The 2013 NFL Draft is a little less than three months away. With college pro days, the combine, team interviews, and personal workouts still to come there is plenty of time for players to prove themselves to scouts, coaches, and GMs. One thing that helps open eyes and builds momentum is the Senior Bowl.
The game is set to kick off tomorrow at 1pm PT, so let’s take a look at some of the players on the South roster that really did well for themselves in this week’s practice sessions. (You’ll notice that several of these players were listed on the ‘Players to Watch’ piece I posted earlier this week.)
QB Tyler Wilson, Arkansas – Probably the player that helped himself the most, Wilson, had a shaky start to the week but proved to be the most consistent quarterback on either roster. He even exhibited leadership qualities consistent with starting quarterbacks in several interviews teams and media. He still has some footwork concerns but nothing that can’t be coached. Prior mock drafts may have had Wilson in the second or third rounds, after this week, look for his name to mentioned a lot in round one.
QB E.J. Manuel, Florida State – Like other QBs, Manuel struggled to start week but took coaching well showed improvement in delivery mechanics from day one to day two. Manuel showed a quick release and above average footwork staying strong in his base. He’s starting to lose the ‘project’ label but is still a work in progress. While scouts differed on their opinions, the coaches loved his upside. He’s likely headed for a day two draft selection.
RB Stepfan Taylor, Stanford – Taylor impressed with his decisive cuts with above average burst through running lanes. Scouts needed to see that he had the quickness to compliment his power. He performed well and should be one of the first three running backs drafted.
WR Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech – Patton was easily the best WR on either roster all week (although the North’s Marquise Goodwin was outstanding). He showed excellent route running skills and was extremely quick in and out of breaks. One AFC scouting director said: "Quinton Patton has been the best receiver on the field. I didn’t think he would be this good." Patton has turned some heads this week and likely made himself someone to keep any eye on come April.
TE Vance McDonald, Rice – McDonald was a bit inconsistent with his hands (had some drops in Wednesday’s practice) but overall proved to be a worthy prospect with tremendous positioning skills (in relation to his opponent and the ball) and ability to get open inside and along the seams.
OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma – Johnson was easily the best tackle on the South roster and solidified himself as a top-20 pick. He had great foot speed and ability to mirror all blockers, inside and out, and was rarely beat in one-on-one matchups.
OG Larry Warford, Kentucky – Came into the week with questions about his physicality to the whistle. Warford was one of the more consistent guards for the South and practiced hard until the whistle on each play/drill.
ILB Vince Williams, Florida State – Williams was a late add to the roster and was probably heading for undrafted free agency. That may have changed this week as Williams exhibited a natural ability to diagnose plays and use his physicality to blow up blocks and make the play. He played downhill and filled running lanes regularly. He got the scouts attention and for somewhat of an unknown like him, that’s all you can ask for.
CB Robert Alford, Southeastern Louisiana – The small school corner opened eyes this week with elite speed and kick returning ability (although he did muff a coupe punts during practices). He was excellent in coverage and scouts noticed.
CB Leon McFadden, San Diego State – Another small school corner, McFadden was physical with press coverage and stayed with WRs in and out of breaks easily. He should get an opportunity to return kicks as well. If he continues to test well he could see a meteoric rise up draft boards.
A few players who struggled to impress but by no means saw their stock ‘drop’ (again, it’s too early):
DE/OLB Ezekial Ansah, BYU – Ansah came in with a lot of hype but was very underwhelming in practice, often struggling to get off blocks and get up field. He lacked the burst to get around blockers and was very inconsistent in putting pressure on the quarterback.
NT John Jenkins, Georgia – Someone needs to remind Jenkins that he’s 350+lbs. When he played his size he succeeded and often took on multiple blockers. However, too many times he tried to use finesse moves or lateral speed (which isn’t exactly his best feature) to make plays. Teams don’t want to see too much of that from their NT.
CB Will Davis, Utah State – Davis had a rough week and was constantly beat in one-on-one matchups.
OL Dallas Thomas, Tennessee – Many were looking forward to see what Thomas could do this week but an injury cut his practice time.
OT Oday Aboushi, Virginia – Was beat a lot by defenders and constantly let speed rushers get into his body before making contact. Coachable, yes, but something he’s no doubt been coached NOT to do at every level.