Mobile, Ala.: If it wasn't official before the third day of Senior Bowl practices, it is now. Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald is the best player in Mobile.
For the third-straight practice, Donald was disruptive in one-on-one drills and full team drills. If there is a spot for Donald in the first round of the draft, it could be the Chicago Bears with the No. 14 pick.
"Donald is a very explosive defensive tackle," Atlanta Falcons and North head coach Mike Smith said on Tuesday. "He's short in stature by NFL standards, but he's one of the more explosive guys we have on the North squad."
Donald has been especially impressive against Baylor guard Cyril Richardson, who has done little to help his cause this week. Richardson's issues are with his stance. He keeps a narrow base and loses his power. When he's in space, he doesn't have the movement skills to stay with quick defenders.
If there is a Donald doppelganger in the draft, it's Arizona State's Will Sutton. In Monday's weigh-ins, Sutton looked too big at 315 pounds. Expect him to drop some weight leading up to the draft. In Mobile, Sutton has flashed the fast hands that made him one of college football's most disruptive defensive linemen. But as much as his hands and quick feet have helped him, some offensive linemen can take advantage of it and drive him out of the play.
Colorado State center Weston Richburg continued his strong week of practices without another standout showing on Wednesday. Richburg is lightning quick out of his snap stance and into his blocking stance. He uses that quickness to get leverage and make up for the power advantage defensive linemen have against him. He's been the only player who can block Donald this week.
Mike Davis of Texas continued his excellent week of play on Wednesday. He's not the biggest name wide receiver on the South team, but Davis runs the best routes and has the quickest feet. Some team may get a steal on Davis late on the second day of the draft.
Auburn cornerback Chris Davis made his name in college on special teams, but he's had a nice week of practice as well. In man coverage, he can get physical and move receivers around.
During Wednesday's session, some of the small-school players stood out. On the South team, Georgia Southern cornerback Lavelle Westbrooks was rarely beaten in pass coverage situations. On one play in particular, Westbrooks worked BYU wide receiver Cody Hoffman up the left sideline on a vertical route and broke up the pass. Liberty cornerback Walt Aikens has also helped himself. For a bigger cornerback, he moves smoothly in his backpedal.
Another small schooler who has helped himself is Princeton defensive tackle Caraun Reid. When he worked on the left side of the line in spirited 11-on-11drills Wednesday, he often won at the point of attack. He's had no trouble fitting in against ACC and SEC competition.
On the injury front, Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage announced that Oklahoma's Aaron Colvin will have surgery next week. Virginia defensive lineman Brent Urban is also out of the Senior Bowl with a sprained ankle.
One of the replacement players to come in was Colorado State tight end Crockett Gilmore, who replaced the injured Marcel Jensen. In his first day of practice, Gilmore showed off good hands and solid route running. Gilmore isn't going to test well – he's a lumbering, build up speed runner. But for a team looking for a dependable No. 2 tight end who can block and do just enough in the passing game, Gilmore will be a nice Day 3 pick.
The same can be said for Georgia's Arthur Lynch. He had another strong showing in blocking drills Wednesday and looked better on receiver plays. The Jaguars coaches were running a much more aggressive practice on Wednesday, and that suits Lynch's style. He was strong coming off the line of scrimmage, jolting a safety and creating separation underneath.
Florida State linebacker Christian Jones had his best day of practice. In blocking drills, he was driving running backs into the coach acting as the quarterback. Teams will like Jones against the run and blitzing. He was exposed some when asked to drop back and cover a receiver in stride. That's something he'll need to continue working on throughout the draft process.
BYU's Kyle Van Noy was another player who got beat at times in coverage drills. On one play Lynch pushed Van Noy out of the way to get open. Lynch will have to improve his ball handling. He doesn't always carry it high and Jones knocked the ball free on one play.
If Donald has been the best player at Senior Bowl practices, Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin has been the second best player. Martin showed his aggressive streak on Wednesday in offensive versus defensive linemen drills. On one play he turned Missouri's Michael Sam and drove him into the ground. With his play in Mobile, Martin may be establishing himself as a first-round pick. The question is whether a team will pull the trigger on him as a tackle or if he'll be viewed as a guard.