Funky historic undertones aside, the Sr. Bowl Weigh-In provides necessary data.
By Matt Waldman with contributions from Jene Bramel
Save the occasional whisper, the shuffling of paper, and feedback from a microphone, there’s a period of 109 minutes at the Senior Bowl Weigh-In where you only hear five things. It begins with a man at stage right announcing a name.
Next comes the muffled thud of steps from an athlete in his early twenties. He’s barefoot and stripped to his underwear as he makes his way for measurement at center stage.
The attendant at center stage announces the athlete’s height. There’s a 10-12 second pause followed by three digital beeps from a scale at stage left and the announcement of said athlete’s weight.
It’s a process that cycles through 109 players with the slow-moving precision of an assembly line as a crowd of scouts and media seated in 7 rows of 67 chairs, 12 rows of risers, and 8-10 rows of overflow convert everything they see and hear into data for their notebooks, spreadsheets, and databases.
The weigh-in is the ultimate sign of the commoditization of an athlete. Watching this process set in the Mobile Convention Center “Ballroom,” a warehouse space with a cement floor and loading doors across the street from what used to be a dock in Mobile, Alabama. Although gussied up with black drapes, three large projection screens, and a podium, it doesn’t disguise the fact that men are being evaluated for purchase on the Martin Luther King holiday – a fact not lost on us.
The weigh-in has the mood of a slave auction posing as a beauty pageant with ex-jocks-turned-librarians as judges. It’s not a fun thing for any man with a sense of history to attend, but it’s hard to imagine football ever finding a way to fix this vibe and getting what needs to be seen.
And what needs to be seen is what these football players look like. It’s not just about height and weight, but build and expectations validated or dashed. Here are some observations Jene Bramel and I have from the 2014 Senior Bowl Weigh-In.
These players not only fit the size/weight/wingspan prototypes of their positions, but they were also in fine physical condition. If the weigh-in was a beauty pageant, they’d earn a sash. Just remember substance trumps looks every day of the week and twice on Sundays.
RB Charles Sims, West Virginia (5-11, 214): Sims’ carries his weight on a well-distributed frame and there was still room to add a little more muscle to his arms if necessary. Much like Demarco Murray and Darren McFadden two players he physically resembles, Sims looks the part of an elite athlete.
WR Jeff Janis, Saginaw Valley State (6-2, 212): Janis has well-defined build with broad shoulders and an even distribution of muscle. He looks the part of an NFL wide receiver.
QB Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech (6-5, 250): Tall, strong, and athletic without any flab that one often sees from some quarterbacks over 210 pounds. Some team will see him as a raw material.
RB Jerick McKinnon, Georgia Southern (5-9, 209): The former quarterback has a thick trunk with a build that looks a lot like Frank Gore’s. If only he had that kind of game. If only most running backs had that kind of game.
DE Kareem Martin, North Carolina (6-5, 272): It isn’t the height / weight measurements that stand out for Martin. It’s the 84 1/4 wingspan and 34 3/8 arm length. If Martin can use that to his advantage by keeping offensive tackles away from his body, he’ll do well in the pit battles and gain some momentum as Pro Day workouts approach.
OLB Jerry Attaochu, Georgia Tech (6-3, 252), DE Dee Ford, Auburn (6-2, 243) and DE Chris Smith, Arkansas (6-1, 266): The South defensive line doesn’t have the names it had in 2012, when Quinton Coples, Melvin Ingram and Courtney Bishop dominated their offensive line counterparts. Ford and Smith all showed impressive frames during the weigh-in. All three are on the shorter side of the ideal prototype but stood out with strong frames. Smith, despite measuring two inches smaller than his pre-weigh in roster listing, had a thick base and an above-average arm length (34 1/8) and wingspan (82 1/2).
OLB Telvin Smith, Florida State (6-3, 218), OLB Chris Kirksey, Iowa (6-2, 234), ILB Christian Jones, Florida State (6-3, 234), ILB Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA (6-4, 231) and ILB Lamin Barrow, LSU (6-1, 229): Size isn’t everything at the linebacker position in today’s NFL. 235 pound linebackers once considered too small for most schemes are now found throughout the league. But those players need elite technique and athleticism to be successful. None of the linebackers above looked to have a frame capable of adding much bulk. Smith, in particular, looked like a safety as he walked across the stage. Of course, the only real question scouts have to answer will be, “Can he play?” Smith and Kirksey are probably the best bets to overcome physical limitations.
CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska (6-2, 215): It’s dangerous to overreact to measurements at the defensive back positions. Fluidity and flexibility are much more important physical attributes for corners and safeties than how they look in shorts. A solid frame and defined build don’t say much for how well a defensive back can turn his hips, change direction and use his feet. Jean-Baptiste will be another test case here. Jean-Baptiste looked capable of lining up at strong safety or outside linebacker with a tall but stout frame. If his play matches his measurables this week, he may get teams talking about him as a second or third round pick.
These players exceeded my expectations based on what I perceived of them in pads on the field. Some have probably added weight so it will be interesting to see how they perform with those changes.
RB James White, Wisconsin (5-9, 206): I had doubts White was 5-10 or 5-11 or remotely near the 200-lb. range. His true height is still in the wheelhouse of a quality NFL runner and his weight was a pleasant development. If White can demonstrate more physicality with his running style, he could find a place in the NFL. He’s a smart runner with good agility.
RB Antonio Andrews, Western Kentucky (5-10, 225): I didn’t think Andrews was this big and based solely on appearances, he carries the weight well. The definition isn’t there but I like that much of the weight is in his hips and legs. He’s solid, not flabby.
WR Cody Hoffman, BYU (6-3, 218): The height is nice, but I was happy to see he was as big as he looked in pads. Hoffman has a quick first step so I was glad to see he possesses the size to run through contact.
These players could play today with their builds, but I don’t see them adding more than 5 pounds and carrying it well.
TE Arthur Lynch, Georgia (6-4, 258): Lynch has that natural-looking muscle definition in nice-sized frame. He looks like a fluid athlete. I don’t think he’s capable of getting bigger, but he’s big enough to make a roster. Lynche’s question marks are speed and quickness. If he has these two commodities, he could contribute down the line.
WR Josh Huff, Oregon (5-10, 201) and Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt (6-2, 209): I’m skeptical that these two players have the frames to support another 10-15 pounds of muscle and maintain their current athleticism. I don’t think either of them needed it, but Huff has better proportions in terms of his weight distribution than Matthews.
QB Derek Carr, Fresno State (6-2, 215) and QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois (6-2, 219): Not sure what it was about their frames because their height is the same, but Garoppolo appears as if he could add a little more weight than Carr. I’d be surprised if either reach that 230-mark – it won’t be necessary either. Both are well-defined athletes and don’t look like some of the beer-league softball players in training that we sometimes see on Mobile’s stage.
SS Craig Loston, LSU (6-0, 214): If you look at his torso, you’d think he was 190 pounds but if you only checked out his bottom half you’d swear he was 225.
WR Kevin Norwood, Alabama (6-2, 197): This receiver has nice height and a frame that I believe will support additional weight, especially his upper body where he can get stronger. With his height, this is a plus.
WR Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin (6-0, 189): The Badgers’ wide receiver plays bigger than he looks. He has the frame to gain another 10 pounds of muscle, maybe 15. If he can maintain his quickness and explosion (leaping ability), he has the technique to contribute.
For analysis of skill players in this year’s draft class, download the 2013 Rookie Scouting Portfolio.The 2014 RSP will available April 1 and if you pre-order before February 10, you get a 10 percent discount. Better yet, if you’re a fantasy owner the 56-page Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2012 – 2014 RSPs at no additional charge and available for download within a week after the NFL Draft. Best, yet, 10 percent of every sale is donated to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse. You can purchase past editions of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio for just $9.95 apiece.