Senior Bowl Bullet Points

>> 2.01.2010

26 JAN 2010:   Mike Iupati (77) of Idaho goes against Purdue's Mike Neal (92) during the 2010 Under Armour Senior Bowl North practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama.

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All last week, I combed through available Senior Bowl information.  After highlighting some potential targets the Lions might be looking at, I compiled notes from all practice reports I could find, sat down in a comfy chair, and watched the first half or so with a careful eye and a ready spreadsheet.  The results?

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN:

  • Brandon Graham, DE, Michigan: I’ll cut right to the chase: dude's a beast, period.  He completely outclassed every other player on the field.  He’s not the right size/frame for this defense, and he won’t be there at the top of the second, but it’s worth mentioning that he’s a hell of a pass rusher.
  • Geno Atkins, DT, Georgia: The 6'-1", 286-pound Atkins flashed incredible speed and penetration all week in practice, and looked dominant in the game itself.  Blowing back several different guards, and getting good push against double-teams, too, Atkins really caught my eye—as anyone who was reading my Twitter feed knows.  Obviously, at 286, Atkins doesn’t have the size Schwartz and Cunningham want—but he doesn’t look flabby and maxed-out like last year’s Senior Bowl darling, Peria Jerry, did.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN:

  • Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho: The virtues of the 6’-5”, 325-pound left guard had been extolled by all, including Mlive.com's Phil Zaroo, all week long.  Talk of his size, athleticism, strength, and total domination of drillwork had spread far and wide.  In the game, however, Iupati really struggled—especially when they moved him out of usual left guard spot. NFLN's Mike Mayock was the color man, and pointed out that Iupati was “grabbing” instead of “punching”.  That is, slowing down his man by bear hugging him and hoping to control him, rather than driving his hands into the other guy’s chest and pushing him around.  Iupati went back to left guard and looked better, but there’s no question that he had a terrible performance to cap a week of hype.
  • Ciron Black, OT/OG, LSU: Black stands an impressive 6’-5”, 331.  He played both guard and tackle, and showed excellent athleticism for his size.  At tackle, Black struggled against Brandon Graham—but then, so did everyone else.  During practice, however, Black showed equal adeptness in handling both speed and power rushers.  Coming into this week, he was a mid-round guard, but if he performs at the combine looking like a legit LT, his stock will rise significantly.  I'm hoping for somewhere in the middle . . .
  • Mike Johnson, OG, Alabama: according to SI, the 6'-5", 306-pound cut an imposing figure at the weigh-in, and played up to his stature doing the first day of practice.  In the game, I was really impressed at his power, feet, and control; he drove guys back.  Chad Reuter of NFLDraftScout.com noted that Johnson had no problem with “Mount Cody” during practice. 
  • John Jerry, OT/OG, Ole Miss: Jerry, the brother of Peria, weighed in at a whopping 6’-5 1/2”, 332.  Absolutely built like a tackle, Jerry has played both RG and RT for Mississippi, and excelled in the first two practices at both of those spots.  However, they tried him at LT and he really struggled.  I didn’t see much of him during the game, but he’s a prospect I’m going to watch very carefully at the combine.

DEFENSIVE BACKS:

  • Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State: the 5’-10” cornerback got Jim Schwartz' attention with an enormous custom-painted RV in the parking lot—and mine with some good coverage and strong tackling.  Word was that he flashed outstanding ball skills in drills all week long.  According to Bill Huber of Scout.com, his best performance was on a one-on-one coverage drill. ($)
  • Taylor Mays, S, USC:  Mays is well known amongst Lions fans, having garnered a little hype as a candidate to be their #1 overall pick last year.  Mays went back to USC and had a okay-but-not-great senior season.  Reasons for his relative anonymity have varied from “teams now scheme away from him” to “he’s better off as a linebacker”—but it’s clear that Mays is nowhere near a #2 overall pick.  During practice, he dominated on Monday, then was invisible the rest of the week.  During the game, he whiffed on several tackles, but did have a very nice interception.  Mays remains a head-scratcher: a prospect with Top 10 size and speed, but wild inconsistency.

If you're wondering where your favorite prospect is, don't worry. This wasn't meant to be a complete list--just players at positions of need who established a rep during practice week, who stood out to me during the game, or both.  If you’re wondering where the complete three-down backs with blazing speed are, they weren’t at the Senior Bowl trying to improve their stock.  Same goes for wideouts who can draw coverage away from Megatron, cornerbacks who can step in as our #1 starter, “franchise left tackles”, etc.

I've been getting draft questions non-stop for weeks now, and I’ve kept replying: “too early, too early, too early”.  There’s a rhythm to this pre-draft dance.  The college All-Star games are just the first step.  Watching them, and keeping tabs on the practice reports, gives me an idea of who to pay special attention to at the combine—which is when we really learn what’s going on.

7 comments:

Weston Corbitt February 1, 2010 at 3:51 PM  

Another great article, I also thought Terrence Cody and Tim Tebow were huge letdowns. Cody showed up way out of shape and looked bad. He is going to eat himself out of the league if he isn't careful. Then again, if he is there at round 4, the Lions should take him. He could be a nice rotational piece and maybe Gunther and Schwartz can teach him discipline.

TimT February 1, 2010 at 5:40 PM  

BJ Raji was last years Senior Bowl darling.

Neil February 1, 2010 at 10:06 PM  

I would not be shocked if Taylor Mays had a great career or if he turned into Darnell Bing. That's not exactly how you want to feel about a potential top 10 pick.

Ty February 2, 2010 at 9:54 AM  

Weston--

I'd had Cody on my mind as a possibility, but in the SEC championship game I saw how fat he was and wanted no part of it. Drafting him would be like drafting Shaun Rogers, already fat and demotivated. No thanks.

I was already firmly in the "Tebow is not an NFL quarterback" camp, so Saturday was no surprise to me whatsoever.

Peace
Ty

Ty February 2, 2010 at 9:58 AM  

TimT--

Well, there are always several guys. After last year's Senior Bowl, I identified Raji as a possible candidate for the 1.20 pick--but then the hype train went crazy. Jerry climbed up from the second-to-third round into the first, and there were plenty of Lions fans who were convinced he was the only justifiable option at 1.20--based mostly on his Senior Bowl performance.

Jerry may or may not become a good NFL DT, but he wasn't ever a fit for what Schwartz and Cunningham want to do, and didn't have the frame to develop into "that guy" either.

Peace
Ty

Peace
Ty

Ty February 2, 2010 at 10:00 AM  

Neil--

Exactly. I'd be really curious to see what happens to Mays at the combine. I don't think I've seen a guy who could shoot up as high, or drop down as low, as Mays could in one workout.

Peace
Ty

minker February 2, 2010 at 2:31 PM  

I really liked Dan Williams, DT from Tenn. He did really well in the practices and man-handled Iupati during the game. He is really strong and can move the pile. If we trade out of second, I hope we get him with our second pick.

Minker

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