20 gennaio 2009

Draft Talk #2

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2009 Senior Bowl

DD Comments live and direct from Mobile, Alabama

*********South Practice Notes Monday Afternoon: by Matt B. (DD) ********

A stiff wind tore across the field at Fairhope, helping the kickers but impacting the quarterbacks' collective accuracy on intermediate and long throws. The low level of quarterback play slightly affected the scouts' ability to properly evaluate the wide outs and defensive backs. Despite this less than ideal situation, several players stood out in practice today:

Southern Miss TE Shawn Nelson was a natural receiver, the most reliable of the South TE today in that aspect of the game. Nelson shows burst, crisp route running and separates from the coverage, without dropping any balls. Interesting side-note, former Carolina Panthers TE Kris Mangum (now a Southern Mississippi assistant coach) was in attendance, and it's apparent he's been sharing the tips of the trade with Nelson.

Liberty RB Rashad Jennings was very impressive today. He excelled in pass blocking, as a one-cut and go tailback, and also looked good running routes out of the backfield. As the weigh-in implied, Jennings is a premium athlete. Although he's a little taller and runs a little more upright than some teams would ideally like for the tailback position, recent rookies have shown that players like Jennings can be successful, even with an unorthodox style.

Wake Forest CB Alphonso Smith showed great awareness and football savvy, recording a pretty pick in 11-on-11s and several passes defended in drills. Smith showed today that his production at Wake was not an accident; he's a legit ball hawk whose stock is on the rise.

Ole Miss DT Peria Jerry was a beast in the pit 1-on-1 drills. His functional strength is simply on another level than the opposition, and one notable bull-rush became a reverse pancake with the offensive lineman flat on his back! Jerry has several pass rush moves, including an effective swim move, but he doesn't really need to get fancy to beat his man. Some reps he knows what he's gonna do, the other guy knows what he's gonna do and it still happens. By practice's end he was drawing double-teams in 11-on-11 drills. In the game, it will be interesting to see if the North's linemen can have better luck than the South's linemen had in trying to contain him.

The Pit battle of the day was between Ole Miss OT Michael Oher and Tennessee DE Robert Ayers. This was a back-and-forth bout, with early rounds going to Ayers and his quick first step. Ayers is a tough, feisty and competitive player, aggressive, showing good hands and a nose for the quarterback. After reps, Ayers would holler and clap, getting emotional and loud.

However, not to be out done, Oher rose to the challenge. He looked at Ayers, said "Ok let's get it [on]!" and ended the session by riding Ayers into the ground for a brutal looking pancake. Oher seemed to find his stride as the practice went on, and his potential is evident. His technique is spotty at times however and he needs to continue to work to bring his game to the point where it's not just physicality which carries him through.

Richmond DE Lawrence Sidbury is a very interesting prospect. He was a terror in pass rush, displaying an instinctual feel and timing in his moves. Sidbury can get around the edge, or he can change direction and break in another direction, leaving his man clutching air. However, Sidbury was washed out in run blocking, and seemed to be on his heels whenever the running back was headed to his side of the field. Obviously there is money to be made as a pass rusher, and Sidbury is clearly a player on the rise for those skills, but to be an every down player he needs to improve his stoutness against the run. As it stands however he's made an impressive leap from Shrine week to Senior week, and he keeps rising.

Florida OT Jason Watkins was a pleasant surprise all day. From his impressive physique at weigh-ins to his explosion off the ball in drills, he is a player teams will be looking at very closely as a possible swing player who can fill in at either tackle spot. In drills, Watkins was running as the right tackle in the first team offense and did an effective job keeping his opposing man from the ball carrier. He can be out-quicked however, and had some trouble with speed rushes in the Pit. It's questionable how many of these paths taken to the QB by opposing rushers are legit however.

San Diego State DB Coye Frances is a blanket in coverage, moves very well and had several passes defended. This practice coupled with his solid weigh in could make Frances a hot property in the coming weeks.

USC WR Patrick Turner displayed soft hands and had a crowd pleasing deep catch from Clemson QB Cullen Harper that got everyone buzzing. Turner is long and lean and can snag tough balls. While he's not going to convince anyone he's a track star, might be finally reaching the huge potential he's been associated with for years and might be a possession option at the next level. As for Harper, he's been the best of a bad group but needs to do a lot more to improve his stock to where it used to be.

Arizona WR Mike Thomas covers a lot of ground and is another player who has been improving his stock after a strong week at the Shrine game. Teams like his versatility, his hands and his return ability. South Carolina WR Kenny McKinley is also a smooth receiver, catching the ball with his hands, rather than trying to trap it against his pads. Timed speed will be paramount in determining both of these players' respective values.

Louisville OC Eric Wood played guard and center, was excellent in pulling, and impressed on lookers with his toughness, grit and coach ability. He's a smart technician who has real potential to start in the league. However, Wood was overwhelmed at the point of attack several times, and could stand to improve his core strength.

Southern California LB Clay Matthews shows signs of being a true football player and takes every opportunity to stick his face in the fan. He worked only at 'backer today and did a better than expected job in coverage.

Finally, although it's tough to judge in shells, LSU FB Quinn Johnson could be this year's LeRon McClain. Give Johnson the ball, he powers through the line and just doesn't go to ground easily.

*********North Practice Notes Monday Afternoon ********
by Scott Wright
President, Draft Countdown.com

The North squad, coached by the Cincinnati Bengals staff, came out in shells (shoulder pads and helmets) today but even though they weren't in full pads there was still plenty of hitting and physical play. It was a sparse crowd, with half of the scouts and coaches watching the South team in Fairhope, but those who did come to Ladd-Peebles Stadium were treated to a number of impressive performances.

The headliner of the day might have been Missouri DT Evander "Ziggy" Hood, who showcased his trademark hustle and tenacity. Hood's motor seemed to run non-stop and he was able to consistently make plays in one-on-one drills, dipping and getting past Alex Mack on more than one occasion.

Oklahoma OT Phil Loadholt had a good day. Loadholt was very physical and absolutely mauled defenders once he got his hands on them, which was to be expected from a guy who weighed in at 6-8 and 343 pounds. However, he also displayed good feet and showed the ability to handle speed rushers. Today at least.

One of the players Loadholt toyed with was Connecticut DE Cody Brown, who did not have a good day. In addition to getting absolutely mauled by Loadholt in drills Brown also received quite a bit of instruction from the coaches. On one hand you don't want to be too critical of Brown because he was going up against a guy who outweighed him by 100 pounds but at the same time those are the types of specimens he will see as a defensive end at the next level. After today something tells me Brown is thinking a move to outside linebacker sounds pretty good.

Boston College DT B.J. Raji had a good day, showing why he is one of the best defensive tackles in this draft. If not the best. Raji was singled out on quite a few coaching points but it was more a case of working with him than a negative thing. Raji was also noticeable quicker than his teammate Ron Brace, even though they are about the same size. Brace looked slow and lethargic.

Sam Houston St. QB Rhett Bomar easily had the best release and most velocity of all the signal callers on the North squad. He throws a real nice ball and it gets out of his hand very quick. His accuracy was relatively average today though.

Of all the wide receivers Penn State's Derrick Williams looked the most impressive today. He got off the line of scrimmage real quick and showed terrific acceleration. He was also quick out of his breaks and got good separation. He just looked like the best receiver out there. Williams did muff a punt and the ensuing scene looked like something straight out of "Football Follies" as he crashed into another player at one point while trying to pick the ball up.

Oklahoma St. TE Brandon Pettigrew really looks the part. I didn't get to see Pettigrew work as a pass catcher much today but as a blocker he was able to extend his arms and easily drive a linebacker out of the player.

Northern Illinois DE Larry English was more physically impressive than I anticipated and he drew praise from coaches for his technique.

I didn't get to see as much of Virginia LB Clint Sintim as I had hoped to today but in coverage drills he looked a little stiff. On the flip-side Oklahoma's Nic Harris looked very smooth and comfortable in ball drills, which was not much of a surprise since he was a safety in college.

I was pleasantly surprised with Iowa DT Mitch King, who always seemed to be around the action and drew a lot of praise from the coaching staff. Alex Mack was able to hold him in check for the most part though.

South Florida OLB Tyrone McKenzie looked real good on one play, reading the play quickly and attacking the ball carrier but then missed the tackle behind the line of scrimmage. I didn't see much of him but I liked what I saw.

Illinois OT Xavier Fulton
, showed the ability to easily get out to the second level. Fulton also surprised me when he was able to lock on and control his man.

Virginia RB Cedric Peerman's small hands were a point of concern at the weigh-in and when he bobbled a pass today those worries seemed to be validated.

Purdue RB Kory Sheets had trouble turning the corner and was strung out to the sideline by Ohio St. LB Marcus Freeman. That was probably more of a plus for Freeman than a negative for Sheets though.

There is no question that Connecticut OT William Beatty needs to pack some weight onto his 291 pound frame but he is very smooth and you can certainly see why many have him rated as a late first / early second round possibility.

Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell displayed good accuracy and didn't miss many throws but he didn't stand out when it came to his setup (dropback), release or velocity.

Central Arkansas QB Nathan Brown almost looked out of place and was a distant third when it came to the North quarterbacks. He just doesn't look very big out there and it would be hard to say he was better than average in any regard.

Oklahoma WR Juaquin Iglesias ran good routes and broke down well but he did miss a couple of balls that he should have caught.

Ohio St. WR Brian Robiskie
catches the ball well with his hands but didn't look very fast.

Washington St. WR Brandon Gibson looked slow on his routes and didn't accelerate off the line well. He didn't get much separation out of his breaks either.

North Carolina's Brooks Foster was probably the second best receiver after Williams, showing the ability to accelerate and separate. He also showed some craftiness as a route runner on vertical and deep crossing plays.

Cal Poly's Ramses Barden
caught the ball well and looked very athletic. He didn't necessarily look real fast but that could be deceptive because of his size.

The most impressive running back today was Oregon's Jeremiah Johnson, who looked noticeably quicker than his counterparts.

All in all there were a number of players who looked good and helped themselves today, most notably Derrick Williams, Ziggy Hood and Rhett Bomar, but there really wasn't an eye-opening, world-beating performance from anyone. The players were still getting comfortable and adjusting to their new surroundings though so that could all change tomorrow. The North may not have as many flashy, high-profile names as their South counterparts but there is plenty of talent and when all is said and done I would not be at all surprised if the North produces just as many first round picks as the South does.

*******Senior Bowl Weigh in Notes*******

North players that may have helped themselves:

Ramses Barden, WR, Cal-Poly: 6'6", 227, 10 5/8 hands, sculpted and jacked.

Connor Barwin, DE/TE, Cincinnati: 6'3", 253 33" arms very well put together with room on frame for more. We will report how he is used in practices today.

Darius Butler, CB, UConn: 5'10", 178 Buff & cut, well built, clearly works hard in the weight room.

Alex Mack, OC, Cal-Berkley: 6'4", 312, 33 1/4 arms, Same height as fellow North teammate Max Unger, taller than expected.

Keenan Lewis, DB, Oregon State: 6'0, 198 a physical specimen.

Jeremiah Johnson, RB, Oregon and Cedric Peerman, RB, Virginia; height in the 5'8" - 5'9" range, but both were in tremendous shape.

Kory Sheets, RB, Purdue: 5'11", 203: To paraphrase site friend Sigmund Bloom from NFL Draft Guys, Sheets has the upper body and calves of a wide reciever but the trunk of a tailback. Interesting hybrid prospect in excellent shape.

North players that may have hurt themselves:

Ron Brace, DL, Boston College: 6'3", 329: Sloppy, overweight looking, but coming in, no one thought he'd win a beauty contest.

Andy Levitre, OL, Oregon State: 6"2", 306 but doughy.

William Beatty, OT, UConn: 6'6", 291 skinny for an NFL OT prospect, needs to add bulk but has the frame to do so easily.

South players that may have helped themselves:

Rashad Jennings, RB, Liberty: 6'1", 234: Didn't look as heavy as he was, extremely low body fat, just jacked.

Brian Cushing, LB, USC: 6'3", 243, Bulky and ripped, as expected.

Several South DBs were taller than expected, will be interesting to see who works in at cornerback at drills, these players include:

Coye Francis, DB San Jose State: 6'0, 179

Michael Hamlin, DB Clemson: 6'2", 207

Domonique Johnson, DB, Jackson State: 6'1", 194

Sherrod Martin, DB, Troy: 6'0", 197

Ellis Lankster, DB, West Virginia: 5'9", 191

Derek Pegues, DB, Miss State: 5'9", 193

Both above defensive backs were extremely cut and strong looking. Will Pegues play cornerback?

South Players that may have hurt themselves:

Tyronne Green, OL, Auburn: 6'1", 305, 10 1/2 hands, big hands are a plus but shorter and sloppier than ideal.

Corvey Irvin, DL, Georgia: 6'3", 296: Unimpressive shape.

DD.comment: As a general note, no quarterback on either team measured at or over 6'3", which was clearly dissapointing to scouts....Another general note, while it is clear that some players pulled out to get healthy, and others pulled out because they are legitimate top tier prospects, certain players, especially certain offensive and defensive linemen, are participating in the game of managing expectations and putting the perception out they are higher graded than they are. This tactic might be proper in a political campaign but in the game of professional football, the trench warriors should want to play. An ideal NFL offensive or defensive lineman should live for days like today when the pit drills seperate the men from the boys. It is my belief that many skipped the game to not be proven boys. And as they are not here to defend that judgement, the assumption will stand, not just for this writer but for many of the decision-makers in attendance.

Following players have pulled out of the Senior Bowl:

RB Javon Ringer -- Injured/Recent knee scope

WR Louis Murphy -- Was injured in the National Championship game.

OT Jason Smith -- Thinks his draft stock is so high that he doesn't need to play.

OG Duke Robinson -- Rumor: Hurt in the National Championship game.

OT Eugene Monroe -- Thinks his draft stock is so high that he doesn't need to play.

DE Tyson Jackson -- No specific reason given.

DE Brian Orakpo -- Thinks his draft stock is so high that he doesn't need to play.

DE Michael Johnson -- No specific reason given.

LB James Laurinaitis -- Rumor is he battled nagging injuries all year and needs to time heal?

LB Aaron Curry -- Thinks his draft stock is so high that he doesn't need to play.

DB Malcolm Jenkins -- Thinks his draft stock is so high that he doesn't need to play.

Also, as we predicted months ago, Oklahoma safety Nic Harris has been moved to linebacker by N.F.L. scouts due to speed concerns. Also, while dynamic University of Cincinnati defensive end Connor Barwin, who led the Big East in sacks last year, has steadfastly said he wants to play defense in the N.F.L., some scouts are trying hard to skew him back to tight end, where he had only enjoyed moderate success during his college career.

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