Some of this year's top NFL prospects put their talents on display in Mobile, Ala. during the annual Senior Bowl.
The exhibition provides draft hopefuls with a chance to showcase their skills and enhance their stock before May 8. After jumping out to a swift 20-0 lead, the South edged out the North in a 20-10 victory.
But for scouts and fans searching for future NFL stars, the outcome derives little importance. Instead, the game serves to identify impressive individuals as well as those whose blemishes get exposed against tough competition.
Before the game, an anonymous general manager described the participants as "the worst Senior Bowl talent I've seen" to Bleacher Report's Dan Pompei. Even though many first-round hopefuls skipped the event, there's still plenty of knowledge we can take away from the game.
Uneventful Day for Quarterbacks
An exhibition setting tends to favor the passing game. After all, the worst-case scenario is for a recruit to squander a huge payday by getting hurt, so players can't be blamed for operating at less than full throttle.
But in a relatively low-scoring affair, no quarterback improved his draft stock.
Fresno State's Derek Carr fired a touchdown pass in the first half, but the performance won't gain him any ground on Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles. San Jose State's David Fales delivered a 24-yard touchdown pass to Alabama wideout Kevin Norwood, but he also threw a pick for the South squad.
NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks said the South quarterbacks still outplayed the North adversaries, who came up short.
The South QBs (Carr; Garoppolo; Fales) are outclassing their peers on the other side. Group looks more decisive w/reads & throws.#SeniorBowl— Bucky Brooks (@BuckyBrooks) January 25, 2014
Clemson's Tajh Boyd, Miami's Stephen Morris and Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas combined to complete 21 of 39 passes for 138 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Thomas, whose size and speed make him a high-risk, high-reward option, faltered the most, getting sacked five times.
None of the quarterbacks did anything to truly change anyone's minds. If you liked a guy going in, you liked him coming out. And if you didn't like a guy going in, none of the six did anything in the game to force you to change your mind.
No passers will balloon up the mock drafts after the Senior Bowl, but none should plummet either.
Dee Ford Earns MVP Honor
Auburn's Dee Ford comes out of the Senior Bowl as the biggest winner. The defensive end recorded two sacks and consistently pressured the quarterback during his MVP performance.
Ford had previously earned rave reviews for his BCS title outing, during which he also notched two sacks. Now he'll gain even more steam after dazzling under the spotlight once again.
So Ford just earned himself a lot of money with that rousing display, right? Probably, but he's not hearing any of that chatter. According to CBS Sports, he's not worrying about his starting salary, nor is he celebrating just yet.
I don't do this for cash. I do this for pride. I do this because I really, really want to be great. The money will come. I'm just all about perfecting what I do. I've still got a lot of work. I've got the combine and pro day. My life doesn't stop here. I've got to be consistent.
He may not play for the cash, but Ford should get plenty of it in 2014. While some scouts still harbor concerns over his ability to play defensive end at 6'2" and 242 pounds, he showed all the goods to thrive at the next level.
Chris Borland, Caraun Reid Get a Chance to Impress
While the lack of star power dampened the game's excitement, it also opened the door for mid-level talent to seize the big stage.
Chris Borland should get drafted in the ________ round.
Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland led everyone with eight tackles and also forced a fumble. Despite taking home Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors, the undersized linebacker is still fighting skepticism from those who say he is too small to succeed in the NFL.
The NFL Network's Mike Mayock came to Borland's defense before the Senior Bowl, calling him "as fun a guy to watch on tape as I have ever seen," adding that he "wouldn't let this kid get out of the second round." After his big outing, general managers might be thinking the same way.
Another impressive performer was Princeton's Caraun Reid, who accumulated back-to-back sacks on Thomas during the South's victory. Although the Ivy League school is not synonymous with producing NFL talent, the defensive tackle has turned some heads during the week.
Matt Miller, B/R's NFL Draft Lead Writer, took notice of the bulky interior lineman.
#Princeton DT Caraun Reid has been fun to watch. Short, squat body but explosive. And really good hand use to disengage, swat.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 22, 2014
After setting the framework with a big Senior Bowl effort, a strong combine could vault Reid up to the second or third round.