For once, the Detroit Lions coaching staff was able to walk away from a football field with not just a win in their pockets, but a very impressive one at that.
The 2010 Senior Bowl resulted in the Jim Schwartz led North team defeating the South squad, with Miami Dolphins head man Tony Sparano at the the helm for the South, 31 - 13.
It was a sloppy game marred by a combined nine turnovers, dominated by defense. Although the final score is always important to competitors at any level, this game was more about the NFL scouts evaluating how these college players adjust to NFL rules and how they would perform against some of their equally talented peers.
A few draft stocks rose and while others fell and still others stayed pat. The following short list documents those who may have made a few extra zero's in their forthcoming NFL paychecks - and those who just lost some.
WR Mardy Gilyard (Cincinnati, North):
While he didn't win the Senior Bowl MVP, Brandon Graham did, he deserved it just as much. He absolutely shredded the South corners finishing the day with five catches for 102 yards and a TD. Gilyard is one of those guys who's wallet will be just a little heavier come April.
Projection: It's a crowded draft with a large crop of very talented WR's this year but if his off the field problems don't scare away too many teams, second round.
DE Brandon Graham (Michigan, North):
Graham went from being a borderline first or second round pick to a solid first. He was already having a great week in Mobile but that was before the game. When he was on the field, he was completely unblockable, making life hell for the South's QB's. He had an immediate impact on the running game as well allowing his teammates more operating room to shut the South down as they only rushed for a combined total of 31 yards. Graham also forced a fumble and had two sacks. He can now buy...well, whatever he wants.
Projection: first round, done deal.
QB Dan LeFevour (Central Michigan, North):
As far as QB's go, the story all week was Tim Tebow this, Tim Tebow that with a little bit of Cincinnati's Tony Pike (who was decent today) sprinkled in. Truth is, I don't know how LeFevour has been overlooked for so long. He was easily the best signal caller today going 5 for 10, 97 yards and a TD. He even had a momentum swinging rushing TD. More importantly, he looked very comfortable in the pocket. This all only adds to his impressive college stats. While at CMU he passed for almost 13,000 yards. For his performance today he was given the North's most outstanding player award. Perhaps today's performance will reap more rewards come April.
Projection: He's a Bill Parcell's type QB - an accomplished four year starter. He goes between the third and fourth with huge upside.
S Taylor Mays (USC, South):
This was a good test for Mays who as of late has taken hits in his draft stock. He's been admired for being a nasty hitter but reviled for the same reason. Critics complain he goes, too often, for the knockout blow and can be liability at times in coverage. He's already expected to go in the first round this April so there was nowhere to go but down. Alas, Mays could be said to have simply reinforced his spot at the top with a solid game despite the South losing handily to the North.
Projection: Late first at worst unless all 32 NFL teams are bluffing.
HB LeGarrette Blount (Oregon, North):
We all know Blount's got a wicked right hook but he's hoping for a shot in the NFL not in MMA. Thus, the only thing today's game revealed is that he's still a good football player. There shouldn't be any doubts about his ability; he numbers in '08 were sexy (1,007 yards, 17 TD's) but his actions earlier this season were ugly. The Senior Bowl didn't hurt him only because no one was punched while he played.
Projection: It doesn't matter where you take this guy in the draft, he's a risk but the reward could be worth it. If he stays on his best behavior, he's easily a late second or early third rounder.
HB Stafon Johnson (USC, South):
The fact this kid was on the field, period, is amazing. After his grisly weightlifting accident early last season, Johnson wasn't expected to be playing football any time soon. Yet, he was out there today showing people his resiliency. He's still recovering from the accident that crushed his larynx but he was a formidable back in 2008 at USC. He won't go high, but getting drafted at all would be a major accomplishment.
Projection: He's got speed, strength and heart. If he heals properly from this injury, he's a major sleeper; fifth round at worst.
QB Tim Tebow (UF, South):
If you haven't figured if you like Tebow as an NFL QB, this game told you nothing to help that ambivalence. Tebow looked shaky every time he took the field (8 of 12, 50 yards, two fumbles) but it was to be expected. It's been well documented his struggles taking snaps from under center after spending four years in the shotgun. In addition, he was battling strep throat all week and his offensive line was porous. Not that I'm trying to excuse his poor performance but aside from Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson , none of the South QB's looked good.
Projection: This is a bigger mystery than how 2Pac albums keep appearing year's after his death. Tebow is the guy you want on your team because of the intangibles, but where do you put him? Because his NFL future is so divisive he could go anywhere between the first and fifth round. I personally think he should go in the second and no later but that's just me.
The Entire South Offensive Line (South):
The rules of this college all-star stipulate that there will be no blitzing. And yet, despite the north attacking with only four defenders, the South's O-line was consistently dominated at the point of attack. They were pushed around all afternoon with no answer for the North's defensive linemen.
Projection: Late. Look to the North's O-line for protection.
CB Javier Arenas (Alabama, South):
Don't worry Tide fans, Arenas will still be a top draft pick, but it feels like he could've done so much more. He got beat by the unofficial game MVP, Gilyard, a few times and that doesn't bode well for him especially if there are any teams on the fence about him.
Projection: Late first, early second
HB Dexter McCluster (Ole Miss, South):
It wasn't so much what McCluster did it was more what he should've done. The former Rebel back had a fantastic week of practice. Scouts and coaches were raving about his running style and how well it would translate into the NFL. Unfortunately, he didn't exactly seize the opportunity by the throat in today's game. His fumble in third quarter didn't help either.
Projection: Despite today's lackluster showing, he's a solid prospect; second to fourth round.
Being the Miami FC, I have to mention my two guys in the game today...even if I was underwhelmed.
TE Jimmy Graham (Miami, South):
To say that Graham is a project is to be very kind. He has the body of an elite, Antonio Gates type TE but he has very little game experience having played only one season of college ball. He was only targeted today about two or three times having no impact on the game. The NFL combine will be his make or break event.
Projection: Still too early to tell but someone will fall in love with his size; somewhere between the fourth and sixth rounds.
LB Daryl Sharpton (Miami, South):
I have fostered a man-crush for Sharpton all season long. His teammates apparently felt the same way and honored him with the team MVP award. Then he disappeared in the Champs Sports Bowl and I was upset. An anomaly I called it. All this week, the reports coming out of Mobile about this supposedly smallish LB were encouraging. The NFL guys thought he could really flourish in the big boys league. I saw none of that today. I don't doubt him, he's still a favorite but he certainly didn't move up any draft boards. Sharpton looked out of sorts at times not really too sure of himself. I chalk it up to adjusting to the pro game. We shall see.
Projection: Unless he truly blows people away at the combine, he'll be taken in the fourth at the earliest.