The 2013 Senior Bowl was going to be interesting from the get-go, since this NFL draft class has a lack of offensive difference-makers compared to defensive studs.
It wasn't a pretty portrait on offense, as all quarterbacks endured varying degrees of hardship. However, there were some skill players that made a strong case this past Saturday for improving their stock for April's draft.
The following is a breakdown of several offensive prospects that may have been glossed over prior to the showcase game in Mobile.
Marquise Goodwin, WR, North
Stats: 5 receptions, 44 yards; 2 punt returns, 30 yards
As an impending rookie in the NFL, Goodwin definitely made a mistake that a first-year player would make. On one of his punt returns, the Texas Longhorns product tried to catch the ball inside the 5-yard line, and it went through his hands and into the end zone.
A possible touchdown or at least a safety looked imminent for the opposing South squad. Then, something incredible happened. Goodwin made a few defenders miss and got it all the way out near the 20.
No harm, no foul—and the play was certainly an indication of what the lightning-fast Goodwin can do.
Goodwin also showed exceptional hands and the ability to not only stretch the field as a vertical threat, but also to make the tough catches on underneath routes.
As B/R's NFL draft guru Matt Miller points out, though, the numbers only tell a small sliver of the story on Goodwin. Miller also heavily criticized Texas for not using their immensely talented receiver more frequently:
Marquise Goodwin touched the ball 33 times for #Texas this year. That should be criminal. You can't box score scout this kid.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 27, 2013
Based on Goodwin's Senior Bowl performance, Miller definitely has a point. Of the prospects whose draft stock likely improved the most during the week, Goodwin is arguably the most electric player of the bunch.
If he doesn't contribute right away in the NFL as a receiver since he is undersized, there is definitely potential for him to be a factor in the return game.
Michael Williams, TE, South
Stats: 2 receptions, 39 yards, TD
Once again, Williams enjoyed a national championship season with the Alabama Crimson Tide. With so many future NFL players on the roster, though, he was somewhat overshadowed.
The running back duo of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon didn't necessitate an emphasis on the passing game. Williams, who is a massive 6'6" and 270 pounds, showed exceptional blocking ability as usual during the Senior Bowl, but also became involved as a receiver.
With tight ends only seeing their pass-catching roles increase in the NFL, it was an encouraging sign to see Williams snag a couple of nice passes—including a 20-yard touchdown, as he beat USC safety T.J. McDonald on a corner route.
In his senior season, Williams caught a career-best 24 passes but for just 7.6 yards per reception. He doesn't possess great speed, but the fact that he made two big plays is huge for his stock.
This class isn't littered with playmakers to begin with, and there aren't many eye-popping tight end prospects to speak of. If he can continue improving as a receiver and keep up his strong run and pass blocking, Williams has a great chance to land in an ideal situation in the pros.
Kenjon Barner, RB, North
Stats: 3 carries, 13 yards; 7 receptions, 59 yards, TD
After logging 20 catches for 256 yards and two touchdowns all season for the Oregon Ducks, the Senior Bowl saw Barner emerge as the game's leading pass-catcher in terms of receptions and yards.
That may be more attributable to relatively poor quarterback play, but is nonetheless a testament to Barner's versatility. In Oregon's innovative, run-heavy offense, Barner thrived in racking up over 1,700 yards on the ground.
However, this was an unprecedented chance for him to show off his receiving ability, which was already considered an asset. He didn't disappoint.
Former Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor led all rushers with 53 yards, and UCLA's all-time leading rusher, Johnathan Franklin, also looked strong. But Barner is far more dynamic than both.
A lot of the criticisms Barner faces are similar to those that his starting Ducks predecessor LaMichael James endured ahead of the 2012 draft. James, selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the second round, has settled in as the No. 2 running back and is now gearing up for the Super Bowl.
Barner is extremely fast and agile, but some scouts don't believe he has the size or power to succeed in the NFL.
FOX Sports and Scout.com reporter Lindsey Thiry asked around before the game about Barner:
With his explosiveness in space, collegiate production and strong Senior Bowl showing, it's hard to imagine Barner tumbling too far down draft boards. Like Texas' Goodwin, Barner is capable of being an asset on special teams in his first pro season as well.