NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
The 2015 Senior Bowl kicks off Tuesday in Mobile, Alabama signaling the official start to NFL Draft Season and I’ll be down there providing as much coverage as possible. As is the case every year, this game and week of practice is loaded with future NFL starters. All 32 NFL teams will migrate to Southern Alabama in hopes of finding the next Russell Wilson, Jamie Collins, or Kyle Long.
This game only invites the cream of the crop to participate in the festivities, meaning that every player that shows up has a legitimate shot to make a name for themselves in the NFL. Here are 32 prospects in particular I’ll be keeping a close eye on next week in Mobile.
La’el Collins, OL, Louisiana State
Perhaps the best prospect remaining on the Senior Bowl rosters. Collins will get the opportunity in practice this week to show that he’s one of the elite Offensive Line prospects in the 2015 Draft. His ability to play Left Tackle, as well as slide inside to Guard is highly attractive, and NFL Scouts will be given the opportunity to see him compete at both positions in 1-on-1s. Collins is a powerful kid that displays technical proficiency as both a run and pass blocker. Looks to finish his blocks by putting defenders on their backside. While he might not be a Left Tackle in the NFL he can slide over to Right Tackle or be an elite Offensive Guard prospect. We’ve seen mid-1st Round Offensive Linemen go to the Senior Bowl and leave a top 10 pick (Eric Fisher), Collins could be the big winner this week.
T.J. Clemmings, OL, Pittsburgh
Like Collins, Clemmings is a 1st Round talent that has elected to remain in the game (so far) and it’s a smart move. The former defensive end possesses all the attributes an NFL team covets in an Offensive Tackle including length, power, and foot speed. The knock on Clemmings is his inexperience both in terms of game reps and technique. He has a tendency to lose his blocks early because of raw technique and composure. NFL Scouts will be looking for consistency in his pass sets this week and his ability to adapt any technique points coaches give to him. With a strong week Clemmings can cement his status as a first round player.
Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Shelton is a top flight Nose Tackle prospect because he boasts pass rush potential that is rarely seen from huge interior linemen. After contemplating whether to enter the 2014 NFL Draft, Shelton wisely chose to remain at Washington and put together a remarkable season. Shelton understands how to use his upper-body to control space and blockers to make plays vs. the run. Against the pass he uses his power and agility to create push up the middle (9.0 sacks this season). Shelton will the one Defensive Tackle that all the Interior OL try to avoid in 1-on-1s this week. His tools will be easy to spot this week and showing up in Mobile should only improve an already strong draft portfolio.
Ty Sambrailo, OT, Colorado State
Last year an under the radar Offensive Tackle from Nevada showed up at the Senior Bowl, dominated practices, and ended up as a top 40 selection. That was Joel Bitonio who went on to become a Pro Bowler as a rookie and Ty Sambrailo is my pick for this year’s “Joel Bitonio”. I got to see Sambrailo up close against Boston College and was extremely impressed by his athleticism and movement skills. He’s light on his feet, able to slide laterally to pick up free rushers, release quickly to lead screens, and can get to the second level fluidly. Right now he’s a much better pass blocker than run blocker, so if he can show improved power and leverage in the run game he’ll dramatically improve his stock.
Denzel Perryman, ILB, Miami(FL)
During every Senior Bowl week there appears to be one Linebacker who separates from the pack. In 2012 it was Bobby Wagner, last year it was Chris Borland, and this year it’s likely to be Perryman. I like to watch the Linebackers at Senior Bowl practices because you get a good indication of how quickly they diagnose, how they can take on blocks, and most importantly how fluid are they in pass coverage (vs. RB especially). In Perryman’s case he’s an undersized, yet attacking linebacker. He makes reads quickly and hit gaps with power. Even though he’s short he can stack and shed blocks, navigate traffic, and find the football at the line of scrimmage. Two things will be key for Perryman this week. First the weigh-in, just how short is he? And secondly, is he fluid enough to hold up in coverage?
Owamgabe Odighizuwa, DL, UCLA
I’ve been a fan of Odighizuwa (pronounced O-diggy-zoo-wa) since he was a Freshman All-American candidate in 2010. Since then Odighizuwa has had his ups and downs battling various injuries along the way. He missed the entire 2013 campaign after hip surgery, but bounced back in 2014 with a great season. “OO’s” value comes in the form of his versatility, especially against the run. He can play almost anywhere on the defensive line and fits either 4-3/3-4 schemes. He’s a physical run defender that understands hand usage and leverage to take on bigger Offensive Linemen and how to win/control gaps. While he’s not a natural pass rusher he uses his quickness inside to penetrate and get into the pocket. This week NFL Scouts will be evaluating Odighizuwa’s upside as a pass rusher or if he’s just a rotational DL that can move around the line and impact the run game.
Trey Flowers, DE, Arkansas
Flowers isn’t a sexy prospect because he’ll never be a high-end pass rusher. He’s a technical defensive end that holds up very well against the run. He knows how to take on blocks, set the edge, and shed run blocks. The problem is he’s going to have trouble getting to the Quarterback in the NFL and probably needs to bulk up to play 5-Technique in a 3-4 Defense. This week is important for Flowers in that he’ll be given the opportunity to show improved first step explosion and the development of new rush moves. Scouts know he’s a smart player, who gives max-effort, and can stop the run, but to make the real money he’ll need to show he can at least provide some pressure off the edge.
Nate Orchard, DE/OLB, Utah
Orchard exploded onto the national scene this season posting an outrageous 18.5 sacks after tallying only 6.5 combined during his first three years in college. In terms of raw ability, Orchard is probably the most talented pass rusher making his way down to Mobile. He has the first step explosion, the speed off the edge, and flexibility to dip under/through blocks. This week is massive for Orchard because he must prove to scouts that his huge season wasn’t a fluke and he can translate some of that production to the NFL. Orchard’s problem is he’s very raw in terms of power and counter moves. Right now he’s a huge liability against the run and if Offensive Tackles engage with their hands they often can shut him down. Scouts will be looking for improved power at the point of attack and more refined counter-attack after he’s out of his stance.
D’Joun Smith, CB, Florida Atlantic
Smith is an under-the-radar Cornerback prospect that can answer a lot of questions this week. Smith has quick feet and fluid hips. He shows an aggressiveness when attacking the football and seems to have good instincts in coverage. He has no trouble playing at the line of scrimmage, opening his hips, and challenging receivers. The two things I like most about Smith is his control in coverage, he seems composed, coordinated and cerebral with is movements. Secondly, his ball skills, as he seems to have good awareness as to where the ball is in the air. For Smith he needs to prove he has vertical speed and do a better job recognizing routes. Both of those weaknesses are easily exposed in 7-on-7 and 1-on-1s, so it’s a big week for Smith.
Quinten Rollins, CB, Miami(OH)
This kids stock could explode with a big week in Mobile. Spent four years playing Point Guard on the Miami(OH) basketball team and decided to use his remaining year of eligibility to go out for the football team. Not only did he end up winning a starting Cornerback job, he went on to become the MAC Defensive Player of the Year. His stat line is almost unfathomable for a first year football player (72 tackles, 7 INTs). Rollins has all the physical skills required to play cornerback in the NFL: height, length, quickness, fluidity, physicality, and acceleration. Rollins displays physicality and a willingness to deliver a hit. I’m amazed by his ability to anticipate throws, break on routes, close space when the ball is in the air, and accelerate from zero to full speed. Rollins uses his leaping ability to attack the ball in the air. He seemingly contests every pass and smothers the receiver at catch point. There are obvious flaws in his game, especially as it relates to his technique and experience. NFL Scouts/Coaches can’t wait to get their hands on this guy.
Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State
Greene put together a distinguished four year career at Florida State. He’s a smart, savvy, and experienced route runner. He knows how to create leverage and separation in a variety of different ways. He developed into Jameis Winston’s safety blanket, as he could always be counted on to get open and make a catch in a key situation. Greene has been compared to a number of big time NFL WR, but he reminds me of Troy Brown for how he’s able to accelerate out of in-breaking routes. He’s extremely frail and needs to get stronger, but his smooth speed should be good enough to beat coverage in the NFL. During Senior Bowl practices I’ll be watching to see how Greene fares vs. physical corners and compare his separation from the slot vs. on the outside.
Zach Hodges, OLB, Harvard
Any prospect invited to the Senior Bowl has a huge opportunity presented to them and that opportunity is only magnified when the prospect is coming from lower levels of college football. Hodges proved he can rush the passer and make an impact in the Ivy League and now he must show that he can play against the best Offensive Linemen in the nation. Scouts will be watching Hodges to see how he uses his hands, how his strength plays at the point of attack, and if his burst off the edge gives any of the Offensive Tackles trouble.
Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn
Coates will probably be one of the “Weigh-In Warriors” on Tuesday Morning, as physically Coates is one of the most physically gifted WR in the entire draft. Coates has never put all the pieces together on the field and has struggled with drops throughout his college career. Coates deep speed will be on display on the practice field and I have no doubt he will make his share of splash plays this week. What I’d like to see is improved focus, strong hands, and a more refined route tree. This week Coates needs to tie the physical aspects of the game together with the mental and technical aspects of the game.
Justin Hardy, WR, East Carolina
Another personal favorite of mine. Hardy has been one of the most productive receivers in college football the last four years. Hardy is a quick, intuitive receiver that uses sharp cuts and a fluid midsection to lose defenders in coverage. Hardy has the ability to play both in the slot or on the perimeter. He possesses a strong pair of hands and works back to the football. By playing in a spread passing offense Hardy’s production is obviously increased, while the routes he’s asked to run are limited. Over the next week scouts will want to see Hardy run a variety of new routes, be able to beat more physical coverage, and show his speed can play at the next level.