Senior Bowl Anyone watching?
Posted 28 January 2012 - 04:20 PM
- There was a buzz after the South squad wrapped up practice yesterday afternoon because of the speed, tempo and hitting on the field. The LBs looked more athletic, DBs were competing in one-on-ones and inside run drill was a physical session. There was a noticeable difference between the two practice sessions on Tuesday.
- During one-on-one pass rush, both Alabama DE/ OLB Courtney Upshaw and UNC DE Quinton Coples stood out. With Upshaw, there is enormous power to his game but he also demonstrated the ability to use his hands (and multiple moves) to win. With Coples, we are looking at a legit edge rusher. Speed to turn the corner and athletic ability that isn’t matched by anyone on the field for his size (6-6, 281).
- Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins stands out on the North roster because of this arm strength compared to Boise State’s Kellen Moore and Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson. And talking with scouts, his stock may start to rise.
- This isn’t a strong WR class down here in Mobile, but what about Texas A&M’s Jeff Fuller? The 6-4 WR did show some ability to separate from DBs, plus he can run the 3-step game and intermediate route tree. The question I have: will he be able to win vs. NFL DB aligned in a press-position?
- Loved seeing the DBs on the South squad get up to the line of scrimmage and play press-coverage. And the one CB that consistently competed was Dwight Bentley from Louisiana-Lafayette. Doesn’t have ideal size (5-10, 176), but was physical with his initial punch and also drove downhill on the ball when playing from an off-man position. Keep an eye on him throughout the draft process.
- I asked an NFL scout yesterday to give me one name that continued to show up on the North roster and he told me Appalachian State WR Brian Quick. He has size (6-3, 222), length and body control.
- I talked about Notre Dame SS Harrison Smith on Monday, but another safety to watch on the North roster is George Iloka from Bosie St. He is talll (6-3) for a middle of the field safety, displayed some range and took good angles to the ball on the skinny post/seam route. But with any free safety, we have to talk about coverage skills at the NFL level. Can he walk down over a slot, handle the TE on the 7 (corner) route, etc.?
- Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden throws a good ball. This was one of the questions I had leading up to this week because of the offensive system Okie State, however Weeden looked comfortable in the pocket and displayed nice touch on the deep ball.
- A better session for Oklahoma CB Jamell Fleming. He played with more confidence, challenged routes and brought a physical approach to his game in one-on-ones. From my perspective, he is the top CB on the North roster.
- Iowa WR Marvin McNutt was solid in one-on-ones and you could tell he was there to compete. To read more about it, check out the breakdown from the NFP’s Wes Bunting.
- LSU FS Brandon Taylor had the play of the day filling the alley and laying a clinic tape hit on RB Vick Ballard in the open field. Not surprising after watching the tackling technique from that LSU secondary all season.
Posted 28 January 2012 - 04:21 PM
The South team defensive line was clearly the most active, dominant unit on Day 1. North Carolina DE Quinton Coples enters the week as the highest-rated prospect in Mobile, and he lived up to the hype in his first practice. Coples owned the day from start to finish, and you can get a complete breakdown of his performance in our Stock Report to the right.
Alabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw showed power as both a run defender and pass-rusher. Upshaw is not an elite speedster, but he used leverage well and consistently won with quickness and power during one-on-one pass-rush drills.
The only mild concern with Upshaw is his instincts and how quickly he diagnoses plays in space. He was recognizing plays on a couple of occasions, and at one point it took him a few seconds to see a misdirection play. That's something we'll keep an eye on as the practice week progresses.
South Carolina DE Melvin Ingram did diagnose plays quickly, and he also used power and quickness to win the majority of his matchups during one-on-one drills and the team period.
Trio of wideouts shine
Arkansas WR Joe Adams showcased his speed and showed good quickness off the line and in and out of breaks. Adams also displayed impressive hands, catching everything that was thrown his way.
North Carolina WR Dwight Jones turned heads during the weigh-in -- checking in at a solid 6-foot-3 and 226 pounds -- and he followed that up by using his size effectively as a route-runner.
Jones does not have great suddenness, but his size gives him a built-in ability to separate, and he used his frame well within his routes. He also caught the ball well.
Finally, Appalachian State WR Brian Quick (6-3½, 222) needs some polish as a route-runner, but he has quick feet and fluid hips for a big receiver. Quick will round off cuts or take an extra step at times, but he was solid catching the ball, especially over his head on vertical routes.
He was caught off-guard by how quickly Boise State QB Kellen Moore got the ball out on a quick out route, but later in practice Quick made a nice play on a sideline 9-route in the end zone, turning to find the ball and bringing it down inbounds.
And while Quick isn't a blazer, he did show in a one-on-one matchup with Cal-Poly CB Asa Jackson the ability to use his long strides to eat up a cushion in a hurry. Quick is looking to show he can handle a higher level of competition, and he got off to a good start in Day 1.
- Vinny Curry of Marshall is once again displaying a lot of quickness and athleticism. He really struggles handling blocks, and looks more and more like he'll be a natural as a 3-4 outside linebacker rather than at defensive end.
T Mike Adams of Ohio State is really having a tough time this morning handling Vinny Curry. Curry has convincingly beat the big tackle off the snap every time. Curry was just moved inside to defensive tackle and annihilated Kevin Zeitler with a swim move. We got ahead of ourselves in our praise for Kevin Zeitler. He's been beaten bad the past three downs by three different defensive linemen.
- WR Devier Posey of Ohio State continues to impress with his physcal skills. He shows exceptional quickness in and out of routes and a nice burst of speed. He hasn't shown the strong hands or ability to pluck the ball from the air, but to his credit Posey has not dropped many passes the past three days.
- WR Marvin McNutt of Iowa looks improved this morning. Early-week jitters may have resulted in some stiffness and dropped passed but thus far he's looked very smooth and has caught the ball well.
- Doug Martin is impressing outside of special teams drills, too. He's showing terrific quickness and just put a great move on former Boise State teammate Shea McClellin to come free in the flat for a nice reception. Martin has shown soft, strong hands all week.
Posted 28 January 2012 - 04:24 PM
Ranking the Senior Bowl’s Top 10 prospects
1. DE Quinton Coples: North Carolina (6-6, 285)
Possesses the ideal build for a defensive lineman and the game really comes easy to him. He showcases the ability to overpower on contact, be sudden laterally and uses his length well to shed. If he can keep his motor running on high, looks like a top-five caliber talent.
2. OT Mike Adams: Ohio State (6-7, 320)
Looks the part of an NFL left tackle. He showcases good length, moves his feet well through contact and exhibits “plus’ range toward the edge for his size. At times gets himself into trouble “catching” defenders at the point, but has the skill set to mature into a good starting NFL left tackle.
3. DE Courtney Upshaw: Alabama (6-2, 265)
A physical, compact pass rusher who turns speed into power well off the edge and can overwhelm on contact. Plus, has the versatility to play in both a 34 and 43 front at the next level.
4. CB Janoris Jenkins: North Alabama (5-10, 182)
He was simply the most impressive cover man down here this week. Jenkins displays natural fluidity when asked to turn and run, stays low out of his breaks and is a bear to separate from on all levels of the field. Looks like an NFL starter early on in the NFL.
5. OG Cordy Glenn: Georgia (6-5, 348)
Glenn had some struggles this week at OT. However, when lined-up inside at guard he was downright dominant. He showcased good natural quickness off the ball, was able to extend his arms and control blockers with ease through contact. Looks like a first round caliber guard prospect to me.
6. DE Melvin Ingram: South Carolina (6-2, 276)
He’s an impressive pass rusher who can get after the QB in a number of ways. Plus, he’s versatile, as he can be effective from a number of spots and will likely get looks from both 34 and 43 teams.
7. CB Brandon Boykin: Georgia (5-10, 183)
Despite his lack of ideal height, he’s physical off the line, can turn and run, and did a better job as the week went on staying lower when trying to re-direct. He’s a competitor who loves to get into the face of opposing receivers and was a tough guy to separate from all week.
8. DT Brandon Thompson: Clemson (6-2, 310)
He demonstrated the first step to consistently gain leverage at the point working the bull rush, kept his pad level down and displayed the ability to shed through contact. He’s got a slight wiggle laterally as well, but is more of a one-gap guy only who can create penetration inside as either a 43 or 34 guy.
9. RB Doug Martin: Boise State (5-9, 215)
Martin isn't a dynamic size/speed guy, but there aren't many negatives to his game. He plays fast, runs low, is natural through the line of scrimmage and has a skill set somewhat similar to former Alabama RB Mark Ingram. He might fall a bit because he doesn't run overly well, but he has the skill set to start in the league.
10. QB Brandon Weeden: Oklahoma State (6-4, 218)
His age will likely keep him from going as early in the draft as his talents deserve. But, there isn't a throw this guy can't make and he has the skill set and mental make-up to mature into a starter early in his NFL career. Looks like a solid second round type value to me.
Posted 28 January 2012 - 04:26 PM
RB Doug Martin, Boise State: Martin came into this week as a player many thought would be a lock as a third-round back. After showing off his chiseled physique in the weigh-in and backing it up with a great week of practice, Martin is a player that some talk about as being a late first-round guy. He runs low to the ground, has good vision, and is a good receiver out of the backfield. He's versatile enough to help out a team as a kick returner as well.
Martin was the only back on either roster that looked good in every facet of the position in practice. Although the methods used to conduct both the North and South practices limited the opportunity to see running backs do what they do best, Martin's downhill mentality, quickness and physical style came to the fore. He's the only running back after this week where there are zero questions about his future chances as a three-down player.
WR Marvin Jones, California: Jones was not a headlining act among the crew of receivers invited to the Senior Bowl. He wasn't even the main act on his own team because of Keenan Allen's first-billing. However, Jones might have the cleanest all-around technical game of the receivers in this week's game. Jones earned praise from the Vikings receivers coach George Stewart for his footwork and route running in drills, he reminded scouts that he had vertical skills, and he dropped three passes all week – maybe. He's a fluid, competitive, reliable player from a pro-style offense, and his performance this week will earn him a second look from scouts.
WR Gerell Robinson, Arizona State: The Sun Devils slot receiver was another player on the undercard of pass-catching prospects that came to this game, but Robinson demonstrated the size, strength and athleticism to play outside the hash marks. Speed still might ultimately be a question mark of his game, but he dropped few passes, made strong adjustments to the ball, and was confident and productive against coverage.
WR Joe Adams, Arkansas: Adams probably didn't meet expectations for this week, but the athleticism and hands did not disappoint. Adams showed up on film because of his speed and quick-twitch ability. Witnessing him in person is in many respects even more impressive. He's got the speed to get on top of a defense in a hurry and has the makings of a perfect deep threat.
The one major flaw that Adams displayed every day was his ability to beat physical press coverage downfield. But the positive underside of this flaw is that Adams consistently showed persistence and fight to still get into position to make plays on the ball downfield. Once he gains additional strength and learns technique to earn separation against this type of coverage earlier in the route, his physical skills and hands will make him a dangerous downfield receiver.
TE Ladarius Green, Louisiana Lafayette: Green has the kind of frame (6-5) that he can probably add 10-15 pounds and still perform with a wide receiver's fluid athleticism. He frequently won separation down the seam and made clean, efficient breaks across the field. If Green had a quarterback with the confidence to make the tight throw 15-20 yards down the seam in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills, he could have had a much bigger week. His performance will earn a second look.
TE Brad Smelley, Alabama: The Crimson Tide tight end is just a shade under 6-2 and fullback size at 233 pounds, but he was quietly impressive. He earned more than a few whispers from scouts at every practice. Smelley combined quickness, good hands and sharp breaks to get open against linebackers in underneath coverage and he adjusted well to the football. When the passes hit Smelley in the hands and in stride, the tight end has a good feel for angles and avoids direct contact from defenders. He's at best H-Back size, but like former Texas tight end and Saints special team/offensive reserve stalwart Dave Thomas, Smelley should earn a spot on a roster as a reliable contributor in a variety of sub packages.
QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State: The argument of being too old is folly. Weeden is mature, smart, and he has a gunslinger's mentality. He's been the most impressive QB here in Mobile and could find his way into the end of the first round. As we've seen this year in the N.F.L. (Chicago and Houston), teams need more than one quality QB on the roster. Weeden could start for a team in Week 1 of 2012, but he could also sit behind an established starter on a team that is ready to make a Super Bowl run.
DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina: Coples was the most dominant player on the field this week. His game may still need some refinement, but he again proved that he's worthy of selection in the top 10 after a disappointing senior season. Comparisons to Julius Peppers, Mario Williams and Calais Campbell are all valid.
DE Melvin Ingram, South Carolina: Had it not been for Coples, Ingram may have been the most impressive defender this week. He showed a number of effective pass rush moves and, though he did take himself out of plays at times, was more consistently effective against the run than some expected. He's a lock to go in the first round.
DE Vinny Curry, Marshall: Curry showed his quick burst off the edge and ability to penetrate against the run against top competition. There are still blemishes in his game, but he'll have many teams taking a second look at his tape.
DE/OLB Cam Johnson, Virginia: Johnson was listed as a LB on the roster sheet, but predominantly played with his hand down in practice. He showed a better than expected burst off the edge and anchored against the run well. He'll get looks from 4-3 and 3-4 teams in need of a pass rusher.
DT/DE Billy Winn, Boise State: With more 3-4 and hybrid front schemes around the league, a versatile player like Winn who can defend the run and rush the passer from multiple positions is a highly sought-after commodity. Winn, along with Connecticut DL Kendall Reyes, improved his draft stock significantly this week.
DT Brandon Thompson, Clemson: Thompson may have been just as disruptive as Coples this week. He won't be a dominant pass rusher, but a team looking for a disruptive, penetrating DT had to like what Thompson showed in Mobile.
DT Mike Martin, Michigan: Martin's chiseled physique had scouts buzzing at the weigh-in and his tenacious play in the pit will likely move him up the boards of teams looking to add a rotational run stuffing body with a great motor.
OLB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama: Upshaw was part of a South defensive line group that dominated practice all week. Upshaw evoked comparisons to James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley from observers who saw him own blockers with an impressive mix of power and technique.
OLB Zach Brown, North Carolina: Other linebackers may have been slightly better in coverage or more physical at the point of attack, but Brown was the most impressive all-around linebacker this week. His measurements and speed suggest that he may be limited to a 4-3 WLB role, but similar talents (e.g. Jon Beason, Daryl Washington) have kicked inside and performed well.
ILB/OLB Bobby Wagner, Nevada: Wagner took all his reps at OLB in Mobile, but showed the strength and leverage to play inside. He also more than held his own in coverage during drills and team sessions.
ILB Demario Davis, Arkansas State: Davis was a late addition to the North roster, but impressed immediately with a combination of speed, suddenness and coverage ability. He'll continue to rise up draft boards if he tests well as the pre-draft process continues.
OLB Lavonte David, Nebraska: David weighed in at a solid 225 pounds and then proved that he could play even bigger against the run while showing good quickness and anticipation in coverage. He's right behind North Carolina's Zach Brown as the draft's best flow and chase Will backer.
OLB Shea McClellin, Boise State: McClellin, a defensive end at Boise State, showed that he can comfortably transition to OLB in the N.F.L. He'll be a project against the run, but he surprised in coverage all week and showed that he can get to the quarterback. His week should earn him consideration in the middle rounds as a rotational player.
CB Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama: Jenkins needed to prove that he still had the shutdown corner skills he showed at Florida and didn't disappoint. He showed excellent footwork, route anticipation and closing speed and looks like a first-round pick. Brandon Boykins, Casey Hayward and Dwight Bentley were also impressive, but Jenkins generated the most buzz.
WR Juron Criner, Arizona: Jones might have the better all-around game, but what Criner does well, he does better than any receiver in Mobile – or the entire 2012 draft class for that matter. Although not known as a speedster, his routes, strength and skill at adjusting to the ball make him a dangerous player 20-30 yards downfield. He's a deceptively smooth strider. Criner's skill at adjusting to the football gives him that consistent "wow" factor the other receiver prospects in this game lack. However, these are all things seen on film and he did nothing to dispel the notion that he isn't a deep threat.
QB Kirk Cousins, Michigan State: If Cousins reaches max potential as a pro, he won't be anything more than a Brian Hoyer type of prospect. He's the best QB on the North team, but he checks down too often. Cousins is athletic and can make plays with his feet, but we would've liked to see him make more plays with his arm downfield. He did occasionally thread the needle over linebackers and under the safety in drills.
RB Chris Polk, Washington: Polk remains a player most reasonable observers would love to draft if they have a need for a running back. His power, quickness, change of direction and receiving skills are all good, if not very good. However, Polk has two major issues to address to allay concerns that became more apparent this week on a national stage. The first is his pass protection. He was used more often as a receiver at Washington and he'll need to work hard in this facet of his game or it will delay, if not curtail, his development into a feature back.
The second is weight training. It's foolish to think that a running back has to be built like a male model to have success in the N.F.L., but Polk's physique was so shockingly soft that it made observers of his game even more appreciative of what he can do on the field. However, the potential downside of Polk's fitness level is injury.
Polk has had two shoulder operations and a meniscus tear during his career. Although he hasn't missed time, a more conditioned physique can be a preventative measure to injury and increase his explosiveness. These two factors might be disappointing, but not deal breakers. His practice habits also didn't seem to have the same intensity compared with a player like Doug Martin, Vick Ballard or Lennon Creer.
RB Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati: Although this year's Senior Bowl coaches didn't run practices that highlighted backs, Pead continued to display the tendency to bounce runs outside too soon. If you want to know more about why this is not a good habit for future pro running backs, read here. Despite the warranted criticism, Pead is a solid pass protector with potential to become a good third-down back in the N.F.L. If he can develop the discipline that Jamaal Charles – a player Pead admires – had to learn in Kansas City, there's an outside chance he could become a more frequent contributor in a committee.
QB Kellen Moore, Boise State: It's difficult to term Moore's performance a disappointment because a lot of people in attendance had reasonable expectations for the undersized, weak-armed passer. However, there is a contingent of fans and evaluators who believe Moore is the next Drew Brees, but only more accurate than Brees at the same stage of their careers. While everyone has a right to their opinions, I think they have a severe case of selective amnesia.
Brees was renowned for his accuracy at Purdue, even his deep accuracy. The average observer is well aware that Brees has improved his arm strength, but the area of improvement was with driving the ball downfield with more velocity. His deep arm always had tremendous touch and anticipation. Brees was always a good athlete with short area quickness, and his ability to escape pressure and gain yardage with his legs was underrated even as a college athlete.
Moore's passes are frequently inaccurate beyond 20 yards – and sometimes as short as 12 yards. He is not nearly as fleet of foot as Brees at Purdue. Moore was a fine college player with sound fundamentals, but just because much of the scouting world vastly discounted Brees doesn't mean they should overcompensate with Kellen Moore.
QB Russell Wilson, Wisconsin: Wilson is a superb athlete, but he's very inconsistent as a passer. He's shorter than Kellen Moore and several of his passes tend to sail high. Those passes will turn into interceptions at the next level. When he's rolling out, his accuracy also leaves a lot to be desired.
WR Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M: Fuller's stock peaked as a junior, but after a disappointing beginning to his senior campaign he had a strong stretch run. Unfortunately he did not carry that momentum into the Senior Bowl. In fact, his struggles were painful to watch. He repeatedly fought the ball, dropping passes that hit him in the hands – covered or uncovered. He did this daily, and on Wednesday alone he went a span of practice where he dropped approximately five consecutive balls on catchable passes. What was even more disappointing was the fact that he could not generate separation from the line of scrimmage. He repeatedly got held up at the line and stalled in his routes. He didn't show a quick first step and he didn't play nearly as strong as expected. Based on the tape seen on Fuller at A&M, he was frequently targeted on comebacks and fades as a perimeter receiver against defenders giving him 8-10 yards of cushion. He didn't have this luxury in Mobile and the results were disappointing. Fuller still has value in this draft, but he hurt his stock as much as any player at this event.
WR Brian Quick, Appalachian State: What Quick demonstrated beyond anything else in this week of practices is what he stated at media night: he is raw and lacked a lot of coaching of the fundamentals of the position. Daily, Quick was pulled aside, corrected, or asked to redo a rep after a drill. His footwork on routes was sloppy; his turns were sometimes fast, but not frequently sharp; he lacked the understanding of how to use his big frame to shield defenders from the ball; and he either dropped passes or didn't attack the ball early enough in the throw to gain firm control. Quick's size, raw strength, vertical skill and willingness to go after the ball high or low makes him a promising prospect, but he's decidedly a project and there are many observers that considered Quick as a player just a notch or two below the top-tier receivers in this draft class. If your expectations were tempered heading into the Senior Bowl, Quick showed little that differed from his performances in games. However, it seems many held him in higher regard.
CB Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska: Dennard was very inconsistent in coverage this week, while most of the competition at his position met or exceeded expectations. He'll need to rehab his stock in the coming weeks after dropping out late Wednesday with a hip flexor strain.
ILB James-Michael Johnson, Nevada: Johnson had his moments during 7-on-7 sessions, but his pad level and coverage were issues all week. His stock is likely slipping into the later middle rounds.
ILB Emmanuel Acho, Texas: Acho was solid but not spectacular as a huddle presence and between the tackles against the run. But he struggled terribly in coverage at times and looks limited to a base defensive role.
S Antonio Allen, South Carolina: Allen got a chance to prove he was capable of making reads in zone coverage and show range in deep coverage, but didn't inspire much confidence that he could handle either job. That may not matter to teams preferring an in-the-box safety, but it won't improve his draft stock.
DE/OLB Jake Bequette, Arkansas: Bequette took snaps exclusively at strongside linebacker this week and rarely got a chance to rush the passer. He showed some improvement, but isn't athletic enough to chase and cover. He looks limited to a situational 4-3 RDE / 3-4 ROLB role.
Posted 28 January 2012 - 04:28 PM
Curry has been criticized by some after a low pre-season Wondelic test score yet in talking with him you’d never know it.
I spoke with Curry at length after Wednesday’s practice and found him to be very bright, articulate and really a nice person. He easily recalled articles and comments which were written about him six months ago in detail. I asked Curry if he was ready to play linebacker at the next level.
He told me he has been training for the position and was slightly disappointed he did not get work in at linebacker during the Senior Bowl to show scouts what he’s capable of.