NFL teams and fans will get a close look at many of the top prospects in the country with Senior Bowl practices beginning tomorrow in preparation for the actual game next Saturday.
While the game itself is a good test for players, paying attention to the practices can actually be more revealing. Seeing them go through drills and monitoring their progress throughout the week is a valuable exercise for scouts.
There are a bunch of names I'll have on my radar. Some of them are on the list I made last week of under-the-radar prospects for this draft.
But there are still some other lesser-known prospects I want to bring to everyone's attention. These guys are going to start generating some buzz with their play this week.
Here are six players who will improve their stock in the Senior Bowl.
I ranked Garoppolo as the fifth-best quarterback in this class, which is higher than pretty much anyone else has him ranked. But I stand by that ranking and still actually feel like he has room to move even higher.
He was impressive in the East-West Shrine Game, and he has been added to the Senior Bowl roster in place of AJ McCarron. This week will be an enormous opportunity for the Eastern Illinois star.
I love his quick release and ability to throw the ball all over the field with accuracy, and it'll be interesting to see how he performs against top competition in practices.
He has started to build himself a little momentum. With a big week, that hype will grow and Garoppolo could become a name that everyone will be forced to learn how to pronounce.
While Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the consensus top safety in the draft right now, there is a whole lot of room for other guys to move up into that second spot.
Ahmad Dixon, Deone Bucannon and Calvin Pryor have all claimed their stakes. But much like Johnathan Cyprien of FIU did last year, another small-school prospect may make a surprise climb up boards.
Ward is a really talented playmaker who led Northern Illinois in tackles this season with 89 and also had six picks. He's a little undersized at 5'11", 192 pounds, but makes up for it with his energy and quickness.
If that athleticism and energy shows up in drills, Ward's name will start being floated around as a day two pick. As it is, he's a third-rounder for now with potential to shoot up.
In a deep wide receiver class, it's extremely hard for anyone to stand out. But Hoffman has to feel like he's done everything he can.
I'm honestly not sure why Hoffman doesn't get more attention. He's BYU's all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
He is also 6'4" with a strong frame and solid athleticism. He may not be a burner, but he can consistently get open with good route running and has phenomenal hands.
Teams will be looking to see how he gets separation during drills, as that is the only thing holding him back as a prospect. If his quickness and strength are good enough this week, he could move up on some boards.
I think he's only a fourth rounder at this point, but that's mostly because of this stacked wideout class. A team would be getting a steal there, as Hoffman could be a great possession receiver for years to come.
If we're just looking at pure talent, then Henderson would be in the first-round discussion. After being a top high school prospect, he has had a really disappointing college career and is now just mid-round material.
This article reveals the extent and details of some of the issues, but he's essentially had injury problems, been suspended three times, performed inconsistently and now has a ton of questions to answer.
At 6'8", 345 pounds, Henderson is an absolute mammoth. His quickness is impressive for such a big guy, although he has technical and balance problems that will need to be corrected.
If he shows up in shape at the Senior Bowl and puts together an impressive string of practices, then I think he'll get more attention in the coming months and rise up boards.
Right now, I wouldn't take him earlier than the third round. But if a team is convinced that he's put his issues behind him, then the second round wouldn't be a surprise.
Tripp will endear himself to certain types of fans, scouts and front offices. He was born and raised in Montana and has starred at the University of Montana for the years.
He's a really high character guy who will do extremely well in interviews. But as far as the Senior Bowl goes, there are a few things that will help him boost his stock. This interview tells more about his background.
The redshirt senior is extremely athletic and will be looked at primarily by 3-4 teams who will want to play him at OLB. He has the quickness and bend to get around the edge and create havoc.
He's a high-motor guy who will make plays just on effort, but he could struggle against the run because of a smallish frame. While he may not be a day two pick, I think he'd be a great fourth-fifth round flier.
While other running backs like Carlos Hyde garner the majority of the attention, Sims has flown under the radar while putting up consistent numbers.
After transferring from Houston for his last year of eligibility, Sims had 1,095 yards rushing and 45 catches for 401 yards with 14 total touchdowns.
He doesn't have blazing speed or impressive power, but he's a shifty runner who is skilled at catching passes and is dangerous in space. He does tend to run too upright at times and needs to be more patient, but he has a lot of upside.
Sims will try to showcase his smooth quickness and soft hands this week. It'll also be interesting to see how he holds up in pass protection, because he's only an average blocker on tape.
With a good Senior Bowl, Sims could move up into the late second round on my board.