I try and view the Senior Bowl with an element of caution. I’d rather use the game and work outs to confirm suspicions rather than base opinions. A good example is Cameron Jordan (DE, California) – who really flashed a good overall skill set during the week and for me solidified a top-15 grade.
Others like Phil Taylor (DT, Baylor) and Vincent Brown (WR, San Diego State) had good weeks but I need to try and find some tape to judge whether it’s a one-off. Simply put – some guys just look good in work outs but in the pressures of a big game can they repeat that performance? Are they motivated to impress when a job is on the line – and will that motivation disappear when the cheque’s are being cashed?
The Senior Bowl itself is little more than an exhibition. It’s also an opportunity for those that haven’t been reporting on or following college football to make snap judgements. Adam Caplan from Fox Sports refers to Christian Ponder as a “strong armed passer”. Anyone who has watched Florida State the last two years will know that Ponder cannot list a strong arm amongst his positives.
He was named the game’s MVP and appears to have impressed enough writers to get a thumbs up. The story is – he’s healthy again. There’s a massive assumption out there that the Seahawks are going back to a Holmgren-esque, purer west coast offense (they almost certainly aren’t) and I’ve seen Ponder linked with Seattle in more than one or two places.
I wrote this article in October about Ponder. He isn’t capable of beating teams with his arm – even when he was healthy in 2009. It’s not just the lack of arm strength, it’s his completely erratic performances. You simply never know what you’re going to get from Ponder. He doesn’t have any direction on his deep throws, he’s not as good throwing on the run as some people will have you believe. Clearly he’s an intelligent guy off the field – but that unfortunately doesn’t translate to game day.
I followed up with another article shortly after which explains my opinion on the Seminoles’ QB further. A good Senior Bowl has had little impact on my grade – I wouldn’t draft him in the first four rounds. I have him down as a long term back up at best in the NFL.
I’m also not surprised to see a prospect like Colin Kaepernick (QB, Nevada) getting strong reviews. He should do well in a work-out environment – he’s tall, athletic and has a good arm. His mechanical issues are less exaggerated and he’s a personable guy so will impress the media during interviews.
When I watched Nevada this year I saw Kaepernick as a mid/late round project. He just looked awkward throwing the ball. He’s got everything that Cam Newton has – size, running ability and production. However – there’s a substantial difference in the passing game. Newton is a much more fluid and developed passer and although people want to labour the point that he’ll need to adjust at the next level – he’s made pro throws, he’s made surprisingly good reads against top opponents and mechanically he’s almost there.
Kaepernick has more to do to become a starter. Newton will make throws and put up numbers quickly as long as he can prove to scouts during interviews that he isn’t incapable of handling a pro playbook. Kaepernick will need a lot of work, possibly 2-3 years down the line, before I think he’ll be ready.
I understand the talk about a second round grade. The athleticism will almost certainly interest a few teams and there are enough rosters minus a starting quarterback right now that I could see it happening. It’s a bit of a ‘your team’ situation though. I’d be intrigued to see how he pans out for as a second rounder, I just wouldn’t necessarily want my team to invest anything more than a round four or five flier in Kaepernick.
What about the other quarterbacks? I saw nothing from Greg McElroy or Andy Dalton that made me question my largely negative judgement. Not starter material at the next level and late round picks at best for me. Ricky Stanzi actually performed below expectations which was a concern. Previously I had him down as possibly the 5th best QB prospect this year – that clearly isn’t the case now. Gabbert, Newton, Mallett and Locker have their own island. Kaepernick is on a raft near by. The rest are on a speedboat heading in the opposite direction.
So what about Locker – the ‘big name’ of the Senior Bowl. It was as expected really – erratic decision making, poor accuracy mixed in with some nice plays particularly when he can get out of the pocket. People who came to Mobile prepared to draft Locker in round one won’t change their mind and neither will those who gave him a mid/late round grade.
I still maintain though that somebody will draft the guy in round one – and I’ll be surprised if Mike Shanahan passes.
Leonard Hankerson (WR, Miami) is someone I always ranked in the round 2-3 range and he had a good week overall to cement that grade. He’ll have a moderate ceiling in terms of draft stock because he isn’t an explosive player, but he’s big and makes plays so somebody will see value in that – it could be Seattle.
I’m staying cautious on Vincent Brown (WR, SD State) as mentioned at the start of the post. Everything was a hands catch in work outs and when asked to run certain routes he could do it during practise. Then the game kicked off and he went into his shell a bit. He had some big games in 2010 (particularly against TCU) but also struggled slightly against Missouri and Colorado State. I’m looking for more tape on this guy to make a sufficient judgement.
One prospect I’ve spoken a lot about on this blog is James Carpenter (LT, Alabama). When people have often suggested the limited Gabe Carimi (RT, Wisconsin) as a Seahawks option in round one – I’ve been quick to point to Carpenter as a superior (cheaper) alternative later in the draft. He stood out for the Crimson Tide this year and flew under the radar. Clearly he’s raw but he’s got a great frame that’s capable of adding size. He did a good job in Mobile and that will help his stock. I honestly would have no qualms drafting him in the round 3-4 range. In a few years time that might look like a steal.
Brooks Reed (DE, Arizona) is another I’ve been high on for the Seahawks as a perfect LEO candidate. He’s got a great burst off the snap, he’s strong enough to stand up against the run and although he’s not an elite athlete – he’ll make up for it with consistent effort. While his stock is rising, Jeremy Beal (DE, Oklahoma) seems to be going in the other direction. I like that – because Beal is another LEO I’d happily draft. The position is designed for production and both prospects have the necessary skill set to warrant keeping an eye on.
As with San Diego State’s Brown, I’m also working hard to find Baylor tape. This isn’t just to watch potential defensive line ‘do it all’ prospect Phil Taylor (who could project as a Red Bryant 5-tech, nose tackle or even 3-technique for Seattle), but also guard Danny Watkins. He’s got a limited ceiling due to his age – he’s only a few months younger than me so he’ll turn 27 during his rookie season. He flashed enough this week, however, to interest teams needing a mid-round fix among the interior offensive line.
I can’t talk about senior guards without mentioning Rodney Hudson (OG, Florida State). Since early in 2009 I’ve been a fan and nothing has ever changed that. He played all week at 291lbs and looked every bit the top guard on the field during yesterday’s game. Clearly the size is an issue for any team not running a pure Alex Gibbs zone blocking scheme. Seattle are no longer running that, despite Gibbs’ fleeting role with the team last off season.
Even so – I really believe Hudson is strong enough, wise enough and fully capable of having a long and successful NFL career. Nobody has his level of technique in this draft class. He makes up for a lack of weight by understanding what he needs to do to gain leverage and his second level blocking is a thing of beauty. Whether he plays at center or guard, I think the Seahawks have to consider him.
Two other defensive prospects who impressed me were Pernell McPhee (DE, Miss. State) and Jarvis Jenkins (DT, Clemson). I could see both at five-technique in Seattle. Offensive lineman Derek Sherrod (OT, Miss. State) and Demarcus Love (OT, Arizona) were less impressive. I’m beginning to wonder if Sherrod’s long term future is at right tackle and whether Love needs to kick inside to guard for a man blocking scheme roster.
Allen Bailey (DE, Miami) continues to look the business in pads but flat out disappoints whenever he takes the field.
I’ll finish by admitting I’m still not even close to getting on the Von Miller (OLB, Texas A&M) bandwagon. He got a third round grade from the draft committee last year and I think that’s about right. Aside from the limited value of the 4-3 outside linebacker (where Von Miller will have to play in my opinion) – I just don’t see him being an effective force on running downs and I don’t think you’re going to get 8-10 sacks from him either.
I have to represent draft ‘hype’ in my mocks because it does figure. He’ll be in my next first round mock draft for sure. However – I’m still completely unconvinced he’s worthy of that price.
I’m not the only one who feels that way – as Tony Pauline noted throughout the week from Mobile:
“Spent most of the day at SSLB, but was not impressive working his way through all the drills.”
“Not a good day for a guy that’s projected to be a 3-4 OLB. Was easily controlled by blocks all day and at one point got annihilated by Luke Stocker. Showed decent skills in coverage when he had to move in reverse. Miller was brought over to the pass rush drills to showcase his talents, which were average at best.”
“Nice athlete; fluid with a nice degree of explosion. Gets depth on drops. Moves well in all directions. Again struggled in pass rush drills.”
“We came into the week thinking Miller was the best 3-4 OLB in April’s draft. We left the week thinking he could be the first 4-3 OLB drafted. Miller has the speed and quickness to be used on the weak or strong side and also showed ability in coverage. Combine will tell the tale for Miller.”
It’s absolutely true that the combine will make or break Von Miller’s rapid rise. If he runs a fast time, someone is going to fall in love with the agility and quicks and take him earlier than they should. If he runs in the 4.6-7 range, people will start to wonder if this is just a smaller prospect who can move around – but isn’t that elite guy who will compensate size for speed.
And for me – the clear #1 senior prospect wasn’t working out in Mobile this week – Jimmy Smith (CB, Colorado).