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Senior Bowl 2015 Review: Running back class looks strong

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Running backs owned the ultimate college all-star game in Mobile, Alabama.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

This year's Reese's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama was an interesting mix of solid running attacks, uneven quarterback play and Mike Mayock singing. The all-star game ended with a 34-13 North win, but the score really didn't matter, as several prospects made the most of their opportunities. While the running game for both teams served as the biggest bright spot, defensive backs, wide receivers and offensive linemen provided positive results.

The Good

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska: He was the game's MVP and it was easy to see why from the jump. Abdullah led his team in rushing and receiving yards, as he totaled 113 yards on Saturday. He showed great burst and hands, along with a deadly cutback. He will be a Day 2 selection at worst.

David Cobb, RB, Minnesota: He was Abdullah's backfield mate on Saturday and was pretty impressive from a two-way back standpoint as well. He rushed 11 times for 69 yards and caught two passes for 16 yards. He also scored a touchdown on the ground. He had three big runs of 10 yards or more during the game.

Tyler Varga, FB, Yale: Varga showed that he was more than just a fullback in Mobile with an impressive performance that saw him score twice. He was the lead blocker on Cobb's touchdown and added 31 rushing yards (7.8 YPC) on four carries that led to two touchdowns of his own. He also got Mayock to awkwardly belt out the Yale fight song like three or four times for no reason.

Steve Nelson, CB, Oregon State: While he was called for a hold at one point and received a pretty questionable pass interference call, Nelson had a largely impressive game. He had at three pass breakups and forced an offensive pass interference from Auburn receiver Sammie Coates.

Jamil Douglas, OG, Arizona State: Of all the lineman on Saturday, Douglas really stood out to me. He opened running lanes throughout the game and absolutely owned his assignment on a Varga touchdown. He has some character concerns but he could be of interest to the Eagles on Day 3. He's an impressive athlete for his size.

David Johnson, RB, Northern Iowa: Johnson ran free on a 19-yard tote for a touchdown in the first quarter. He would continue his success on the ground with 10 carries for 43 rushing yards. He was also pretty proficient on kick returns as he averaged 27.3 yards on three attempts.

Dezmin Lewis, WR, Central Arkansas: He was confused for another receiver on his first catch, but made his presence known in the fourth quarter with three fantastic grabs for 59 receiving yards. The 6-foot-4 receiver used his size to his advantage by leaping over 6-foot-1 USC cornerback Josh Shaw for a 24-yard catch.

Hau'oli Kikaha, OLB/DE, Washington: My favorite player in the draft class got off to a rough start when he whiffed badly on the touchdown run by David Johnson of Northern Iowa in the first quarter. However, he bounced back and finished the first half strong with back to back tackles for loss. He forced Garrett Grayson out of the pocket which forced him out of bounds for a loss. He was regularly disruptive.

Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas: The cornerback picked off Bryan Bennett in the third quarter and got a big return out of it.

Quinten Rollins, CB, Miami (OH): The ballhawk nearly had a pick early but it bounced out of his hands into a catch by Tyler Lockett of Kansas State. He eventually got his pick on Bennett in impressive fashion. The quarterback overthrew his receiver and Rollins made a diving catch. He got a ton of love from the NFL Network pundits.

Vince Mayle, WR, Washington State: Thought Mayle had a pretty good showing on Saturday. He caught two passes for 33 yards.

Antwon Goodley, WR, Baylor: He showed fantastic hands on both of his receptions. He had two catches for 37 receiving yards.

Ben Koyack, TE, Notre Dame: He caught the only receiving touchdown of the evening with a score off a catch in the flat. He was able to hold the ball through a nasty facemask grab too. He finished with the touchdown and two receptions for 19 yards.

Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State: While I wasn't overly-impressed by Mannion, he did have some pretty solid throws in the game. He had the best throw I have ever seen him make that was dropped by Delaware tight end Nick Boyle. He was also the only quarterback to throw for a touchdown. Mannion finished 9-of-14 for 79 passing yards and a touchdown.

Garrett Grayson, QB, Colorado State: While the stats weren't terrific, I thought Grayson played pretty well. He moved in the pocket with confidence and made smart throws. He finished 8-of-15 for 118 yards in his quarter and a half of work. He seemed to be the most comfortable passer with his receivers and had several well-placed balls. Charles Davis compared him to Matt Moore, but I see Colt McCoy. Both of those comparison players had their moments as starters but have mostly been used as premium backup quarterbacks. I could see Grayson as a high-level backup in the NFL and perhaps an impressive spot starter at times.

Blake Sims, QB, Alabama: While he battled a rough set of press for his weigh in and practices, he looked pretty comfortable on Saturday. I think his footwork and elusiveness were really highlighted in the game and he was confident with his arm. His 4-of-11 for 50 yards passing stats won't impress anyone but three of his incompletions were dropped or caught out of bounds by Coates, who had a pretty rough day (more on that later). He showed good speed on three carries for 23 rushing yards. (Read more on Sims here.)

Cameron Artis-Payne, RB, Auburn: He literally got the ball rolling as he started off very fast on the ground. CAP may be 32 in running back years (turns 25 before the 2015 season), but he showed a lot positives in his game in Mobile. He carried the ball 10 times for 43 rushing yards and caught three passes for 35 receiving yards. He showed good balance as well as an awesome shimmy-and-shake.

Ronnell Hall, WR, Central Florida: He showed great body control and ball skills as he bailed out Bennett on a bad throw for 32 yards. He finished with two catches for 44 receiving yards.

La'el Collins, OT, LSU: He had a few plays where he stood out as he opened lanes for the running game.

Tre' Jackson, OG, Florida State: He had a couple of good plays in the running game and actually did a very good job against Danny Shelton, who is considered a possible Top 10 pick.

Lorenzo Mauldin, DE, Louisville: He had a really nice stop on a run on Cobb.

Kevin White, CB, TCU: He picked off an awful throw by Bryce Petty in the first quarter.

Nate Orchard, DE, Utah: He had a great stop on an end around early in the game and stopped David Johnson for no gain in the redzone.

Carl Davis, DT Iowa: He seemed to get penetration consistently and led the way for a massive tackle for loss on a David Johnson run.

Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State: The coaches clearly wanted the ball in this kid's hands, as he was used on two end arounds for seven yards and caught three passes for 48 receiving yards.

The Bad

Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn: Coates is a BGN Radio favorite but is probably not ready to contribute immediately due to some major issues in his game. He seems to have trouble tracking balls and suffers from a lot of mental errors. He had at least one drop on Saturday and another ball essentially ripped out of his hands. He had a tough day with just one catch for 13 yards. He also didn't realize the game was being played under NFL rules, so his one-footed touchdown grab led to celebration and then disappointment.

Josh Shaw, CB, USC: He was given a lot of hype entering this game, with a meeting with the Eagles and a bizarre rash of local articles spotlighting his off-the-field issues. However, the ink wasn't really worth his Senior Bowl performance. He was called for pass interference early in the game and also allowed a massive pickup to Lewis on fourth down. He wasn't terrible as he had a nice pass breakup but he wasn't worth the hype either.

Clive Walford, TE, Miami: He was talked up a lot on the telecast but he had a very, very bad drop on a third down play and only finished with one catch for 10 yards.

Justin Manton, K, Lousiana Monroe: He missed a 25-yard field goal with limited wind.

Tom Obarski, K, Concordia-St. Paul: He missed 2-of-4 field goals on Saturday.

Bryan Bennett, QB, Southeastern Louisiana: The one-time Oregon Duck had a pretty rough performance. He was bailed out a few times but eventually threw two really, really bad interceptions. He finished 5-of-10 for 80 yards and two interceptions.


  • If you really like defense, this game really wasn't for you. There were few standout plays outside of the three interceptions and a coverage sack by Mississippi State's Preston Smith. The rules for the all-star games are pretty limiting for defensive play-calling so it's not all that surprising.
  • You'll notice that Baylor's Bryce Petty wasn't listed above. He wasn't really bad or good during the game as he finished 9-of-13 for 123 passing yards and an interception. It was a bad pick and Petty looked up-and-down throughout the game. He had a wide open receiver streaking to the endzone and Petty overthrew him by at least five yards out of bounds. His reaction to the overthrow was bizarre too, as if he thought it was the receiver's fault. Petty has a lot of injury concerns and his performance this week likely won't help his stock much.
  • One thing is for certain, this is a very deep wide receiver and running back draft. There were a lot of standout seniors on Saturday in those positions.
  • A lot of people made a big deal out of Ohio State's Devin Smith making a big hit on special teams on Twitter. It was almost as if he was discovered by most people on that play. He led the National Champions with an insane 28.2 yards per catch and 12 receiving touchdowns this season. Special teams will be important for Smith in the NFL, but the Eagles were definitely aware of him before that tackle.
  • Former Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall had five tackles in his first game at cornerback. He obviously had an up-and-down game but his athleticism will help him at that position.
  • I noticed a lot of badly-dropped interceptions on Saturday. The worst was easily Ole Miss's Cody Prewitt bobbling a soft throw sent directly to him. The Rollins drop is up there as well.
  • For as bad as the defensive backs' ball skills were, the wide receivers bailed out their quarterbacks for most of the game. Mayle, Hall and Lewis all had to make adjustments on balls that could have easily been picked off. Hats off to them.
  • Our draft profile series starts Monday with Miami's Ladarius Gunter, who's only notable contribution to Saturday's game was a pass interference penalty in the endzone. He didn't turn his head around, which fits with what the Eagles want to do, apparently...