UA Senior Bowl Risers, Fallers, Up-and-Coming

The Under Armour Senior Bowl week has ended with a thrilling 17-16 win by the South Team. NFL Draft Analyst Chris Steuber shares his risers, fallers, and up-and-comers after watching the practices in Mobile and analyzing the game performances.

Risers

Sedrick Ellis, DT – USC

Everyone talks about Glenn Dorsey being the best defensive tackle in the country, but you can’t deny Sedrick Ellis’ ability on the football field. Ellis is an absolute stud, who played with a consistent motor all week at practice and revved it up a few notches in the game. He plays with tremendous leverage, gets underneath the opposition and uses his hands masterfully. He’s so quick inside and was in the backfield all game looking to make a play. There were two instances that stood out on Saturday that were potentially game-changing plays. Ellis got a clean jump off the line and used a strong arm hook to beat Bowling Green C Kory Lichtensteiger inside. He beat Lichtensteiger so badly it appeared he was sinking in quicksand, and then sacked Andre Woodson for a safety. And on another play, Ellis bull-rushed Wake Forest C Steven Justice to get in the face of Woodson, who underthrew Harry Douglas on a potential touchdown strike. Ellis is a legitimate top-ten selection who may have played his way into the top-five.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB – Tennessee State

Cromartie was all over the field and was dominant defensively. He played well in coverage and displayed toughness tackling the opposition. He blanketed receivers all game and showed good anticipation diagnosing plays. Cromartie showed great agility knocking down passes and positioning himself to turn defense into offense. He made an outstanding read on a go-route as he was covering Lavelle Hawkins on the right side. North Team QB Joe Flacco spotted Hawkins one-on-one with Cromartie and let it fly. The ball was underthrown, and Cromartie undercut the route and got in front of Hawkins for the leaping interception. Cromartie’s performance at the Under Armour Senior Bowl solidifies him as one of the elite defenders in the country and may ultimately grant him first round consideration in April.

Lavelle Hawkins, WR – California

There hasn’t been a better receiver in Mobile all week than Lavelle Hawkins. He’s been so electric and so consistent that he’s raised his draft stock more than any receiver in the country. He has great quickness and hands, runs precise routes and has a knack for the acrobatic. North Team QB Chad Henne launched a 36-yard pass down the near sideline that was underthrown, and Hawkins made a great adjustment to come down with the touchdown in front of Chevis Jackson. Prior to the Senior Bowl, Hawkins was projected as a late third-round pick, but now he’s a possible early second round selection who still has an opportunity to improve upon his success at the Combine.


Michigan QB Chad Henne looks to air it out downfield.
Dave Martin/AP

Chad Henne, QB – Michigan

All week at practice Henne was the most consistent quarterback. He displayed good velocity and accuracy on his throws and managed the offense very well. He continued to show his leadership qualities and ability to make plays — even if they didn’t look pretty — during the game. Henne showed good poise in the pocket and delivered the ball well to his receivers. He threw a couple errant passes and underthrew one of his touchdown passes to Lavelle Hawkins (the other one was from four yards out to TE Martin Rucker). But overall, he was the best QB on the field. The biggest knock against Henne entering the Senior Bowl was his arm strength. But he answered those questions this week and is now mentioned as a late second-round selection.

Trevor Laws, DT – Notre Dame

Laws is one of the most underrated interior linemen in the country. He’s undersized and doesn’t overwhelm you with athleticism, but he has a non-stop motor that always churns. He’s a sparkplug who showed up to play every day at practice in Mobile and received rave reviews from the Raiders coaching staff. He played extremely well on Saturday afternoon and displayed the same motor he had in practice. He recorded a sack against Colt Brennan in the first quarter after he beat Cody Wallace inside with a strong push. The opportunistic Laws also collected an interception when he was trailing Jason Jones, who got to Andre Woodson and forced the ball loose right into Laws’ hands. The passion and drive Laws has for the game was obvious when you watched him play in Mobile. And after a positive week of work, his stock is rising.

Joseph “Red” Bryant, DT – Texas A&M

Bryant is a massive load in the trenches and played well this week. He played well in the game and showed surprising agility and quickness inside. He uses his size to his advantage and possesses strong hands that help him shed blocks. He got a good push up the middle and made plays in the backfield. He moved well laterally and was solid in pursuit. He has a nose for the ball and hustled to recover a John David Booty fumble. Bryant is one of the bigger DTs available in the draft and is a perfect interior presence for a 3-4 scheme. He went from an early second-day pick to a mid-to-late first-day selection.

Matt Forte, RB – Tulane

The running back who made the most money this week was Tulane’s Matt Forte. During practice sessions, he showed that he’s a multidimensional running back with good speed, great hands and tremendous vision. He runs with balance and is hard to bring down. He continued his impressive play in the game. He ran with a purpose and showed good quickness on the edge. He flashed sure hands and patience running after the catch. Forte’s ascension as an all-purpose runner justifies his status as a Day One pick.


Fallers

Andre Woodson, QB – Kentucky

Woodson’s performance on Saturday was the most alarming of all the prospects at the Senior Bowl. During the week at practice, Woodson’s body language gave off the impression that he didn’t want to be there. And instead of going through his progressions, he seemed to go through the motions. That persona carried over into the game, and Woodson struggled. Woodson’s delivery looked slow and mechanical, and it gave defenders an opportunity to jump routes. He lacked concentration and focus as he fumbled the ball away when hit by Jason Jones that was caught in midair by Trevor Laws. And he took a safety as the South Team worked from their own three-yard line. The one shining moment for Woodson was his six-yard touchdown strike to TE Brad Cottam. Woodson has hurt his draft stock a lot in Mobile, but with many NFL teams in need of a signal-caller, he still has time to redeem himself at the Combine.

Colt Brennan, QB – Hawaii

Brennan didn’t help himself on Saturday as he struggled with his accuracy and deep routes. He forced throws and didn’t play within the offense. The interception he threw in the first quarter was a poorly thrown ball that he tried to squeeze through two defenders. But the one play that was more disturbing was an attempted slant route intended for Houston’s Donnie Avery. Brennan is usually precise on slants and underneath patterns, but he threw the ball high and behind Avery, not giving him a chance to make a play. The inclement weather may have played a factor in Brennan’s ability to grip the ball and throw intermediate and deep routes, but he’s too good of a QB to make excuses. This was just a poor performance and one that will carry over into the Combine.


Oklahoma State WR Adarius Bowman answers questions from the media.
Rogelio V. Solis/AP

Adarius Bowman, WR – Oklahoma State

Bowman has great size and a lot of skills, but he wasn’t consistent during the week leading up to the game — and that continued during the game. Bowman had an opportunity to make a game-altering play for the North Team when Delaware QB Joe Flacco fired a high pass to him in the right corner of the endzone. Bowman got both hands on the ball and initially caught it, but was unable to control the ball as he was falling out of bounds. Bowman has all the tools to be an impact player at the next level, but he has to be more focused and run cleaner routes to truly become an elite receiver.

Kendall Langford, DE – Hampton

Lanford had a quiet day up until the last two minutes of the game. On a fourth and three, Langford flashed around the left end and pulled down Justin Forsett from behind with one arm. The play resulted in the South Team regaining possession. Despite that play, Langford didn’t have success getting in the backfield. He had trouble shedding blocks and didn’t show much explosion off the line. Langford was a mid-round prospect entering the Senior Bowl and leaves Mobile with question marks heading into the Combine.

Jacob Tamme, TE – Kentucky

Tamme has good size and is usually a reliable option over the middle. But he made two fatal mistakes on Saturday. Early in the first quarter, QB Colt Brennan was looking for Tamme as he escaped the pocket. Brennan fired a side arm pass trying to thread the needle between two defenders, but Tamme didn’t come back to the ball. The pass was intercepted by LB Dan Connor, which resulted into a touchdown for the North Team. Late in the game, when the South Team staged a last-minute comeback, Erik Ainge spotted Tamme in the back of the endzone. But Tamme broke off his route and the ball sailed wide. Tamme struggled in blocking situations and is primarily a receiving option. Unfortunately for Tamme, his lack of focus and attention to detail will result in a lower grade as he heads to Indianapolis.


Up-And-Coming

Peyton Hillis, FB – Arkansas

Hillis was solid all week in Mobile. He showed that he not only can block, but that he’s also a tremendous offensive weapon. He’s deceptively quick and is shifty between the tackles. He’s a big body who can juke you out of your shoes or run right over you. He had the opportunity to take a few carries on Saturday and showed that he can be an effective runner. He flashed soft hands, ran hard and broke tackles. Hillis is the best fullback in the country and will be an early second-day selection.


LSU RB Jacob Hester talks with the media.
Tim Mueller/AP

Jacob Hester, RB – LSU

Hester is one of those players that you root for, and he was one of the most popular players in Mobile. His attitude and work ethic are obvious, and you just enjoy watching a player who plays every down to its fullest. On Saturday, Hester lined up in the backfield, out wide and on special teams for the South Team. He’s one of those players that when he’s on the field, you can’t help but watch his every move. He always seems to do something positive, whether he has the ball or if he’s just running down the field on special teams. Hester is going to be a valuable player at the next level on and off the field, and will be a late-round steal in the draft.

Jason Jones, DE – Eastern Michigan

Jones had a promising week at the Under Armour Senior Bowl. He displayed a lot of skills and showed that he can rush the passer. He gets a good jump off the line and tries to force his way around the end. During the game, Jones showed good quickness and used his hands effectively. He got in the backfield a lot and made his presence felt. His pressure against Andre Woodson forced Woodson into throwing an interception. He also played well against the run. Jones is an intriguing prospect who has the ability to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He’s a guy who’s on the rise and will continue to draw interest as the draft nears.

Brad Cottam, TE – Tennessee

Cottam was impressive all week at the UA Senior Bowl. The one thing that stands out to you immediately is his size. He’s so big and such a big target that it really helps a QB when they’re searching for an outlet. Cottam showed a little bit of his pass-catching ability on Saturday when he hauled in an Andre Woodson pass for a touchdown. He did a good job blocking at the line of scrimmage and used his wingspan and size to his advantage. There is a lot of talent at the TE position in this draft, and if Cottam continues to impress throughout the scouting process, he will rise up draft boards.

Mike Dragosavic, P – North Dakota State

When you look at Dragosavic, he looks like a tight end or a receiver who could be effective in the red zone. But at 6 foot 5, 214 pounds, Dragosavic is a strong-legged punter who drives the ball very well and gets great hangtime. He got off a 69-yard punt on Saturday that took a favorable bounce inside the 20. He got off three punts and had a 59-yard average. Dragosavic is from a small school and will challenge Georgia Tech’s Durant Brooks as the draft’s top punter.

Dexter Jackson, WR/KR – Appalachian State

Jackson was a late addition to the South Team due to all the injuries suffered during the week. He arrived in Mobile on Thursday and immediately made his presence felt with his dynamic speed and vision. He wasn’t much of a factor in the game as he only had three opportunities to return the ball on special teams. But he’s a player who teams will definitely keep an eye on as the draft approaches.


A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.

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