Behind the Scenes

Here are a couple of good stories for your post-draft pleasure.

First up is a piece on how things go when scouts differ on a prospect.

The focus here is Bears GM Ryan Pace, but there are lots of comments from Phil Savage. He now runs the Senior Bowl, but previously was a personnel executive.

Phil Savage recently shared some insight from his experience as Cleveland Browns general manager (2005-2008) and his tenure as a high-ranking personnel executive with the Baltimore Ravens (1996-2004).

“It’s a very difficult thing to do,” said Savage, now an analyst for SiriusXM. “You try to get to a consensus, but sometimes the consensus is not 100 percent right. When you have grades spread across a lot of different opinions, that’s probably the player you’re going to get. He’s going to be very up and down and all over the map, just like the scouts saw it.”

Savage said his teams always tried to have at least three scouts grade each prospect from a major school.

“Most of the time, you’ll have two out of the three leaning one way or the other,” he said. “And it’s one of the real struggles when you get into your meetings and you want to keep your scouts engaged. You want them to feel like that they have a vote in this.

“But there are cases where…you might have four or five or six grades on a player, and the wind may be blowing all in one direction with the exception of one scout. And I have absolutely seen it where four out of the five (say one thing), and the GM or myself in this situation, put the guy’s card up there in line with the four of the five grades that seem to be indicating that. And at the end of the day, the fifth scout that was blowing against the wind, he ended up being right.”

Good read. Lots of interesting comments.

*****

Next up is a story on the marriage of football and analytics from Mike Tanier.

So a fully analytic approach to roster construction results in an NFL team full of size-speed specimens drafted in middle rounds who replace experienced veterans but are released the moment they become too expensive, and the roster contains no well-known running backs or kickers.

That sounds like a great way to put together a bad rugby team.

The truth is much subtler than that caricature. Analytics is a series of methods, not a series of rules. That may be why both Moneyball skeptics and some of the younger analytic zealots go into Twitter apoplexy when a team signs a veteran running back or punts on 4th-and-1 (another long analytic story).

The team built on analytics only pays premiums for premium talent. It recognizes replaceability and manages risk. It develops talent instead of trying to purchase it. It’s a little more cold and calculating about how quickly a popular veteran might age into obsolescence, but it is also more optimistic about how fast it can turn a big/strong/fast/hungry no-name from the fifth round into the next popular veteran.

The team built on analytics looks a lot like the Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Ravens, even though some of these perennial contenders appear to be much more old-fashioned than Moneyball oriented.

That’s because analytics and conventional wisdom have more in common than you think, and many franchises have found ways to make them work hand in hand.

Great stuff from Mike.

Too often, we act like analytics is some far-fetched, ridiculous idea that will ruin football. It can be a valuable tool and way of looking at things, but it isn’t the be-all answer that some would love to believe.

There is no perfect formula for building a Super Bowl team. That’s what makes it so challenging.

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Draft Notes

Here are some random thoughts on prospects.

The dirtiest/nastiest player in the draft? For my money that is Georgia OL John Theus. While down at the Senior Bowl, he got into a lot of shoving matches with DL. Theus is extremely competitive and has a real nasty streak. He’s not going to back down from anyone.

Watch his game tape and you will see the nasty streak. Theus gets in a shove or hit whenever he can. There was one play in the Senior Bowl that really stood out. Theus got off balance while blocking Sheldon Day and started to fall. He grabbed Day’s hair and pulled him to the ground as he fell. I can’t recall ever seeing quite like that from an OL. Some coaches will love that nasty streak.

Theus has a lot of experience. He has good size and is talented. He isn’t a gifted pass blocker and has some athletic limitations. I tend to think of him as a late round pick, but it won’t surprise me if some team takes him in the mid rounds.

*****

Pharoh Cooper from South Carolina is one of my favorite WRs in this draft. I love watching him play. But there are some issues. He is 5-11, 203, hardly an ideal build, and ran just 4.65 in the 40. He had a vertical jump of only 31 inches at the Combine and did the same at his Pro Day. That is shockingly low for a gifted receiver. OL Germain Ifredi (324 pounds) had a vertical of 32.5 inches.

I do love Cooper’s game tape.

He shows good hands. Toughness. Vision. Elusiveness. Body control. He will fight for balls in the air. And either he plays faster than he times or the SEC has a lot of DBs that run 4.8. There are quite a few plays on that video where he runs away from DBs.

I hesitate to do this, but Cooper reminds me a bit of Antonio Brown. When he came out, Brown was 5-10, 196 and ran 4.57. He had a 33.5 inch VJ. Those are bad workout numbers, but Brown has become one of the best WRs in the league. I don’t think Cooper is likely to pull off the same feat, but he is more of a gamer than a pure athlete or workout guy. He probably will be a slot guy, but it won’t shock me if Cooper ends up being a good starting receiver no matter where he plays.

*****

DT Drew Iddings from South Dakota had a great Pro Day. He measured in at 6-5, 290 and ran 4.75. He did 20 reps on the bench and had a VJ of 32.5 inches. That got me excited to watch his game tape. Unfortunately I came away disappointed. I think Iddings has a shot to be drafted, but I’m not sold that he will make it in the NFL. He is big and athletic, but I have concerns about his physicality and ability to deal with NFL O-linemen.

*****

Kevin Byard is probably my favorite Safety prospect. He had a great career for MTSU, picking off 19 passes. He doesn’t have great man cover skills, but no prospect is perfect. Byard is smart. You can see he studies the offense before the snap and gets players into the right spots. One of my favorite moments came in the Alabama game when he chased down a player and tackled him inside the 10-yard line. That play didn’t make a difference in that game, but plays like that are huge in the NFL, where the difference in a TD and a FG can be the difference in winning and losing.

*****

There is now some chatter that Le’Raven Clark could be a 1st round pick. I don’t get that at all. He played LT at Texas Tech and had a good career, but his pass protection skills need a ton of work. He got beat at TT. He got beat in the Senior Bowl (game and practices).

Clark is big and athletic. He is a good run blocker. I just can’t get past his mediocre pass blocking. If he was a 330-pound mauler that could dominate in the run game, maybe. But he’s not that guy.

I hope Clark proves me wrong and has a terrific NFL career, but his pass pro bugs the heck out of me.

*****

Who the heck is that?

Tavarres began at a junior college and then transferred to Arkansas. He ended up at UIW and had an amazing 2015 season. He had 22.5 TFLs and 110 total tackles. Daniel Jeremiah likes to talk about how when studying small college prospects they should jump out at you. Tavarres passes that test.

Watch his highlights and you will see him just destroy some people. There were some hits on there where I worried about the safety of the guys he blew up. Tavarres won’t be able to do that kind of stuff against NFL competition, but you can see what a physical, violent player he is. It’s like watching Greg Lloyd from 1992.

Gil Brandt has his Pro Day info.

Linebacker Myke Tavarres — 6-0 1/4, 230 — ran the 40-yard dash in 4.81 and 4.76 seconds. He had a 36 1/2-inch vertical jump and 10-foot-7 broad jump. He did the 20-yard short shuttle in 4.46 seconds and the three-cone drill in 7.12 seconds. He performed 15 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. Tavarres is a rookie free-agent pickup possibility for an NFL team following the draft.

Tavarres is a good athlete, but not great. I’ll be interested to see if he’s drafted or is a priority free agent.

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Myles Jack Concerns?

Maybe Jack will fall out of the Top 5. If he does, teams will have a really tough decision to make. The only reason he will fall is due to knee concerns.

Do you take a chance on his knee?

Someone will. The question is how high.

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The Loser of the Rams-Titans Trade

OT Laremy Tunsil had a legitimate shot to be the top pick in the draft.

After the Titans traded out of the top spot, there is a very real chance he could fall all the way down to the 6th spot, costing him millions of dollars.

Pro Football Weekly has a good piece on this.

Let’s assume Tunsil goes to the Ravens at six.

Although they are not always technically fully guaranteed, realistically first round picks almost always last at least four years, so we can just talk total value of contracts for purposes of this conversation.

Last season, Jameis Winston got $23.5 million at one and Marcus Mariota got $24 million at two. Third pick Dante Fowler, Jr. signed for $23.5 million, at four Amari Cooper got $22.7 million and the first offensive lineman off the board, Brandon Scherff, got $21.2 million at five.

Ironically last years presumed sure-fire third pick, Leonard Williams – everybody knew Winston and Mariota were going one and two – went sixth to the Jets and signed for $18.6 million.

Should Tunsil go sixth to the Ravens it will mean the Rams trade most likely cost him about $5 million, and if the Ravens pass him it falls off the edge of the table fast.

Tunsil will still be a high pick. He will get a good deal and has a chance to have a great career. But this trade has cost him big money in the short run.

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Draft Notes

The draft is less than a month away. Let’s talk about some players.

Did you see the day Houston LB Elandon Roberts had? Per Gil Brandt:

Linebacker Elandon Roberts — 5-11 3/8, 234 — ran the 40 in 4.63 and 4.6 seconds. He had a 36-inch vertical and 10-foot broad jump. He did the short shuttle in 4.26 seconds and the three-cone drill in 7.23 seconds. Roberts put the bar up 25 times on the bench. Roberts — who led the nation with 88 solo tackles — also worked out in defensive back drills and has a chance to be a priority free-agent pickup for a team following the draft.

I wish I could tell you the game tape was equally as impressive. There are moments when Roberts looks really good. Keep him clean and let him attack upfield and you’ll like what you see. He has excellent burst and hits with some pop. He’s more athletic than instinctive, which doesn’t always work well with LBs. I think he needs to be a WLB in the 4-3. Let him play in space and use his speed/burst. Might remind you of a poor man’s Mychal Kendricks.

*****

One OL I’m curious about is Max Tuerk from USC. He tore his ACL back in October and isn’t healthy yet so that will greatly affect his draft value. Tuerk is 6-5, 298. He started at C in 2014 and 2015. Tuerk played LG in 2013 and started 5 games at LT in 2012. That is some serious versatility. He is a lot of fun to watch because he’s so athletic. If you like your C to pull and block on the move, Tuerk is your guy. He’s more than just athletic. He has good size and strength. He uses his hands well. Tuerk is a complete package.

If healthy, Tuerk had a chance to be a 1st round pick. His medical reports will dictate whether he goes in the 2nd round, 3rd round or falls further.

*****

The most physical player in the draft? That just might be MLB Steven Daniels of Boston College.

He only ran 4.86, but Daniels is smart and instinctive. He plays faster than he times. There are some plays where his lack of speed is an issue, but this is a player you want for his ability between the tackles.

*****

RB Jordan Howard had a very good year for Indiana, running for 1,213 yards and 9 TDs. He is 6-0, 230 and physically impressive. Some people are really high on Howard as an NFL prospect. I am not one of them. I see a talented runner, but he has stiff hips. His size offsets that issue a bit, but it still bothers me. At his best, Howard is a N-S runner with good power. I just have concerns about that in the NFL. Running over defenders in the Big Ten is one thing, but you can’t count on doing that in the NFL.

*****

Sheldon Day is one of the most interesting players in this class. The Notre Dame star mostly played DT, but put on game tape and you’ll see him all over the place. He plays DE and DT. He sometimes will stand up as an edge rusher. Sometimes he is a DE in a 3-man DL.

Day is an athletic, disruptive DL. He can use his quickness to beat interior blockers. On the edge, he does a good job of getting low and rounding the edge. He uses his hands well to beat blockers, inside and out. Day is 6-1, 293, hardly ideal size. He does have 32 5/8-inch arms. That helps him to keep blockers off his body.

The issue with Day is that he must play in a 1-gap system. He has to attack off the ball. If you have him take on blockers, he’s going to get overwhelmed and moved off the ball. Even in one-on-one situations there are times when Day gets stuck on blocks.

Day needs to go to either a creative defensive coach or one that runs an attacking scheme. I’d love to see how Bill Belichick would use Day. I could see BB doing something like putting Day at ILB in goal line situations. And Day might even do well in that role.

More likely, Day will go to a 4-3 team. They’ll use him as a 3-tech DT and occasional DE. Let him fire off the ball and he will make plays.

Day could go as early as the 2nd round or as late as the 4th. This is a deep DT class and he’s not going to be a player that everyone likes. I could see some coaches falling in love him because of his versatility and relentless motor.

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The Combine – Checking Out the Offensive Players

The 2016 Combine is half over, with offensive players having finished up their tests and workouts. Let’s talk about some of the players who stood out, good or bad.

QB Carson Wentz – It should be no surprise that the QB with the most experience under center looked the most natural pretending to take snaps under center and then taking 5 and 7-step drops. Wentz threw the ball very well and had an impressive showing. His footwork was outstanding. Wentz definitely has the physical ability to be a good starting NFL QB. The questions with him will be in regard to the mental side of things. Can he read defenses? Can he make the right pre-snap adjustments? Can he anticipate receivers coming open?

QB Cardale Jones – He got hurt running his second 40-yard dash. It would have been fun to see him throwing in the drills. I’m not a big fan of Jones, but there is no denying that he is very gifted.

QB Jared Goff – Measured in at 215 pounds and with only 9-inch hands. The small hands will be a concern for multiple teams. I thought Goff threw the ball well and looked smooth. He and Wentz were the most impressive QBs. You can see why the consensus is that they’ll be the first 2 taken in the draft.

QB Paxton Lynch – Listed at 6-7, 245 this year. Measured in at 6-7, 244. I wondered if he was really that big. Ran well and jumped well, showing serious athletic ability for such a big guy. Lynch showed an impressive arm and made some terrific throws (especially deep balls), but he needs work as he adjusts to playing in a pro-style system. Looks like a 1st rounder, but a project.

QB Christian Hackenberg – I watched every single college game in his career and I’m not a big fan. I thought the Combine might be a chance for Hack to impress. There is no question that he can throw the ball really well. Hack had some good moments, but hardly did anything to wow the coaches and scouts in attendance. One of my big concerns is footwork and that was up and down in Indy.

QB Kevin Hogan – I do like Hogan, but he didn’t impress. You could see that he lacks a big arm. One of the analysts noted that his motion looked a bit different and that he might be changing that with a QB guru. Hogan isn’t a workout guy. His best asset is his mind and that wasn’t a factor in the workouts.

QB Brandon Allen – I just like the way he throws the ball. Looks very natural and smooth. That’s true in games, the Senior Bowl and Combine workouts. Hands measured in just below 9 inches and that is a concern. Good mid-round prospect.

QB Dak Prescott – I have to admit that Prescott has grown on me. I still see him as a major project, but he does have the physical tools to play in the NFL. Shocks me that Mayock has him rated as the #5 QB. I don’t see anything close to that. Prescott had a solid showing in Indy. I also bet he did very well in interviews.

WR Laquon Treadwell – Didn’t run a 40 and put up pedestrian workout numbers, but did so at 221 pounds. So often we forget to check out size when talking about verticals, broad jumps and the agility drills. Treadwell caught the ball well and certainly passed the eye test. He just plucks the ball very naturally. If you want a big, physical WR, this is your guy.

WR Tyler Boyd – Another receiver who didn’t run well, but looked good in the drills. Could use a really good showing at his Pro Day to help his status. Has very good hands and looked great in the gauntlet drill. Good possession receiver.

WR Will Fuller – Ran 4.32, fastest among all WRs. Big question with him was how he would catch the ball. Fuller actually did a good job and looked much improved in that area. He still let the ball get into his body a few times. His drops on tape are still an issue, but the fact he’s making progress in that area helps his value. Beyond just showing straight-line speed, was fluid and agile. That’s critical for good route-running.

WR Josh Doctson – Outstanding showing. Looked great in the drills and then had a 41-inch vertical and a 6.84 3-cone time. He ran 4.50 at 202 pounds. That shows speed, explosion and agility, pretty much everything you would want in a WR. And he might have the best hands in the entire draft.

WR Braxton Miller – Good day. Solid showing in the drills and then posted good numbers. Had 35-inch VJ and ran 4.50. Posted great 3-cone time of 6.65. Miller is a project, but sure feels like someone that will pan out and reward the team that takes him.

WR Malcolm Mitchell – Won’t be an early pick, but helped  himself. Measured in at 6-0, 198. Ran 4.45 and then had 36-inch VJ. Posted a 3-cone time of 6.94. Ran poor SS at 4.34, but that was the only negative. Also did well catching the ball.

WR Sterling Shepard – I don’t know that Shepard is in the mix for a 1st round spot, but he did everything he could to impress teams. At 5-10, 194, he lacks ideal size, but that’s the only time he comes up small. Ran 4.48. Did 20 reps on the bench. Strength isn’t a necessity for WRs, but watch Shepard block and you’ll understand how it helps him. Had a 41-inch VJ and ran 7.00 in the 3-cone. Really good in workouts as well.

WR Trevor Davis – Kenny Lawler (great name) was supposed to be the Cal wideout that got everyone’s attention. Davis stole the show in Indy. Davis ran 4.42 at 188 pounds. He had a 38.5-inch VJ and did 6.60 in the 3-cone. Beyond posting good times, he looked smooth. Looked very cool and calm while running that outstanding 40 time. Davis looked good in the drills, showing good hands. You can bet teams will be re-watching some Cal tape to take another look at Davis.

WR Devon Cajuste – In terms of raw numbers, Cajuste had the most interesting day of any pass catcher. Measured in at 6-4, 234. Ran 4.62 and jumped 36 inches. Ran amazing 3-cone time of 6.49. Is he a WR, TE or H-back? Different teams will have different opinions, but that size/speed/agility is going to intrigue a lot of people.

TE Jerrell Adams – Ran the fastest 40 of any TE at 4.64. Only 247 pounds, but Adams is an athletic pass-catcher. Had a good Senior Bowl and built on that with a good workout in Indy.

TE Beau Sandland – You love when small school guys come to the Combine and put on a show. Sandland is from Montana State so this was a huge opportunity for him. He measured in at 6-4, 254 with long arms and big hands. Did 23 reps on the bench, the kind of strength you want in a TE. Ran 4.74 and had a 35-inch VJ. Had a 3-cone time of 7.10. Caught the ball well in the drills and looked good on the move.

TE Nick Vannett – Followed up his strong showing in Mobile with a good one in Indy. 6-6, 257. Didn’t run the 40, but posted 7.05 in the 3-cone. Had 30.5-inch VJ. Looked very good catching the ball.

TE David Morgan – Another guy from a small school who helped himself. 6-4, 262. Did 29 reps on the bench. Had 3-cone time of 6.93, which is very impressive. Only ran 5.02 in the 40 so he lacks good speed. Did a solid job of catching the ball.

OL Laremy Tunsil – Solidified himself as the top OL prospect. His movement skills were simply outstanding. Really stood out in the drills. Naturally gifted.

OL Ronnie Stanley – A notch below Tunsil, but still outstanding in the drills. Measured in at 6-5, 312 with almost 36-inch arms. Ran 5.20 in the 40. Had a disappointing 3-cone of 8.03. Will need to improve that at his Pro Day.

OL Jack Conklin – Solid showing. Looked natural in the movement drills. We all love the physicality he shows on tape, but I was curious how athletic he would be. Conklin ran 5.00 in the 40. Had an 8’7 BJ and ran 7.63 in the 3-cone. Looks like Top 20 pick.

OL Cody Whitehair – The top OG prospect, but had one red flag. Only did 16 reps on the bench. You need OL, especially interior players, to be stronger than that. Was outstanding on the move. Ran 5.08 and posted a 3-cone time of 7.32. Looked good in drills as well.

OL Josh Garnett – Stanford’s LG is known as a mauler. I was pleasantly surprised by how well he moved in the drills. Looked natural on the move. Did solid in the tests as well, running 5.32 in the 40 and 7.62 in the 3-cone. Put up 30 reps on the bench.

OL Christian Westerman – Mid-round OG who had a solid showing. Ran 5.17. Had a 3-cone time of 7.69. Did 34 reps on the bench. Did a good job in the field drills. Showed a good combination of athleticism and positional ability.

OL Darrell Greene – Interesting guy. Has a thick, powerful lower body. Measured in at 6-3, 321. Ran 5.20. Did 28 reps. He’s a bit stiff, but showed solid movement ability for someone who is more of a power blocker.

OL Jason Spriggs – Great showing. Gifted athlete and posted terrific numbers. Fastest OL, running 4.94. Was tops in the broad jump and second in the 3-cone. Also did 31 reps. Has 34-inch arms so those reps were legit. Looked good on the field. Good LT prospect.

OL Joe Thuney – Lit up the athletic tests. 6-5, 304 and ran 4.95. Did 4.54 in the SS and had 28 reps. As good as those numbers were, I didn’t think his drill work was as good. Definitely a player I need to study more due to versatility and athleticism.

OL Joe Haeg – Small school player who struggled. Did not look good in the drills. Teams will focus on his game tape, but lost a chance to impress the coaches and scouts who were watching up close.

OL Willie Beavers – I thought he showed potential when I watched his game tape. Then disappointed me at the Senior Bowl. I was shocked when Mayock had him listed as his #5 OT prospect. Shocked. Then Beavers went out and looked very good in the OL drills. Showed good feet and natural movement skills. Another player I need to study more closely.

RB Ezekiel Elliott -The top RB in the class showed his ability. Measured in at 6-0, 225. Ran 4.47. VJ of 32.5 inches was a bit disappointing. Looked good in the drills. You could see he will need to work on his receiving skills. Let the ball get into him too much.

RB Keith Marshall – Ran the fastest time of any RB with a 4.31. Did 25 reps on the bench, showing impressive upper body strength. Only did a 30.5-inch VJ, which is an issue for a RB. He’s 219 pounds. His VJ should be 2 or 3 inches higher…to be mediocre.

RB Derrick Henry -Big man. 6-3, 247. Normally I hate big RBs, but Henry is unique. Great college player who can succeed in the NFL if used right. Ran 4.54, a good time for his size. Had a 37-inch VJ. Had 4.38 SS time, which isn’t great. Solid in the drills. There were times when his length was an issue. Caught most of the passes thrown his way, but doesn’t have good hands. Needs to work on that.

RB Daniel Lasco – Great showing. Measured in at 6-0, 209. Ran 4.46. Had 41.5-inch VJ. His broad jump was an amazing 11’3. Posted 4.26 SS time, which is okay. Looked good in the drills and caught the ball well. Definitely a player to check out more thoroughly.

RB Tyler Ervin -Small RB at 5-10, 192, but showed speed with 4.41 in the 40. Jumped 39 inches. Caught the ball well in drills, which is critical for him.

RB Peyton Barber – People questioned why Barber came out. He explained that his mother is homeless and he desperately needs money. That makes you feel better about his decision to come out. Measured in at 5-10, 228. Ran 4.64 which is okay for that size. Had a good 3-cone time of 7.00. Interesting player.

RB Jordan Howard – Measured in at 6-0, 230. Only did limited tests. Didn’t run the 40. Stood out to me in the drills, but not in a good way. Looked stiff. Need to check for that on his game tape.

RB Wendell Smallwood – Good showing. 5-10, 208. Ran 4.47 and posted great 3-cone time of 6.83. Only jumped 33.5 inches. I was impressed by him in the drills. Also looked good catching the ball.

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Senior Bowl – Day 3 – The South

THE SOUTH

Jacoby Brissett began his college career at Florida before transferring to NC State. He started at QB for the Wolfpack for the past 2 seasons and showed a lot of potential. He didn’t really catch my eye in Mobile until Thursday.

There was no single play or moment. I was actually focusing on DBs and WRs and would note “that’s a good throw”. I would notice Jacoby happened to be the QB. That happened often enough I started to pay attention to him.

There is no question that Brissett has the physical ability to play in the NFL. He runs very well and has a strong arm. The question is whether he can be a consistently good passer. Clearly, we don’t have an answer for that, but he helped himself on Thursday. Brissett was accurate. Some throws had good velocity, others had good touch. It will be interesting to see how he plays in the game.

Noah Spence was the best player on the field. He regularly beat his blocker and was in the backfield. This happened in 1-on-1 drills and team sessions. He played RDE and LDE. This wasn’t a case of Spence getting the best of one favorable matchup. He flew off the ball and used a very good rip move to beat blockers.

I tried focusing on Dadi Nicolas at times. He’s only 6-3, 235, but he is a gifted pass rusher. They had him rush as a stand-up LB as well as a DE with his hand in the dirt. I thought he was more effective as a DE in a 3-point stance. Teams have to figure out where he fits on their roster and depth chart, but there will be room for a good pass rusher like Nicolas.

I watched Jeremy Cash, the Duke SS, for part of the day. He looked a bit stiff just going through some basic drills. There was one where the DB was supposed to turn, jump up and snatch a ball lobbed to them. Most DBs nailed that drill. Cash stayed on the ground and caught the ball flat-footed. That may not sound like a big deal, but Cash only had 6 INTs and 15 PBUs in 3 years as a starter. You want to know what kind of ball skills he really has. Cash did not impress. He also wasn’t impressive in some Red Zone coverage drills. He didn’t show good instincts or athleticism.

Kevin Byard wasn’t able to break up passes in the RZ drill, but he showed good instincts and came close to getting a couple of passes. Byard is only 5-11, but he has 33 1/2 inch arms and uses them to try and get to the ball. I had concerns with Byard’s coverage skills coming into the week. He still is better as a hitter/tackler, but showed some promise in terms of coverage.

Sean Davis has played S and CB. He was being moved around in Mobile, even playing in the slot. I didn’t think he did well in the slot. He was up and down at CB. After practice, Davis said he’s much more comfortable at S. You could see that he is an agile athlete with a lot of physical ability. I think he is best suited to playing S in the NFL.

CB James Bradberry wasn’t impressive. He was too physical in coverage. He looked a bit stiff on a couple of plays. He was burned by one receiver when Bradberry turned the wrong way and had no chance to play the ball.

Jalen Mills was up and down. There were a couple of plays where he got a good break on the ball when playing off. There were some other times when he didn’t come close to the receiver before the ball got there. Another guy with S and CB experience.

Harlan Miller looked terrific in some of the drills. He’s athletic and has good ball skills. He was up and down in the RZ coverage drill. The thing you like, as with Byard, he really competed on every snap. He might not get the ball, but he was sure going to try.

OG Cody Whitehair had another good day, except for 2 plays. He tried to drive DT Jarran Reed off the ball. That didn’t go well. Reed didn’t give an inch. Later, Whitehair went up against Charles Tapper. On the first rep, Tapper exploded off the ball and knocked the crap out of Whitehair, driving him back. On the next rep, Whitehair stoned him.

Reed has had a strong showing. Tapper has been somewhat quiet.

Paul McRoberts made a pair of impressive catches. The small school WR (SE Missouri State) hauled in an over-the-shoulder catch that was tough to make. He later went up high to snare a pass. That showed good body control and awareness, as well as impressive hands.

TE Jerrell Adams had a very good day. He did a good job of getting open and made some nice grabs. He’s only a 244-pound TE so he better be able to cat h the ball.

John Theus didn’t have a good day. He has the kind of size you want in an OT, but his pass protection skills are not what you want. Theus is too slow off the ball. A defender with any kind of a good burst is going to consistently beat him. OTs who lack ideal athleticism have to win by doing the little things well. It is hard to do that in the practices. The game will be important for Theus, as he tries to show the NFL he can be an effective blocker.

Javon Hargrave was a late addition to the Senior Bowl. He opened a lot of eyes last week down at the Shrine Game. He did some good things in practice on Thursday. Hargrave was quick off the ball and also flashed good power. There was one rep where he drove Vadal Alexander backward.

QUICK HITS

Brandon Kaufusi needs to play with better pad level. He has pretty good body control for being such a long, tall player, but needs to play lower.

WR Jay Lee had another good day, making some impressive grabs and showing off good hands.

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Senior Bowl – Day 3 – North

THE NORTH

I tried to watch Miles Killebrew on Thursday. He is the 6-2, 219 Safety from Southern Utah. If you watch his highlights, you’ll come away highly impressed. Trying to get a feel for how he plays on a consistent basis is tougher due to the level of competition. Killebrew didn’t face many NFL caliber players at Southern Utah.

Killebrew worked with the LBs during some early warm-up sessions. When they were in team sessions, he was back at S, often playing deep. I’ll be watching him closely during the game on Saturday.

Sheldon Day was good on Thursday. He played both DT and DE. Day is only 6-1, 286, but he uses that to his advantage. He stays low, which makes it tough for OL to cleanly get their hands on him. Day won at DE by using a good burst and also a good rip move. Day was very disruptive in practice.

DE Jason Fanaika uses a wicked spin move to go right by Jason Spriggs. Had there been a QB sitting there, he would have been toast. On the next rep, Fanaika used a power rush and Spriggs anchored well, winning the battle.

Josh Garnett has mostly worked at LG, the spot he manned for Stanford. Garnett occasionally was beaten by quick moves, but generally won when he got his hands on a rusher and could anchor. He has good size and strength.

Carson Wentz finally did something I didn’t like. The North QBs were doing a drill where they would throw down the seam to a TE or RB. The goal was to put some air under the ball and let it float in for an over the shoulder catch. Wentz struggled with this. He put too much loft on the ball and his guys had to either stop or slow down to get close to the ball.

This isn’t necessarily a big deal, but one concern I have with Wentz is his ability to throw downfield. This isn’t about arm strength. He can gun the ball all over the place. Wentz doesn’t show good downfield accuracy. He missed on some deep balls with the 1-on-1 drills. And he struggled with the drill mentioned above. When I watched Wentz play this year, I didn’t see good downfield accuracy. I’ll do further checking on this.

Cody Kessler was the QB who did the best in that drill. He put some loft on the ball, but just the right amount. He hit his guys in stride and the DB or LB had no chance to play the ball.

DE Carl Nassib was working on his pass rush moves. He lined up and LDE and just tried a speed rush on one rep. He was blocked. The coach talked to him about a couple of things. On the next rep, Nassib used a good rip move to beat the OT. Nassib lined up at DT in some drills to see how he would handle being an inside rusher. He showed promise, but isn’t as natural as when he’s out in space.

CB Eric Murray had a rough week. He got pulled aside on Wednesday so the coaches could talk to him. Murray was being overly physical during drills, which doesn’t do anyone any good. No one can then evaluate him, the WR or the QB. He would literally tackle guys on some reps. Murray kept battling on Thursday, but was still far too physical. He has potential, but needs a lot of work.

LB Kyler Fackrell, 6-5, 244, showed promise. He didn’t stand out as a rusher or in coverage, but showed promise in both areas. His best moment came when he broke up a pass in a passing drill.

Deiondre Hall is an interesting prospect. He has good size at 6-2, 192. His arms are crazy…34 3/4 inches long. Some teams are going to love that. Hall did well on Thursday. He was phsycial with recevers and showed a good feel for coverage.

TE/H-back Henry Krieger-Coble was good on Wednesday and Thursday. He made several tough catches over the course of those practices. He has very good hands and caught the ball in a variety of ways. He made a terrific over the shoulder grab. He let the ball get into his body on in-breaking routes. He also showed the ability to just pluck the ball.

Adolphus Washington is a very talented DT. He has excellent size at 6-4, 297. There were some reps on Wednesday and Thursday when he blew by his blocker and was in the backfield ready to make a play. He has big time talent. I think he’s too inconsistent, but you can’t deny his potential.

QUICK HITS

Cole Toner played RT for Harvard. He’s been working at RT and RG in Mobile. Toner had a good day.

TE Bryce Williams has not had a good week. He has really struggled with catching the ball.

I praised TE Nick Vannett on Wednesday. He was more up and down on Thursday. He made a couple of nice catches, but also had a couple of drops.

FB Soma Vainuku had the most impressive block of the day. He chipped on Nassib and put the big fella on the ground.

Braxton Miller had another strong showing.

Ohio State S Tyvis Powell, not my favorite player, had a PBU and an INT.

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Senior Bowl – North Day 2

THE NORTH

Wednesday was a cold, wet, windy day. I sat with Steelers and Packers scouts and they were griping about how cold it was. I don’t mean that as a dig at them. But if people from Pittsburgh and Green Bay are cold, you know it’s nasty weather.

Those conditions didn’t mean a thing to Carson Wentz. He had another outstanding day. There is something funny about looking at the field and seeing the huge, star QB being from North Dakota State while the small scrappy guy is from USC. Something backward about that.

Wentz looks like the real deal, in terms of size and play. His passes cut through the cold winds of Mobile with no issues. Compare that to Cody Kessler, the USC kid. His passes were obviously slower. He doesn’t have the ability to drive the ball the way Wentz does.

And Wentz doesn’t have to put his body completely behind the throws. He looks natural. He does things with ease. There were times Kevin Hogan made some impressive throws, but he had to really get behind the ball. You won’t always have a clean pocket and obvious target so you can’t count on being able to make throws that way.

The most impressive throw by Wentz came when he put the ball over an underneath defender, but in front of the Safety. The WR was along the sideline. He was open, but still somewhat in traffic. Wentz showed good vision in seeing him there and then made the throw, which combined velocity, ball control and accuracy. You can’t gun that in since the ball has to go over a defender, but it still needs zip so the S can’t close on it. Wentz did that with ease. That’s an NFL throw.

TE Nick Vannett has prototypical size at 6-6, 256. The thing that impresses me is that he’s also athletic and moves really well. Vannett made some good down the field catches yesterday. He is a good threat down the seam. He also caught one short pass and then turned upfield impressively, showing off good RAC skills.

Another pass catcher who caught my eye was Leonte Carroo from Rutgers. He is very much a hands-catcher. I love receivers who extend for the ball. Get those arms out away from the body and snatch the ball. Don’t let it get into your pads. Carroo burned a CB for a long TD, showing speed as well as good hands.

Aaron Burbridge made a ton of big catches for Michigan State, but he’s having an awful week. He caught some passes, but has way too many drops. Focus on his game tape and not this showing. Just a bad week for him.

One Big 10 receiver who is lighting it up is Braxton Miller, the converted QB. Miller has shown good hands, catching almost everything that comes his way. He is raw as a route runner, but that can easily be taught. Miller does have the right traits to be a good NFL receiver. He has size and athleticism. While he may not be polished as a route runner, he does come out of his breaks quickly and fluidly. Very good week for him. Oh, and he’s got terrific RAC skills. One of my favorite plays came when he caught an intermediate pass. Miller wanted to run it in for a TD, but the DB hadn’t given up on the play. Miller worked his way down the field and finally got by the DB. You love to see that kind of competitive spirit and effort in practice.

Kenneth Dixon is a RB from La Tech. You may not have heard of him, but you will. Dixon is having a great week. He is a terrific runner and might be even better as a receiver. LBs and even some DBs struggle to cover him in 1-on-1 drills. LB Joe Schobert got the best of him once, but had to grab a handful of jersey to do it.

DE Carl Nassib is 6-7, 273. And he carries it well. I stood next to him the other night and it is crazy to think he was 218 pounds just a few years back. Nassib has been good, not great, this week. He has good burst off the edge. He will mix in some bull rushes. I was curious to see how he would do against good OTs. Solid so far, but not dominant the way he was during the season.

Jihad Ward played DT and DE for Illinois. He will take on double teams and do dirty work if that’s what’s needed. I like him at DE where he has some space to work with and can take advantage of his athleticism. He beat a LT on Wednesday with a good spin move. You don’t see too many 296 pound DL doing that.

OT Willie Beavers has struggled this week. He just hasn’t shown the athleticism needed to handle edge rushers. He’s won some battles, but not enough.

I had high expectations for OT Kyle Murphy coming into the week, but he’s been disappointing. He was a stud LT for Stanford, but seems to be struggling at RT this week.

Joe Dahl played LT for Washington State, but is playing OG in Mobile. He was impressive on Wednesday. Dahl is very good with using angles to win battles. He’s also able to get up to the 2nd level and block LBs.

LB/DE Paul Fanaika is 6-2, 276 and an odd player. He isn’t explosive or fluid, but has won his share of battles vs LTs. I think he would be better off shedding a few pounds. That would help his get-off.

The best LT for the North is Jason Spriggs from Indiana. He’s not been great, but has done the best job. Really good athlete.

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Senior Bowl – South Day 2

THE SOUTH

QBs are usually the headliners so let’s star there. I’m not a huge fan of the South QBs. I don’t think any of them are likely to be Top 100 picks. Forget about 1st round consideration.

Brandon Allen is the best. Dak Prescott is the worst. You can argue for Jake Coker and Jacoby Brissett, depending on what you like in a QB.

Allen had another good day as a passer. It was cold and windy in Mobile on Wednesday, but Allen’s passes still had good zip and were accurate. I hoped Coker would get going today, but it didn’t happen. His motion is slow and it feels like he is being too deliberate for some reason. He threw a couple of deep balls that were accurate and had good touch, but they also had too much air under them. Any decent FS would have gotten to the passes. In 1-on-1 drills, there is no FS.

Eric Striker was a terrific college player. Oklahoma listed him as a 6-0, 222 LB, but he really was mainly a pass rusher (23 career sacks). Striker would fly off the edge and seemed unblockable at times. He came to Mobile and turned into a 5-11, 228 conventional LB. Striker isn’t a great athlete. He doesn’t have great movement skills. You watch him in the LB drills and he doesn’t stand out. His backpedal is pretty good, but there are 250-pound guys that look more agile than him. He was okay in the pass rush drill (where he went up against TEs/RBs), but not as good as I expected.

Reggie Ragland measured in at 6-1, 259. He had a big reputation heading into the week and hasn’t disappointed at all. He stuffed a run play in a team drill, showing his ability to set the edge and even get off blocks. He ran over a RB who tried to block him in the pass rush drill. Ragland wanted a chance to show teams he could play an edge rusher role so he got some reps in the OL/DL drills. He did not stand out as a rusher when being blocked by an OT. Ragland has shown an impressive motor all week and brings a lot of energy to the field.

WR Sterling Shepard made a terrific catch. The ball was up high. He hauled it in while on the run. He somehow located the ball, reached up and grabbed it while staying on the move. Impressive.

Another WR who has done some good things is Jay Lee from Baylor. He played in the shadow of Corey Coleman, but Lee is 6-2, 214, looks to have pretty good speed and is athletic. He’s made some tough grabs. I need to watch more of him.

CB Jalen Mills broke up a couple of passes along the sideline. He played S and in the slot some at LSU, but is mostly playing CB in Mobile. At 6-0, 194, he is better suited to play CB. He also seems to have a good feel for coverage.

I looked down to one end of the field where the OL were to check out Cody Whitehair. I couldn’t see him anywhere. Most of the field was being taken up as the team practiced covering and returning KOs. I glanced to that end for one moment and saw Whitehair was the only OL down there. He was in the role of a lead blocker for the KOR. Interesting. One of his strengths is blocking on the move or out in space so using him that way does make some sense.

Whitehair spent most of the day playing LG. And he was outstanding. He blocked a variety of DL and handled them all. The thing I like most about him is how smart he plays. Whitehair does a great job with positioning and angles. You don’t have to physically maul your defender. Just block him. Whitehair gets that and does what is needed on each play. He has good movement skills, but is efficient with what he does and always has a good base. That allows him to handle bigger guys.

I kept a close eye on Whitehair during individual and team drills. I didn’t see him get beat once. That isn’t to say I couldn’t have missed a rep here or there, but I didn’t see a bad rep. I’m really impressed with him.

Spencer Drango played LT for Baylor for the last 37 years. Or maybe it just seems that way. He did well in the 1-on-1 drills, even when facing some good edge rushers. Drango really struggled in team sessions. He got beat numerous times. Speed rushers really got the best of him. I think he can play LT in the NFL for the right team, but I don’t think he would thrive. I think he’s more likely to be at his best at OG.

A pair of edge rushers really stood out. Dadi Nicolas and Noah Spence were flying off the edge and giving blockers fits. Nicolas is only 6-3, 235, but he has 10 1/2 inch hands and 35 1/4 inch arms. Those are great physical traits for an edge rusher. The question with Nicolas is how much bigger he can get. He has a good frame, but is already very muscular. I’m not sure he can carry 260 the right way. Nicolas was disruptive all day when coming off the edge. He will be a valuable pass rusher in the NFL. Can he get big enough to be a starter, or is he able to play LB in base sets and then rush on passing downs?

Spence began his career at Ohio State, but had some issues and ended up at Eastern Kentucky. He is 6-3, 254 and has big hands. He can absolutely fly off the ball. He also has good power. He beat blockers all day long.

Sheldon Rankins is a player I’m not as high on as others, but he was outstanding on Wednesday. Rankins used a combination of methods to give blockers fits. He used a quick burst to beat some. He used a powerful bull rusher to drive blockers backward. Rankins also used his hands to win. He would come off the ball quickly, swat the hands of the blocker and then just beat him with ease.

Quick Hits

K.J. Maye put a nasty move on a CB and got loose for a long bomb. Maye is slow, but he knows how to get open.

Charone Peake showed good hands a few times. He can really pluck the ball.

Le’Raven Clark was good on Tuesday, but more up and down on Wednesday.

John Theus seemed to mostly play RT. He struggled for most of the day.

Glenn Gronkowski had a very good block in the pass rush drill. They call him a TE, but at 6-2, 230 he’s more of a FB.

S Kevin Byard picked off a downfield throw that was put up for grabs. Nice catch. Not his strength on tape.

OL Vadal Alexander struggled with speedy edge rushers.

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