The 5 Biggest Revelations from 2013 Senior Bowl
Any NFL scout or executive who makes the pilgrimage to Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl knows that attending is an education in of itself.
The 2013 Senior Bowl was no exception. Plenty was revealed about the prospects involved in the game and where exactly they should be slotted to go in the NFL draft.
But what revelations from this year's Senior Bowl seemed to stick out the most? What could we gather from a game where the practices and drills during the week are more important than the game itself (which the South won 21-16)?
Let's take a look at the five biggest revelations from the 2013 Senior Bowl.
1. Spectacular Offensive-Line Play
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If you were an offensive lineman playing in the Senior Bowl, great job!
You cleared up great big holes for the running backs as both teams combined to run for 150 yards.
That number could easily have been higher had it not been for the fact that Ryan Nassib, Landry Jones and Zac Dysert showed no semblance of pocket protection.
Don't worry, Senior Bowl offensive lines: You gave those quarterbacks more than enough time. The only mistake was a bad snap to Nassib that led to an interception.
Even then, he had no business throwing that pass.
The two linemen who stuck out the most were Kentucky guard Larry Warford—who made more pancakes than a Mobile-area IHOP during the game—and Central Michigan's Eric Fisher—who looks prime to challenge Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel as the top offensive tackle in the 2013 draft.
The only two defensive linemen anyone seemed to have consistent problems with were BYU's Ezekiel Ansah and Florida State's Everett Dawkins.
2. For Corners and Safeties, 2013's Class Is Tops
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Three of my favorite players in this year's Senior Bowl were defensive backs. When you see them play, you will see why each is a potential first- or second-day selection.
I'll talk about two of them later in the slideshow, but one of them was Oregon State's Jordan Poyer.
His speed, agility and coverage ability could propel him ahead of Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks as the second corner selected in this year's draft behind Alabama's Dee Milliner. He also collected an interception in the game.
Another corner who impressed me was Washington's Desmond Trufant, who seemed wrapped around receivers tighter than saran wrap throughout the contest.
Two other defensive backs impressed me, and I will discuss them at length later. But just the fact that there were so many in this game who played great (and without the top two defensive backs playing in the game) should tell you about the depth that teams in need of secondary help will encounter in this year's draft.
3. Geno Smith Is This Year's Top Quarterback
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Let's put to bed who the top quarterback prospect is in this year's draft class.
It's Geno Smith, and that's an easy statement to make after what we saw in the Senior Bowl.
By the way, he didn't play.
E.J. Manuel was the Player of The Game, and while I will talk about him in greater depth later, keep in mind that he's not projected to be a first-round quarterback.
But Syracuse's Ryan Nassib is, and he disappointed everyone by completing only four passes for 44 yards and throwing an interception.
NC State's Mike Glennon is also a potential first-round pick, and he was the best of the North quarterbacks. He went 8-of-16 for 82 yards, but none of those throws was particularly impressive as he relied mainly on checkdowns.
Speaking of checkdowns, Miami of Ohio's Zac Dysert went 10-of-16 for 93 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Those stats would be promising if it weren't for the fact that nine of those completions came on the final scoring drive for the North after the South had gone up 21-10. The South was primarily playing prevent defense and giving him the short passing game. That's not enough to impress NFL scouts.
On the South side, there was Manuel, whom I'm a fan of, but he isn't a first-round pick. He will be mentioned more later.
The South's other quarterbacks were Tyler Wilson, who should go first among these Senior Bowl quarterbacks, and Landry Jones, who might need another year at Oklahoma (too bad he isn't eligible).
Wilson was 8-of-11 and made smart throws when he was in the game; however, he only gained 40 yards. Despite that, I still see him as the best of the Senior Bowl bunch in terms of talent.
As for Jones, he looked legitimately lost out there and likely saw his draft stock slip further down. It was painful to watch.
Meanwhile, watching the Senior Bowl on TV (assuming that's how he chose to spend his Saturday afternoon, which I highly doubt) was Geno Smith, who ought to get fitted for a suit that will complement the red worn by the Kansas City Chiefs.
4. Small School, Big Players
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The Senior Bowl always gives us small-school stars, and this year was no exception.
The biggest small-school star (and one of my favorite players from the game) was Southeastern Louisiana's Robert Alford.
Alford started off the game with an 88-yard kickoff return that set up the first touchdown of the game for the South.
He finished the game with an interception as the North attempted to go for two. He made an impact with his great coverage in the secondary and made life uncomfortable for receivers.
Alford is my MVP of the game. He will only see his draft stock soar due to his performance.
Another impressive player from a small school (small is a relative term used from a football prospective as Florida International University has quite a large enrollment) was Jonathan Cyprien.
Cyprien seemed to get Twitter buzz throughout the game. The strong safety prospect out of North Miami Beach impressed many throughout the week and in the game.
Cyprien and Alford were the biggest stars from small schools at the Senior Bowl and should continue to impress NFL scouts in the coming months.
5. E.J. Manuel Will Be Great If He Finds the Right Situation
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E.J. Manuel showed a lot of promise during the Senior Bowl—promise that was only tempered by inconsistency in his throws.
He's a sure third-round draft pick, but he probably has the most upside of any quarterback in the draft—upside that needs the right situation in order to be nurtured.
In other words, Manuel won't be a great fit for the New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills or other teams that needed a quarterback yesterday.
But he does have potential if he gets the opportunity to sit behind a starting quarterback already in place and learn for a couple of years.
Teams like the Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers or even New England Patriots might want to take a chance on drafting Manuel in the third round.
He's not ready to take over and lead a team in 2013, but in the right environment where he's able to learn, he would be a great investment for the future.
At the very least, he'd make a great trade piece in 2014 or 2015 if he's allowed to sit on the bench and learn while getting some playing time every now and then.