Senior Bowl week is upon us and there are there is an abundance of storylines and players to follow in Mobile.
After four largely maddening years as a quarterback at Michigan, the Senior Bowl could showcase Denard Robinson as one of the best athletes in the 2013 NFL Draft. Robinson is playing wide receiver and returning kicks, which suits his talents perfectly. Robinson's story is one of the biggest to follow in Mobile, Ala. this week, but not the only one.
There is going to be a quarterback at the Senior Bowl that stands out and rockets up draft boards. Several of them are quickly profiled below. One who isn't is Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel. Among the quarterbacks in the Senior Bowl, Manuel is arguably the best athlete and has a powerful build for the position. Manuel's Florida State career was up and down, but he still has the potential to be one of the first eight or 10 quarterbacks drafted.
When the offensive line drills against the defensive line in the North practices should be spirited and competitive. The North squad features players like Eric Fisher, Kyle Long, Justin Pugh, Ricky Wagner and Brian Winters on the offense line. The defensive line is just as talented with Margus Hunt, Datone Jones, Alex Okafor, Kawann Short and Sylvester Williams among those on the roster. The one-on-one matchups in practice will be fun to watch.
The lead matchup for the South roster will be receivers against defensive backs. Cobi Hamilton of Arkansas, Quinton Patton of Louisiana Tech and Terrance Williams of Baylor will be difficult matchups for defensive backs Marc Anthony of California, Robert Alford of Southeastern Louisiana and Leon McFadden of San Diego State.
Of course, there will several small school players with a chance to step up against top competition. Missouri Southern defensive tackle Brandon Williams is a power tackle in the middle. Elon wide receiver Aaron Mellette is highly regarded with an NFL frame and skill set. Georgia Southern safety J.J. Wilcox is a good all-around safety just scratching the surface of his potential after playing on offense his first three years of college football.
Top 15 players in the Senior Bowl:
1. Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan (North)
With top junior linemen Taylor Lewan of Michigan and Jake Matthews of Texas A&M returning to school, there is a chance for Fisher to rise into the top 10 picks of the 2013 NFL Draft. He plays a premium position light on top-end talent. It also helps that he's good enough to be considered that highly in the draft. Fisher has the length to keep defenders at bay, and can engulf bull rushers.
What we may find out this week: If Fisher can consistently keep his pad level low. That's the biggest knock on the 6-foot-8 (listed) left tackle. When Fisher plays high, linemen can get under his pads and drive him backward.
2. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU (South)
As athletically as he is raw, Ansah's potential is sky-high. With a great week in Mobile, he could even be in consideration for the second overall pick for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He'd fit perfectly as a Leo in new head coach Gus Bradley's new defense. But if he has a poor week, Ansah could settle in the 20s. Fundamentally, Ansah has catching up to do and may start his NFL career as a specialty player.
What we may find out this week: Exactly how far along Ansah is in his technique. During the week of practices, Ansah will be going against sound linemen like Oday Aboushi, D.J. Fluker, Lane Johnson and Dallas Thomas. He'll either get exposed or shine.
3. Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma (South)
Much like Fisher, Johnson benefits from top juniors returning to school. Johnson would likely be a first-round choice regardless, but he's now firmly cemented among the top 32 picks. The Sooners senior has moved from quarterback to tight end before excelling this season on the left side. He plays with a nasty disposition and is at his best when he can drive block defenders backward.
What we may find out this week: Handwork. Fisher has quick feet and size. But his hand placement can be an issue at times. He needs to get better at locking on and extending his arms out.
4. Khaseem Greene, OLB, Rutgers (North)
A fast and active linebacker, Greene was among the nation's leaders in tackles this season with 136. The All-American may not be the most powerful, but he can make plays all over the field. Greene is similar in style and size to Lavonte David of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He can track the ball down in a hurry and takes great angles to the ball.
What we may find out this week: Greene excels when he can get to the ball after a completion or on a run play. Where he's a little untested is in coverage situations. He'll have to show awareness in zone situations to prove he's an all-around linebacker.
5. Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State (North)
Poyer is the draft's best and most natural zone coverage cornerback. Instead of going on and on about Poyer, just read Matthew Fairburn's scouting report on him here.
What we may find out this week: There are times when Poyer can get beat over the top by speedier receivers. He may get in trouble in practices if he's put up against Texas wide receiver and speed merchant Marquise Goodwin.
6. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas (South)
The tough and gritty Arkansas quarterback is solid across the board. He's got good size, arm strength and can take a hit in the pocket. He's probably not an elite player in any regard, but profiles as a decent starting quarterback that will be as good as the pieces around him. He played better as a junior before the majority of receiving corps left for the NFL.
What we may find out this week: Wilson's passing mechanics may need some tweaking going forward. He has a bit of a circular motion and low release point. Will that start this week?
7. Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford (South)
A powerful outside linebacker, Thomas is at his best when he can get off blocks and stuff the run. His first step quickness is good, and it helps him disrupt the pocket. Look for the aggressive Thomas to emerge this week as one of the leaders of the South team.
What we may find out this week: Can Thomas adjust to a 4-3, or is he exclusively a 3-4 prospect? A linebacker can play closer to the line of scrimmage now in the Senior Bowl, and that should benefit Thomas. But he needs to show range and speed this week to prove he's not scheme-limited.
8. Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State (North)
As a quarterback packed with raw tools, Glennon is an exciting prospect. His Senior Bowl week may determine if he's the next Joe Flacco or just the next Nick Foles. The key with Glennon is if he can make quick decisions with the ball. The longer Glennon holds the ball, the worse he throws. Glennon needs to prove he can get the ball out quickly and on time.
What we may find out this week: Tall quarterbacks often have footwork issues, and Glennon has to disprove the stereotype. Like most, he's played mostly in the shotgun, and his footwork dropping back may be an issue.
9. John Jenkins, DT, Georgia (South)
A massive force in the middle of Georgia's defense, Jenkins may be the best pure nose tackle in the draft this year. He's stout against the run and difficult to move off the line of scrimmage. As important as on-field play is, Jenkins needs to do well in team interviews. He was ruled academically ineligible for Georgia's bowl game after having issues with his grades early in college.
What we may find out this week: Just what kind of shape Jenkins comes in will determine the perception some have of him. He played at listed 358 pounds this season and looked ever bit that size. If he comes in smaller and has better stamina, a first-round grade may be in order.
10. Margus Hunt, DE, SMU (North)
The Estonian track star flashed impressive potential throughout his SMU career, but his play ran cold at times. With his size and quickness, Hunt is a natural fit as a five-technique in a 3-4 system. Teams looking for a JJ Watt-style player could fall in love with Hunt this week if he performs well.
What we may find out this week: Hunt played at end most snaps for SMU, but may get used more as a tackle in Mobile. How he fares inside could determine where he gets picked. Play well and he opens himself up to more 4-3 teams. If he gets overpowered inside by double teams, he could be an option for 3-4 teams only.
11. Zac Dysert, QB, Miami (OH) (North)
Among all the Senior Bowl quarterbacks, none are better than Dysert at delivering down strikes down the field. Now that he'll be behind a solid line, Dysert could be a revelation in Mobile. He had an average year playing in a new offense, but his ability to read the field and go through progressions could help propel him into the top 50 picks.
What we may find out this week: Most of Dysert's struggles this season were attributed to a new offensive scheme. But the same scheme called for Dysert to make decisions himself. So how much of Dysert's dicey season was due to the offense, or his decision making?
12. Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina (North)
Williams is the latest solid defensive line prospect to come out of North Carolina. The school has had five taken in the past three drafts. Williams' game is based on generating an initial burst of power to knock offensive linemen off the line. He should impress during individual workouts because of his athleticism at tackle.
What we may find out this week: One of the reasons Williams is rated lower than some other defensive tackles is because he doesn't stand out in a particular area. He's sound across the board. If he can prove dominant in a single area, his draft stock will be on the upswing.
13. Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse (North)
Few quarterbacks in this year's draft can match the arm strength Nassib possesses. He can deliver to all areas of the field, but sometimes doesn't know when to take some zip off his throws. Nassib stands out not just due to his arm, but because of his athleticism. He can get out on the move and maneuvers around nicely in the pocket. Alex Smith with a stronger arm is a fair comparison.
What we may find out this week: We'll start to get more of an indication this week if NFL teams view Nassib as a first-round prospect. Namely, it will be interesting to see how much time he spends with the Buffalo Bills and former college head coach Doug Marrone.
13. Kyle Long, G/OT, Oregon (North)
With his natural athleticism and size at 6-foot-7, Long may be another break out player in Mobile. This season at Oregon he mostly played guard, but has the skill set to be a left tackle. A former defensive lineman who played just a season of FBS football, Long needs to impress with his technical skills this week.
What we may find out this week: By the time Senior Bowl practices conclude, we'll know whether Long is a guard or tackle at the next level. It's one thing to have natural talent and size, it's another to utilize those gifts properly.
14. Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State (North)
Of all the receivers at the Senior Bowl, none is a better combination of size and pure speed than Wheaton. If he can cleanly get off the line of scrimmage, cornerbacks have a hard time keeping up with him vertically. At six-foot, 184 pounds, he has solid enough size to high point the ball.
What we may find out this week: Wheaton will have to show this week that he can consistently beat the jam. If he can, Wheaton is the kind of player that can step into an NFL lineup immediately and make plays.
15. Kawann Short, DT, Purdue (North)
It seems Short has played at for far more than Purdue four seasons. But here is finally in the Senior Bowl, firmly entrenched as a top 100 pick. He's a versatile lineman that should be able to play a three- or five-technique in the NFL. Short has a good burst off the line of scrimmage and could be a target for teams looking to generate a pass rush from the interior.
What we may find out this week: The weigh-in will be important for Short. He's listed at 6-foot-3, which is good. But his arm length will be important. If his arms come in short, it could negatively impact his draft stock.
Roster note: According to Shane Hallam of Draft Countdown, Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown is no longer listed as participating. Brown was among the handful of top players expected to play in this year's game.