I attended Senior Bowl practices this week down in Mobile, Alabama. As a disclaimer, I should note that there’s a lot going on at these practices. I might see something I like or dislike out of one of these players on one play or drill that another analyst might miss, and vice versa. There’s going to be some variance of opinions. I should also note that while I watch my share of college football during the season, I do so casually. I’m not ever going to try to position myself as some sort of draft expert. You won’t see any "big boards" from me, and you’ll definitely never see me waste your time by doing a mock draft. I think that’s good and bad as far as observations go. Some might think it’s bad that I don’t have strong prior knowledge of the majority of these guys, but that could also be viewed as a good thing as well, for the purposes of not having any pre-determined opinions of these players. This is just a summary of what I happened to see during my time in Mobile.
Players that impressed me:
Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas – I got a very close up look at Adams the very first day of practices. He weighed in at 5’10 1/2, 174. He sure didn’t look like he was only 174. DeSean Jackson is listed at 5’10, 175. Both were fast, dynamic receivers in college, both were special teams standouts, and they have similar size, so the comparisons are easy. I’ve seen DeSean Jackson up close at Eagles training camp. He’s a twig. Adams has a bigger frame and just looks bigger than DeSean, even though their measurables are identical, if that makes any sense. Adams made tough catches all week – Deep balls, working the intermediate zones, going up for balls over the middle. I saw just one drop. There may have been more, but I only saw one, and I had my eye on him as much as possible. In 1-on-1 drills, he typically won, but he compares much less favorably to DeSean in those drills. In Eagles camp, nobody can stop DeSean Jackson in 1-on-1 drills. Not Asante Samuel, not Nnamdi Asomugha, not Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He’s simply impossible to cover if you’re on him 1-on-1 with the entire field at his disposal. Again, Adams was very good in those drills, and maybe the best WRs at the Senior Bowl in 1-on-1′s, but he doesn’t have the speed of DeSean Jackson. If he does well during the interview process, he may go as high as Round 2.
Mike Adams, OT, Ohio St. – His size alone is impressive. 6’7, 323, and he carries it well. He just looks like an NFL OT. Both defensive lines completely dominated the offensives lines in practices this week, but Adams was clearly the best of the bunch. The buzz is that he’s a sure-fire 1st rounder, and may even make his way up into the top half of round 1. In a league where terrible OL play is an epidemic, it wouldn’t be a shock to me in the slightest if he went that early.
Vick Ballard, RB, Mississippi St. – There was one play in 11 on 11′s where Ballard got through the line, and once he got into the second level… boom… nice burst to the sideline where he beat the safety around the corner and took it to the house. Very impressive run. That’s where Ballard first caught my attention. Loved his effort in pass protection. Did a really good job being physical with the LB’s. He has nice base at 5’10, 217. I didn’t get a good feel for his ability to catch passes out of the backfield. Nothing really stood out there, and in researching him a bit more, he only caught 30 passes in his 2 seasons at Miss St. I get the sense that he’ll need improvement there. Still, the burst is there. He could be a nice complimentary back in the NFL.
Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia – I think the general sense at the Senior Bowl was that Janoris Jenkins was clearly the best CB there. I agree that Jenkins probably was the best corner there, but I didn’t see much of a gap between him and Boykin. Boykin showed excellent speed and quickness, and was very physical when jamming receivers at the line.
Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina – Practices like these seem to be tailor made for a guy like Brown. Great speed, fluid motion, caught everything in drills, and was pretty clearly the best linebacker at the Senior Bowl as far as covering RB’s and TE’s. There are so many TE’s in the league now that are absolute matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. Tight end is becoming one of the strongest positions in the game. You know all the names. When one position in the NFL becomes a major strength, players that can counter those positions of strength become that much more valuable. Zach Brown could maybe be one of those players that has a fighting chance against the Rob Gronkowskis and Jimmy Grahams of the NFL. Unfortunately, there was no tackling in Senior Bowl practices. It would have been great to get a good look at Zach’s ability there. That will be the big question mark on him.
Juron Criner, WR, Arizona – I liked his route running, and loved the way he fought for the football in the air. If you were watching the Senior Bowl practices on TV, you’ve probably already seen his one-handed grab. It was the highlight of the week. He has nice size at 6’2, 220 and appears to be a battler.
Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall – Tremendous burst off the edge on the snap. Outstanding first step. In drills he was going 1-on-1 against interior offensive linemen, and it was comical watching them try to stay in front of Curry. He was just too quick. Curry has kind of a sleek build at 6’3, 265. I didn’t get to see how he might hold up against the run, but at the very least, he could be a really good speed rusher at the next level. Expect Curry to be a Combine star in Indy.
Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska – David was only the linebacker aside from Zach Brown that could stay with RB’s and TE’s in 1-on-1 drills. Unfortunately at 6’0, 225, he’s smaller than a nice handful of safeties in the league. However, he seemed to be able to diagnose plays quickly and got himself, by my count, at least 3 TFL’s in 11 on 11′s.
Demario Davis, LB, Arkansas St. – Davis was a late addition to Senior Bowl practices after injuries. To be just thrown into the mix and look like you’ve been there the entire time is impressive. RB’s couldn’t block him in 1-on-1 pass protection drills. He looks like he might be a good blitzing LB.
Cordy Glenn, OT/OG, Georgia – He battled against Quinton Coples and Melvin Ingram all week, and more than held his own. Massive player at 6’5, 346. I don’t think he’ll have a chance against the better speed rushers in the NFL on the outside, but he can be dominant on the interior.
Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina – It would be ideal if Ingram were a little taller (he’s 6’2, 276), but he was dominant at times in 1-on-1 pass rushing drills. Showed a nice variety of pass rush moves, with the inside swim standing out to me. Ingram could be a player that you can move inside on obvious passing downs, like Justin Tuck.
Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama – I mentioned Jenkins earlier when I noted Brandon Boykin, and I certainly didn’t mean to slight Jenkins. Jenkins was like glue all week. His talent is obvious. He’s also very chippy. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. The aggressiveness is good, but he might be a little overboard with his physical style. In college you can get away with a little extra shove after 5 yards. You can’t do that in the NFL. I think early in his NFL career he might struggle with penalties, but at the same time, I’d prefer a corner that embraces contact over one that shies away from it. It’ll all come down to whether or not NFL teams think he’s a turd or not in the interview process.
Cam Johnson, DE/OLB, Virginia – I mentioned Mike Adams earlier, saying he was by far the best OT at the Senior Bowl. Well, Cam Johnson seemed to be the one guy that had his number. Cam smoked Adams around the edge twice. Decent height at a hair under 6’4.
Kendall Reyes, DT, UConn – Reyes was a disruptive force all week on 11 on 11′s. He didn’t always make the play, but he lived in the backfield. Looked like he had a great first step for a big guy, and was able to split interior O Linemen and consistently mess up plays.
Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma St. – Best QB this week by far, and it wasn’t even close. Best arm, most accurate, great poise, polished (sold play action well, etc.). He has it all. Obviously, there’s the concern with his age (he’s 28). There was one play where they ran a little QB waggle. He ran play action left, and when he turned to roll right he found a not-fooled Courtney Upshaw bearing down on him right in his face. No worries. He calmly located his outlet (RB Chris Rainey), somehow got it around Upshaw, and hit Rainey in stride for a little 5 yard gain. Of all the nice throws with zip he made all week, that one little play impressed me the most. Most NFL starting QB’s would have had a much worse result in that situation than what Weeden was able to salvage there. I’ll be shocked if he makes it out of round 2.
Players that did not impress me:
Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska – There are definitely some things to like from Dennard. First of all, his legs are enormous. They’re like Barry Sanders legs, and there’s definitely some explosion there. He also showed the willingness to be physical with receivers at the line. However, the knock that I’ve heard on him is his inability to turn and run out of his backpedal. I got to see exactly what those criticisms were all about. In 1-on-1′s, Marvin Jones ran a simple go route (not a sluggo or an out and up), and Dennard clearly lost a step when he turned to run. Jones blew right past him for the easy downfield catch. Dennard has since been scratched from the South roster with a hip flexor injury, so in fairness to Alfonzo, maybe his injury had something to do with his disappointing performance. Still, it’s only a matter of time before everyone and their mother begins to label him as the dreaded "Good fit for a Cover 2 team."
Nick Foles, QB, Arizona – Some folks had Foles rated as the #1 QB coming into the Senior Bowl, and I’ve seen it suggested that he could be a first round pick. Not happening. Personally, I didn’t see any aspect of his game that was particularly impressive, and thought Brandon Weeden blew him away in every aspect of QB play this week. In fact, I felt that Kirk Cousins pretty soundly outplayed him as well.
Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M – To be fair to Fuller, the South QB’s targeted him quite a bit in 7-on-7′s and 11-on-11′s, and he made a bunch of catches this week, which says something from a results perspective… I guess. Unfortunately, he also had a bunch of drops and simply looked really slow. I’m not in the business of predicting 40 times, but if he runs something better than a 4.6 at the Combine, I’ll be absolutely shocked.
Terrance Ganoway, RB, Baylor – At 6’0, 241, Ganoway is a big boy at RB, and to look at him, you’d think he’d be good in pass protection. From what I saw this week, that’s a part of his game that needs some serious work. In LB on RB 1-on-1 pass pro drills, he held up just fine against guys that tried to bull rush him, but if you put a move on him, it was like he had cinder block shoes. I watched Ganoway get smoked three consecutive times by Zach Brown, Keenan Robinson, and Jake Bequette. In the NFL, running backs that can’t pass protect won’t play. It may take some time for him to develop that skill.
Asa Jackson, CB, Cal Poly – I hate to pick on a kid from a small school that isn’t thought of as much of a prospect in the first place, but Jackson was giving absurd cushions in 1-on-1 drills. I could have completed passes on him.
Ryan Lindley, QB, San Diego St. – Lindley was pretty brutal this week. Inaccurate deep. Inaccurate in the intermediate zones. Inaccurate short. He was too quick to throw balls away at the first hint of pressure, and that’s in practice when you’re barely allowed to touch the QB. He just generally looked uncomfortable.
Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa – OK, so I actually thought Marvin had a nice week of practices on the field. He made a ton of catches. However (and this is really only in here for comedic purposes), after practice one day I overheard him speaking with a Jets scout. I didn’t hear what the Jets scout asked him, but McNutt’s answer was something to the effect of, "Yeah, I like to drink on occasion, as we all do. I don’t do drugs though." Ha, bad answer, Marvin. Get with your agent and clean up your talking points. Or just listen to Russell Wilson talk.
Chris Rainey, RB, Florida – The Redskins staff had Rainey take reps both with the RB’s and the WR’s. His career in the NFL, if he has one, will be as a 3rd down guy and/or return specialist. Rainey looked noticeably out of place as far as running routes with the receivers, and had some drops. I've been told by some that a lot of people thought Rainey had a great week. Again, please refer to the disclaimer above - I may have just happened to catch his bad moments, and missed the good ones. It happens. However, I've also heard that Mike Mayock and Charles Davis have been comparing him to Darren Sproles. That comparison seems lazy to me. Every white receiver gets compared to Wes Welker. Are we going to start comparing every short, speedy, 3rd down back and return specialist to Sproles now? Sproles is fire hydrant. Rainey's a beanpole. I see major differences both in their build and style. Not to mention, Sproles had 5588 yards from scrimmage and 47 TDs in college. Rainey had 3259 and 19.
Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida St. – The South DL generally dominated the South OL all week, but Sanders stood out as far as a player that was beaten regularly in 1-on-1 drills. At times it looked like he didn’t have a chance against guys like Melvin Ingram. Too often he was overcommitting to the outside speed rush, and was susceptible to the inside swim or spin move.
William Vlachos, OG, Alabama – Nothing stood out to me from an on-the-field-play perspective, but Vlachos was this year’s ugly body during the weigh-in. This is kinda mean, but a few media guys were referring to him as "third trimester."
Special recognition to Devon Still, DT, Penn St., and Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame – Devon Still missed the Senior Bowl with a "sprained toe," although the perception in Mobile was that the injury was significant enough to keep him from participating this week was B.S. At the very least, Devon, don’t tweet that you’re "Chillin on the beach jus thinkin" when a hundred other Seniors are hard at work.
Michael Floyd, meanwhile, didn’t even have an excuse.
Look guys, you don’t want to compete? That’s your choice, but that’s an enormous red flag, in my opinion. Kudos to Gerell Robinson from Arizona St. by the way, who filled in for Floyd, had a good week of practice, and probably helped his draft stock.
Some other notes of note:
I'm an NFC East writer, so I really only paid attention to who the Eagles, Cowboys, Giants, and Redskins talked to after practice. So a little bonus material for the NFCE fans. Apologies to the rest of you.
I should note that these teams are going to talk to everybody between now and April, but I do believe it's noteworthy who they single out after practice this early in the process.
After the first day of practice, (probable) defensive coordinator Juan Castillo had a long conversation with Texas LB Keenan Robinson. Robinson would likely project as a SAM in the Eagles defense.
They also spoke with OT Mike Adams. The Eagles are pretty much set along their starting OL, depending on whether or not they retain LG Evan Mathis. If the Eagles are unable to re-sign Mathis, Adams could be an option at RT, with Todd Herremans moving back to LG.
They also spoke with 6 pass rushers, noted in much more depth here.
The Redskins were talking quite a bit to OT Mike Adams of Ohio St. The buzz on Adams here is that he’s a sure fire 1st rounder. If "the buzz" is correct, obviously he won’t be there when the Redskins draft in the 2nd round, and it’s probably a safe bet he won’t go 6th overall. But he could be a target that would make sense if the Skins trade out of 6th overall or if they trade up into the back end of the 1st round.
If you're a Redskins fan, you already know that interior OL help could be on way. The Skins spoke with Georgia C/OG Ben Jones.
They also spoke with WR Juron Criner of Arizona. Criner had eye-opening week, and had probably the highlight of all the practices so far, when he had a gorgeous one-handed catch. Criner is among the players here that has helped his stock in a big way.
DT Kheeston Randall from Texas got some attention from what looked like a Redskins scout. Randall checked in at 6’4, 297. Not sure if he’d project as a DE in the Redskins’ 3-4, or as a NT.
And finally, they spoke with CB Dwight Bentley of Louisiana-Lafayette. If the Skins decide to cut bait with DeAngelo Hall, they’ll need to fill that hole (perhaps in free agency), and they could probably use more depth at corner anyway. Bentley could be a late round target for CB depth.
The Cowboys talked with DE Jake Bequette from Arkansas. The Redskins coaching staff has been using Bequette as an OLB in their 3-4 sets, and in drills, he’s been working out with the other linebackers, as opposed to the defensive linemen. If the Cowboys let Anthony Spencer walk, they need not just a new starter opposite DeMarcus Ware, but they’ll need depth there as well. Bequette could be that kind of guy.
RB Terrance Ganoway of Baylor also talked with the Cowboys. Ganoway is a big back at 5’11, 241. Ganoway ran all over Washington in the Alamo Bowl, going for 200 yards and 5 TDs. He had 21 TDs on the season. The Cowboys found themselves thin at RB late in the season after they lost DeMarco Murray. A trio of Murray, Jones, and Ganoway would give the Cowboys three unique styles of runners.
And finally, the Cowboys had a chat with a guy that I think has probably helped himself the most so far this week, WR Joe Adams of Arkansas. I talked about him quite a bit above.
Nobody. In fact, a cluster of Giants personnel were seated to my right during one of the South Team's practices. They didn’t talk to anybody. Like… not even each other. Complete silence. Very professional.
You can follow Jimmy on twitter: @Jimmy_Beast.