Four quarters and six quarterbacks later, NFL Draft season officially begins. The Senior Bowl had gone back-and-forth since 2009, but that finally ended in 2014 as the South won for the second straight year, 20-10.
Plenty of college football's top players were on show, but the game was characterized by quarterback play. Clemson's Tahj Boyd started for the North and struggled immediately. It was an inauspicious beginning for a player who tends to evoke different reactions from draft analysts, and he looked more like a mid-round prospect than the first-round pick some believe him to be. He completed just seven passes for 31 yards and an interception on the day.
The performances by the South quarterbacks were quite the opposite. Top-10 pick Derek Carr was near-perfect in the first quarter, though he didn't show any deep passes. He re-entered the game in the fourth quarter and finished with an impressive game in which he completed 64 percent of his passes and threw for a touchdown. Carr's backups were equally good, with Jimmy Garoppolo and David Fales both turning in solid performances that surely ingratiated them to the scouts in attendance.
The North's Charles Sims was largely regarded as the top running back of the week, but he was overshadowed by mid-round prospect James White. White is a compact runner with less-than-ideal size, but he nevertheless had an impressive showing with 61 yards rushing at an efficient 5.5 yards per carry and a score. There's a chance he could be taken earlier than expected.
Two raw players who are fascinating prospects are quarterback Logan Thomas and cornerback Pierre Desir. The players had different paths leading up to the Senior Bowl, and while they're imperfect at their respective positions they have size that teams covet in a league looking for physicality.
Nice capper on a solid week for Chris Davis. Physical guy, obvious special teams asset.— Dan Kadar (@MockingTheDraft) January 25, 2014
On the defensive side of the ball, Dee Ford of Auburn had an excellent game and showed fantastic speed off the line. He cemented himself as an early round selection, and his stock could improve further with a good showing at the February scouting combine. With his variety of pass rush moves and the flexibility to work out at different positions, Ford has value to many types of defenses.
Two players who Dan Kadar said helped themselves during the week showed up on Saturday. Tight end Crockett Gillmore of Colorado State finished with 61 yards and a touchdown, while Alabama wide receiver Kevin Norwood bounced back after a rough beginning to the week with 53 yards and a touchdown of his own.
The next step for prospects is Indianapolis, far removed from Mobile in size and scope. Senior prospects will be evaluated not only against their peers, but in contrast to younger players who are believed to have more upside by virtue of age alone.