NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
The first day of the Senior Bowl is in the books and what a whirlwind it was. There is so much information to be gathered throughout this process that’s it’s almost impossible to keep up with all the goings on. After watching the first practices and the official weigh-in, I’ve put together my thoughts and observations on the day. One day won’t define the draft stock of the participants, but the information gathered is another piece to the puzzle. Here is what I learned from the first day in Mobile.
It’s definitely not a stand out group this year. None of the QBs in particular stood out to me during this practice session. All of the QBs have mediocre throwing arms with average NFL tools. Each of the three struggled with accuracy at times, especially to the perimeter. Remember these kids are throwing to new receivers, but never the less, this group failed to change any opinions I had of them leading into the week. We’ll see if anyone steps it up tomorrow once the full pads go on.
Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah’s quickness and explosion stood out. He’s clearly the most dynamic back on the roster as he showed an ability to make cuts at high speed and looked dangerous catching the ball out of the backfield. He’s going to be a tough cover for LB at the next level. Tyler Varga out of Yale caught a lot of scouts attention during the second half of practice. Not only was he a “weigh-in warrior” this morning, but he looked like he fit in on the practice field. He looked natural catching the football today and has a great build for the position.
This is a deep and talented group that I was able to get a close look at today. Tony Lippett started off practice great destroying the gauntlet drill and attacking the football in the air. As practice went on and became more physical he faded slightly. Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State has plenty of work to do in order to run a complete route tree, but he’s going to be very dangerous right away in the NFL running “9” routes and hook/hitch routes. He can stop on a dime and created huge seperation at the top of his comeback routes. His hands looked solid throughout the day. Justin Hardy had a very solid day all around. His hands looked strong in the gauntlet drill and he consistently got open in 1-on-1s, 7-on-7s. Dukes’ Jamison Crowder dropped a bunch of balls early on, but once the competition ramped up and the reps became competitive he started to win consistently. He’s a tough kid to cover and seems to run his routes very well. Ty Montgomery and Antwan Goodley both struggled catching the ball today. Each one had at least 4 drops.
Like QB, this isn’t the strongest Tight End group. Ben Koyack looked like the best of the bunch at first glance. He caught the ball consistently today and that’s more than I can say for the other two Tight Ends.
A group I didn’t get to focus on too much today. I will saw that every time I watched 1-on-1s Dukes’ Laken Tomlinson was handling his business. He’s got such long arms and uses his length to keep defenders off him. He also moved his feet well and was able to stonewall the bullrush. I have to watch this group closer tomorrow.
Danny Shelton was difficult to handle for Centers today. His game looks like it translates seamlessly to the NFL. He can create push on every play, draws multiple blocks on most plays, and surprised me with his lateral movement today. He was also a weigh-in warrior showing up with Watermelon-like Calves and a Barrel-Chested upper body. Henry Anderson is a battler and never takes plays off. Anderson is a player who gets the most out of his physical talent. In terms of edge rushers Nate Orchard looked the most dangerous on the North team. His burst out of a 3-point stance is better than most and he looks like the best athlete of the bunch. Hau’oli Kikaha was asked to do a lot of dropping into coverage today and it was quickly realized that is not a strength of his. Zach Hodges also looked very, very raw when asked to cover Tight Ends.
Cincinnati’s Jeff Luc is built like a “brick shithouse”. His 5’11” frame is maxed out at a crazy 263 pounds. Luc is a downhill, run stopper that can handle he physicality of playing in traffic. I didn’t get to watch Jordan Hicks a lot during practices, but he impressed me greatly with his interview. Hicks is a well-spoken kid that seems hungry and driven to succeed after overcoming adversity at Texas.
Miami (OH) Quinten Rollins and Oregon State’s Steven Nelson are standouts for me. Rollins is a terrific looking athlete. He can open his hips fluidly, was able to change direction without wasting much motion, and picked up the press technique very quickly. It’s amazing to think this kid was not even playing football at this time last year. Nelson is a feisty and tenacious corner. He’s undersized and probably locked into a nickelback role, but he battles on every single rep. Few WR were able to lose him in cover today. Josh Shaw won the underwear Olympics with a Greek God like physique. On the field his athleticism is exposed when he has to make quick and sudden movements. Eric Rowe has awesome size for a Corner, but got yelled at a few times for not understanding directions.
Damarious Randall was the best cover Safety for me today. He’s on the smaller side, but seemed to have the most natural man coverage ability of the group. Ibraheim Campbell of Northwestern was probably the next best in the group and made a couple standout plays on the football.
The story here is that Auburn QB Nick Marshall is not playing QB this week. He’s practicing as a Cornerback and he actually fit in nicely with the other South CBs. Marshall played DB at Georgia before leaving school and most NFL scouts think he’s future is at CB in the NFL. Garrett Grayson has the strongest arm of any QB at the Senior Bowl, but he’s woefully inconsistent. Both Grayson and Sims missed a ton of throws today. They’d make a nice throw into a small window and then follow it up with a throw 5 yards off-target. SE Louisiana QB Bryan Bennett was added to the South Roster late Tuesday, taking the spot of Nick Marshall.
Northern Iowa RB David Johnson looked awesome in pass protection today. He was taking on LB and DE who were coming full bore and continually swallowed them up. He was able to absorb first contact really well and stay engaged throughout the rep. It remains to be seen what he can do as a ball-carrier, but I’ll tell you what I think his pass protection alone got him drafted today. Cameron Artis-Payne had his ups and downs in pass protection, but was able to get to the edge and turn the corner in team drills.
This is a team position grouping. For me two players stood out consistently Tyler Lockett and Phillip Dorsett. Tyler Lockett is just such a good football player. He understands how to run routes, can create separation, and has really good hands. Dorsett had himself a great day. Another slot WR that looks quick, explosive, and dangerous with the ball in his hands. He caught everything thrown to him today and had a lot of scouts in the stands buzzing. A sleeper to keep an eye on as the week and draft process goes on is Central Arkansas’ Dezmin Lewis. He made two brilliant catches today, one inparticular where he elevated over the defender and high-pointed the throw. It was a tough day for Devante Davis of UNLV. He was completely incapable of getting off of press coverage and ended up hurting his leg later in practice. He’s a possession WR that will have to win in other ways.
The best looking Tight End in Mobile is Miami (FL) Clive Walford. He’s got an NFL body type 10 1/2 inch hands and 81 1/8 inch wingspan. As the week goes on he should really be able to help his draft stock if he catches the ball well.
The best player on either team today was LSU OT La’El Collins. He lined up at exclusively Left Tackle and dominated for the majority of practice. His footwork, hands, and technique looked solid. As soon as he got his hands on a defender he was able to easily shut down their rush. The only time he got beat was by Arkansas DE Trey Flowers. Collins was cheating a bit to the outside and Flowers shot the inside gap off the snap. Everything I saw from Collins justifies the Top 20 buzz surrounding him heading into the week.
Owa Odighizuwa looked beastly at the weigh-in, as well as on the field. His pass rush moves and laterally explosion looked far superior to the other defensive linemen in his group. Odighizuwa has great length and will be tough to block in 1-on-1s as the week goes on. I also thought Houston DT Joey Mbu is someone to watch closely. He looked great at the weigh-in with a huge lower half and on the practice field be moved extremely well for a man of his size. Finally, I thought Clemson’s Grady Jarrett stood out in bag, pass rush drills. He’s a small, but quick and feisty defender. He’ll find his way onto a 53 man roster.
One LB really stood out to me today and that was Norfolk State’s Lyndon Trail. He’s a massive human being with one of the most athletic frames here. He can move extremely well for his size. Trail was also one of the most impressive interviews I did today. He seems to understand his skill-set, what he can bring to an NFL team, and has a good head on his shoulders.
Senquez Golson’s decision to pass on 1 million dollars from the Red Sox looks to be paying off right about now. Even though he’s small, he’s a quick-twitch corner that challenges for the ball consistently. He can really plant and drive out of his pedal. D’Joun Smith from Florida Atlantic is another really competitive CB. He laid a big time hit on Sammie Coates after giving up an slant route. Finally TCU’s Kevin White stood out at first glance as a twitchy, fluid corner.
Cody Prewitt will have his limitations in the Pro Game, but he continued to make plays in the final third today. He had one pass break up and one Interception. Samford’s Jarquiski Tartt looks the part weighing in at a shredded 220 pounds. Physically he’s ready to play in the NFL and he didn’t look out of place during team drills today.
Stay tuned to NEPD tomorrow for more practice notes and follow me on Twitter @NEPD_Loyko for live practice updates.