Many of you have asked about whether I was going to be in Mobile for the Senior Bowl. The answer is I will not. But we will have feet on the ground for the Senior Bowl. Cody Bauer, a long-time contributor to the site and latest addition, will be in Mobile all week with full access to all events during the week. Cody will be joined by NFL’s Future contributors, Jeff Risdon and Steve Shoup at the event as we hope to provide round the clock coverage.
With the 2013 Senior Bowl set to kickoff on January 26th most scouts will be heading down to Mobile the week before for their chance to watch the best college senior prospects participate in a week’s worth of events.
The week kicks off with weigh-ins on Monday, where players will be paraded out in their underwear to get weighed and have their height, arms, and hands measured. There will be practices everyday for both the North and South team Monday-Thursday. Throughout the week there will be chances to hear players speak at the podium as well as give interviews. This is a good opportunity to learn a little bit more about these young men. The game itself kicks off at 3:00pm on Saturday, January 26th.
This year the South team will be coached by Jim Schwartz and the Lions coaching staff while the North team will be coached by Dennis Allen and the Raiders coaching staff. Schwartz is no stranger to how the Senior Bowl week and game are run with having coached the North team in 2010 and being a part of the Titans staff in 2006. Allen, however, has never been a part of the Senior Bowl but has said that he is looking forward to the opportunity to get a better evaluation of players and learn more about their personalities. It will be an interesting clash in styles, but for the seniors participating it’s a great opportunity to soak in as much knowledge as possible from two NFL head coaches.
There is a great group of seniors who have accepted invites to play this year. All six quarterbacks Zac Dysert, Mike Glennon, Landry Jones, EJ Manuel, Ryan Nassib, and Tyler Wilson could all hear their names called within the first four rounds of April’s draft. All six quarterbacks have NFL caliber arm strength but have questions regarding different aspects of their game that they hope to get answered. Mike Glennon is expected to shine during the week of practices but will have to show improved decision making during the game as well as accuracy when facing duress. With Geno Smith and Matt Barkley both skipping the Senior Bowl, Glennon and the others have an opportunity to move their draft stock up.
Some of the best battles during the practices are in the trenches. There are plenty of offensive and defensive linemen taking part in the Senior Bowl who will be drafted in the first few rounds. Scouts are going to be attentively watching Eric Fisher, offensive tackle from Central Michigan, to see how he handles going against top competition. Fisher is projected as a first rounder and with a strong week he could vault himself into top ten consideration. Other offensive lineman looking to prove themselves are Lane Johnson from Oklahoma and Kyle Long from Oregon. Johnson has played several positions since enrolling in college but finally found a home as left tackle and played well this past season. He is a sizeable man at 6’7 303lbs but has good feet and plays with an edge. With a good showing this week he could sneak into the back end of round one. Kyle Long, the son of Howie Long, is an interesting prospect who also has an NFL body at 6’7 311lbs. He played primarily inside at guard while attending Oregon but has the length and athleticism to make a move to tackle. He doesn’t have a lot of football under his belt at the college level having gone the baseball route out of high school, but based off of potential he should easily be a day two selection.
One of the most intriguing defensive players in the draft, Ezekial Ansah from BYU, will be on display during the week. At 6’6 270lbs he was asked to line up all over for the Cougar defense including defensive end, outside linebacker, and defensive tackle, it will interesting to see where the coaches work him out during the week. His story is well documented but for a guy who just took up football a few years ago he has shown that he gets better from week to week, his athleticism and versatility will be sure to have him taken in the first round. This is also a good opportunity for Missouri Southern defensive tackle Brandon Williams to put his talents against top competition. He has had 25.5 sacks the last three years and has simply dominated the MIAA. Margus Hunt of SMU is also looking to put his skills against higher competition. He was dominant in his bowl game against Fresno St. Other defensive tackles that will be going in the first three rounds in April’s draft include Kawaan Short from Purdue, Sylvester Williams from North Carolina, and John Jenkins from Georgia. While all three have had good college careers they also all had a habit of going quiet for stretches. Short and Williams are more penetrating 4-3 defensive tackles while Jenkins weighing 350lbs is more suited to be a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. I believe one on one battles favor the defensive lineman in practice, so don’t be surprised to hear Short and Williams impressing during the week where Jenkins presence will be more felt during the actual game.
Other matchups that are a good for scouts to watch are the wide receiver cornerback battles. There are several good wide receivers that will be down at the Senior Bowl. While none are projected to go in the first round in the draft it’s going to be a great opportunity for some of these guys to establish themselves to be a day two draft pick. Most notable receivers are Cobi Hamilton from Arkansas and Ryan Swope from Texas A&M. Both are big wide receivers who have shown good after-the-catch ability. Swope will have to answer questions about his ability to separate from cornerbacks and deep speed. Another couple wide receivers who I believe will have a chance of becoming good NFL players are Quinton Patton from Louisiana Tech and Markus Wheaton from Oregon St. Both are good route runners with good hands, it will be interesting to see how they look going against some of the best cornerbacks in the nation.
The Senior Bowl was able to get some of the best cornerbacks and safeties in the nation to commit to participate in the game. Big names like Johnthan Banks from Mississippi St., Desmond Trufant from Washington, and Jordan Poyer from Oregon St. will all be doing their best to shut down the receivers. Banks won the Jim Thorpe Award for the being the nation’s best cornerback. For the last two years he’s been able to shutdown opposing team’s number one receiver in the SEC. The two safeties from Georgia, Baccari Rambo and Shawn Williams, will be participating throughout the week. Rambo has the talent to be a second round pick but more important for him will be how he interviews. He has off field issues with failed drug tests that could potentially turn some teams away. Another first team All-American safety will be there as well, Phillip Thomas from Fresno St. He was simply dominant this year recording eight interceptions and returning three of them for touchdowns.
The running backs who have accepted invites are a great group of really accomplished players. Montee Ball was slated to play but is a late scratch and won’t be in Mobile. In his place is Robbie Rouse from Fresno State. Rouse has made a late accent up our draft boards as he will be looking to prove that he earned his spot on this roster this week after a fantastic senior season. Other running backs who are playing are Jonathan Franklin from UCLA, Kenjon Barner of Oregon, and Mike Gillislee of Florida. All four of these running backs will more than likely be chosen in the first four rounds but with good weeks they could put themselves into day two contention. Barner will be the fastest back out of the bunch and will have to show that he can play in a more pro-style offense.
The tight ends who are playing aren’t big name guys but all have NFL size with a nice mix of pass catchers and blockers. Travis
Kelce of Cincinnati will more than likely be the first tight end off the board of the group of players who will be down in Mobile but won’t hear his named called until day two of the draft. He has a nice blend of athleticism and catching ability in a big frame at 6’6 260lbs. Ryan Otten of San Jose St. is an underrated prospect and will show scouts a lot if he can get open against the linebackers from bigger schools. The blockers of this group are Philip Lutzenkirchen of Auburn, and Michael Williams of Alabama. Williams is a very big tight end weighing in at 269lbs and although he was primarily used as a blocker he was still a red zone threat for the Crimson Tide catching four touchdown passes this season.
The linebackers who accepted invites to play all have had good careers headlined by Arthur Brown of Kansas St. and Khaseem Greene of Rutgers. Brown a former Miami Hurricane transferred to Kansas St. and has been a tackling machine for the Wildcats. A little undersized to play inside linebacker in the NFL scouts will be watching him closely to see how he could handle a transition to the outside. His stock is fluid right now with some draft pundits having him as high as a first rounder while others believe he could fall to the third round. Greene is an animal on the field. At 6’1 230lbs Greene is slightly undersized to play anything but OLB in a 4-3 defense but he did have 6 sacks on the year. He was a constant force for Rutgers accumulating 136 tackles. Greene shouldn’t have to wait too long on day two to hear his name called. Other notable linebackers participating are Chase Thomas of Stanford who will be displaying his versatility as well as Kiko Alonso of Oregon who up to this point is underrated. Strong weeks from those two will also likely bump their draft stock up into day two of the draft.
Overall the Senior Bowl directors have done a good job of getting some of the most talented seniors in the country to participate. They invited a good mix of small school guys as well as big name prospects who will have an immediate impact on an NFL team. Be sure to check back for daily updates on who looked good during practices as well as possible player interviews.