The 2014 Senior Bowl was a great opportunity for draft prospects to get a head start on the competition in what will be a very long journey toward their shot at the pro level.
The first step in a lengthy job-interview process was a successful one for many, as they used the national spotlight in front of scouts from every team to shine against other top players from around the country.
For those that struggled in one of the opening rounds of the process, there is still plenty of time to turn things around and reacquire previous draft stock and potentially millions of dollars in the process.
A few players need a stock revival more than most.
Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
Will Sutton was one of the top prospects at his position, which is not an easy thing to do this year in what is a loaded class.
Sutton was a monster for the Arizona State Sun Devils and won the Pat Tillman Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award in two consecutive years on his way to the draft.
What is great about Sutton's game is his ability to rush the passer from the interior of the defensive line, which is a requirement in today's pass-happy NFL.
One problem—Sutton showed up at the Senior Bowl heavier than expected and did not do himself any favors, as Fox Sports' Joel Klatt (one of many) points out:
1) Will Sutton showed up overweight and has looked slow...hasn't shown anywhere near the playmaking ability of 2012 (280 lbs) now 315 lbs— Joel Klatt (@joelklatt) January 22, 2014
This is a major issue as it essentially nullifies one of Sutton's best features as a prospect. He has a long way to go before he can rejoin the likes of RaShede Hageman, Timmy Jernigan, Aaron Donald and Louis Nix.
Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor
There was a point in time where every mock draft in town touted Baylor's Cyril Richardson as the only man in 2014 who could break the stigma about his position and be taken in the first round—and rightfully so.
Richardson was simply ill-prepared to leave the confines of the Baylor scheme against some of the nation's best defenders and it hurt his stock, as Bleacher Report's Matt Miller illustrates:
The big Baylor guard looked like a potential first-rounder at times during the season, but during practices at the Senior Bowl, I noticed he was too often caught lunging at defenders when asked to pull or trap. Any lateral movement gave him trouble. Was that showing up in game film?
There is time for Richardson to prove he is more than a run-blocking mauler that only fits with certain teams at the next level, but he will have to quickly show scouts he can handle athletic linemen and get downfield in space if necessary.
Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Somebody go ahead and hit the panic button for Tajh Boyd.
The Senior Bowl is largely subjective, but Boyd was another player the consensus mostly agrees on in terms of the negative impact the festivities had on his draft stock.
CBS Sports' Dane Brugler was chief among these critics:
Biggest takeaway from the week in Mobile: QB Tajh Boyd is not a sure-thing to be drafted #SeniorBowl— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 25, 2014
Practices were bad, but so was Boyd's performance in the game itself as he managed just 31 yards on 7-of-16 passing.
This should not really come as a surprise, as Brugler has been in on various negative details surrounding the Clemson signal-caller as of late:
"Tajh Boyd in the early rounds? That would be the shock of the draft” - NFC North scout when I asked him if he thought Boyd could go 2nd day— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 24, 2014
Boyd has looked the part of a potential top pick over the course of his career at Clemson, but now that he has been around other great players (including elite weapons to work with), he sticks out as a prospect who has a lot of work to do in the coming months if he wants to be taken in the mid-rounds of the draft.
Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
Like the above names, there was a time when Trent Murphy was all of the rage in the mock-draft realm.
There are those who simply do not think the Stanford star has a game that translates well to the pro level. This notion was not helped by Murphy's outing at the Senior Bowl, which saw him struggle with a position change and raised red flags about his strength, per NFL.com's Bucky Brooks:
Murphy has failed to stand out in drills this week despite entering the Senior Bowl regarded as one of the top defenders in college football. Despite measuring 6-6, 261 pounds, Murphy looks thin and frail battling offensive tackles on the edges. Consequently, he has struggled winning in 1-on-1 pass rush drills and made a minimal impact as a rusher in team drills.
It is hard to think Murphy falls very far down the board come draft day given the importance of pass rushers in today's NFL, but questions about where he fits are a legitimate gripe.
Until Murphy can prove he is strong enough to put his hand in the dirt at defensive end or is athletic enough to drop back into coverage as a linebacker, his former first-round status is in jeopardy.