Baltimore Ravens Scouting Guide to the 2014 Senior Bowl
The Senior Bowl is the ultimate college all-star showcase for NFL draft prospects, and there are sure to be plenty of players who attract the attention of the Baltimore Ravens. There are some big-name players in attendance, but many of the prospects are less heralded athletes, so this slideshow is your Ravens-centric guide to watching the event.
Baltimore has a history of finding talent at the Senior Bowl, from Lardarius Webb to Courtney Upshaw to Kyle Juszczyk and Brandon Williams last year. Some of the players in this slideshow could very well be the next seniors to join the Ravens brotherhood.
There are many draft hopefuls to scout, but these are some of the best fits at Baltimore's biggest positions of need—wide receiver, offensive line and tight end are the major ones.
If you're a Ravens fan, don't tune into the Senior Bowl (or the practices, which are aired on NFL Network) until you read this first.
Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt; 6'3", 206 lbs
2013 Stats: 112 REC, 1,477 YDS (13.2 YPC), 7 TDs
Jordan Matthews is clearly the best receiver at the Senior Bowl, but he's been impressing scouts with his intelligence, preparation and work ethic. According to Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer, Matthews took the uncommon approach of scouting cornerbacks on the opposing roster...in an all-star game.
The Commodore is the complete package and almost certainly won't be on the board for Baltimore's second-round pick if he continues to perform this well. Matthews has already caught the eye of NFL execs and analysts for his performance in drills, and NFL Network's Charles Davis had this to say about the wide receiver:
He will go into the briar patch, take his hits and keep on ticking. I never worry about that part with him. Obviously, people are going to want to know what he runs (at the combine). All in all, I think he's a big-time prospect. Let's face it: How many quarterbacks threw to him at Vanderbilt? Try to name them all. Yet everyone knew he was coming each week in the SEC.
Davis touches on two key points. First, he never had a particularly great quarterback throwing him the ball, nor was he in a gimmicky, high-volume college offense. Matthews' numbers aren't inflated, and that's impressive considering the lack of talent around him.
Secondly, he lacks elite athleticism. He won't blow people away at the combine, but sleeping on Matthews would be a mistake. He has enough short-area quickness to create separation, and he's so solid in every aspect of the position that he's a safe pick.
He probably won't be the Ravens' first-round pick if they stay where they are (currently No. 16 or 17), but they could trade back in the first or trade up in the second to nab the playmaking receiver.
Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin; 6'2", 188 lbs
2013 Stats: 78 REC, 1,081 YDS (13.9 YPC), 7 TDs
Baltimore is almost certainly going to spend an early draft pick on a receiver, but it wouldn't be at all surprising to see them double-down on the position like they did in 2011 (Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss). If that's the case, Jared Abbrederis is an intriguing target to keep in mind.
Abbrederis was an extremely productive receiver at Wisconsin (over 3,000 career yards), but he's mostly flying under the radar as an NFL prospect.
That may change after the Senior Bowl, where he's standing out from the crowd according to Andy Fenelon of NFL.com.
He's an underrated athlete, a smart football player and a very advanced route-runner, and those three traits will serve him well at the next level. The route running in particular is his best asset and would make him a welcome addition to the Baltimore receiving corps.
As a route runner, Jared Abbrederis reminds me of Robert Woods...Very crisp and understands how to setup defenders— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 16, 2014
Abbrederis isn't a "sexy" draft prospect, but he's solid, reliable and could be a valuable late-round steal for Ozzie Newsome and co.
Zack Martin, Notre Dame; 6'4", 308 lbs
Zack Martin is earning himself a lot of money, at least through the first few days of Senior Bowl practices. Every report out of the event has glowing compliments of the Notre Dame lineman, and he's solidifying his status as a first-round pick.
Entering the week, there were concerns that Martin's stock would drop due to his small stature and short arms.
So much for that.
We've heard a number of players (like Will Sutton of Arizona State and Trent Murphy of Stanford) single him out as the best lineman they have faced all year, and nobody has had anything negative to say about him.
He's stonewalled everybody in one-on-one drills and makes up for his lack of physical tools with outstanding technique (quick feet and excellent hand placement). Even if he is too small, he's so rock-solid that he still has tremendous upside in the worst-case scenario, as outlined by NFL Network's Mike Mayock:
Martin could very well end up being the Ravens' first-round pick with the ability to play either tackle position or kick inside to guard. He won't fall out of the first round, so Baltimore will have to snap him up if they want him.
Seantrel Henderson, Miami (FL); 6'7", 331 lbs
In many respects, Seantrel Henderson is the opposite of Zack Martin. For starters, he's been absolutely blessed with physical gifts. He's a mammoth of a man, with an enormous 84" wingspan that will allow him to shut down NFL speed-rushers.
It's not all rosy for Henderson, however. He struggles with technique and tends to play too high most of the time. He's also had some off-field issues that have kept him from playing full seasons at Miami.
Henderson is one of the Senior Bowl participants with the most to gain this week because he could convince a team to take a flier on his development.
It's unlikely that he gets drafted in the first round, but he would be an intriguing Day 2 pick as a potentially dominant right tackle.
C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa; 6'7", 265 lbs
2013 Stats: 30 REC, 299 YDS, 10 TDs
Remember the name C.J. Fiedorowicz, if only because I have no idea how to pronounce it. There is, however, another reason to remember the Iowa tight end. Baltimore is likely to add a tight end in the draft regardless of what happens with Dennis Pitta, and Fiedorowicz is an appealing prospect.
For starters, he's the best blocking tight end in the class and uses his overpowering size and strength to maul defenders at the line of scrimmage.
As a blocker alone, he would a useful addition to the running game and goal-line packages, but there is more to his game.
He was primarily used as a blocker at Iowa, but he's demonstrating his athleticism, soft hands and large catch radius. His play has even attracted the attention of Senior Bowl executive director (and former Ravens scout) Phil Savage:
Some @seniorbowl thoughts from Day 2 practices: Iowa TE C.J. Fiedorowicz has been impressive with his size, hands and short-area quickness.— Phil Savage (@SeniorBowlPhil) January 22, 2014
If Fiedorowicz continues to display his receiving prowess, he may go off the board in Round 2, but he would be a tremendous Round 3 pick for the Ravens—if he lasts that long.
Arthur Lynch, Georgia; 6'5", 254 lbs
2013 Stats: 30 REC, 459 YDS, 5 TDs
Arthur Lynch would be a backup plan in case the Ravens miss out on Fiedorowicz and need a blocking tight end. He's a solid blocker but doesn't possess the nastiness of his Iowa counterpart. Additionally, he doesn't have the same upside as a receiver, but that doesn't mean Lynch can't be an effective NFL tight end.
At the very least, he would be a serviceable threat in the red zone.
Lynch isn't as tantalizing of a prospect as Fiedorowicz, but Baltimore may have to settle for the Georgia product late in the draft, and that wouldn't be a bad thing.
Bryan Stork, Florida State; 6'4", 300 lbs
It's unclear whether head coach John Harbaugh would want to bring in a rookie center after Gino Gradkowski's inexperience was a glaring problem last season, but there aren't many centers in the draft better than Bryan Stork.
He anchored a Florida State offensive line that was dominant all season and controlled an offense that set ACC records for yards and points.
His performance to end the season may have vaulted him to the top center prospect in the draft, and that may be a talent worth adding to solidify an O-line that was the Achilles' heel of Baltimore's 2013 season.
Travis Swanson, Arkansas; 6'5", 310 lbs
Travis Swanson shares many characteristics with the man discussed before him. The Arkansas product is Stork's lone competition for the top spot of the 2014 centers, and he has even more size than the national champion.
Furthermore, Swanson has plenty of room to add weight to his frame.
Swanson's long arms and positional flexibility may make him a more attractive prospect for some teams, and it's unlikely that either player lasts past the third round. If either of them starts to slide down draft boards, however, the Ravens would happily pick one of the centers.
Jaylen Watkins, Florida; 6'0", 188 lbs
To many people, Jaylen Watkins was known as "Sammy Watkins' brother." That's starting to change thanks to an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl practices.
According to Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, Watkins displayed his tremendous fluidity and ball skills in one-on-one drills on Tuesday:
Watkins put together a string of positive plays during drills, getting his hands on the ball on a few reps. He showed smooth feet and hip action to quickly redirect and get his body under control to mirror the movements of the receiver. Watkins also did a nice job getting his head turned around to find the ball, elevate and break up the play.
He doesn't fit the mold of the bigger cornerbacks that is becoming a new trend in the NFL, and he may be available late in the draft as a result.
Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to overlook him just because of his size. He's a scrappy player and can be a playmaker at the next level.
Keith McGill, Utah; 6'3", 214 lbs
Unlike Watkins, Keith McGill does fit the new specifications of an NFL cornerback. He's big, strong and can be dominant in press coverage.
McGill could stand to improve his technique and the fluidity of his hips, but he's so overpowering and aggressive that he can disrupt plays even if he's a little out of position. His good instincts in coverage help him in that regard.
The Utah cornerback will be around in the middle rounds, and he could be an intriguing player for the Ravens to take a flier on regardless of what happens with Corey Graham.
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