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.
Click here for the Day 1 Senior Bowl notes…
Day 2 Standout
Clive Walford, TE, Miami (FL)
Walford made himself some money on Tuesday by winning one-on-one situations and showcasing the ability to work the inside seam during practice. The 6’4”, 254-pound tight end has the athleticism to press a safety’s cushion, create leverage and then separate to go get the football. And he is very fluid after the catch.
I’m thinking of matchups with Walford where the tight end can work versus a linebacker underneath or run the intermediate concepts against a safety rolled down in coverage. That sells in today’s game for a tight end who can produce in the middle of the field and make plays inside the red zone.
Given the lack of top talent at the position in this year’s class, Walford is taking advantage of the opportunity in Mobile to put his skill set on display in front of the entire league. His draft stock should be on the rise. Great day of practice for the former Hurricane.
Here are five players who should draw NFL scouts’ attention after Tuesday’s practice sessions in Mobile, Alabama.
Nate Orchard, OLB, Utah
The ability to convert speed into power. That’s what I saw from Orchard during practice in both one-on-ones and team drills. At 6’3”, 251 pounds with 33” arms, the Utah product has the speed to turn the corner. But I was more impressed with his power at the point of attack.
The Senior Bowl roster isn’t loaded with edge-rushers, but I think Orchard could possibly play on the outside in a 3-4 as a rush ‘backer and then put his hand in the ground in the sub-packages (nickel/dime). The Utah product has good strength on the edge.
Ladarius Gunter, CB, Miami (FL)
Gunter displayed the best technique on the field Wednesday at the cornerback position during the South practice when looking at his footwork, hands and transition speed to break on the throw. The former Hurricane challenged receivers throughout the route, and I loved the way he finished on the ball.
Given his size (6”1”, 200 lbs), Gunter should be climbing up some draft boards because of his ability to play with leverage and compete at the point of attack. And the technique he showed Wednesday will allow Gunter to transition to the NFL game.
Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State
Speed from the slot. That’s tough on any secondary when a receiver can work a “two-way-go” on the release and then split a two-deep look down the field. Lockett has that vertical speed to blow the top off the secondary. Plus, the Kansas State wide receiver also brings that sudden burst to the field that allows him to set up defensive backs with a quick double move.
At 5’10”, 181 pounds, Lockett can be a valuable weapon for a team that needs to add some speed to the wide receiver position. Think of Lockett as a No. 3 who can work from inside the numbers to create explosive plays.
Carl Davis, DT, Iowa
Davis made my notes on Monday because of his ability to disrupt the run game and win during one-on-one matchups. And I think he was even better on Tuesday in full pads. Davis made multiple plays behind the line of scrimmage in team drills, and he was very active with his hands during pass-rush periods to get home.
Given his NFL size (6’4”, 321 lbs) and quickness off the ball, Davis has been the most productive interior defensive lineman in Mobile through the first two days of practice. The former Hawkeye is generating some serious buzz at the Senior Bowl.
Danny Shelton, NT, Washington
There were some questions on Shelton’s conditioning level toward the end of Monday’s session as he struggled to play with a low pad level. However, the nose tackle had a much better day on Tuesday coming off the ball and using his enormous size (6”1”, 343 lbs) to take on double-teams and generate a push at the point of attack.
Given the need for defensive tackles who can play the nose in a 3-4 front, I can see why there is so much talk down here regarding Shelton. He has the size and power to eat up blockers while creating space for linebackers to flow to the ball.
Here are five players who need to improve their performances on the field after the second day of practice.
Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
Petty hasn’t been disappointing, but I was expecting much more from the Baylor product given the lack of talent at the quarterback position in this year’s class. After Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, there is a substantial drop-off to the next tier of passers in the draft.
This was an opportunity for Petty to claim that spot as the No. 3 or No. 4 quarterback to come off the board. Plus, with UCLA’s Brett Hundley declining the Senior Bowl invite, the stage was set for Petty to stand out. I haven’t seen enough from Petty to separate him from the group of quarterbacks down here in Mobile.
Ty Sambrailo LT, Colorado State
Sambrailo struggled with his footwork during Tuesday’s session. I would describe it as “choppy” when the Colorado State product kicked-back off the line. This is where he has to win with his initial punch given his lack of fluid movement.
A player with average strength, Sambrailo (6’6”, 307 lbs) needs to develop his footwork and stay square at the point of attack. This will allow him to win more one-on-one matchups.
Ty Montgomery, WR, Stanford
Too many drops. That’s the No. 1 thing I see with Montgomery. And without the top-end speed to consistently separate from defensive backs, the Stanford product has to start making clean grabs when he is targeted in team drills and during individual periods.
Montgomery needs to show more consistency, and I’m still waiting for him to flash on the field. Let’s see if Montgomery can finish plays on Thursday and show some explosive ability at the wide receiver position.
T.J. Clemmings, LT, Pitt
Clemmings has first-round ability because of his footwork and athleticism at the tackle position. He can kick-back and handle speed off the edge. However, he doesn’t have the strongest punch at the point of attack.
The talent is there with Clemmings. No question about that. But we have to remember that he is still developing. Plus he can add some size to his frame (6’5”, 307 lbs). I think Clemmings is a little light at this point.
Ben Koyack, TE, Notre Dame
Koyack doesn’t have the matchup ability when compared to Walford, and I don’t see a tight end who can put stress of safeties in man coverage. As I said above, this tight end class isn’t very strong, and Koyack hasn’t stood out on the practice field in one-on-ones or seven-on-seven drills.
The seam and the corner route. Two concepts that have to be in the game plan for every team in the league when trying to work the ball to the tight ends. With Koyack, can he separate and make plays on those routes when matched up versus quality NFL safeties?
Day 2 Notes
—The South squad has a solid safety combo in Cody Prewitt (Ole Miss) and Anthony Jefferson (UCLA). Both players can roll to the middle of the field, drop down in the box and get off the numbers in Cover 2.
—Minnesota running back David Cobb has the edge in pass protection when compared to Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah.
—Wide receiver Jamison Crowder (5’8”, 174 lbs) isn’t going to create separation at the top of the route stem using his body. However, when the Duke product can generate leverage off the release, he has the acceleration and playmaking ability to produce after the catch.
—Keep an eye on Miami of Ohio cornerback Quinten Rollins (5’11”, 193 lbs). The former basketball player (with only one year of football experience) is a very fluid athlete. His technique needs to improve, but the skill set is there to develop at the pro level.
—Accuracy and ball placement was an issue with the quarterbacks during the South-squad session. Too many balls thrown to the back shoulder of receivers on inside breaking cuts. That has to improve.
—Duke offensive guard Laken Tomlinson is a player I want to watch on tape. At 6’3”, 323 pounds, he has a strong punch at the point of attack. Physical player.
—Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman didn’t practice Wednesday due to an injury, but I think he is a solid second-round prospect who can play in both the base and sub-packages at the next level.
—I still don’t have a great feel for Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates. Can he run the 9-route and the dig? Yes. But I want to see more of that explosive play ability.
—Small-school offensive tackle Ali Marpet (Hobart College) was generating some buzz Wednesday during one-on-ones and team drills.
—With both squads in full pads, the competition level dramatically increased during 9-on-7 inside run drill. And the Power O (fullback kick-out, backside guard pull) was on display. Downhill football with nowhere to hide. I could watch that all day.
—NFL scouts told me to focus on Mississippi State defensive end Preston Smith (6’5”, 270 lbs). He has length (34” inch arms) and power to win on the edge.
—Quarterback Sean Mannion threw the best ball of the day versus Cover 3 on the “sail” combo (9-corner-flat). The Oregon State quarterback dropped the ball right over the top of the strong safety to hit the tight end on the corner route.
—Miami wide receiver Phillip Dorsett continues to impress on the practice field. There is very little wasted movement when he accelerates out of his breaks.
—Special teams drills don’t draw a crowd in Mobile. But for many of these prospects, this is how they will earn a paycheck as a rookie while they develop at the pro level. Technique, the ability to play in space and open-field tackling. It’s all there in the kicking game.
—I can’t figure out how Miami went 6-7 on the season…these former Hurricanes came to play this week in Mobile. A lot of speed. And a lot of talent.
Seven-year NFL veteran Matt Bowen is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.