The 2017 Senior Bowl is just around the corner and we have looked at prospects for the South offense, the South Defense and the North Defense. We are rounding out the list with the North team offensive prospects. There are many draft-worthy players on this offense; this list highlights a few of the top candidates. I’ve scouted all three quarterbacks for obvious reasons and they are impressive in their own ways. The NFL Network is airing the practice sessions (which are just as helpful for scouts as the actual Seinor Bowl game). The game will air at 11:30 a.m. PT on NFL Network.
Sefo Liufau, QB (6’4 230 lbs), Colorado
Sefo Liufau makes it easy for fans to root for him. A quiet and tough QB that is willing to tuck and run and does not give up on plays. His athleticism is above average, well balanced, and powerful. Liufau has a strong arm and can hit deep routes with ease. His only issue on deep routes is recognition, he throws the ball once the receivers are already open too often. This could be a symptom of having three speedy, deep threat receivers that routinely get open, but regardless play recognition appears to be his biggest hurtle. This fits well with the fact that Colorado plays in a spread offense and reads are simpler and quicker. Liufau shows the ability to look down field when he gets flushed from the pocket. He show great toughness and heart. I like to watch interviews for prospects and his stand out (always watch interviews or else you’ll end up with a Kaep at QB). His team’s faithfulness coupled with his demeanor remind me of Eli Manning. This week will be big for him.
Nate Peterman, QB (6’2 225 lbs), Pitt
Nate is an efficient QB prospect that understands the game. He beats opponents with a game plan and can get the ball to a variety of receivers. He ranked 8th nationally in passer rating and can flash in shootout style games. Peterman lead Pittsburg into Clemson (ranked No. 2 at the time and would go on to become National Champs) and threw for 308 yards five touchdowns with no interceptions. Leading Pitt to victory with a 4th quarter drive to set up the game winning field goal. He is more of a willing runner than a talented runner, but with that being said he still runs well. I dislike the term game manager for Peterman because it is often translated as “lacks playmaking ability,” but I would be happy if Nate were to manage football games for my team. He will be a good value pick because he isn’t going to be drafted day one, but he will understand the offense as well as anyone.
CJ Beatherd, QB (6’2 215 lbs), Iowa
C.J. Beathard is a tough poised QB. He will stand in the pocket and read his progressions. Beathard shows above average deep ball accuracy and arm strength. He is not going the juke anyone, but can move the sticks with his legs. He is a well experienced QB with 21 wins under his belt. He’s a two year team captain and a four-year member of the Leadership group. He can spread the ball well between WRs, TEs and RBs. Beathard has built a reputation as a tough leader and he fits the build. He is as good as QBs get above the shoulder pads, calling audibles at the line and running a pro style offense (or at least as close to a pro style that is still in College ball).
Kareem Hunt, RB (5’11 208 lbs), Toledo
Kareem Hunt is a well balanced runner that runs hard until the whistle. He is capable of making defenders miss while in the hole. His jukes are subtle but effective, often using his hip/torso movement to slide by defenders while maintaining speed. Hunt has good hands to catch out of the back field and is also great in space, on swing routes and screens. He tries to block but is simply more effective as a dump off option. Ranks 1st in school history for both rushing yards (4,945) and average yards per carry (6.32). In this talented RB draft class Hunts looks like and early day three prospect.
De’veon Smith, RB (5’11 220 lbs), Michigan
He’s not a “big” back at 220 lbs but is definitely a strong back. He uses good balance and strength to turn out extra yards and is rarely tackled by one defender. What he lacks for in top end speed he makes up for in sheer anger. Smith has an effective stiff arm that borderlines on brutal. I am not sure why he is angry to play football but it is clear that he is angry when he plays football. Is reminiscent of a Mike Shanahan Back of the 90’s; one cut and go. Smith spends time traveling downfield instead of running sideways for open space. If the niners take a back in the draft, I hope it is Smith- for no other reason than his running style.
Zay Jones, WR (6’1 205 lbs), East Carolina
This man has played football. No one has caught more passes in college football than Jones has with a career 399 receptions. 2016 was a monster year for Jones with 158 receptions, 1,746 yards, and eight touchdowns. There are a multitude of other records that he holds, but for simplicities sake, it’s many records. He is as crafty as WRs come, always finding a way to make a contested catch or get open. He shows good acceleration out of breaks to create separation, he has reliable hands and does not give up on passes no matter how poorly thrown. He is an experienced WR that can play all over the field.
Cooper Kupp, WR (6’2 200 lbs), Eastern Washington
Kupp has been dominate at this level and looks like a he could make a smooth transition into the NFL. He has great hands and runs routes as well as anyone at the collegiate level. He is a workhorse; grabbing 117 catches for 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2016. He can make defenders miss in space and plays faster with the ball in hands. His only question mark will be speed. The 40 yard dash will be very important for his draft stock; if he can log a fast time he will be a day two selection, if not then he will be viewed as just a possession receiver out of the slot.
Zach Banner, OT (6’9 360 lbs), USC
I hope the Niners draft Banner just so that Trent brown can ride on a se-saw with someone. Banner is a gargantuan 6’9’’ 360 lbs. He appears to be third round prospect and Joe is getting long in the tooth at LT. The niners should draft Banner, have him do some swing tackle work this year and consequently have the largest tackles in the NFL for the next ten years. Banner has elite size and power, so if he gets his long arms on a defender, the play ends for the defender. He generates serious push in the run game and moves well for his size to get down the line on stretch plays. His issue is in the passing game, if an agile defender is rushing the passer Banner struggles getting his hands on them. I also am concerned with blitz pickup. This could have been scheme based, but on more than one occasion Banner blocked the out side defender on a blitz. When a tackle is faced with blocking two defenders (as your high school coach taught you) block the inside defender and make the unblocked blitzer go around you. This allows your QB to either step up in the pocket or at least get 1/3rd of a second longer to get rid of the ball. But for the love of MONTANA don’t give a defender a straight path to the QB. Overall he looks like a more polished Tent Brown without the conditioning issues, Banner is a no brainer if he is available on day three.