The Senior Bowl always tends to be a perfect storm for lineman on both sides of the ball. They can just get at it, try to make plays whether blocking or rushing. It’s harder for the skill players to shine in games like this. A cluster of defensive lineman over the years have boosted their stock at this event and not really done anything at the next level. That’s the disclaimer out of the way.
Having said all of that, Kawann Short and Ziggy Ansah were the two most impressive players on the field today, with Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson closely behind.
Everything that is good about Short was on display in Mobile. He consistently knifed through gaps, penetrated into the backfield and caused constant problems for the offensive line. He was the only player to beat Kentucky guard Larry Warford (who was also very impressive overall) and it just seemed like you were noticing him every snap. Short had two near sacks to end the first half, combined with Sylvester Williams to blow up the interior on another play and started the third quarter by sweeping past Warford to drop the running back for a loss.
With 2:31 left in the third he drove his blocker five yards into the backfield, collapsing the pocket and forcing Tyler Wilson to throw the ball into the ground to avoid the sack. There was no doubt in my mind who was the most impressive player out there today. Short turned up to play.
A lot of scouts will put on the Purdue tape over the next week or two to go back and review his performance in 2012. They’ll see flashes of brilliance like this, but they’ll also see a lot of mediocre snaps. Short has enough pure talent to be right up there with the Sheldon Richardson’s and Sharrif Floyd’s of this class. But he does have a lot of mediocre tape to go with the good stuff.
Playing like today he’ll have a shot to be a first round pick. His challenge will be to convince teams that he can play with a high motor. One thing I noticed is he looked a lot slimmer in Mobile and weighed just 308lbs. ESPN had him listed at 325lbs going into the 2012 season. If he’s working hard on conditioning that’s a great start because he always seemed to play heavy while carrying a little extra timber. Slimming down certainly had a positive impact today and he looked the part of an active three-technique.
If the Seahawks aren’t able to address their lack of interior pass rush in free agency, on this display Short has to be an option early in the draft. I’ve included two pieces of game tape at the bottom of this piece.
Ansah showed that despite all of his inexperience he’ll still be an intriguing player to NFL teams. At times he barely looks like he knows what he’s doing out there. When he locks into an edge rush and engages the tackle, he almost panics and doesn’t know how to counter. Yet when he doesn’t have to think too much and can just flow to the ball, he shows off supreme athleticism not matched by a defensive lineman since Jason Pierre-Paul entered the league.
Today he was all over the field, recording 1.5 sacks, deflecting passes and making multiple tackles. He was involved from start to finish. On one play he managed to get away from a block that appeared to have him beat, only to race after and chase down Denard Robinson. He abused whichever poor tight end kept getting lined up against him on the right side. Late in the third quarter he avoided a low block to explode into the backfield and force a sack/fumble. He always plays stout against the run and today was no different — he consistently held his ground and couldn’t be moved.
I’m not sure if Ansah is ever going to be a great sack-artist who really threatens off the edge. For that reason he might be better off lining up in the 3-4 at the five technique — this will minimise his need to get constant pressure and enhance his strong ability against the run. Any 4-3 team looking to invest in him should probably already have a proven, effective edge rusher on the roster — allowing Ansah to act as the left end.
Some people had questioned what all the hype was about after a mediocre practise performance earlier in the week, but Ansah showed there’s a lot of raw potential to work with here.
Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson look ideally suited to be franchise left tackles. Fisher has the classic combination of skills for the role and should be a top-ten pick. He’s good enough to make a team like Arizona consider passing on the quarterbacks early to ensure they get him at #7. Johnson is a pure technician who looks incredibly polished. He doesn’t have quite the natural ability of Luke Joeckel or Fisher, but he’s more than capable of slotting in as a rookie and protecting the quarterback. He’d be a wise pick for San Diego at #11 if the other two tackles are off the board.
It’s hard to see where a third guard falls into the first round mix and Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper will be the first two to go. Larry Warford plays with great leverage, locks onto a defensive lineman and wins his match-up and is a big-time force in the run-game. Teams looking for interior offensive line help early in round two or even the last handful of picks in round one are going to get a very solid football player. If it wasn’t for Warmack and Cooper, he may go even earlier.
In terms of the quarterbacks it was a mixed bag. Mike Glennon put some nice plays together in the second half including two terrific back-to-back throws into tight windows. He also missed a lot of easy passes in the first half as he struggled with accuracy. I like Glennon and there’s no reason why he can’t be a productive starter at the next level. However, he’s going to need some time to find a rhythm and patience from whoever drafts him. I doubt he’ll last much longer than the early second.
Ryan Nassib was pretty hopeless overall and did nothing to help his stock. He threw an ill-advised interception into thick coverage (what did he see??) and was the victim of the Ansah sack/fumble. For all his physical potential (strong fast-ball, plenty of athletic quality and mobility) he just looks like a poor man’s version of Jake Locker. Kind of like Locker without all the X-Factor plays. He’s always been a mid-round pick at best for me.
E.J. Manuel had a better performance, completing some nice throws and leading the south roster to all 21 of their points. He’s not a natural passer of the ball — he’s more of an athlete playing quarterback than an athletic quarterback. However, give me a player like this over a player like Nassib any time. Manuel showed some nice composure to find tight end Michael Williams in the back of the end zone for a score despite having Margus Hunt charging into his line of vision. I never really enjoyed watching Manuel at Florida State — he dominated bad opponents but never really looked the part against a good defense. There’s every chance he’ll be a round two pick due to his athletic potential. I think he’s a solid round three-type who would make a good back-up if nothing else.
Tyler Wilson was neat and tidy completing a lot of short passes. He missed badly on an under-thrown lob for the endzone that should’ve been picked by Jordan Poyer. It was a little bit concerning given he doesn’t have the greatest arm strength and it should’ve been a touchdown. He didn’t blow anyone away today.
Landry Jones did everything you’d expect. No mobility, completely panics at even the slightest hint of pressure, a complete lack of dynamism. On a 4th and 8 call in the first half he felt pressure and checked down to a covered receiver at the line of scrimmage. He heard about that on the sideline after. There is just absolutely nothing about his game that makes you want to believe he can be a starter in the NFL. Remember last year when even after a rank bad season he was still being touted as a possible first round pick? Nothing has changed since then. Except nobody refers to him as a first round talent any more. He took a sack to end the first half and you can just tee-off on him — blitz away because you know it’ll work. I wouldn’t even spend a 4th rounder on his services.
None of the quarterbacks did enough to really enhance their stock, which makes this a great week for Matt Barkley and Geno Smith. Barkley didn’t attend as he recovers from a shoulder injury, while Smith just decided not to show. They remain the two quarterbacks most likely to go early in the 2013 draft.
Sylvester Williams had some nice plays and generally played well alongside the dominating Kawann Short. He’s not quite as refined as the other defensive tackles expected to go early and could do with the same kind of conditioning Short has gone through. He can afford to lose a few pounds to increase his quickness and therefore his production.
Datone Jones played defensive end and had some nice pressures. He’s not an explosive edge rusher and he has more success working back inside. The fact he played nearly the entire game at end emphasises how a lack of fit will hurt his stock — no matter how sharp he looks on tape. He’ll be really good value if he’s around in the middle rounds as a Jason Jones type versatile lineman.
Margus Hunt was a big disappointment. He had a hard time even against right tackle Jordan Mills. There were a couple of times when he broke into the backfield, but he really needed to show more. There’s going to be concerns that he’ll struggle with leverage at 6-8 and while he has undoubted physical quality he also has to show a level of readiness considering he’s going to be a 26-year-old rookie. We saw none of that today — he looked inexperienced, lacked explosion and for the most part he was handled easily. You have to feel this week is going to hurt his stock a bit. There was none of the crazy pass-rushing quality we saw in the Hawaii Bowl.
Linebacker Zaviar Gooden had an easy interception of Zac Dysert but flashed great speed and coverage skills. He made me want to go back and watch more Missouri tape. Likewise Sio Moore also warrants some greater attention.
Duke receiver Connor Vernon caught everything, looked good adjusting to some poorly thrown passes and was Mr. Consistent on the day. He lacks game changing physical skills, he doesn’t look particularly strong or fast. His stock is pretty limited but he should get a chance in camp to try and win a job.
Jonathan Cyprien — a safety from Florida International — looks like the real deal. Bacarri Rambo had an interception as per usual. Sudden first-round lock Desmond Tufant was avoided for the most part.
Kawann Short tape vs Notre Dame & Iowa