As a disclaimer, I should note that there’s a lot going on at these practices. I might see something I like or dislike out of one of these players on one play or drill that another analyst might miss, and vice versa. So there’s going to be some variance of opinions. I should also note that while I watch my share of college football during the season, I do so casually. I’m not ever going to try to position myself as some sort draft expert. You won’t see any “big boards” from me, and you’ll definitely never see me waste my time or yours by doing a mock draft. I think that’s good and bad as far as observations go. Some might think it’s bad that I don’t have any strong prior knowledge of the majority of these players, but that could also be viewed as a good thing as well, for the purposes of not having any pre-determined opinions of these players. This is just a summary of what I happened to see during my time in Mobile.
Players that impressed me:
Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas – I got a very close up look at Adams the very first day of practices. He weighed in at 5’10 1/2, 174. He sure didn’t look like he was only 174. DeSean Jackson is listed at 5’10, 175. Both were fast, dynamic receivers in college, both were special teams standouts, and they have similar size, so the comparisons are easy. I’ve seen DeSean Jackson up close at Eagles training camp. He’s a twig. Adams has a bigger frame and just looks bigger than DeSean, even though their measurables are identical, if that makes any sense. Adams made tough catches all week – Deep balls, working the intermediate zones, going up for balls over the middle. I saw just one drop. There may have been more, but I only saw one, and I had my eye on him as much as possible. In 1-on-1 drills, he typically won, but he compares much less favorably to DeSean in those drills. In Eagles camp, nobody can stop DeSean Jackson in 1-on-1 drills. Not Asante Samuel, not Nnamdi Asomugha, not Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He’s simply impossible to cover if you’re on him 1-on-1 with the entire field at his disposal. Again, Adams was very good in those drills, and maybe the best WRs at the Senior Bowl in 1-on-1′s, but he doesn’t have the speed of DeSean Jackson. If he does well during the interview process, he may go as high as Round 2.
Mike Adams, OT, Ohio St. – His size alone is impressive. 6’7, 323, and he carries it well. He just looks like an NFL OT. Both defensive lines completely dominated the offensives lines in practices this week, but Adams was clearly the best of the bunch. The buzz is that he’s a sure-fire 1st rounder, and may even make his way up into the top half of round 1. In a league where terrible OL play is an epidemic, it wouldn’t be a shock to me in the slightest if he went that early.
Vick Ballard, RB, Mississippi St. – There was one play in 11 on 11′s where Ballard got through the line, and once he got into the second level… boom… nice burst to the sideline where he beat the safety around the corner and took it to the house. Very impressive run. That’s where Ballard first caught my attention. Loved his effort in pass protection. Did a really good job being physical with the LB’s. He has nice base at 5’10, 217. I didn’t get a good feel for his ability to catch passes out of the backfield. Nothing really stood out there, and in researching him a bit more, he only caught 30 passes in his 2 seasons at Miss St. I get the sense that he’ll need improvement there. Still, the burst is there. He could be a nice complimentary back in the NFL.
Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia – I think the general sense at the Senior Bowl was that Janoris Jenkins was clearly the best CB there. I agree that Jenkins probably was the best corner there, but I didn’t see much of a gap between him and Boykin. Boykin showed excellent speed and quickness, and was very physical when jamming receivers at the line.
Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina – Practices like these seem to be tailor made for a guy like Brown. Great speed, fluid motion, caught everything in drills, and was pretty clearly the best linebacker at the Senior Bowl as far as covering RB’s and TE’s. There are so many TE’s in the league now that are absolute matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. Tight end is becoming one of the strongest positions in the game. You know all the names. When one position in the NFL becomes a major strength, players that can counter those positions of strength become that much more valuable. Zach Brown could maybe be one of those players that has a fighting chance against the Rob Gronkowskis and Jimmy Grahams of the NFL. Unfortunately, there was no tackling in Senior Bowl practices. It would have been great to get a good look at Zach’s ability there. That will be the big question mark on him.
Juron Criner, WR, Arizona – I liked his route running, and loved the way he fought for the football in the air. If you were watching the Senior Bowl practices on TV, you’ve probably already seen his one-handed grab. It was the highlight of the week. He has nice size at 6’2, 220 and appears to be a battler.
Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall – Tremendous burst off the edge on the snap. Outstanding first step. In drills he was going 1-on-1 against interior offensive linemen, and it was comical watching them try to stay in front of Curry. He was just too quick. Curry has kind of a sleek build at 6’3, 265. I didn’t get to see how he might hold up against the run, but at the very least, he could be a really good speed rusher at the next level. Expect Curry to be a Combine star in Indy.
Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska – David was only linebacker aside from Zach Brown that could stay with RB’s and TE’s in 1-on-1 drills. Unfortunately at 6’0, 225, he’s smaller than a nice handful of safeties in the league. However, he seemed to be able to diagnose plays quickly and got himself, by my count, at least 3 TFL’s in 11 on 11′s.
Demario Davis, LB, Arkansas St. – Davis was a late addition to Senior Bowl practices after injuries. To be just thrown into the mix and look like you’ve been there the entire time is impressive. RB’s couldn’t block him in 1-on-1 pass protection drills. He looks like he might be a good blitzing LB.
Cordy Glenn, OT/OG, Georgia – He battled against Quinton Coples and Melvin Ingram all week, and more than held his own. Massive player at 6’5, 346. I don’t think he’ll have a chance against the better speed rushers in the NFL on the outside, but he can be dominant on the interior.
Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina – It would be ideal if Ingram were a little taller (he’s 6’2, 276), but he was dominant at times in 1-on-1 pass rushing drills. Showed a nice variety of pass rush moves, with the inside swim standing out to me. Ingram could be a player that you can move inside on obvious passing downs, like Justin Tuck.
Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama – I mentioned Jenkins earlier when I noted Brandon Boykin, and I certainly didn’t mean to slight Jenkins. Jenkins was like glue all week. His talent is obvious. He’s also very chippy. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. The aggressiveness is good, but he might be a little overboard with his physical style. In college you can get away with a little extra shove after 5 yards. You can’t do that in the NFL. I think early in his NFL career he might struggle with penalties, but at the same time, I’d prefer a corner that embraces contact over one that shies away from it. It’ll all come down to whether or not NFL teams think he’s a turd or not in the interview process.
Cam Johnson, DE/OLB, Virginia – I mentioned Mike Adams earlier, saying he was by far the best OT at the Senior Bowl. Well, Cam Johnson seemed to be the one guy that had his number. Cam smoked Adams around the edge twice. Decent height at a hair under 6’4.
Kendall Reyes, DT, UConn – Reyes was a disruptive force all week on 11 on 11′s. He didn’t always make the play, but he lived in the backfield. Looked like he had a great first step for a big guy, and was able to split interior O Linemen and consistently mess up plays.
Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma St. – Best QB this week by far, and it wasn’t even close. Best arm, most accurate, great poise, polished (sold play action well, etc.). He has it all. Obviously, there’s the concern with his age (he’s 28). There was one play where they ran a little QB waggle. He ran play action left, and when he turned to roll right he found a not-fooled Courtney Upshaw bearing down on him right in his face. No worries. He calmly located his outlet (RB Chris Rainey), somehow got it around Upshaw, and hit Rainey in stride for a little 5 yard gain. Of all the nice throws with zip he made all week, that one little play impressed me the most. Most NFL starting QB’s would have had a much worse result in that situation than what Weeden was able to salvage there. I’ll be shocked if he makes it out of round 2.