have loads of potential? Heck yes. Fit and location will be very important for him.

    — Michael Schottey (@Schottey) January 26, 2013

Bacarri Rambo Will Have Plenty of Suitors

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    Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo had a big play in Saturady's game, intercepting a Ryan Nassib pass, and as Josh Katzenstein of The Detroit News pointed out, it's those ball skills that Rambo considers his strength:

    That pick was on Nassib, but still a good play by Georgia S Baccari Rambo. He said his ball skills are his best talent.

    — Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) January 26, 2013

    There's not going to be any shortage of teams interested in a free safety who can hold his own in coverage, especially in today's spread 'em out, grip it and rip it NFL.

Eric Fisher Was the Week's Biggest Winner

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    Of all the players who helped their draft stock this week, no player boosted his as much as Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher.

    The 6'7", 305-pound Fisher starred in practices all week long, and the superlatives regarding his performance flowed freely:

    @ttwentyman says former CMU OT Eric Fisher was by far the most impressive player at the @seniorbowl through the week. bit.ly/11WRdkX

    — Detroit Lions (@DetroitLionsNFL) January 25, 2013

    @seniorbowl "practice awards": DL Sylvester Williams, LB Zaviar Gooden, DB Jonathan Cyprien, Specialist Jeff Locke and overall Eric Fisher.

    — Senior Bowl (@seniorbowl) January 25, 2013

    Eric Fisher and Marquise Goodwin two of the best players all week. And I still say Glennon has a Rd 3 grade.

    — Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 26, 2013

Datone Jones Boosted His Stock as Well

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    It wasn't just Fisher that saw his stock climb considerably after an outstanding week in Mobile.

    UCLA defensive end Datone Jones was one of the standouts at his position in practices this week, drawing the praise of Draft Countdown's Scott Wright:

    Pretty sure #UCLA DE Datone Jones has done everything well this week.Underrated.#SeniorBowl

    — Scott Wright (@DraftCountdown) January 24, 2013

    At 280 pounds, Jones has the size to play in both the 3-4 and 4-3, and that versatility will no doubt draw the interest of several NFL teams, possibly as early as the late first round.

    See? I'm telling you. 32 defensive linemen.

Robert Alford Is a Big Talent from a Small School

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    While the Senior Bowl gives many players a chance to showcase their talents, it's an especially big deal for small-school stars, many of whom haven't received nearly the publicity of players from BCS schools.

    Among those big fish from small ponds, none stood out more than Southeastern Louisiana cornerback Robert Alford, whose good week in practice and 90-yard kickoff return in Saturday's game had Draft Countdown's Shane Hallam making a bold prediction:

    Wouldn't surprise me if Robert Alford becomes the CB out of this class.He's NFL ready, who cares where he went to school.

    — Shane P. Hallam (@ShanePHallam) January 26, 2013

D.J. Fluker Is a Big Boy

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    Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker wasn't able to participate in practices or this week's game due to a calf injury, but that didn't stop him from making a big impression in Mobile.

    On the scale.

    Fluker weighed in at a massive 355 pounds, but as the NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah points out, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing:

    DJ Fluker was the most impressive prospect at SR Bowl weigh-ins. 6047 (6'4 7/8) 355 with 36 3/8 inch arms. Not sloppy, just massive!

    — Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 21, 2013

Ryan Nassib Is Something of a Puzzle

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    Of all the quarterbacks this week in Mobile with the potential to be drafted in the first round, the hardest to figure out may be Ryan Nassib of Syracuse.

    Nassib reportedly had a solid week of practice, but any positive momentum he may have established during the week was damaged by a very poor showing in the game itself, where Nassib threw a bad interception and lost a fumble.

Landry Jones Just Isn't an NFL Quarterback

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    If ever there was a player who should have went pro and will live to regret it, it's Oklahoma's Landry Jones.

    The quarterback would have been a near-certain first-rounder had he left Norman after his junior season, but after a senior year where his numbers were far better than his play, Jones has a lot of rehabbing to do to his image over the next few months.

    According to the NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah, Jones didn't do himself any favors this week in Mobile:

    Landry Jones really struggles when he has to reset his feet in the pocket. Accuracy suffers. #SeniorBowl

    — Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 26, 2013

Lane Johnson Is a First-Round Lock

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    Eric Fisher may have been the best offensive lineman in Mobile this week, but he wasn't alone in standing out.

    Oklahoma's Lane Johnson also was a standout performer in both practices and the game itself, and, as Bleacher Report's Ryan Lownes tweeted, that's going to pay off down the road in more ways than one:

    Following a strong week of practice, #Oklahoma LT Lane Johnson has stood out again today. Making himself a lot money at the #SeniorBowl

    — Ryan Lownes (@ryanlownes) January 26, 2013

    Once a borderline first-rounder, it's now doubtful that Johnson makes it out of the top 20.

Desmond Trufant Is Moving Up Draft Boards

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    In a league where cornerbacks carry a huge premium, NFL teams are always looking for the next young star, and a lot of those teams will probably now be taking a much harder look at a player from the Pacific Northwest.

    Washington's Desmond Trufant, who was an All-Pac-12 performer in 2012, excelled in practices all week, and in the opinion of Scott Wright of Draft Countdown, Trufant is now in the conversation among the very best newcomers at his position:

    #Washington CB Desmond Trufant w/ INT in 11-on-11. Whale of a week. Will be my new #3 CB and Johnthan Banks should be looking over shoulder.

    — Scott Wright (@DraftCountdown) January 24, 2013

It Was a Big Week for Jonathan Cyprien

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    Among the many defensive players who were in attendance in Mobile this week, it's possible that the one who made the best impression was also one whom few folks have heard of.

    Jonathan Cyprien of Florida International may hail from a small school, but he was laying some big hits in Alabama, and Bleacher Report's resident draft expert had some very high praise indeed for the youngster after watching him in action up close and personal:

    Jonathan Cyprien is my favorite defensive player in this class. Pray your team drafts him.

    — Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 26, 2013

Brandon Williams Is Another Small-School Name with Big-Time Talent

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    While we're on the subject of the "little guys," here's one that isn't little at all.

    Missouri Southern defensive tackle Brandon Williams is 325 pounds of small-school fury, and as Draft Countdown's Shane Hallam relayed, no interior lineman fared better in Mobile this week:

    Nice penetration by Brandon Williams.Dude is built and a beast.Got penetration on the next play too.#Bane

    — Shane P. Hallam (@ShanePHallam) January 26, 2013

    With a number of NFL teams switching to the 3-4 defense this year, Williams' big week is bound to have garnered considerable attention from clubs looking for a nose tackle.

Markus Wheaton Is Moving Up the Charts at Wideout

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    This year's draft class is light at nearly all the offensive skill positions, but the lack of a true No. 1 prospect also leaves players plenty of opportunities to improve their standings with strong workouts.

    One player who availed himself of that chance was Oregon State wide receiver Markus Wheaton, and after a good week in Mobile, the 6'0" Wheaton has moved into the top five at the position on many draft boards.

Quinton Patton Is Too

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    Wheaton may have boosted his stock somewhat, but the real jump was made by Quinton Patton of Louisiana Tech.

    The 6'2" Patton, who racked up nearly 1,400 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns in 2012, absolutely shined all week, according to NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah, and was rewarded with the Most Outstanding Performer award at his position:

    La Tech WR Quinton Patton has been excellent at the Sr Bowl. Nice mix of quickness/toughness and he has strong hands. #SeniorBowl

    — Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 24, 2013

Denard Robinson Is a Long Shot to Be Drafted

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    There's no denying that former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is a talented athlete, but if his performance at the Senior Bowl is any indication, the odds of Robinson being drafted this year aren't good.

    Robinson, who was injured this week, struggled in making the transition to wide receiver, and a special teams faux pas in the game left Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting shaking his head:

    And Denard Robinson can't field the kick. That's something he's GOTTA show NFL teams he can do if he hopes to be drafted

    — Eric Galko (@OptimumScouting) January 26, 2013

Margus Hunt Was Overhyped

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    Earlier in the week, the scouting community was abuzz about SMU's 6'8" defensive end from Estonia, but if this week's practices and game were any indication, Margus Hunt is more sizzle than steak.

    Hunt, who had never played football before arriving at SMU, struggled mightily in practices in Mobile, and as Rob Rang of CBS Sports theorized, we may have already seen all there is to see with the big man:

    RT @joshnorris Margus Hunt, tight hips show up too often... Agreed. Would like to see him heavier, moved inside. Worry frame is maxed out.

    — Rob Rang (@RobRang) January 26, 2013

Zac Dysert Will Be a Star...in Canada

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    It almost feels mean given that all the quarterbacks looked average at best, but if there was one signal-caller among the group on display Saturday that I'd least expect to ever see start an NFL game, it's Zac Dysert of Miami (Ohio).

    Granted, there were a few plays where Dysert showed off a nice arm, but his accuracy was bad from start to finish, and he gets the dreaded "happy feet" much too easily under duress.

    So, essentially, he's Landry Jones at a smaller school.

Stepfan Taylor Fared Well

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    Much like at quarterback and wide receiver, there weren't any eye-popping performances from the running backs this week in Mobile, but there was some good among all the mediocrity.

    Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor, who is the school's all-time leading rusher, led all ball-carriers with 53 yards on Saturday after a decent week in practice, and while Taylor isn't a superstar talent, Ryan Burns of Football Sickness points out that he's the sort of steady performer who can carve out a nice career in the NFL:

    The next time I see Stepfan Taylor go backward will be the first ever. He's not going to be a superstar, but he can play for me all day.

    — Ryan Burns (@FtblSickness) January 26, 2013

Larry Warford Has a Bright Future

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    Offensive guards don't get a lot of glory in the NFL, toiling away on the inside of the line as they slam into defensive tackles to try to win the battle in the trenches.

    Of all the beefeaters in attendance this week, the top performer was Larry Warford of Kentucky, a 333-pound road grader of a blocker who more than held his own both in practices and the game.

    In fact, Rob Rang of CBS Sports says that Warford was quietly one of the most impressive players he scouted all week:

    Could point to Kentucky's Larry Warford often today. Most consistently impressive player from this game no one seems to be talking about.

    — Rob Rang (@RobRang) January 26, 2013

The Film Is Still King

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    Before I wrap this up, one final, yet very important note.

    For all the articles, tweets from "experts" and countless media attention that is paid to these sorts of events, it's important to realize that it's one week worth of practices followed by a meaningless game.

    Yes, it's a tool in any scout's arsenal, but it's a small sample of a player's true skill level.

    That is, when compared to the countless hours of game tape that exist for the vast majority of players in this year's draft.

    It's there where players can truly and accurately be judged. So, if your favorite player didn't fare well, don't fret.

    After all, "silly season" has only just begun.

    To the combine!