Every year the best and brightest graduating seniors head to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama to display their skills for scouts and GMs to see. This year wasn’t necessarily the case with a larger than usual amount of juniors and a lack of the top-rated seniors in attendance.
Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh, Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung, Clemson’s C.J. Spiller, Oklahoma’s Trent Williams, Texas’ Sergio Kindle, and Florida’s Brandon Spikes all bowed out of the week-long practice and exhibition.
All are expected to be first round selections in April and a lot of scouts believe some of the players in Mobile really helped themselves by filling that void of talent.
Of course, some prospects did the exact opposite by falling on their face and hurting their draft stock.
The following is a list of players that really stood out last week at the Senior Bowl.
Graham is a very thickly built player with great base strength and the ability to line up all over the field. He shows an excellent first step when his hand is in the ground lining up at defensive end and also has good recognition skills playing as a stand-up linebacker.
Ideally Graham’s best fit is as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 front but the versatility that he brings to the table is what all scouts are going crazy over. He really stood out all week in practice and finished every single drill but he used the game to showcase all of his skills.
Graham tallied two sacks in the game and was a true force with a non-stop motor. He showed great form and instincts against the run, wrapping up tacklers in position.
With the lack of other talented outside linebackers that will fit a 3-4 in this class, Graham might just sneak his way into the first round after a phenomenal showing last week.
Gilyard showed some amazing speed out there and had some nice separation ability in drills. He’s a kid with great intangibles, considering he had to sit out a year due to academic ineligibility and worked his way back to be one of the Bearcats' all-time great wide receivers.
Gilyard wasn’t especially impressive during practice but really turned it on for the game, catching a 32-yard touchdown pass from Dan LeFevor in the fourth quarter and finishing the game with 103 yards on five receptions.
Gilyard might not develop into a go-to type of receiver in the NFL but his speed and after the catch ability would translate very well into a slot type of role at the next level. Either way, Gilyard did nothing to hurt his draft stock during Senior Bowl week.
McCluster was flat out the most explosive player in Mobile this week. He’s not going to be a traditional player at either the running back position or as a wide receiver because of his size at 5′8″, 176 lbs. but he’s going to be making plays in some shape or form next year.
McCluster’s open field moves are too much for linebackers at any level to handle and his speed will translate very well to the pros. There will always be the knock of size but McCluster’s added dimension of kick returning ability will further help his draft stock.
He will fit in as an ideal satellite player which is becoming more valuable every year in the NFL. McCluster won’t be relied on to carry the ball anymore than 10 times in a game but he should be targeted in the passing game at least as many times to get him into one-on-one situations of which he can easily take advantage.
Williams showed the whole nation just how physical he is in both practice drills and game action. Williams can play a lot of positions across the line but his most ideal fit will be as a nose tackle in a 3-4 front with his terrific size and base strength.
Williams notched several tackles for loss in college and that doesn’t look to change in the pros, as the big 315-pounder looked strong in drills. Williams was a force in the game. No North offensive lineman was able to handle him one-on-one.
Williams may not have made that many highlight reel plays but the fact that he was so disruptive and required double-teams garnered a lot of attention from the pro scouts in attendance.
QB—Zach Robinson—Oklahoma State
Robinson was the best QB on the field in drills and in the game. He was particularly effective in the two-minute offense and took command of his team when the pressure was on.
Most scouts will knock his slight build and lack of ideal height at 6′2″ but Robinson looked very comfortable managing the offense and making plays up-field. Outside of a fumble in the second half, the offense looked alive with Robinson leading the way.
Before his fine performance in the Senior Bowl, Robinson was slated to fall in the seventh round or even a priority free agent but now, he’s going to be taken somewhere around the fifth round.
DT—Cam Thomas—North Carolina
Thomas was close to unstoppable in drills all week and looked great in the game. At 6′4″, 335 lbs., Cam is a force to contend with and is almost impossible to redirect once he has position.
Scouts took note of Thomas all week long. He’s gone from a mid-round prospect, to a high second round grade, and potentially a late first round pick. He has a tremendous bull rush and will require constant double teams at the next level.
With the bulk of 3-4 teams in the league today, there will always be a huge need for quality nose tackles and Thomas’ value is being inflated due to a classic case of “supply and demand.”
The big man from Oregon showed a lot of power and strength in practice drills and game action. He flew through the air at the end of a 14-yard touchdown run and had 36 yards on seven carries.
Blount is not very elusive in space but he is a load to bring down at 6′2″ 240 lbs. He’s going to be a goal-line back in the pros, no matter how many scouts he turned away with his early season suspension for going bonkers after the Boise State loss.
Blount still doesn’t possess good hands out of the back-field and his pass blocking will also take a lot of work but his natural ability and great size will get him drafted in the later rounds.
This kid is really starting to climb up my overall board with not only his ability but his natural leadership. He’s looking more and more like he can fit in as an inside linebacker with the quickness he showed in drills and practice.
Weatherspoon was at his best in the game flashing rare coverage skills from the linebacker position and may have helped himself the most of this group.
All in all this kid has the intangibles to become a leader on defense and a great presence in a team’s locker room. Weatherspoon probably won’t make the first round but the team that takes him will be extremely happy about the return on their investment.
“As the Tebow Turns” would have been a better title of this week’s festivities. Tebow looked terrible under center, a position that he’s not comfortable in having played the majority of his college career from the shotgun. He also reportedly had to battle a case of strep throat.
Tebow looked slow out of the pocket, his mechanics were awful, and his arm strength is extremely suspect. Not only did he look lost at times during the game but his slow release was his undoing, resulting in two fumbles on the day.
I don’t see Tebow working out as a quarterback at the pro level but if a team is foolish enough to believe that he can, they’ll have to start from the ground up with his footwork, delivery, mechanics, release, and playbook diagnosis.
He will be best served playing in an offense that features a lot of non-QB formations or wild-cat sets that call for multidimensional players with an array of skill sets.
This guy may have eaten himself out of the first round after checking into weigh-ins at 370 lbs. and looking sluggish in workouts.
Not only did Cody wear down during drills but his slow down continued as the week progressed. His great size and strength were neutralized by his lack of preparation and poor physical conditioning. GMs and pro scouts are now questioning his desire and discipline to stay competitive and in shape.
It also hurts Cody that the other top-tier defensive tackles in Mobile turned in solid performances that may have shed light on Cody’s lack of effort. Cody may have fallen out of the first round but it’s not too late for him if he can shed some weight and work on his stamina in time for the annual combine.
S—Taylor Mays—Southern California
Mays is a very hard-hitting safety that can run like the wind, which will result in him being selected sometime around the end of the first round.
It may not matter how athletically gifted this kid is because he’s proven to be a liability in coverage time and time again. His lack of vision and anticipation was on display during practice, as he would constantly look for the “Wow” hit and missed two opportunities at easy interceptions.
Mays would have been a top-five pick if he entered last year’s draft but after his senior year, in which he really regressed, he’s looking at the prospect of being an early second rounder. Mays did manage to reel in an interception in the game but his overall lack of coverage skills has got NFL team’s second guessing his draft stock.
It’s tough for some of these spread attack offensive players to translate their game into the pro-style. Alexander was clearly exposed in drills, practice, and didn’t show anything resembling skill on game day.
He showed very inconsistent hands and his route running was sub-par to keep clean. He does have prototype size at 6′5″ but he’s more of a long strider who doesn’t really possess a lot of after the catch moves or sudden quickness.
Some team will take a chance on him late but they’ll be getting a project that will require a lot of attention and work if they want any kind of return on their investment.
I don’t know where or when it all went wrong for this kid but he was regarded as a top corner prospect before the 2009 season and is now looking like a last day pick.
He didn’t make any plays in the game or practice and looked lost in some drills. The early fall off during the regular season was attributed to an injury but it now appears the Kentucky product just isn’t that good.
Lindley was targeted a lot by opposing QBs and often was a step late against competition in practice and during the game. He’ll be drafted but it’s not going to be until the fifth or even sixth round.
QB—Sean Canfield—Oregon State
Canfield had a nice finish to his senior season but really looked lost at times during the Senior Bowl. He stared down his primary receivers on most passing downs and did not show good velocity on his throws.
The lack of zip on his throws wasn’t just isolated to deep balls either. Both his timing and accuracy were questionable on short to intermediate throws as well.
It was a bad week for somebody who was reportedly rising up draft boards in what looks to be a suspect 2010 QB class. The interception that Canfield threw in the second quarter was perhaps the icing on the cake for what turned out to be a terrible week.
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Posted at: RookieDraft.com