The beauty of post College Football Season games like the Senior Bowl is that NFL teams have an opportunity to put players through their paces. The combine garners a ton ratings but as the “QB Killa Warren Sapp once quipped, “there ain’t no bench press out on the field (paraphrasing).” The combine at times serves as a double-edged sword, as a great combine workout could falsely inflate a player’s value based on what they do in shorts and a t-shirt. Conversely, sometimes a terrific player with oodles of stellar game film may fail to test “thru the roof” and have his draft stock depressed erroneously. And then there are the players that have a strong showing at the combine and force you to watch more tape because they are relative unknowns. However, the Senior Bowl practices and game mitigate some of the misleading elements of the Scouting Combine and College Pro Days.
Coaches/executives get to see the draft prospects in live competition; they spend a week with the players getting a better field for temperaments, mental make-up, and their ability to acclimate to a professional work environment. The Senior Bowl also mitigates level of competition concerns and facilitates live “football” competition. Some of these young men will become very wealthy in a few short months and it is imperative that NFL Franchises know that their new employees are coachable and possess a work ethic worthy of the investment. The NFL Draft isn’t a perfect science. In fact it’s more of a crapshoot than anything else but the Senior Bowl certainly helps in making an educated guess.
You may have noticed that the 2017 NFL Draft Class is chalk full of talented under-classmen but that comes later (different post). The Senior Bowl is a showcase for grizzled Seniors and Graduates.
Full North Squad Roster – Coached by Chicago Bears’ staff
Full South Squad Roster – Coached by Cleveland Browns’ staff
Ahhh…. yeah… it’s a pretty uninspiring group on paper compared the 2016 which included the following signal callers: Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, Cody Kessler, and Jacoby Brissett among others. Nevertheless, I will be watching the quarterbacks to see who among them demonstrates the ability to command a huddle, take a snap from center and push the football downfield. Nate Peterman (Pittsburgh) appears to be the most “pro ready” quarterback among the group but I’m really hopeful that someone among the QBs demonstrates the ability to make professional caliber throws instead of bubble screens, tunnel screens, smoke screens… screens… screens… SCREENS!
Hard to believe that the collection of running backs in the 2017 NFL Draft Class is deeper than a stacked 2015 class which included: Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, Tevin Coleman, and Jay Ajayi just to name a few, but it is. And though the 2017 class is headlined by underclassmen the senior ball-carriers have plenty to offer. Looking forward to seeing Kareem Hunt (Toledo) and Jamaal Williams (BYU) in person. Corey Clement (Wisconsin) and De’Veon Smith (Michigan) may never be featured backs but they have that 6-8 year career look about them (an eternity in terms of NFL careers); and Donnell Pumphrey appears to be slated for situational work, Just ask Darren Sproles how that is working out for him.
Wide range of body types and skill sets among the receivers in the 2017 Senior Bowl. You got your quintessential slot receiver in Ryan Switzer (North Carolina), your FCS stud in Cooper Kupp, your speedster/run after the catch dynamo in Artavis Scott (Clemson), and a number of under-utilized ballers that will excel at the pro level as well as some highly productive, familiar names that will ultimately flame out at the highest level.
O.J. Howard was criminally under-utilized at Alabama but that will change after he hears his name called in this year’s draft, most likely in the first round. After dominating the Senior Bowl practices Howard will entertain the Crimson Tide faithful that make the trip to Mobile one more time. In addition to Howard, this year’s class of tight ends is remarkably deep featuring move tight ends galore including Ole Miss’ Evan Engram. Also in that group is Howard and Engram’s teammate, and South Alabama’s very own Gerald Everett who will be playing his final game at Ladd-Peebles his home stadium.
— Josh Liskiewitz (@PFF_Josh) January 24, 2017
Headlined by Forrest Lamp (Western Kentucky) and Dan Feeney (Indiana) this position group is a mystery to me. More film study is necessary (Lamp will not play due to a sprained ankle) and they will face a stiff test in the form of talented interior defensive lineman and overwhelming edge rushing talent.
Licking my chops. The representation of this position group in the 2017 NFL Draft Class is remarkable. The same could be said about the secondary but that too comes later (in this post). The reigning MAC Player of the Year, Tarell Basham (Ohio) is beastly. His game tape is tremendous and he had his way with the opposition during the Senior Bowl practices. He not only possess the ability to turn quickness and speed into power but he has several patented pass moves that few NFL pass rushers have in their repertoire. Then of course there’s Jordan Willis (Kansas State) and Daeshon Hall (Texas A&M) and so many other exciting defensive linemen attending Mobile this weekend.
My CPGM Counterparts believe OLB Ryan Anderson (Alabama) is a better/more complete player than his former teammate Tim Williams. Anderson may set a more physical edge in the running game but Williams appears to offer more pass rushing upside which is what NFL teams covet. I’m interested in seeing Anderson’s first step/quickness and technique first hand. Was he simply stronger than the opposition? Or does can he continue to grow as a pass rusher? Haason Reddick (Temple) has turned heads during the Senior Bowl practices and now he’s squarely on my radar. I don’t doubt that the collection of inside backers in Mobile can hold up on 1st and 2nd down but I want to see what they are capable of in obvious passing situations.
Yet another position littered with talented underclassmen but don’t sleep on the likes of: CB Desmond King (Iowa), CB Jourdan Lewis (Michigan), CB Corn Elder (Miami), CB Cameron Sutton (Tennessee) and CB Tre’Davious White (LSU). And then there are some intriguing safety prospects headlined by 6’4 219 Obi Melifonwu (UConn) who has the movements of a cornerback. With his rare size and range, coupled with a strong finish to Senior Bowl week, and solid testing numbers Melifonwu Connecticut’s leader in tackles (118) and interceptions (4) could land in the first round of the draft.