Bright sunny afternoon with a whole lot fewer NFL people present than in the morning session. It sounds like the vast majority of coaches and personnel people are heading out tonight, so tomorrow?s practice sessions should be sparsely attended. This practice session wasn?t as scout-friendly but still provided a lot of things to evaluate.
Christian Ponder has raised a lot of flags the last couple of days despite having some obvious strengths. The biggest issue is his delivery--he throws with his arm and elbow much more than anyone else here. It?s no wonder he has had elbow troubles and if he doesn?t change his fundamental throwing motion he always will. The accuracy is strong and he doesn?t lack zip, however; he probably has the biggest gun here despite the arm-y throwing style. I am also concerned at how quickly he makes decisions. There have been several instances where he took an extra half-second to process what he was seeing and it let the defender make up enough ground to make a play, when if Ponder would have been quicker he would have had a nice completion. On Tuesday he was a count late to see a wide open Preston Dial down the field and gave Ahmad Black enough time to read and recover. There was a play today where he missed seeing Anthony Allen (GT RB) alone in the flat (both the safety and LB sucked to the TE) and forced a ball down the field. I watched him after he threw it and he immediately saw Allen and just nodded. But he made a great throw on a bootleg where the defense took away his TE and he fired a ball on the dead run into a tight spot. He?s got decision-makers firmly divided in opinion as well--one longtime NFL QB standing within earshot was gushing about him and thinks he?s the best QB here, but another NFL alum QB thinks he won?t last 3 years with his throwing style. The health concerns are weighing higher on my mind than before.
Dalton continues to make a good showing. He stands taller than his stature and has a nice, clean release, though he does go a little long at times. Good footwork, and he performed well in the agility drill the Bills coaches ran. He made a couple of crisp throws outside, easing the concerns about his arm strength. Two concerns persist: when he misses he misses high, which equals INTs and creamed receivers; and as a defensive coach pointed out to me while we were watching practice today, he looks at his primary target with his last look before taking the snap every time. There?s a lot of Matt Flynn to him, and I suspect that?s how most NFL personnel people here see him--a good #2 that you could trust to fill in for a week or two even on a championship-level team, but not a franchise QB to build around.
Few had lofty expectations for McElroy (other than the Bama faithful) and he?s largely done little to prove otherwise. The arm strength isn?t great, but he spots the ball well--probably more accurate out to 25 yards than any QB here. He reminds me of Brian Hoyer.
Focused some on the corners and safeties. Thoughts:
Clemson safety Deandre McDaniel continues to stand out. In agility drills he was surprisingly (to me) fluid and showed burst out of breaks. In 11-on-11 drills the last two days he consistently does a good job of reading his keys and finding the ball. I?d like to see him finish better, but some of that is no doubt a function of the format.
Demarcus Van Dyke of Miami is a lightweight at 168 pounds and it shows when the ball is in the air. He tries to compensate with a lot of fight, and he can jump and has good timing, but receivers have no trouble getting where they want against him and can overpower him to make the catch. He also struggled to catch the ball in a drill, and when you?re his size you?d better be able to make plays.
Zac Etheridge from Auburn looked good in drills, though on one play he bit on an outside move by Greg Salas (Hawaii) and gave up the inside slant with no help inside. He plays bigger than his listed size. Nice guy too, very positive attitude.
Texas? Curtis Brown is really struggling. In agility drills he consistently needs an extra step out of his cuts, and his hips are tight. He also is consistently late to find the ball. He?s better in 11-on-11, but unless he cleans up his feet he?s going to disappoint in the NFL.
Marcus Gilchrist from Clemson is smaller but quite feisty and very good with his hands. Very quick feet and good burst out of his breaks. Made a couple of nice breaks on outside throws and anticipated routes well, with one ugly exception where he bit on a great head/shoulder fake by Ronald Johnson. I like him as an inside nickel corner in the NFL, though more time in the weight room would serve him well.
Johnny Patrick from Louisville is consistently high in his backpedal and doesn?t break out with the burst you want to see. He?s good with the ball in the air though and doesn?t lack for confidence.
-- Von Miller (TAMU) continues to dominate with his pass rush, but he also held up well lining up in a 3pt. stance and holding the point of attack. No way he falls out of the top 10, perhaps top 5.
-- Kelvin Sheppard (LSU) also looked very good in blitz drills, showing a variety of moves and good power. He overpowered every back he faced. Reminds me of Deandre Levy.
--Bilal Powell (Louisville) looked good in pass protect. He also flashed nice hands in the open field. He runs like Chester Taylor.
-- Derrick Locke (Kentucky) had major troubles in pass protection. He has very little functional strength and he runs/plays like he knows it. Strictly a 3rd down receiving back that had better wow someone with punt/kick return ability. I was expecting more after being fairly impressed in watching a few Kentucky games this year.
-- Colin McCarthy (Miami) doesn?t have a lot of flair or overwhelming athleticism, but he uses his hands well and never stops fighting. He bull rushed Allen on a blitz, and Allen is a pretty stocky, powerful RB. He also flashed nice hands in a coverage drill. Has some Na?il Diggs to him.
-- Josh Bynes (Auburn) keeps proving he?s a jack-of-all, master-of-no trades type of backer. He has quick feet and closes on the ball with good speed, but he got caught overrunning the play a couple of times. He made a very athletic catch off his right shoe in drills.
Brief random notes:
-- Florida T Marcus Gilbert did not practice, which was a disappointment because he played pretty well on Tuesday.
-- Florida State C Rodney Hudson is having a very strong week. Incredibly athletic for a center even though he ate a lot to get up to 291. I like him better at center than guard. TCU?s Jake Kirkpatrick is a better center prospect than any on the North squad as well.
-- Luke Stocker (Tennessee) is the best overall TE here. DJ Williams (Arkansas) is a better downfield threat, Lance Kendricks (Wisconsin, the North side) gets quicker releases and runs better after the catch, Lee Smith (Marshall, also on the North) is bigger and a better in-line blocker, but Stocker can do it all reasonably well. Reminds me a lot of Heath Miller of the Steelers. He?s the only TE here that belongs as high as the 2nd round, and even he might be a stretch there because he?s not quite as fast or as strong as Miller.
-- In prior trips here the Alabama fans have greatly outnumbered the Auburn contingency. This year it?s probably 50/50 and I?m seeing a lot more Auburn paraphernalia around Mobile. Funny what a national championship will do for school pride?
Via Jeff Risdon/RealGM
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