As the last practice ended on Thursday, hoards of NFL scouts, coaches and general managers left Mobile just as quickly as they arrived. They were replaced by arriving fans, family members of players as well as agents. All that’s left are the indelible impressions left by more than 100 of the nation’s top senior prospects. And of course the game itself.
As with every Senior Bowl many prospects impressed the scouts on hand, thus improving their draft grade. Others watched their stock go in another direction. So who were the winners and losers from a week of intense practice?
Much of the focus was on Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler. The Commodore signal caller had been making a meteor-like rise up draft boards even though he had not played a football game in more than a month.
Cutler’s physical skills were impressive as was his live arm. Displaying the ability to make all the passes, he left scouts with much to think about. There is no denying Cutler has starting potential in the NFL. The question is how soon will he be able to line-up behind center at the next level and will any team risk an early draft selection for that potential?
DeAngelo Williams of Memphis concerned many by measuring just 5-feet-8 ½-inches during weigh-ins on Monday. He then calmed fears with an exceptional week of practice. Williams displayed outstanding running skills and an all-round game, stating his case to be a top twelve selection this April.
Another pair of running backs impressed scouts throughout the week. Jerious Norwood of Mississippi State and Jerome Harrison from Washington State both showed a lot of ability and speed. Each moved themselves into the draft’s first day.
Several receivers produced outstanding results in Mobile, none more so than Oregon’s Demetrius Williams. Coming off a tremendous senior season, Williams was nearly unstoppable all week. Beating defenders for long receptions down the field, he was equally adept at making the tough grab in underneath coverage. Williams will now get consideration late in round one.
By week’s end Miami’s Sinorice Moss was playing just about as well as any wide out in Mobile. Santana’s little brother has an undeniable burst of speed and was almost effortless outracing defenders down the field. He improved his route-running and pass catching consistency through the days. The only concern is his size; Moss measured just under 5-feet-8 inches on Monday, which will keep him out of the first 45 picks.
The offensive line play for the North was stellar as several blockers stood out.
D’brickashaw Ferguson, the left-tackle from Virginia already considered an early draft choice, cemented his status as a top five selection. Ferguson stonewalled opponents all week and was rarely beat.
Nick Mangold from Ohio State was possibly the best Senior Bowl center of the past five years. Like Ferguson, he was relentless against opponents, not giving up an inch of room and looked unbeatable all week. Mangold significantly elevated his draft stock and will receive consideration in the late part of round one.
Pittsburgh’s Charles Spencer, Oklahoma’s Davin Joseph also stood out for the North. Ryan Cook from New Mexico was the lone blocker from the South squad who was given high grades from scouts.
The battle up front in the game itself should be a classic one Saturday. The defensive linemen on the South team who stood out, led by a pair of Florida State Seminoles.
In the opinion of many scouts Kamerion Wimbley was the best front-line defender in attendance. An undersized yet explosive pass rusher, Wimbley gave offensive tackles fits all week as his speed and quickness was tough to handle.
On the inside Wimbley’s college teammate was equally successful. Though he barely tipped the scale at 300-pounds, Brodrick Bunkley was able to move opponents 20-pounds heavier off the line. Even against double team blocks Bunkley did not give up an inch of ground.
Several other defensive linemen had impressive weeks. Parys Haralson of Tennessee weighed just 250-pounds but was called a “different type of animal” by scouts in attendance as he regularly beat bigger opponents at both the end and tackle positions. People were also impressed with the play of two Big Ten prospects, Penn State’s Tamba Hali and Victor Adeyanju from Indiana.
The linebacker play was solid from Monday’s first practice.
Iowa’s Chad Greenway was Mr. Reliable, consistently making positive plays throughout the week. Thomas Howard of UTEP, Alabama’s Demeco Ryans and another Hawkeye, Abdul Hodge, were all sharp every day.
In the defensive secondary no player was close to the caliber of Clemson’s Tye Hill. Unbeatable, he consistently shut down opponents in all areas of the field. As a result of his tremendous week Hill moved from the middle of round one into the draft’s top twelve picks.
Every year several players came away with disappointing results and last week was no different.
A terror on the college level, Mathias Kiwanuka of Boston College was dominated by opponents daily. Considered a top-ten pick before the week, Kiwanuka is likely to plummet into the middle of round one.
The nation’s sack leader, Elvis Dumervil was also unheard through the week. And except for Jay Cutler, none of the other quarterbacks distinguished themselves.