The Senior Bowl is the first chance most players have to get coached and interact with teams and scouts. It’s also the last opportunity they have to show their talents before the Scouting Combine in February, so the stakes are high. Here is a list of the players who helped or hurt their causes in Mobile, AL.
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh - Donald started out strong measuring in at 1/8 of an inch under 6’1” and 288 pounds which was very good to see considering he was listed at just 6’0”. Donald has been a disruptive force in opposing backfields his entire career, and he has 66 career tackles for loss, 29.5 career sacks, and six forced fumbles. He was absolutely unblockable in one on one’s this week, and he made Cyril Richardson look absolutely foolish multiple times during the week. He showed he has the strength to hold up at the point of attack, the burst to penetrate upfield, and impressive hand usage to keep blockers from engaging him in one-on-one situations. He’s the definition of an interior disruptor, and even though he will inevitably be knocked for his size he proved this week that his talent translates to the next level. Comparisons to Bengals DT Geno Atkins are being whispered.
Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin - Borland, much like Aaron Donald, is regularly knocked for his size. However, Borland proved that he can play at the next level all week, and even flashed the ability to shed blocks at the point of attack. However, his lack of height and short arms are going to make it difficult for him to do that at the next level. Still, his instincts, burst, strength, and impressive tackling (as well as his impressive knack for forcing fumbles) will all translate to the next level. He can play inside in a 3-4 or in a 4-3.
Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State - Richburg came in as one of the top centers in the country but he is undoubtedly my #1 center now. He was one of the only interior offensive linemen who could hold up versus Aaron Donald in one on ones all week, and he even showed that he has the agility to pull which is quite rare for a center. He’s a top talent, and he’s a guy you can plug in at center from day one and expect quality play.
Zach Martin, OT, Notre Dame - Martin showed that he could play outside at tackle and inside at guard this week. He looked the part of a first round pick at both positions all week, and despite lacking “ideal” height and length for a tackle I think he will get a shot outside in the NFL. Even if he doesn’t play well at tackle he will be able to slide inside and play at a high level there.
Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU - I have maintained for a while that Van Noy is a quality player and while he isn’t necessarily “elite” in any one area he is very versatile. He can drop into coverage, he can play the run, and he can rush the passer. He’s a player that you can move around a defense, whether he has his hand in the dirt at defensive end, is standing up to rush the passer, dropping into the flats, or even blitzing up the middle, he can do just about anything you ask him to as a linebacker. I’m still not convinced he’s going to be a stud pass rusher in the NFL, but he can do so many things for a defense that he’s still worth a high selection.
Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn - Dee Ford was too quick off the edge for just about everyone all week, and while there were times he was taking too wide of an angle he still showed that he can get the edge against NFL caliber talent. He looks like a great fit for a 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker. He absolutely helped himself this week, even if he doesn’t have the size you want to play 4-3 defensive end.
Jon Halapio, OG, Florida - Halapio played through a torn pectoral this season and as a result there were times when his play suffered. However, he was 100% healthy this week and it really showed. He was fantastic in one on one drills and I didn’t see him get beat in those drills a single time all week. He’s more well-known for his run blocking and his nasty demeanor to finish blocks, but he really impressed me with his strength and ability to reset and recover in pass protection if he was ever beaten initially. He’s a player that likely won’t go as high as I think he deserves, but he’s a player that I think can step in and play immediately at guard.
Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois - I discussed this with a couple other draft analysts, but there’s a real possibility (especially after Aaron Colvin tore his ACL), that Jimmie Ward was not only the best safety in Mobile, but the best corner as well. He’s going to be picked early day two (if he doesn’t sneak into late round one) and his ability to play corner as well as safety at a high level is going to make him a popular commodity with NFL teams.
Keith McGill, CB, Utah – We all know the NFL is a copycat league and I expect the big CB craze ala the Seahawks secondary to be the next trend. With that in mind, McGill (6’3” 214) showed some great skill and flexibility to go along with that size that could have GMs drooling.
Justin Ellis, DT, Louisiana Tech - Having watched Justin Ellis in person for almost two full weeks I have to say I came away very impressed with him. He moves so well for a man his size and while he is raw technique wise if he can work on not playing high as often and work on his hand usage then he could be a quality starter in the NFL. He’s very quick, he can penetrate upfield, but he’s also very hard to move at the point of attack. That’s tough to find in an interior defensive linemen. He absolutely helped himself at the Shrine Game and again this week at the Senior Bowl.
Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson – While all of the quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl had their struggles outside of David Carr, perhaps none had more expectations than Boyd. His inaccuracy throughout the week and especially in the game most definitely dropped him out of first round consideration and could put him behind the next tier of QBs as well.
Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama - Hubbard impressed me as a sophomore but he didn’t look like the same player as a junior. It was noted by multiple people that he looked stiff this week, and obviously wasn’t at his best dropping into coverage as a 4-3 linebacker. He’s going to be a 4-3 defensive end or a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL, but he hasn’t shown great edge speed and doesn’t look like he’s going to be an impact pass rusher at the next level. He didn’t have a great week, and that’s unfortunate because he could have used a boost after a less than stellar junior season.
Gabe Ikard, C, Oklahoma - Ikard got pushed around a bit at the Shrine Game, particularly by Justin Ellis, but playing at guard most of the week on the South team didn’t make his job any easier at the Senior Bowl. He’s an undersized center that isn’t at his best matched up one on one, so being forced to block defensive tackles one on one as a guard obviously wasn’t playing to his skill set. He’s a day three player who is likely only a starter in a zone blocking scheme, but he obviously didn’t boost his stock this week.
Billy Turner, OT, North Dakota State - Turner was a player I was really looking forward to seeing, but he didn’t look very good outside at tackle all week. I love his demeanor, but I think he is likely a better fit inside at guard. He is still raw and needs some coaching up, but he showed me that he struggled with speed off the edge quite a bit this week.
Marqueston Huff, S, Wyoming - Huff was played out of position consistently this week at corner but he still struggled in coverage regularly in one on ones whenever I watched him. He looks like a likely day three pick even though he wasn’t in the best position to improve his stock.
Stephen Morris, QB, Miami - Morris had a very poor senior season despite Miami’s offense being very explosive to start the season. He can be best summed up by making a couple great throws in a game, but then being wildly inconsistent with his accuracy on other throws. He’s athletic with a strong arm, but his accuracy issues are so significant that I don’t have a draftable grade on him right now. If you draft him late in the draft you are drafting him believing that you can minimize his accuracy issues, but I just don’t think that’s going to be coached out of him.
Michael Sam, DE, Missouri - I feel bad knocking Sam for his week down here since he wasn’t played at defensive end all week like he probably should have been, but he’s not very good dropping into coverage and didn’t show great speed off the edge to threaten the tackle’s outside shoulder. He didn’t look like a great pass rusher at the next level, and might be best in a rotation at defensive end in a 4-3.
Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor - Richardson entered the week as one of my top guards in the country, but he got beaten regularly by Aaron Donald all week during practice and looked like he was carrying too much weight in the process. He still needs work on his stance, and while he has a lot of upside he needs some coaching up to get there.
Brandon Linder, OG, Miami - I was pretty surprised Linder got an invite to the Senior Bowl, but Rashede Hageman beat him soundly throughout the week and he struggled on a lot of reps during one on ones. He’s likely a day three guy, but I don’t see a quality NFL starter when I watch him.
Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State – It’s not good when scouts giggle at your weigh in at your spare tire. In Sutton’s defense, he was asked to add weight his senior year but he does not wear it well. That coupled with a fairly lackluster week in Mobile has Sutton needing to put in some major work between now and the Combine.
It doesn’t always have too much meaning, but it is always interesting to see who the Cowboys interview at the Senior Bowl. The only 2 names I could uncover were:
Dee Ford, DE, Auburn – This is interesting as Ford does not seem to have ideal size for the 4-3. But his outstanding pass-rushing skills might make up for that.
IK Enemkpali, DE, Lousiana Tech – Enemkpali is a Texas kid from Pflugerville and had a solid college career, though not without incident. With nice size for the 4-3 (6’1 272lbs), Enemkpali could wind up with a Dallas Day invite to Valley Ranch and possibly a late round selection or as a priority FA.