Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Senior Bowl Recap Part 1

The Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL always serves as the unofficial kickoff to the 2017 NFL Draft season. With all but 2 teams through playing and most front office staffs in place, the Senior Bowl is a showcase of some of the top talent in the 2017 draft class. Here is a full recap of the week of practices and the game, divided up into offense and defense.

                Stock Up: CJ Beathard, Iowa
                Stock Down: Nathan Peterman, Pitt
                Surprise: Josh Dobbs, Tennessee

Unlike last year that featured #2 overall pick Carson Wentz and future starters in Dak Prescott and Cody Kessler, the 2017 Senior Bowl class of QBs were fairly underwhelming. The most consistent part of this group was its inconsistency. Top names Davis Webb of Cal and Nathan Peterman of Pitt showed flashes when unharassed in the pocket, but wilted in the face of pressure. Webb is probably the closest to starting talent, answering all the “Jared Goff 2.0” questions confidently and playing well enough to earn the game’s MVP. However, his lack of athleticism and accuracy when forced to move off of his spot was upsetting. Meanwhile, Peterman looked solid versus air but bailed out of the pocket way too often and will need a lot of development in the pros. Josh Dobbs of Tennessee surprised at times with nice speed and touch, but much like his time at Tennessee, it was very hit or miss due to poor mechanics. CJ Beathard might have had the best overall week in Mobile as a QB, showing surprising arm strength and grasp of the offense. Though he may never be more than a backup, Beathard could be a cheap and reliable backup from the first day he is drafted. Antonio Pipkin and Sefo Liufau mill not be drafted.

Running Backs
                Stock Up: Kareem Hunt, Toledo
                Stock Down: Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego St
                Surprise: Matt Dayes, NC State

Most of the running backs in Mobile acquitted themselves quite well First on that list was Kareem Hunt of Toledo. Coming in at 5’11” and 208lbs, Hunt was explosive both running and catching the ball in practice and won Most Outstanding Player in the game for his 15-121 yds performance. Closely behind Hunt came RBs Corey Clement of Wisconsin and Jamaal Williams of BYU. Clement is a one-cut runner with nice vision in the hole and a solid build. Williams is a taller, long-striding runner with comps to Matt Forte. All three of these runners are 2nd-4th round talents that could be solid 1B runners in a tandem. Deveon Smith of Michigan, after a great performance at the Shrine Game, continued to impress scouts with short area burst and dirty yards. Smith and Matt Dayes of NC State are both a tier below the top guys but will be nice complimentary backs. Dayes perhaps had the most splash plays in practice during the week, but ball security issues that already plagued him at NC State also showed up in the game. Donnel Pumphrey weighed in at 5’8” 168lbs and will have to carve out a role as a specialist (ala Darren Sproles) in order to get on the field.

Wide Receivers
                Stock Up: Zay Jones, East Carolina
                Stock Down: Travin Dural, LSU
                Surprise: Chad Williams, Grambling

The Wide Receivers at the Senior Bowl were all pretty solid and most fall into middle round talent. Star of the game and of the practice week, Zay Jones of East Carolina showed good route running and a slipperiness that impressed many scouts. Other standouts for the week included Fred Ross of Miss St (Dak’s former favorite target), Taywan Taylor of W Michigan and much heralded Cooper Kupp of E Washington. All had a knack of getting open despite physical limitations and making tough catches. Chad Williams of Grambling highlight came in some nice sideline catches and a fight with Miami Safety Rayshawn Jenkins that got old-school coaches fired up. Ryan Switzer of UNC and Amara Darboh of Michigan seemed to hold their own and moved neither up nor down. Artavis Scott of Clemson and Josh Reynolds of TX A&M flashed nice speed but struggled versus tight coverage. Travin Dural of LSU started the week well but pulled out of the game due to hamstring and caused many to question his desire. Jalen Robinette of Air Force and Jamari Staples of Louisville struggled throughout the week.

Tight Ends
                Stock Up: OJ Howard, Alabama
                Stock Down: Garrett Everett, So Alabama
                Surprise: Jonnu Smith, Florida Int

Tight Ends at the 2017 Senior Bowl were the real stars of the week. As the best overall prospect coming into the week, OJ Howard lived up to all the hype and more. Howard showed the all around game that will get him drafted no later than the Top 20. Just behind Howard for the week was another SEC alum, Evan Engram of Ole Miss. Though he is much more of a pass catching specialist than Howard, Engram drew many comparisons to Redskins TE Jordan Reed in his ability to stretch the field and get separation. The surprise of the week came from Jonnu Smith of Florida International, both for his pass catching and his better than expected in-line blocking.

Offensive Tackles
                Stock Up: Taylor Moton, W Michigan
                Stock Down: Zach Banner, USC
                Surprise: Julien Davenport, Bucknell

As is usually the case at the Senior Bowl, the offensive tackles have the toughest job and face the most abuse of any group. This year’s standout was G/T prospect Taylor Moton of Western Michigan. Moton has drawn comparisons to Cowboys G Zack Martin and is projected as a first rounder at OG. However, Moton held up well at left and right tackle; showing nice position flex. The other OTs in Mobile did not fare as well. Adam Bisnowaty of Pitt looked better at LG than out at tackle while Conor McDermott of UCLA and Justin Senior of Miss St were up and down all week. The big surprise was Julien Davenport of Bucknell who showed solid technique and work ethic but still very raw versus top talent. Most disappointing was the giant Zach Banner of USC (6’9” 360lbs), who routinely got beat with speed and showed a lack of bend to play inside.

Interior Offensive Line
                Stock Up: Dion Dawkins, Temple
                Stock Down: Dan Feeney, Indiana
                Surprise: Jesseman Dunker, Tenn St

The Interior OL is tough to scout at times as their only real one-on-one exposure comes in pass rush drills that usually don’t favor the offense. However, this group proved pretty solid overall. The star of the week was easily Dion Dawkins of Temple. Coming from the run heavy Temple Owls system, Dawkins spent the week blowing open big holes in the run game and showed nice quickness in mirror drills. Dawkins could be hearing his name as early as Round 2. While no one really hurt themselves, Dan Feeney of Indiana came in with the most hype and just never jumped off the page to me. Feeney looks like a 2nd round guard that will be very solid but maybe not a Pro Bowler. Jessaman Dunker of Tenn St surprised with a mean streak and nice leverage up front. Most of Dunker’s questions come in off-field issues.

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