Fresh off evaluating talent from the Shrine Game, NFL teams got another treat with the Senior Bowl this past Saturday. Filled with future Day 1 and Day 2 picks in the upcoming NFL draft it was an opportunity for many prospects to earn big time money competing against the nation’s best players on a big stage. The game and the preceding practices are great opportunities for NFL organizations to identify players that stood out in order to go back and watch the tape. Remember the tape never lies and one game should never take away from the 4 years of film these players produced during their collegiate careers. Here are the top takeaways from the Senior Bowl Week:
1. Every year we see a QB shoot up the draft board, gets overhyped, and gets selected way before they should. This year that guy looks to be Carson Wentz as there has been a ton of hype on the North Dakota State quarterback. The division II signal caller went from a first round guy to a Top 5 pick and most recently number 2 to the Cleveland Browns. Although Wentz has potential/upside, please don’t do it Cleveland!!! The Browns has been historically bad drafting first round quarterbacks and Wentz with all his hype did not look like a Top 5 pick in my opinion. Yea, I see his physique standing at 6’5 233 pounds, I see his athleticism escaping from the pass rush, and yes I saw his arm strength throwing sideline timing routes. But what I’ve questioned about Wentz is the same thing he struggled with in this game, when the speed of the game exponentially increases at the next level will he be able to process coverages and get the ball to the right spot in a timely manner. Wentz was sacked twice in this game and also pulled the ball down and took off a couple times when I believe he could of progressed to his other reads. Yes, Wentz is a good prospect that can eventually become a legitimate NFL starter but Top 5 picks need to start right away and I’m not sure he is that guy to do so.
2. The interior defensive line position(s) dominated throughout the week, throughout the game, and will be the most sought after position in the 2016 NFL draft. As many as 10 defensive lineman could be drafted in the first round and this game showcased many of them. Sheldon Rankins out of Louisville showed excellent burst from the 3 technique position. Ohio State’s Adolphus Washington showed extreme quickness for a guy his size. Norte Dame’s Sheldon Day showed his versatility and athleticism by lining up on the outside and inside. Alabama’s Jarran Reed showed his physicality and run stopping prowess; Baylor’s Shawn Oakman showed up and flashed why he has big time potential; Louisiana Tech Vernon Butler can’t be blocked by one person; Penn State’s Austin Johnson was a consistent force all week long, and Clemson’s D.J. Reader will be a challenge to move in the trenches.
3. The league as we know it has turned into a passing game. High octane offenses and passing yards dominate the game week in and week out. So how do NFL defenses remedy that? They acquire players that can get to the quarterback. Enter Eastern Kentucky pass rusher Noah Spence formerly from “The” Ohio State. Spence transferred to the smaller Eastern Kentucky for his senior season due to off the field drug problems and dominated lesser competition. Whichever NFL team ignores the red flags and takes a chance on Spence will be getting an NFL ready pass rusher with extreme burst and quickness off the edge. The good news for potential teams is that Spence dominated the Senior Bowl week against the best of the best, and since his transfer he has not failed a drug test. 3-4 teams should be salivating to draft this kid due to his capability to stand up on the edge, his high motor and endurance, and his ability to contort his body and get around offensive tackles. Spence is a Top 10 talent and demonstrated so in Mobile.
4. Ohio State was well represented at the Senior Bowl and the most dynamic player off all was ex-QB turned WR Braxton Miller. All scouts and NFL personnel came to see Miller’s performance and more interestingly his adjustment to the wide receiver position. Miller checked off all boxes during the Senior Bowl week and even showed off his versatility lining up in different formation sets while returning kicks. Think about a Percy Harvin without all the off the field distractions. Miller’s play making ability stood out all season long and his transition to wide receiver has looked effortless thus far. If Miller continues his progression at the position by working on the craft of being a polished route runner the sky is the limit for former Buckeye quarterback.
5. Guys that can cover are gold for NFL defenses. The one on one drills at the Senior Bowl practices separated the players who can cover with fluidity in their hips with above average ball skills from the players who like to hold receivers and fail to turn their head around in coverage. The player that intrigued me the most was small school CB Harlan Miller from SE Louisiana. His length, athleticism, and fluid lower body coupled with ball skills, instincts and swagger makes for an interesting dynamic. Other names that stood out in coverage include safety Darian Thompson Boise State (19 career INTs), Eric Murray Minnesota, Jalen Mills LSU (slot cover ability) and Jonathan Jones Auburn.
Other Notable Players:
- Kenneth Dixon – Best RB at the Senior Bowl who definitely moved up my board. Can do it all.
- Nick Vannett – With an average group of WRs not including Miller and Sterling Shepard, Vannett showcased his receiving chops.
- Josh Garnett – One of the few offensive lineman that handled business all week long.
- Kenyan Drake – Derrick Henry made him a forgotten man but has talent to fit a role at the next level.
- Reggie Ragland – Not flashy but consistent. Will be a starter for many years.
- Jerell Adams – Good hands with the ability to move.
- Glenn Gronkowski – He is the Gronk’s brother.