John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Thanks to Jason Brewer and Bleeding Green Nation, I was able to secure media credentials and am down here in Mobile, Alabama, for all the Senior Bowl Week festivities (Tommy Lawlor and Jimmy Kempski are in attendance, too). Over the next three days, I'll (attempt to) rub elbows with NFL people as I watch the North and South teams practice and take notes, which I will then post to the site.
Who missed his 6 AM flight from DC to Mobile (via Dallas) Monday morning? THIS GUY missed his 6 AM flight from DC to Mobile (via Dallas) Monday morning. First time in my life I've ever missed a flight, picked a great time. I blame this on a combination of my girlfriend insisting I "lay down" with her so she could fall asleep, my alarm not going off, and the cab I had scheduled to pick me up not calling my phone. The good news is I was able to switch my flight (for a modest fee) to Monday afternoon and arrived in Mobile at night. The bad news is that I'm missing the entire first full day of practice and media sessions. Hey, it could've been worse. C'est la vie. By the way, I met none other than Andy Reid at the Dallas airport while waiting for my flight to Mobile. Turns out we were on the same plane. My exact words when I walked by him: "Holy shit, Andy Reid." We chatted for five minutes or so. I asked how Kansas City was treating him, he asked about my career aspirations. Very nice guy, the whole ordeal made me feel bad about all the times I cursed his name.
To get you all started, here are the links to the Senior Bowl weigh-in results:
Going through both the North and South rosters, I feel like I could (should?) write about every prospect. For the sake of brevity, and my own sanity, I'm not going to do that. Instead I'll try to narrow my focus best I can. First up, the North.
Of the three quarterbacks on the roster, the only player who I've studied intently is North Carolina State's Mike Glennon. Given his size (6'6") and arm strength, the natural comparison for Glennon is Joe Flacco. I've also seen Tony Romo thrown around. Both are apt because Glennon has the ability to wow you with one throw and make you shake your head with the next. He can look incredible and terrible all in a single drive. Just like with Flacco and Romo, it's a matter of whether Good Glennon or Bad Glennon will show up. There's really no in between. He gets lazy with his footwork and mechanics -- back foot throws are common -- because he has so much trust in his arm strength. When Glennon's making quick decisions and stepping into his throws with conviction, he flashes the potential of a pro QB. When he holds onto the ball too long and starts getting happy feet in the pocket, he's a disaster waiting to happen.
Those of you who read my articles know I'm very high on Central Michigan LT Eric Fisher, who I consider a better prospect than Luke Joeckel. Oregon's Kyle Long, Howie's son and Chris's brother, is a relatively untapped reservoir of potential who will fascinate scouts and player personnel executives with his blend of size, athleticism and bloodlines. A former pitcher who got a baseball scholarship to Florida State, Long perhaps indulged a little too much in the party scene and was charged with DWI (not as bad as it sounds, read more here) four years ago. He transferred to Oregon soon thereafter and followed in the family's football footsteps.
Jack Doyle, TE from Western Kentucky, was unknown to me until the Little Caesars Bowl, which I watched to get a look at Central Michigan's Fisher and Jahleel Addae (SS). Doyle was by far the best player for the Hilltoppers and stole my attention numerous times with his strong blocking, soft hands and nimble athleticism.
I'm going to be keeping a very close eye on the North's squad crop of wide receivers, which boasts a sexy array of talent and depth.
Chris Harper - WR - Kansas State - 6006 / 228
Harper, an Oregon transfer, has a build and style of play that reminds me of Anquan Boldin. What makes him that much more intriguing, however, is how he blends 4.5 speed with that body. Harper frequently flashes strong hands and excellent athletic ability. Had he be been part of an offense more committed to throwing the ball, I think he'd considered among the best prospects at the WR position in this draft. It's rare to find this blend of size, strength and speed in a wide receiver, and Harper flashes the undeniable skills of a player who could turn into a a top-two WR in the NFL.
Denard Robinson - WR - Michigan - 5104 / 196
You all know about Denard Robinson. He possesses a special blend of speed, acceleration and quickness -- a blur in the open field who won't be caught once he gets a step. Robinson electrified the college football world as a QB at Michigan, but his play also made it clear he was not a gifted enough passer to make the transition to the NFL. Instead, he is being tried out at WR. No matter where Robinson lines up, however, he's a weapon whose home-run ability merits NFL consideration. Just get the ball in his hands and let him do the rest. I was expecting Robinson to be about 10 pounds lighter, so the fact that he weighed in at a a solid, strong 196 is encouraging.
Aaron Mellette - WR - Elon - 6024 / 216
Mellette's been on my radar since after last year's draft, when he was one of the top-three wide receivers for the 2013 class on NFLDraftScout.com. As you might imagine, finding Elon tape is next to impossible, but luckily I was able to get my hands on two games: the 2012 season opener vs. North Carolina, and the 2011 season opener vs. Vanderbilt. Elon was simply overmatched against North Carolina and Mellette got shut down, even dropping a few passes and finishing with just two catches for 9 yards. But let me tell you: If the Vanderbilt opener from 2011 is any indication, Mellette has legit NFL skill. I say this because of the cornerback who he was matched up against, Casey Hayward. Hayward was one of my favorite prospects in last year's draft, and he became an impact player for the Packers the moment he stepped on the field this season. In the Vanderbilt/Elon season opener from 2011, though, Mellette had his way with the future pro, to the tune of 11 catches for 180 yards and a touchdown. He racked up YAC -- showing strength to break tackles and a couple nice spin moves to shake the defender and turn back inside for extra yards -- and caught everything with his hands out in front. Two of those catches were of the jaw-dropper variety. First: In the second quarter, he jumped over Hayward and plucked the ball out of the air. Second: An acrobatic, one-handed touchdown snag to make the score 21-14 Vanderbilt in the third quarter. So, naturally, I'm left to wonder which is the real Aaron Mellette. Given his track record of success, I want to go with the player I saw abuse Casey Hayward.
Marquise Goodwin - WR - Texas - 5087 / 179
Speed, speed, speed. Special speed -- track speed -- with the suddenness and quickness to make defenders miss in space. An Olympic long jumper, when Goodwin turns on the jets, everyone else gets left in the dust and nobody's catching him from behind. He profiles more as a gadget-type player and strategically deployed home-run threat at the NFL level. The play you're probably most familiar with is Goodwin's 64-yard touchdown run against Oregon State in the Valero Alamo Bowl, but he also made a tremendous touchdown catch later.
WR on the North roster who I liked in limited viewings but have to watch more of before forming a final opinion: Aaron Dobson (Marshall - 6025 / 203) and Markus Wheaton (Oregon State - 5110 / 183).
On defense, UCLA's Datone Jones stole the show at the weigh-in with his physique and is considered one of the most complete DE prospects in the draft. SMU's Margus Hunt, a native Estonian and former discus thrower and shot-putter, is an athletic freak of epic proportions. Though he'll turn 26 in July, he's still raw and learning the game. Hunt's physical skills will entice, and he dominated Fresno State in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, but his performance throughout the season was inconsistent at best. Illinois' Michael Buchanan is an interesting case, a player who I think has become underrated and undervalued. If you watch his tape from 2011, you'll see a sudden, dominant pass rusher with bona fide NFL talent and a penchant for blowing up plays behind the line of scrimmage, but who could also drop back and play in space. If you watch his tape from 2012, you see a weak, sluggish, struggling player who was always a step slow or a second late and got handled by offensive tackles far too often. The contrast was bewildering. After some research, I discovered that Buchanan broke his jaw in an altercation over the summer and had to have it wired shut. He lost around 20 pounds and couldn't properly train. Things seemed to snowball from there, as he spent most of the season regaining the weight and working his way back into football shape. Buchanan is not without character red flags, however (in addition to the aforementioned fight, he was arrested after the 2010 opener on suspicion of driving under the influence and suspended indefinitely), but he profiles as a player who could emerge as a mid-round steal.
At DT, I'll be focusing on D-II product Brandon Williams of Missouri Southern. The 6'2", 340-pound behemoth is a unique blend of size, power and quickness. Can he be a NT in a 3-4?
I'm a big Arthur Brown (LB - Kansas State) fan, but he's a weakside LB in the NFL, and, if the Eagles stick with the 4-3, that spot will be manned by Mychal Kendricks. Jordan Poyer (CB - Oregon State), Blidi Wreh-Wilson (CB - Connecticut), and Phillip Thomas (FS - Fresno State) are all players I've mentioned as potential targets for the Eagles in previous articles. If you watch only one game of Desmond Trufant (CB - Washington), make sure it's his masterful performance in shutting down USC's Marqise Lee earlier this season (he also shut down Markus Wheaton).
Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International: Game tape simply blew me away. I've slapped Cyprien with a Brian Dawkins comparison and am sticking to it. Very talented player and in my top-three safeties for the 2013 draft.
I'll write about the South roster tomorrow after practice. Some of the players I'll be paying close attention to are:
Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma: By the time the draft is upon us, I expect Johnson to be an easy top-20 pick. He's got the size, athleticism and accompanying measurements (35" arms!) to excel at LT in the NFL. He plays with a mean streak, too. Johnson's a damn near elite prospect who excelled protecting Landry Jones's blindside, and I can't for the life of me understand why he isn't mentioned in the same breath as Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher.
Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky: I've only watched two of Warford's game tapes, but I will say that humans who are 6'3" and 330+ pounds should not be able to move like this guy does.
Vance McDonald, TE, Rice: I didn't even know who Vance McDonald was 24 hours ago, but my Twitter time line from Monday morning told the tale. He was a weigh-in revelation, checking in at 6'4" and 260 pounds with massive 10" hands and an 81 5/8" wingspan; for the cherry on top, he dominated during the afternoon practice.
Tavarres King, WR, Georgia: Pop in the tape from the SEC Championship game against Alabama to see just how dangerous King can be. He's a big play waiting to happen and averaged an obscene 22.6 yards per catch in 2012. For his college career, King averaged a slightly-less-obscene-but-still-gaudy 19.1 yards per catch (136 catches for 2,602 yards).
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU: You know of this Ghanan sensation already, and I wrote about him back in October before the hype machine went into overdrive.
Leon McFadden, CB, San Diego State: Try to find an SDSU game where McFadden doesn't make at least a few NFL-caliber plays. You can't.