Senior Bowl 2011: Von Miller and 10 Players Who Helped Their NFL Draft Stock
The Senior Bowl for 2011 answered some pretty significant questions, none of which had anything to do with the 24-10 final score.
No sir, we tune in to watch the Senior Bowl every year because it's the last chance all the best seniors in the draft class get to show their wares on the field.
As always, some players (i.e. Jake Locker) hurt their draft stock. Others, such as Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller, greatly boosted theirs.
Thus, we present to you a nice little list of the 10 players who helped their NFL Draft stock the most in Saturday's Senior Bowl.
10. Dane Sanzenbacher, WR, Ohio State
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Not a whole lot went right for the North on offense on Saturday, but one of the few bright spots was Ohio State wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher.
The 5'11" receiver led the North with five catches for 62 yards. He pretty much stole the show from San Diego State's Vincent Brown, who had a pretty good game in his own right.
The reason Sanzenbacher makes the cut on this list and Brown does not, however, is that Sanzenbacher really didn't have much draft buzz coming into the game.
ESPN has him as the No. 27 wide receiver, but it's apparent after today's action that he would make a fine slot receiver if a team were so inclined.
9. Kendric Burney, CB, North Carolina
Even if Kendric Burney had done something like lead the nation in interceptions during the 2010 season, there would probably still be questions about his transition to the next level because of his size.
And this would make sense. Burney is just 5'9" and 180 lbs, and his only real redeeming quality is his elite speed.
Christian Ponder targeted Burney at least once on the opening drive, and he made a play on the ball to deny a touchdown.
From that point on, not much happened on Burney's side of the field, and he ended up being named the North's most outstanding player.
Naturally, there will still be questions about his size as we speed towards April, but there shouldn't be any more doubts about Burney's ability to play his position.
8. Bilal Powell, RB, Louisville
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It wasn't exactly the best of day for running backs on either side on Saturday (particularly for the North).
But somebody had to lead the game in rushing, and that somebody was Louisville running back Bilal Powell, who finished the day with 10 carries for 50 yards.
Considering the South's highest-rated runner, West Virginia running back Noel Devine, was beaten to a pulp every time he touched the ball, it was a refreshing site to see the 6-foot, 210-pound Powell churning up yardage throughout the game.
As such, it wouldn't be at all surprising if Powell draws some close looks as we get closer to April.
7. Sam Acho, DE, Texas
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In a year where the class of defensive ends is absolutely stacked, it might be a little hard to get noticed.
Cal's Cameron Jordan was able to do so during practice this week, but he failed to make much of a difference in the game.
Texas' Sam Acho, on the other hand, came out of nowhere to surprise quite a few people, including the North quarterbacks.
Well, maybe we should have seen it coming. Acho had 17 tackles for loss, nine sacks and five forced fumbles this season, so he's no slouch.
Acho made a particularly brilliant move that froze Colorado tackle Nate Solder in the first quarter, and he ended up sacking Jake Locker on the play.
Not bad for a guy who was said to lack a quick first step.
6. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona
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Like I said, the amount of talent at the tight end position this year makes it pretty tough to stand out.
Acho wasn't the only one who did that for the South today, as Arizona's Brooks Reed also had himself a pretty good game.
Reed's best moment came when he ran right past Anthony Castonzo to get a sack (it was in the second quarter on Ricky Stanzi as I recall).
Because Castonzo is a pretty hot draft prospect, that obviously makes Reed look pretty good.
Reed stands at 6'3" and 250 lbs, and he has a great motor. As such, he's naturally a great fit for a 4-3 system.
But after today, you have to wonder if maybe even a team would consider drafting him for a 3-4 scheme and trying him out at end or linebacker.
5. Jarvis Jenkins, DT, Clemson
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Generally speaking, the South defensive line spent much of the afternoon making life a living hell for what was supposed to be a stacked offensive line for the North.
One of the players who was consistently in the middle of all this was Clemson defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins.
Thanks mainly to Da'Quan Bower's No. 1 overall potential, Jenkins has more or less been lost in the shuffle when it comes to the NFL Draft.
As with defensive ends, it's a pretty good year for defensive tackles as well.
North Carolina's Marvin Austin stated his case in the East-West Shrine Game, and Jenkins stated his in the Senior Bowl.
It's going to be interesting to see if either one of them can leapfrog players like LSU's Drake Nevis and Oregon State's Stephen Paea (who injured his knee this week) in the months leading up to the draft.
4. Colin McCarthy, LB, Miami
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Colin McCarthy doesn't get much love from NFL Draft pundits.
They love his size and his motor, but his overall athleticism has been in question, and he has a reputation of being nothing more than a wacko in shoulder pads.
He didn't necessarily do anything to debunk these myths in the Senior Bowl, but he did show that he still knows how to get the job done.
For example, he took some pretty good angles on certain plays, demonstrating that he has good instincts.
His high motor still makes him a perfect fit for special teams. But if he can overachieve at the college level, maybe he can do so in the pros as well.
3. Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
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Of the six quarterbacks who gathered in Mobile for Saturday's contest, you got the sense that Christian Ponder was the one getting the least amount of attention.
Nevertheless, he got the start for the South, and he definitely opened some eyes.
By the end of the game, he had completed seven of his 13 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns, and was named the game's MVP.
Ponder came into the game ranked as ESPN's No. 5 quarterback in this year's draft class.
With Jake Locker struggling for the North, and none of the other QBs really making any noise, you have to wonder if Ponder may have boosted himself into late first- or early second-round consideration.
2. Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami
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I may as well go on record saying that I really didn't know much about Miami wide receiver Leonard Hankerson coming into today's action.
However, when Hankerson was on the receiving end of a 50-yard bomb on the first play from scrimmage, —on which he went back and caught a severely underthrown ball—I pulled up his scouting report.
The reports say that while Hankerson's size (6'2", 213 lbs) is good, he lacks elite speed and he doesn't always run clean routes.
I guess I can kind of see how this might be true, but one thing he did show on Saturday in catching five balls for 100 yards and a touchdown is that he has great instincts.
He might be the kind of a guy who just has a knack for making big catches.
They tend to like stuff like that in the NFL.
1. Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
In the week of practices leading up to the Senior Bowl, we kept hearing about what a beast Von Miller was.
Fortunately, Miller lived up to the hype. And then some.
Indeed, it seemed like he was in on every play, and that there was simply nobody in the North's offense that could hope to match his athleticism.
He ended up taking home defensive MVP honors, and he may have solidified himself as a possible Top 10 pick.
Shoot, he might just be a Top 5 pick when the draft rolls around in April.