Who and What I’ll Be Watching in Mobile


Senior Bowl pics 025

Photo by Jene Bramel.

Once again, Jene Bramel and I will be providing coverage of the Senior Bowl practices. Stay tuned and see my initial thoughts as we head to Mobile.

Quarterbacks

I won’t be spending a lot of time watching quarterback play at Senior Bowl practices. I’ve seen enough from most of the participants on film. What I haven’t seen, I doubt I’ll see in a controlled environment from a distilled and limited offense against a practice defense that won’t be throwing anything tricky at the passers.

This stance of mine isn’t new. As the years pass, the less I watch this position at practice. It’s easy for even some of the best media analysts and scouts to get too enamored with what they see in the controlled conditions of a practice. E.J. Manuel was a good lesson learned.

Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins were in Mobile in 2012. Cousins was the sleeper earning quiet buzz, Wilson was the afterthought. I had a high grade on Wilson before Mobile and subsequent tape review revealed an underrated prospect with exceptional upside. Wilson didn’t do anything in Mobile to hurt his stock, but the practice conditions did little to help it.

Duress, play altering, and other game conditions matter greatly to see this position clearly. Unless you’re a team scout or coach with access to the player for interviews with a whiteboard and film, you’re most likely to learn about things you’ve seen on tape: arm strength, throwing motion, footwork, and accuracy.

The conditions aren’t ripe for seeing creativity, mobility, or toughness. Practice will reveal how quick these players learn and process some information, but I’m more interested in seeing how they process information during the play–not the whiteboard to the field under controlled conditions.

Carson Wentz: What I want to see from Wentz is his footwork after this drops. There might be some exposures on the practice field worth noting, but odds are what I’m seeking will require more tape review where I will have the precision of pausing, rewinding, and slowing down the tape.

Cody Kessler: So far, he’s the only notable quarterback I’ve studied who has failed my velocity criteria. If he displays arm strength and velocity in practice that’s notably different than his USC career, I’ll take note. I haven’t seen this happen yet at an all-star game.

Kevin Hogan: I need to study more tape where I see him throw off platform and on the move. I might see some of that this week.

Jeff Driskel: I have seen the Lousiana Tech quarterback play multiple times, but I haven’t studied his tape yet with my process.

Dak Prescott: I want to see accuracy in a pro-style offense. It includes drops, throwing on the move, play fakes, and delivering the ball where it needs to be after maneuvering from pressure. These are big questions, but I’m more concerned about his decision-making. I haven’t seen a ton of Prescott yet so multiple dates with Mississippi State football is looming.

Brandon Allen: He’s the quarterback I’m most looking forward to watching who I haven’t studied yet, which means I’ll probably ignore him this week and (with limited exceptions) whatever anyone is saying about him.

Jake Coker: The Senior Bowl can’t go on without an eligible Bama or War Eagle quarterback in attendance. To be fair, I haven’t studied Coker yet–so don’t take my statement as a negative about his potential.

Jacoby Brissett: The N.C. State prospect has a similar footwork tendency as Carson Wentz. Where some passers have happy feet after setting up, others have concrete feet. Wentz and Brissett need to make minor adjustments before beginning their releases. I’m not expecting a ton of improvement this week. Brissett and Hogan are probably the most intriguing quarterbacks at this game who I’ve already studied. I doubt the conditions will at Mobile’s practices will be ripe for where Brissett often falters.

Running Backs

I’ll be watching footwork in drills and scrimmages. Do the eyes and feet seem in sync with unplanned obstacles or new exercises?

I’ll also study warm-ups for flexibility.  Based on the demands of the position, it doesn’t make sense for a running back to be a stiff athlete.

Burst is also important. Stepfan Taylor displayed nice burst in practices, but only on runs up the middle. Joique Bell wasn’t fast, but he had the burst to bounce plays outside in these practices. So did Alfred Morris.

Jonathan Williams: Mature decision-making where he stays true to the play design.

Kenyan Drake: Can he be more than a space player?

Aaron Green: Physical play in a pro-style set.

Tyler Ervin: As an interior runner, is he closer to Dexter McCluster, Darren Sproles, or Warrick Dunn?

Chris Swain: My first exposure, so everything.

Kenneth Dixon: Can he break multiple tackles and create with his agility in this environment? How good is his burst against this level of athlete?

Wide Receivers

This is the position I love to study at practices because the drills are the best at replicating game conditions among the skill positions.

Tajae Sharpe: The hands are small by standards of NFL prospects. I’ll want to see him attacking passes away from his body; how he handles the ball against tight coverage and collisions; and if his technique is not by the book, is it consistently productive with a variety of routes?

Aaron Burbridge: His burst and ability to separate early against press coverage.

Chris Moore: Press technique and any route where he’s not running in a straight line.

Leonte Caroo: How much burst does he have and how polished are his route skills against this level of competition?

Jordan Payton: Caroo and Payton are my two favorite receivers on the North roster. Both are physical and win in tight coverage. Can Payton hang consistently with the top echelon of college athletes?

Braxton Miller: I’ve been waiting to study Miller. This week will be my first in-depth look.

Paul McRoberts: I didn’t see great speed from the SEMO St. option. Does he have the initial burst to beat top college corners? Can he rise to the occasion and show some of that great ball-tracking skill that he has revealed in flashes on tape?

Malcolm Mitchell: Beating press and catching the ball in contested situations.

Charone Peak: My first exposure.

Jay Lee: More consistent hands, including those rare moments of excellence that transcend the mundane that is too often his game.

Sterling Shepard: Does he have a library of release moves? Can he separate early against this competition? Can he stack top defenders here?  He’s the best receiver here based on my studies thus far.

K.J. Maye: Is he a good enough athlete to play the slot in the NFL? Is he physical enough?

Tight Ends

Agility, burst, and versatility are what I want to see on display. If the versatility isn’t there, I want to see dominance in one facet of the game.

Jerrell Adams: This week will be my first exposure.

Jake McGee: I think he can hold his own as a blocker. I want to see this against top competition and how fluid he is as a receiver beyond 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.

Glenn Gronkowski: Can he become a reliable H-Back in the NFL?

Bryce Williams: Is Williams agile enough to make defenders miss in the open field? Is he a liability as a blocker and how far does he have to do in this realm of the position?

Nick Vannett: He needs to show more play-making at the catch point.

Henry Krieger-Coble: He’s my favorite tight end in this game. He’s not a big-play option as a receiver, but I’d like to see where his limits are because I don’t think he’s shown them at Iowa

 For analysis of skill players in this year’s draft class, download the 2016 Rookie Scouting Portfolio – early-bird purchase for April 1 download available now. Better yet, if you’re a fantasy owner the Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2012 – 2015 RSPs at no additional charge. 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

 

 

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