Senior Bowl Set to Deliver Large Amounts of Skill, Competition

The Pro-Bowl is not the only significant all-star game happening this weekend. While it will be enjoyable to catch the top professional football players in Sunday evening's contest from South Florida, there is an event today that you should also consider watching. The annual Senior Bowl matchup is set to take place at 4 p.m. ET this afternoon, so that scouts from around the NFL and fans across the country can get a last game day glimpse of the top collegiate players who are preparing to enter April's Draft.

This event does not pertain specifically to the Eagles (obviously), but it is just as important to our beloved Birds as to any other club in the league. Team officials like new GM Howie Roseman and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, as well as a handful of scouts and assistants, are expected to be in Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl, for they were at the same location the past week while the players practiced for the game. They will surely be keeping an eye on the top performers, as well as some prospects they may have already shown interest in (one name that comes to mind is LB A.J. Edds from Iowa). After all, the Eagles do tend to snatch players in the Draft that showed promise in the Senior Bowl (examples include FS Quintin Demps, LB Moise Fokou, and FS Macho Harris).

If you're not one for college football, this game is still a significant one to pay attention to. In fact, both the North and South squads of the Senior Bowl are going to be led by current NFL coaches as usual, and therefore professional schemes are typically a large factor. Over the last few years, the importance of this annual contest and the practices leading up to it have become almost like a miniature Scouting Combine, so it truly is good to keep an eye on it.

Below is a brief list/compilation of the players you should most be looking for and seeing how they perform. Whether it is because they have something to prove before earning the trust of NFL scouts or because they are simply among the most explosive players in the country, this is a fine list of who you should definitely be watching for (with an added statement of how/why he might relate to the Eagles):

  • Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama: Because few of the actual top-ranked defensive linemen (like Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy) are scheduled to play in the game, Cody's name is arguably the biggest for the Defensive Tackle position in the Senior Bowl. And, quite frankly, his body is the biggest, too. The enormously massive Alabama product, who weighed in at 370 pounds during practice sessions, has a dominating strength against the running game, but needs to show some sort of quickness (is that possible with his size?) or versatility to stand out. Eagles Relation: Coach Andy Reid has a clear passion for interior linemen, so...who knows? Cody might be considered, but probably not, seeing he is expected to be taken relatively early in the Draft.
  • Dexter McCluster, RB, Mississippi: He is definitely not one of the most talked-about Running Backs scheduled to enter the Draft, but he might be after today's Senior Bowl. With blazing speed and extreme athleticism, McCluster has the ability to play both in a rushing and receiving role in the NFL, as well as in a kick returning job. In his final pair of seasons at Mississippi, the 165-pound speedster totaled 18 touchdowns, 1,824 rushing yards, and 1,145 receiving yards, while averaging solid numbers on special teams and--yes--even throwing for 27 yards and a score. Eagles Relation: With LeSean McCoy expected to be the main RB in 2010, all that the team really needs is a productive backup. With Brian Westbrook still around and teammates suggesting he will stay, McCluster might only find his way to Philly if the talented stud is still available in the mid-rounds.
  • Dan LeFevour, QB, Central Michigan: Shadowed by the likes of Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen, LeFevour has the tools to be a successful passer in the NFL, and should be a key player in today's Senior Bowl. Standing tall at 6-foot-3 and possessing a strong body that was last weighed to be just under 230 pounds, the Central Michigan QB is looking to make an impact in hopes that teams will realize he is a reliable player and worthy of an early-round Draft pick. In each of his last 2 years in college, he threw for over 20 touchdowns and less than 7 interceptions, while also rushing for at least 6 scores. His shaky passing range is something that can be fixed, and overall, he is someone to look out for this afternoon. Eagles Relation:Depending on the QB situation, LeFevour may or may not be considered. If he is still around in the 5th or 6th rounds as projected, the Birds might ponder the opportunity.
  • Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho: Considered the absolute best at his natural position of Guard, Iupati will be one to keep an eye on today. Blocking has never been a problem for the 6-foot-5 lineman, and as ESPN's Todd McShay points out, "there is not a weakness in Iupati's game when he's lined up." His long arms allow him to engulf defensive players who are attempting to apply pressure, and he is undoubtedly one of the highest-potential players set to enter the Draft. Eagles Relation: The OG position remains a bit of a blur for the Eagles, and Andy Reid also enjoys developing linemen on the offensive side of the ball, so a 1st-round pick used on Iupati would actually not be a surprise.
  • Tim Tebow, QB, Florida: Perhaps the player who has been discussed the most over the last few days of Senior Bowl preparation, Tebow has quite a bit to prove in this afternoon's game, but he also has a lot to lose. How is that so? Well, everyone is quick to point out his weaknesses of poor pass delivery and sloppy footwork among many other things, and fail to acknowledge that he still possesses the amazing play-making ability he had in college, where he deservingly was awarded the 2007 Heisman Trophy. He will probably need to have a great performance for the tough critics to give a semi-nod of approval of him, but otherwise, remains just a fun player to watch. Eagles Relation: As discussed in a previous article, Tebow could arguably develop well in a system like the Eagles', but yet again, it all depends on the QB situation and how the front office prioritizes the Draft.

(picture source)

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