My ninth straight year covering the Senior Bowl in person for RealGM kicked off with quite a long work day on Tuesday. The weigh-ins started at 8:30 AM on the nose, and for two hours over 500 media and NFL team personnel watched over 100 NFL draft prospects parade across a stage in their Under Armour underwear to get measured and weighed. Yes, it’s very much as absurd as it sounds.
Some brief notes from the weigh-ins…
Baylor DE Shawn Oakman still looks like Tarzan, though he measured at just 6’7” and 269 pounds, about 2 inches shorter and 10-15 pounds lighter than expected.
Another DE who comes to Mobile with a reputation as more of an athlete than football player is Illinois’ Jihad Ward. He also rocked the weigh-in at a chiseled 6’5” and 296 pounds. More on him later.
Miles Killibrew, a player I mentioned in my preview piece, sized in at 6’1.5” and 219.
Miles Killebrew S Southern Utah is an absolute gym rat. Fantastic build. One of the winners from weigh ins for me.— Brandon Thorn (@VeteranScout) January 26, 2016
That’s a great size for a safety, but he was listed at 6’3” and 230. Boise State’s Darian Thompson, a player I really like on film, was almost the exact same size and bigger than his listed dimensions.
LSU linebacker Deion Jones was smaller than Killibrew at just 6’1” and 219. In looking at him in his skivvies, there really doesn’t look like he can add much good weight either. Oklahoma LB Eric Striker was 5’11” and 228 pounds, with short (31”) arms and also looked maxed out in terms of his frame Linebackers that size are a tough sell, though interestingly safeties that size moving up to linebacker is en vogue.
On a different vein from the weigh-in, there continues to be a precipitous decline in the number of tattoos, bad or otherwise. Indiana LT Jason Spriggs had the most notable, a full sleeve up his left arm with a lot of different colors. Nine different players had to have their opposite hand measured because of “pinky deformity”, too.
Only three players outright declined invites:
- Alabama OL Ryan Kelly
- Michigan State QB Connor Cook
- Oregon DE DeForest Buckner
Senior Bowl President Phil Savage said all three never strung along the selection committee, which is a real positive. But refusing to be here is going to be very costly, especially for Cook.
On to the practice fields…
The South practice at Fairhope HS was quite crowded along the sidelines. Among the attendees were Dan Marino and Nick Saban, who draws throngs of followers like some major deity in these parts.
I tried to focus on the defensive backs and wideouts, but the early drills were sort of inane so I instead looked at the LBs and RBs.
Alabama’s Reggie Ragland, a player I love, did very little to change my opinion. He’s a little heavier-footed than on film, but he still moves quite well for a 259-pound inside backer and his hips were looser than Jones, who he outweighs by 40 pounds.
Northwestern FB/H-Back Dan Vitale dominated the pass rushing drill. He bested all comers, including Ragland. His hands are big and well-placed and he packs genuine power behind them. His pass blocking is NFL-ready from the get-go, and that could help him get drafted even though he almost never touched the ball for the Wildcats.
Georgia OLB Jordan Jenkins looked fantastic in the weigh-in, and he looked pretty good on the field too. He moves quite fluidly for a 257-pound, long-armed backer. He won more than he lost in the drills, blowing around Florida TE Jake McGee on a rep with a fantastic burst off the line.
Back to the perimeter guys…
The standout defender was Southeast Louisiana CB Harlan Miller. Though he’s lighter than desirable at 6’0” but just 185 pounds, he showed confidence, instincts and quick-twitch reactions in coverage. In agility and catch drills he showed real explosiveness and also great hands, making a left-handed stab over his shoulder.
On the flip side, Samford’s James Bradberry did not play well in his first practice with the big boys. The corner looks great at 6’1” and a well-built 209, but he played too high in his stance and looked sluggish in and out of breaks. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt with nerves, but I need to see a lot more in the next two days.
Baylor WR Jay Lee doesn’t get near the acclaim of teammate Corey Coleman, but he turned in a very strong day. He’s a bigger guy, a sleekly built 6’1.5” and 217, and he runs very well. Today he showed body control and the ability to change speeds to get separation. That’s not something we get to see in Baylor’s offense, so it was nice to watch Lee win on his own volition and not as part of scheme. Lee also caught the ball cleanly.
Georgia wideout Malcolm Mitchell had a disappointing, injury-riddled career for the Bulldogs. For this one day at least, he showed why he was once a top-shelf recruit. He’s got all the savvy of an NFL veteran, setting up moves with his head, shoulders and feet. His routes are crisp, his hands strong but soft. Durability will be a major talking point, but if he can stay on the field Mitchell can definitely play at the next level.
Next came the North Practice, also known as the Carson Wentz and Braxton Miller show.
There are crowds of people waiting for Carson Wentz and Braxton Miller at tonight's media dinner— Dan Kadar (@MockingTheDraft) January 27, 2016
Wentz is the most buzzed-about QB here since Tim Tebow. Everyone been talking him up, and the NFL might actually be ahead of the draft media in terms of buying the hype. And the North Dakota State slinger delivered.
He’s got the complete package NFL teams want: height, arm strength, agility, even the ability to tuck and run with both vision and speed. The biggest question is his feet. Despite being an above-average athlete, he often stood flat-footed in the pocket and that led to accuracy and timing issues.
For today at least, the issue appears rectified. He was on his toes and light on his feet. Here’s an example:
Last week an NFL personnel evaluator told me if Wentz had a big Senior Bowl week he was a top 5 overall pick. After seeing him today and feeling the buzz, you’d better believe that’s what’s going to happen.
Miller had a different level of expectation, but he blew it away. His agility and route running was sublimely awesome. Several of his routes drew oohs and aahs as he spun defenders around or jerked past them.
This play gives a taste of how nifty and strong Miller is as a wideout. It also shows he still has some work to do, as Temple’s Tavon Young ultimately knocked the ball out of his hands before completing the process of the catch.
Young did that to others, too, including Michigan State’s Aaron Burbridge and UMass’ Tajae Sharpe. He was the star of the North defensive backs, aggressive and outwardly confident but also very strong with the ball in the air. When I watched him during the year I found a mixed bag, but he was fantastic today.
Jihad Ward also looked great, as noted above in the weigh-in section. I only caught a few reps in the pit drills, but they were real and they were spectacular. My friend Kyle Crabbs thought so too,
Illinois DL Jihad Ward was the best defensive player on the field today. Only one day; but my goodness was he great.— Kyle Crabbs (@NDTScouting) January 26, 2016
Other guys who caught my eyes positively today include
- Ohio State DT Adolphus Washington
- Ohio State TE Nick Vannett, more athletic than he showed in Columbus
- Temple DT Matt Ioannidis
- Arizona State guard Christian Westerman
- Kansas State guard Cody Whitehair, also playing some center
- UCLA WR Jordan Payton, nice deep speed