Senior Bowl 2011: The 10 Most Intriguing Prospects To Watch Today
Yes, NFL Draft fans, the Senior Bowl is finally upon us.
Finally we get the chance to see the country's top senior pro prospects square off against one another in the ultimate evaluation exhibition.
After a week of practices, drills and interviews, the top senior prospects will finally have the opportunity to strut their stuff out on the field at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama today.
The rosters for both the North and South squads are loaded with future pros, but there are a few prospects in particular who deserve some special attention.
Here's a look at 10 players I'm going to be keeping a close eye on during today's game.
WR Titus Young, Boise State
No other player has created as much buzz for himself down in Mobile this week as Boise State wide receiver Titus Young.
The name DeSean Jackson is starting to be thrown around a lot in regards to Young's ability, and to be honest, it seems like a valid comparison.
Sure, the 5'11'', 175 lb. former Bronco isn't quite the pure game changer as Jackson, but with some of the best deep speed in this year's draft, Young is a receiver who can stretch the field and keep defenses on their toes on every single snap.
After averaging over 17 yards per reception as a senior, it wouldn't be surprising to see the speedy star crack the bottom end of the first round when all is said and done.
Right now, he looks to be the third-best receiver in the draft behind Georgia's A.J. Green and Alabama's Julio Jones.
QB Jake Locker, Washington
Ah Jake Locker, where to begin? Once the golden boy of this year's NFL Draft crop, Locker's fall from grace has been a well-documented tumble.
After a disappointing senior campaign that seemed to leave NFL personnel evaluators with more questions than answers, it seems the onetime "surefire No. 1 pick" needs to do everything he can to get back in the good graces of the sports media and NFL scouts.
With a physical skill set any wannabe quarterback would dream of, Locker certainly looks the part. As we know though, when it comes to quarterbacking in the NFL, it's what's between the ear holes that really counts.
Locker, who seems to get rattled by big moments far too easily, needs to show he can be cool, calm and collected while staying consistent and making good decisions.
CB Kendric Burney, North Carolina
If you're looking for flashy 40-yard dash superstars, you best not look Kendric Burney's way.
The 5'9'', 180 lb. former Tar Heel probably will be lucky to break the 4.6 mark at the NFL Combine next month. But if you choose to downgrade Burney for his lack of timed speed, you'd be doing yourself a disservice and shortchanging one of the best senior cornerback prospects in this year's draft.
This week, going toe to toe with top receivers like Titus Young, Burney flashed some of the best instincts and natural ability of any of the defensive backs down in Mobile.
The four-year starter has a nose for the football and some of the best recognition skills of any defensive player in this year's draft.
He certainly won't get the same publicity of some of the elite prospects at his position, such as LSU's Patrick Peterson or Nebraska's Prince Amukamara, but Kendric Burney has everything it takes to turn into a solid pro player and a serviceable starter in an NFL defensive backfield.
DE Cameron Jordan, Cal
What is he?
It's a question many are asking in regards to dominating defensive lineman Cameron Jordan, who put on a show during this week's practices.
The versatile former Cal Golden Bear has the physical makeup to stick at his natural position of defensive end or kick inside to defensive tackle.
The 6'4'', 285 lb. Jordan will likely man the end position in a 4-3 defense in the pros, but the fact that he's strong and mean enough to possibly handle playing inside speaks volumes about Jordan's true talents.
Jordan improved each year at Cal, and as the defensive leader this past season, he proved to be as disruptive as ever, totaling 5.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss.
Look for Jordan to give the South's offensive tackles all they can handle in today's game. It could be just a precursor for what he has in store for some of the NFL's big uglies.
OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M
With this draft seemingly so top heavy with underclassmen, many are wondering just who will be the first senior player to come off the board on draft night.
One player with as good of a shot as anybody is reckless rushing outside linebacker Von Miller out of Texas A&M.
Miller looks like he's built perfectly to be a 3-4 rush linebacker in the pros and proved to be a quarterback magnet in college, totaling 27 sacks in his final two seasons.
Since the defenses will be forced to play a plain base 4-3 defense without blitzes in today's game, it could be hard to get a true read on Miller as a pass rusher, but that probably won't stop him from making his presence felt.
Look for the 6'2'', 240 lb. former Aggie to come up with one or two eye-popping plays when called upon.
RB Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State
There was once a time when NFL scouts would look at a 5'7'' running back and simply say "no thanks" no matter how talented he might be. However, with the emergence of smaller, stouter backs like Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew and others, those days seems to be long gone.
There's now a place for a breed of players like Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter in the pros.
Hunter, who opened eyes this week during pass blocking drills by stonewalling much bigger linebackers such as Michigan State's Greg Jones, definitely doesn't lack toughness. It's that toughness which should allow Hunter to succeed in the NFL even though he'll be the tiniest body in the huddle.
After finishing with over 4,000 yards during his time in Stillwater, it's easy to see that Kendall Hunter knows how to produce. Look for him to come up with a few clutch runs for the North squad in today's contest.
OT James Carpenter, Alabama
We already know the big senior names when it comes to this year's offensive tackle crop.
Four in particular—Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod, Colorado's Nate Solder, Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi and Boston College's Anthony Castonzo—are bound to get the most attention. But there are also a few sleepers like James Carpenter of Alabama who are quietly working their way up the ladder.
Carpenter, who has been impressive at both the tackle and guard positions this week, made it his business to prevail over anyone he went up against in one-on-one drills whether it be Sam Acho coming off the edge or Chris Neild bull rushing up the middle.
Anytime you can walk in straight out of junior college and immediately start at left tackle for a unit as talented as Alabama's, you're going to get a fair share of respect. But now that Carpenter has showed he can take coaching from an NFL staff and in turn dominate some of the best competition out there, it should only help to solidify his reputation.
Carpenter's stock is most definitely on the rise.
DT Phil Taylor, Baylor
Dear NFL teams employing a 3-4 defense, if you're in need of some help at nose tackle, have yourself a look at Big Phil Taylor.
Taylor, a 340 lb. behemoth, is one of the few players at this year's Senior Bowl worthy of having an adjective precede his name.
After experiencing some troubles at Penn State and enduring a rough first season at Baylor, the light finally came on for Big Phil in 2010.
Taylor, who has been absolutely destroying whichever poor blocker was put in front of him this week, is oozing with potential.
When Phil Taylor wants to take over, he's going to take over.
Washington Redskins, take a look.
WR Jeremy Kerley, TCU
I went into the 2010 college football season thinking TCU receiver Jeremy Kerley was just another one of those nice receiving names to keep on the back burner, but by the time the Rose Bowl rolled around, my perception of Kerley had completely changed.
Right now, if I was an NFL GM in need of a difference-making slot receiver for my offense, I'm not sure there's another player in this draft who I'd look to before Kerley. That's how highly I think of him.
The former high school quarterback may only be 5'9'' but he just screams dependable second passing option.
Kerley, a terrific athlete with a great football prowess, knows how to get open and could play the role of safety option in an NFL offense perfectly.
Not to mention he's a heck of a return threat and has added value as a special teams dynamo.
TE Luke Stocker, Tennessee
Since no one is exactly sure how Notre Dame's Kyle Rudolph, the consensus top tight end prospect in the draft, will test out medically after suffering a Torn ACL this past season, theoretically the position is still one that's up for grabs.
Lance Kendricks of Wisconsin, D.J. Williams of Arkansas and Luke Stocker of Tennessee look to be the three seniors in contention to surpass Rudolph, but it was Stocker who had the best week of them all down in Mobile, flashing playmaking potential reminiscent of another former Vol, Jason Witten.
The 6'5'', 255 lb. Stocker suffered in a Tennessee offense that lacked rhythm and consistency over the last few seasons, but once the big, athletic tight end finally had the chance to connect with some talented signal callers, he was able to demonstrate his true worth.
Stocker may have only caught two touchdown passes this past season, but don't knock him for that. He has the potential to be a valuable receiving weapon in an NFL offense for many years.