Rumor has it there is a big game on the docket between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks, but the majority of teams in the NFL have turned their attention to the upcoming draft.
Who would you rather see your team draft?
While college production and measurables are incredibly important when it comes to the draft, a number of prospects were given the opportunity to improve their stocks in postseason all-star games. The Senior Bowl, in which the South team defeated the North team to the tune of 20-10, is arguably the biggest of these all-star stages.
Dominating the Senior Bowl won’t really do much for the expected top-10 picks, but it is guys like Clemson’s Tajh Boyd who have scouts split that can determine their fate with a solid game. Unfortunately for Boyd, James Dator of SB Nation reports that things didn’t go too well for the Clemson signal-caller:
Clemson's Tajh Boyd started for the North and struggled immediately. It was an inauspicious beginning for a player who tends to evoke different reactions from draft analysts, and he looked more like a mid-round prospect than the first-round pick some believe him to be. He completed just seven passes for 31 yards and an interception on the day.
Despite Boyd’s struggles, there were plenty of prospects that had impressive performances. Let’s dig into a discussion about three of them.
Dee Ford, Auburn
Unlike most all-star games at the professional level of sports, the Senior Bowl wasn’t all about offense.
After all, the defenders are trying just as desperately to boost their own stocks at these events.
Auburn’s Dee Ford was the best defensive player on the field for much of the game. He earned game MVP honors and had two sacks and a pass deflection before halftime even rolled around.
While the stats were nice, it was Ford’s explosiveness off the line that jumped out the most. He has the coveted combination of speed and a variety of pass-rush moves that so many teams are looking for and has the versatility to play in different defenses and at different positions.
Ford was virtually unblockable and seemed to understand that he cemented himself as an early pick (per Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun):
I feel like I made some money, but that's not what I came here to do. I came here to create some relationships and have fun and show these coaches who I am off the field. I think they knew what kind of player they were getting, but they wanted to know how I was off the field and I think I got that done.
I just wanted to be consistent. It's easy to be good on Day One, Day Two, but I was able to bring it out for the entire week. I had a feeling I would either be standing up or have my hands on the ground, but nothing was going to surprise me in what they asked me to do.
James White, Wisconsin
Wisconsin running back James White has been a productive workhorse throughout his entire career in Madison, but he has often been overshadowed by superstars like Montee Ball and Melvin Gordon.
However, White has rushed for better than 1,000 yards twice in his career (including 1,444 yards as a senior) and has a nose for the end zone (45 career rushing touchdowns). He may not be the biggest or most physical running back available at this year’s draft, but he certainly helped his stock at the Senior Bowl.
White ran for a game-high 61 yards and was the one player on the North squad to score a touchdown.
Perhaps most importantly, he was consistent at 5.6 yards a pop and looked like someone who could fill in as part of a running back rotation right away at the next level.
James Walker of ESPN points out that White caught the eye of the Miami Dolphins:
Three Senior Bowl prospects of interest for the #Dolphins: Virginia OT Morgan Moses, Notre Dame OL Zach Martin, Wisc. RB James White.— James Walker (@JamesWalkerNFL) January 21, 2014
David Fales, San Jose State
All-star games like the Senior Bowl are arguably more important for prospects who don’t play at BCS powerhouse schools because there may be lingering questions about whether they can perform against elite-level defenders.
San Jose State’s David Fales, who only managed to throw for 4,189 yards and 33 touchdowns this year, took advantage of the opportunity given to him in a big way.
Fales threw for a game-high 104 yards and completed six of his seven passes. The only problem is that his one incompletion was intercepted, but Fales looked formidable enough throughout the game that the one bad throw shouldn’t hurt his standing.
His most impressive pass was a touchdown to Alabama’s Kevin Norwood, in which he threw on the run as he rolled to his right.
Fales proved he has a strong arm, mobility and can play with the big boys of college football. All in all, not a bad day.