Marvin Jones, Cal: The North receivers ran a variation of a four-cone drill that ended with a pass thrown after the final turn among these four cones and then cut between a narrow alley between two cones. After Marvin McNutt felt his way through the cones at 3/4 speed, Jones breezed through the cones as fast as any receiver participating in the drill – on the first try. He’s a light-footed runner with strong change of direction and his technique was on display drill after drill at the beginning of practice Coach Stewart approached Jones and told him “excellent job today, Jones.”
Stewart said it loud enough from the 30 yard line to Jones at the 15 that I could hear the coach 28 rows up from the end zone. Later in practice, T.J. Graham didn’t break a corner route to the end zone at the correct angle and Jones was seen gesturing to Graham how to run that route. Stewart saw Jones doing so, took the cue, and ran over to give Graham further instruction.
Jones was consistently the best receiver on the field setting up breaks and the only drop I saw against competition in three days (no that there were more, but I don’t recall and I watched receivers closely) came today on a crossing route where Jones looked up field to run before he secured the pass. He made redeemed himself on the next play with a diving out at the sideline where he had to scoop the ball off the ground and keep the top half of his body inbounds.
One particularly impressive aspect of his game was his willingness and intensity as a run blocker in drills. He was the one receiver that stood out today, consistently getting square and delivering a punch to meet a downhill attack from defensive backs with pent-up frustration when it came to not earning enough opportunities to hit.
When I watch Jones on tape and in this practice, the potential I see in him is similar to Donald Driver. Not a huge player, but physical, technically sound, quick, good after the catch, and knowledgeable in the West Coast offense.
Marvin McNutt, Iowa: McNutt may have began these cone drills at three-quarter speed, but he soon demonstrated good skill after an error where Coach Stewart asked him to redo a rep. He demonstrated nice footwork on an out to the left sideline, dragging the back foot with good extension of his arms to snare the ball and stay in bounds.
Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M: Fuller told me in our interview that he primarily ran fades and comebacks on the backside of the formation. Reviewing my RSP game study, I also see that Fuller frequently faced defensive backs granting him 7-10 yards of cushion. It’s not as difficult to get open when the opposing defense wants to keep the receiver in front of it. The Senior Bowl has been a different story. Fuller lacked quickness this week and routinely couldn’t get separation on routes that he’s known to run well. He didn’t appear strong against corners he dwarfed and worst of all, he dropped at least six consecutive passes. I’m not a prognosticator of rounds but if I were, I believe if the draft were held today Fuller would be a second or third day pick.
Joe Adams, Arkansas: Adams fought some passes early. He let a slant through his mitts and in red zone drills he double-clutched or caught the ball at the last window away from his body, repeatedly allowing the tip of the ball to graze his chest or helmet in the act of securing the pass. However, Adams’ persistence against physical coverage on vertical routes remained a constant part of his game. I think the issue is strength and technique. Both can be addressed and I think a team will believe Adams’ upside is good enough to develop sooner than later.
Juron Criner, Arizona: I love his game, but his best separation on deep routes came against safeties and I’m skeptical he has the speed to beat good corners unless he goes from the physical player that he is to a monstrously, Brandon Marshall-physical receiver. I don’t see that transition coming, but I think his comfort with contact, his savvy at getting that late burst with the use of his hands, and his skill at adjusting to the ball makes him one of the more intriguing players of the draft. He’s not a safe pick, but I am enamored with his upside.
Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati: He did a good job fielding punts at the start of practice, taking a punt around right end and up the sideline with a nice dip outside a blocker in the flat. His patience on the play was strong. In receiving drills with releases from the middle of the field against linebackers, Pead couldn’t get off the jam. The only run I saw from Pead in 11-on-11 drills was an attempt for a loss when he tried to bounce the play to left end. He is too reliant on stringing plays to the sideline. If he’s fast enough on a play to get there – watch out. However counting on Pead to have success with this tendency enough to do it with the frequency he does it, is foolish.
Lennon Creer, Louisiana Tech: Creer is the opposite of Pead as a runner. He’s a no-nonsense downhill guy. Coaches singled out Creer for an good job of pass protection against UNC LB Zach Brown on three different reps. Creer fought hard, long, and continued to stay on top of the LB. He was the best performer in these drills for the South squad backs.
Terry Ganaway, Baylor: Linebackers beat Ganaway repeatedly in pass protection drills this afternoon. After three failed reps he finally did one well enough to consider the match up a draw. He then failed a fourth rep and was given a chance to redo it with similar results. He has consistent trouble getting free of linebackers as a receiver. He didn’t use his hands well and lost balance trying to turn away from the opposition.