With all the hype of Super Bowl week, deflated footballs and the even more deflated Pro Bowl, one of the biggest events of the NFL offseason took place last week: the 2015 Senior Bowl. GMs, coaches, scouts and even unemployed coaches seeking work all descend upon Mobile, AL for a week of practice and the game on Saturday to see some of the best Seniors in this year’s draft crop get coached up by the NFL for the first time ever. The Titans and Jaguars staffs got the opportunity to coach the North and South squads respectively, with the North prevailing in the game 34-13. Here are a few of the standout players of the week, including a few players that could be nice fits here in Dallas.
David Johnson, RB, Northern Iowa
Easily the guy that jumped off the tape the most on the offensive side of the ball was Johnson. At 6’1” 224, Johnson showed a wide skill set, from power running, blocking, catching the football and some impressive cuts and wiggle on a 19 yard run for a TD through the trash. Probably best fit in a zone blocking scheme, Johnson could be a 3rd round steal that is a starter for that team by year’s end.
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
In addition to Johnson, several of the other RBs impressed, including David Cobb from Minnesota, Cameron Artis-Payne from Auburn and Tyler Varga of Yale. But the flashiness came from Abdullah. Named the game’s MVP, Abdullah racked up 113 all-purpose yards with some great catches, exciting returns and bursting through some big holes into the secondary. Despite his size (5’9 190lbs) Abdullah looks like a great change-of-pace back and homerun threat that is easily a Day 2 pick.
Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State
Fresh off his National Championship victory, Smith showed he has elite speed but came to Mobile looking to display the rest of his game. Smith looked very solid in one-on-one drills, with great hands in traffic, nice comeback to the ball and solid routes. Though he needs a little work with his feet to get “next level,” Smith definitely gave the scouts what they wanted and likely cemented a 2nd round spot.
Rannell Hall, WR, Central Florida
Though not highly touted, Hall displayed all the qualities you like in a late round WR: great hands, solid routes, a willingness to block and playmaking (with a couple of great catches in the game). If he can show an aptitude for special teams, Hall has a chance to stick on a roster for some time, much like a Dwayne Harris-type.
Nick Boyle, TE, Delaware
Though not the dynamic, stretch-the-field tight end that often stand out in games like this, Boyle is a traditional in-line blocker that showed show solid ability catching the football and is invaluable in the game today. Boyle will be a Day 3 pick likely to make his team very happy in a few years.
Donovan Smith, OT, Penn State
While several of the bigger name tackles had up-and-down weeks (see TJ Clemmings and La’el Collins), Smith excelled in practice and in the game. At 6’6” 341 lbs, Smith opened big holes for his RBs and showed nice agility in pass blocking versus some big time pass rushers. As a swing tackle, Smith showed promise to develop into a starter that could be had in the 3rd round.
Ali Marpet, OG, Hobart College
Several of the guards really showed well this week, including Duke’s Laken Tomlinson, Georgia Tech’s Shaq Mason and Alabama’s Arie Kouandjio (who responded to coaching the most by far). However, it is rare to see a kid from Division III come to the Senior Bowl and absolutely hold his own. Marpet showed strength, grit and tenacity that had many scouts scrambling for game tape.
Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
On the defensive side of the ball, no one stood out more than Shelton. At 6’2 343 lbs, Shelton showed the stamina to be a 3-down player, strength plugging gaps and a little pass rush skill too. With his performance in Mobile, Shelton has insured himself a first round pick.
Carl Davis, DT, Iowa
Davis was a beast on the field, looking like and ideal 3 technique that can play the run and pass. However, whispers about attitude and some poor interviews could rub some teams the wrong way and might have him sliding come draft day.
Nate Orchard, DE/OLB, Utah
Orchard is at his best coming of the edge as DE, though he showed willingness to play some OLB and drop into coverage. However, despite his size (6’3, 251lbs), I see Orchard as a defensive end, so he may want to add some bulk. But there is no denying his pass rush skill and his first round status.
Martrell Spaight, OLB, Arkansas
With Denzel Perryman of Miami sitting out with an abdominal strain, Spaight got a chance to shine. While only 6’0 232lbs, Spaight fought off blocks and made some plays this week. As a weakside backer in a 4-3, Spaight could develop into a starter or very quality reserve.
Quinten Rollins, CB, Miami of Ohio
After playing four years of basketball at Miami (OH), Rollins went to try his hand at football the last 2 years, was the MAC defensive player of the year last season and had scouts drooling over his potential all week. Best in press coverage, Rollins could emerge as a shut-down CB and rise as high as the early 2nd round.
Kevin White, CB, TCU
Taking the mantle from last year’s 1st round pick Jason Verritt, White was the #1 CB for the Frogs this year and played well. His Senior Bowl performance also did not disappoint, with an interception in the game. Looking like a nickel CB in the pros (5’9” 190 lbs), White is a perfect match for the trend toward speedy slot WRs.
Some Players to fit the Dallas Cowboys:
Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
Much as in the Shrine game, the quarterback class in this year’s draft struggled mightily. However, several showed bursts of promise that could have many desperate teams clinging to hope. Among those, Garrett Grayson of Colorado State showed some nice mobility (prized by a team like the Broncos new coach Gary Kubiak) and Sean Mannion of Oregon State showed some nice touch on a touchdown pass. But I thought, despite a very up-and-down week, no one QB helped himself more than Baylor’s Bryce Petty. For his first time actually reading defenses and taking consistent snaps from center, Petty held his own. Though he is very developmental, needing a ton of footwork breakdown and practice reps, to me he seemed a very promising late round value pick (especially for the Cowboys).
Preston Smith, DE, Mississippi State
With long arms, good size (6’5” 270lbs) and solid against the run, Smith would be a perfect fit for the Cowboys need at Right Defensive End. Smith also showed some nice push in the pocket and got a strip sack on QB Sean Mannion. Likely a target in round 2, perhaps the Cowboys could address another area in round one and get a starter at RDE in the second with Smith, Arkansas’s Trey Flowers or UCLA’s Owamagbe Odighizuwa.
Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas
Hicks played both inside and outside linebacker at the Senior Bowl and showed great aptitude at both spots. Hicks tracked plays very well and delivered punishment upon arriving. He would be a great fit in a scheme such as Seattle’s of Dallas’s.
Ladarius Gunter, CB, Miami
At 6’1” 200lbs, Gunter could be a great fit in the Cover 2 scheme, with the size to jam WRs at the line and ball skills to play in coverage. Much like Josh Shaw of USC, he might not be a great fit for most teams and could be a value for Dallas in the middle rounds, like Richard Sherman was for the Seahawks.