Throughout the week of practice at the Senior Bowl, former NFL defensive back Matt Bowen will bring you his notes on some of the top prospects in the 2015 NFL draft. The game will take place Saturday, Jan. 24.
Day 1 Standout
Senquez Golson, CB, Ole Miss
Golson doesn’t have top-tier size at the cornerback position (5’9", 180 lbs); however, the Ole Miss product displays quick footwork and the transition speed (plant/drive) to close on the ball. A player with the hip flexibility to open and run, Golson was physical from a press-man position and looked comfortable playing off the ball in one-on-ones and team drills.
With defensive backs, I always watch for players who want to compete in drills. Do they finish plays? Can they recover versus the deep ball? And do they attack downhill (with speed) to the upfield shoulder in the three-step game? On Monday, that was Golson. The cornerback was aggressive with his technique and challenged receivers on every rep during the South squad practice.
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker will make Golson work hard this week, with a focus on technique. I played for Coach Walker back in Washington, and he is an excellent teacher. This is a great opportunity for the Ole Miss cornerback to continue playing good football in front of NFL scouts, general managers and coaches.
Here are five players who should draw NFL scouts' attention after Monday’s practice sessions in Mobile, Alabama.
Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami
Dorsett (5’10", 185 lbs) has ridiculous top-end speed, but I focused more on his route running during Monday’s session. The Miami product looked smooth as he worked upfield, chopped his feet at the top of the route and then accelerated back to the football in the intermediate passing game (curl, dig).
Once Dorsett squares his pads after the catch, it’s easy to see the burst as he pushes the ball through the secondary. He's an exciting player. There's a lot of potential with Dorsett as a wide receiver—one who can align in multiple positions with game-breaking speed.
Anthony Jefferson, S, UCLA
Jefferson caught my attention early in the South squad practice because of his footwork and movement skills in individual drills. The UCLA safety (6’1”, 190 lbs) has the flexibility to change directions, and he has nice speed coming downhill.
During the one-on-one blitz period, Jefferson showed the ability to win on the edge and set up blockers (tight ends and running backs) to finish the drill. An athletic player who can roll to the deep middle of the field or drop down in both Cover 1 (man-free) and Cover 3 (three-deep, four-under zone), Jefferson is a safety to keep an eye on throughout the week of practice.
Carl Davis, DT, Iowa
Davis has an NFL body on the interior of the defensive line (6’4", 315 lbs) and the length (34.48” reach) to play multiple positions. I can see Davis as the 3-technique defensive tackle (4-3 front) or the 5-technique defensive end (3-4 front) because of his size, quickness and power on contact.
Davis flashed his ability to get upfield in one-on-one pass-rushing situations, and I also saw the Iowa product utilize counter moves at the point of attack to win those matchups during the North squad practice session. Davis has an opportunity to boost his stock in Mobile as an interior pass-rusher who also has the size and technique to win versus the run game.
La’el Collins, LT, LSU
At 6’5", 315 pounds, the LSU product dropped some weight and looks athletic in his movements. Collins has the frame to play on the left side along with the footwork and technique to kick back off the line of scrimmage to win on the edge.
Collins was very active with his hands during Monday's session, and he also saw some time on the right side of the line. I will get a better look at Pitt’s T.J. Clemmings in practice Wednesday, but after the first day, I would call Collins the top prospect at the tackle position in Mobile.
David Cobb, RB, Minnesota
Cobb (5’11”, 225 lbs) has the look of an NFL back given his thick build and the bulk in his lower body. Cobb can run with power and displays some speed getting through the hole. Plus, he did showcase the ability to win one-on-one matchups in the passing game on the underneath option route.
Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah is also a running back to focus on this week because of his acceleration and lateral movement, but Cobb stood out on Monday due to the combination of size and quick burst at the position. He's an ideal back to play in a downhill, power-running scheme at the pro level.
Here are five players who need to improve their performances on the field after the first day of practice.
Blake Sims, QB, Alabama
It’s tough to grade out quarterbacks on the first day, as they are working with new receivers in the passing game. But I still look for accuracy and ball placement in the basic route tree. And that’s where Sims struggled on Monday.
Sims missed on some core routes and appeared uncomfortable at times when delivering the ball both inside and outside of the pocket. He doesn’t have the ideal size at the position (6'0", 208 lbs), but his ability to put the ball on the upfield shoulder is all that matters this week. There's plenty of time left in Mobile for the Alabama product to make some adjustments and play better football.
The Tight End Position
The tight end position lacks top-tier talent, but I’m still looking for someone to flash and make plays when given the opportunity. There were too many dropped passes in the North squad practice, and the tight ends on the South roster didn’t show me enough to say that there is a hidden star down here in Mobile.
That could change on Tuesday with both squads putting on full pads, but there has to more than the flat route and the stick route underneath. I want to watch the tight ends challenge the safeties on the seam and corner route, where they can use their size to create leverage.
Miami’s Clive Walford has the athletic ability to make plays. Now we just have to see it.
Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State
With Mannion (6'5", 220 lbs), it’s all about the mechanics and release. The quarterback has to be much quicker getting the ball out, and he is very labored in his delivery. Plus, he has to take some chances down the field to put some stress on the secondary.
Given the lack of top talent at the quarterback position this week in Mobile, Mannion has an opportunity to boost his stock. But he must be more aggressive in his reads and work on a quicker release to impress the NFL scouts.
Hau’oli Kikaha, LB, Washington
Every year at the Senior Bowl, there are linebackers who get exposed a bit when they have to play in space as an underneath zone defender or when matching up in man coverage. On Monday, that was Kikaha (6'3", 246 lbs) when the coaches asked him to play off the ball in Cover 3.
Kikaha is better suited as a stand-up edge-rusher at the next level in a 3-4 front, where he can use his hands at the point of attack and play close to the line of scrimmage.
Jeff Luc, LB, Cincinnati
Luc is a thick, well-built linebacker at 6'0”, 251 pounds, but he plays a little stiff when he has to drop into coverage. This is when he settles his feet and allows tight ends or running backs to gain leverage at the break point.
I’m looking forward to watching Luc attack downhill to fill the hole during Tuesday’s session in full pads. That should be a train wreck at the point of attack. But can the Cincinnati product impact the passing game? Luc has to play with more flexibility as an underneath defender in the core coverages.
Day 1 Notes
- When Sammie Coates takes a vertical release off the ball, he is running the deep 9 (go) route. Coates can get up to top speed quickly, and he understands how to attack press coverage.
- After the first day, Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson throws the best ball of all of the quarterbacks down in Mobile.
- Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt displayed the range and ball skills to make plays from the middle of the field on Monday. And he will attack the ball in the vertical passing game.
- Washington’s Danny Shelton is enormous on the interior of the defensive line. At 6’1", 339 pounds, Shelton should be at the top of the list for 3-4 teams looking for a nose. He's very strong at the point of attack.
- Norfolk State outside linebacker Lynden Trail (6’6”, 260 lbs) is a player to keep an eye on. He has a raw skill set, but he has good athletic ability on the edge.
- The South squad practice had much more tempo and energy under Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley. I love watching this guy coach. He is active and never stops teaching.
- Samford’s JaquiskiTartt had a good session in the afternoon. The strong safety was quick to identify route concepts and break on the ball as a curl-flat defender in Cover 3.
- Former Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall is making the transition to cornerback at the Senior Bowl. That will be a challenge. But there is no question about Marshall’s athletic ability. He displayed smooth footwork.
- Oregon State cornerback Steven Nelson has the ability to play inside the numbers versus the slot. That’s not easy, as the nickel corner must play “two-way-go” off the release.
- On Monday, it was all single-high safety looks. Cover 1 and Cover 3. That’s it.
Seven-year NFL veteran Matt Bowen is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.