NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
All the football that “really mattered” is in the books and it’s time to start reflecting on the past week and what it means going forward. Overall, I thought the practices were much more productive than last year and all of that can be attributed to new Executive Director Phil Savage.
Savage wanted to make sure scouts were able to get as much information as possible while down here in Mobile. In this article I take a look at each position and let you know who I think was the top performer at each one.
Top Performers By Position
Quarterback: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
The Senior Bowl week was supposed to be the week where the six Quarterbacks invited started to distinguish from each other and fall into place. That surely wasn’t the case and I’m not sure how much more scouts and evaluators know now that they didn’t when they came in. As they were when they entered the week, many of them leave rated closely together. The top performer of the week in my opinion was Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson. Wilson was the most accurate and consistent performer on the south squad. He showed good command of the offense, above average athleticism for the position and a better delivery than he had during the season. Wilson was able to anticipate routes and throw his receivers open while the others took more time to adjust to their new receivers. While Wilson’s arm-strength wasn’t “great” he certainly showed that it is strong enough to make all the throws.
Overall, I just thought Wilson had the cleanest overall week, with the fewest mistakes and mental errors. After speaking with all six QB’s for a decent amount of time this week, I felt Wilson was probably the sharpest with his knowledge of what he can and can’t do at this point. There’s also something to be said for his gunslinger mentality, which helped him out in new surroundings this week. As far as a draft range, it’s likely he worked his way back into the first round mix. Personally, I would have a tough time pulling the trigger on any of these six QBs in round one. But, all it takes is one team and with so many QB needy teams, one probably will.
Running Back: Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
Johnathan Franklin had himself a tremendous week down here in Mobile. From the minute the pads went on it was clear he was down here with a purpose. On the field he showed his overall running ability, from attacking the hole and reading his blockers to catching the ball down the field. Franklin showed very good elusiveness and was able to keep his feet moving after initial contact. During the season Franklin improved as much as any running back in the country, new coach Jim Mora came in scraped the Pistol offense and Franklin was a major beneficiary. Down here Franklin continued his ascension up draft boards. His cut-back ability was the best of any running back and he exhibited the speed necessary to get to the corner and cut it up field. I thought he was the best pass blocker of all the North backs, getting himself in an athletic position and sticking his helmet into the chest of blitzing defenders.
During his first three seasons at UCLA Franklin wasn’t asked to catch many balls, compiling only 25 receptions in three seasons. This season he surpassed that total with 33 receptions and showed good hands throughout the week. Against man coverage he was able to separate and make hands catches while adjusting to the ball. Franklin also was one of the two or three most impressive prospects to talk to off the field. After his senior season and his impressive week down here it’s safe to assume that Franklin has moved solidly into the second round mix.
Wide Receiver: Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech and Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State (Tied)
It’splitting hairs trying to figure out which one of these guys was the best this week. Each one stood out on their respective teams. Patton is a little big bigger and a little bit longer. Wheaton is shorter and lighter but, has a stronger more muscular build. Wheaton caught everything that was thrown to him. He has extremely solid footwork and explodes back to the ball at the top of his routes. Wheaton’s best quality might be his ability to track the deep ball and make an adjustment in tight coverage. He showed it throughout his college career and he showed it this week. As Wheaton said his favorite route to run was “the money” route and he has done it better than any receiver down here. On top of his receiving ability he was used on a number of reverses and quick screens as the team that gets him will likely try to do. Patton came in at 6’0″ and 202 pounds, so he has an NFL ready frame.
He’s just an overall fluid athlete who runs good routes and has precise footwork. Patton has excellent body control and is able to make adjustments to the tough to catch balls. He has worked out of the slot at points this week, which makes him extremely tough to cover due to his quickness in and out of his breaks. Patton was able to get open all week long and even when he didn’t he was able to make adjustments and catch the tough ones. While the two players are likely to be graded similar they are night and day personality wise. Quinton Patton seems to be the life of the party, is loud and jovial on the field. Wheaton is extremely focused, quiet and humble. Both of these guys are firmly in the second round and the cream of the senior crop.
Tight End: Vance McDonald, TE, Rice
In my opinion none of the tight ends “wowed” this week and none of them hurt their standing. McDonald is probably the big winner just because he exhibited the most well rounded game of all the tight ends. He was a better blocker than I had originally thought and opened some very nice running lanes for RB Mike Gillislee.
As a receiver he showed good hands and the ability to separate over the middle of the field. At Rice he was moved all over the formation and used in a H-Back role at times. Most of the linebackers had trouble covering the 6’4″ 262 pound McDonald this week.
Offensive Tackle: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Fisher was plain and simple the best overall player down here in Mobile. He measured in at at legit 6’7″ and possesses an very athletic frame with long arms (34″). As I said in the intro, this year featured a lot more one on one pass rushing drills and Fisher just dominated all comers. His footwork while pass protecting was superb, he was able to force the rusher to go where he wanted him to go, would get his hands on them with good extension and then just lock them down.
Fisher has quick enough feet to take on speed rushers, but also showed the ability to anchor vs. the bull rush. As a run blocker Fisher was also technically sound, playing with good leverage and power. Everyone I talked to down here was pretty much in agreement that Fisher was the top prospect and made himself a ton of money. A team like the San Diego Chargers that picks #11 and badly needs a Left Tackle would be a perfect fit for Fisher.
Offensive Guard: Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky
Much like Fisher stood out during one on one drills for the North, Warford stood out during one on ones for the South. Warford is a big boy and probably needs to get into a little bit better shape, but he is so strong he is able to just latch on and shut defenders down.
I thought Warford was violent with his hands, he hand fought with them extremely well. For a 333 lbs. player I thought he slid his feet really well and played with leverage. It was a very good week for Warford who many teams were split on coming into Mobile.
Center: Brian Schwenke, OC, California
Schwenke battled hard all week. He held up well in pass rush drills, winning most of the match-ups that he had. Compared to the other centers I thought Schwenke moved the best, displaying a good first step.
Schwenke played with good leverage consistently got good hand position. He definitely helped himself draft position wise.
The top defenders can be found on page two.