South Practice – Day 1

4 players were practicing catching punts. Ryan Switzer caught the ball really well. Cam Sutton and Donnel Pumphrey also looked natural. CB Demontae Kazee struggled.

*****

TE O.J. Howard might have been the star of the day. He ran good routes, got open and showed the ability to stretch the field. He caught just about everything thrown his way, including making a pair of one-handed grabs. On one of those it looked like he could have gotten the other hand on the ball, but was almost showing off.

Howard has size, athleticism, he can block and he’s a good receiver, He should be the top Senior TE taken.

*****

DE Tanoh Kpassagnon was unblockable this year, but Villanova plays at the FCS level. How would he fare against big time competition? Just fine. TK lined up at DE on both the left and right side. It was wild to watch him on the back side of run plays. He took 2 steps and already seemed to be on the other side of the formation. He’s 6-7 and just eats up ground.

TK had some good moments in the 1-on-1 drills. He threw highly-regarded OL prospect Forrest Lamp to the ground on one rep. He gave RT Justin Senior fits on a few reps. TK is still raw and has some moments where he looks awkward due to his size, but he is a really impressive prospect.

*****

Let’s talk WRs.

Clemson’s Artavis Scott was the smoothest receiver for the South. He ran good routes and caught the ball well. Clemson WRs have done well in recent years. They just seem to know how to play, while also being athletic and skilled

Ryan Switzer looks like a slot receiver, but that’s not a bad thing at all. He reminds me of Jamison Crowder, who starred at Duke, lit up the Senior Bowl a few years back and is now playing really well for the Skins. Switzer makes crisp cuts and has excellent burst out of them. He caught the ball well today, even going to the ground for one low throw,

Chad Williams from Grambling did not start off well. He dropped the ball a few times early in practice. Even when he did make the grab, Williams seemed to be fighting the ball. Give the young man credit, though. He got better as practice went along. His highlight moment came when he ran by CB Kazee and hauled in a long TD.

Josh Reynolds measured in a bit smaller than expected at just under 6-3 and 187 pounds. He really struggled early in practice, but it was like a light switch went on when he had a CB on him. Reynolds caught everything thrown his way, and some of those throws were up high. He really extended for the ball and made some impressive grabs.

Taywan Taylor caught my eye a few times. I’ll watch him more closely the rest of the week.

*****

Forrest Lamp was up and down. He struggled at OT a few times. He played better at OG, although he did get beaten in there at least once. Lamp played LT in college. He was all over the OL today. Due to his short arms and overall build, teams want him to play OG.

After practice, Lamp talked about the adjustment. At OT, he could sit back and let the DL come to him. That isn’t the case on the inside. The DL is already on you at the snap. You must use your hands really well. That is something the coaches are working with him on.

Lamp was asked about playing OT vs OG and said he didn’t care. He just wanted to start for an NFL team. I was impressed with that attitude and also his willingness to admit specific issues with his game that must be improved. Real good prospect. I expect him to get better each day.

*****

CB Tre’Davious White was up and down. He picked off the first pass of the day when he jumped a short route. White got a good break on the ball on a few routes. White gave up some completions as well.

*****

QUICK HITS

ILB Harvey Langi had some good hits and played inside runs well. He is a big, physical LB.

None of the South QBs stood out to me. Davis Webb looked the best. Antonio Pipkin looked the worst. Josh Dobbs had good moments, but also struggled at times. Pipkin is a small school guy and sometimes it can take those guys an extra day to adjust to the level of competition. We’ll see how he does the next 2 days.

DE Daeshon Hall had a good day, mixing in speed rushes, inside moves and spin moves.

Montravius Adams showed big time ability on a couple of reps. He is a big, gifted DT.

OG Danny Isidora had a pretty good day in the 1-on-1 drills. He is stout.

DE Keionta Davis had a good day. He used speed and power to beat blockers, both left and right sides.

S Justin Evans broke up a downfield pass. The ball was over toward the sideline and he showed good range in getting there.

Tony Garcia really looks the part of a LT. He has a great frame and is a gifted blocker. There were times today when he was outstanding, but he also got beat by Hall on a couple of reps.

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Senior Bowl Weigh-In Notes

On Tuesday morning we had the weigh-in at the Senior Bowl. Here are some things that stood out to me.

TCU pass rusher Josh Carraway listed at 6-4, 250, but acutally measured in at 6-3, 241. He is cut and in terrific shape, but that’s small for a pass rusher. Even some 3-4 teams will be turned off by that build. Teams with an open mind will focus more on his explosive burst than his lack of size.

CB Corn Elder (great name) measured in at 5-10, 179. That is small for a guy who is a hitter and tackler. He plays bigger than his size, but he will need to bulk up for the NFL.

Evan Engram was a TE/WR tweener at Ole Miss. He measured in at 6-3, 236, almost 10 pounds heavier than expected. He needed that size to play either TE or H-back.

Gerald Everett, another pass-catching TE, measured in smaller than expected. He was 6-3, 227. He does have a good frame and looks like he could add some bulk. He is in excellent shape.

Tony Garcia is the top OT prospect in Mobile. He came in at 6-6, 293. You’d like him about 10 pounds heavier, but his frame can carry that easier. His arm length is 32 7/8 inches. Usually you want a LT at 33 or more, but that’s close enough for such a gifted blocker.

DE Daeshon Hall measured in at 6-5, 263. That is excellent size for him. His arms are just under 35 inches long, which is terrific for an edge rusher. He can get his arms into blockers and keep them off his body.

My favorite player in Mobile is Tanoh Kpassagnon, the DE from Villanova. He is huge at 6-7, 280. His arms are 34 7/8 inches long. His reach is 84 1/2 inches. That is freaky big. Some teams are going to love this guy.

Forrest Lamp did not have such luck with his arms. He is 6-4, 305 and has a solid build. But his arms are just 31 1/8 inches. That is a key reason teams project him to OG.

RB Donnel Pumphrey is a small RB, but he came in at only 5-8, 169. Yikes. That will hurt him. He needed to be up in the 180-185 range.

WR/PR Ryan Switzer listed at 5-10, 185, but only measured in at 5-8 1/2 and 179 pounds. That’s not a huge deal for him because he is a natural slot receiver and gifted return man.

BYU runner Jamaal Williams shrunk from his listed size of 6-2, 220 down to 6-0, 211. That’s still solid size, but one of his selling points was the fact he was a bigger back.

Southern Cal OT proved to be just as huge as expected, 6-8, 361.

Vince Biegel, the star 3-4 OLB from Wisconsin, measured in at just 6-3, 242. I don’t think 4-3 teams will have much interest in him. 3-4 teams will want him to bulk up.

Toledo RB Kareem Hunt was supposed to be 225 pounds, but measured in at 5-11, 208. He is still an impressive runner, but it was hoped he would be bigger.

Desmond King came in at 5-10, 206. Some will wonder whether the Iowa star should shift to S instead of playing CB with that size. I still like him at CB.

Notre Dame DL Isaac Rochelle is 6-4, 282. He could play 4-3 DE or DT. He could also play 3-4 DE.

Toledo TE Michael Roberts is 6-4, 261. His hands measured 11 5/8 inches, the biggest of any Senior Bowl prospect. Those are some huge hands. No wonder he was such a good Red Zone target (16 TDs). Just get the ball near him…

For a complete list of heights and weights, go check here.

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Shrine Game Thoughts

The East-West Shrine Game was played on Saturday. I haven’t had a chance to study the tape, but there were some impressive performances. Here are some initial thoughts.

EAST

DE Bryan Cox – Active, productive and disruptive. Played both right and left side, as well as some DT. Was disciplined off the edge vs bootlegs. Showed some burst. Physical against the run.

DE Trey Hendrickson – Played mostly RDE and was very good. Had a strip sack. Used speed off the edge, but also mixed in some inside moves. Made hustle plays and was solid against the run.

OL William Holden – Played LT and LG. Effective pass blocker and was good run blocker. Did okay when playing LG.

RB De’Veon Smith – Physical runner with some burst. Ran hard between the tackles. 11-23 on the ground, but didn’t have much room to work with. Did have a fumble late in the game and it came near the goal line. Not good.

TE Eric Saubert – Small school TE got a chance to play against good competition. Showed good athleticism and the ability to get open, but had a drop and failed to really impress.

WR Kermit Whitfield – Finished with 3 catches for 31 yards. Showed good speed and RAC ability. Could be good role player for NFL team.

WR Deangelo Yancey – Up and down showing. Fielded a punt inside the 5. Ugh. Dumb move. 2-34 as a receiver. One covered 29 yards and showed how good he can be over the middle. That came late in the game. Then popped up and threw the ball in the air. Waste of a couple of seconds as his team was trying to march down the field to win the game.

CB Tony Bridges – Active tackler against runners and receivers.

WEST

RB Eli McGuire – This was my first chance to watch him and he was impressive. 7-42 on the ground and scored the game’s only TD. Good vision. Showed burst, to and through the hole. Need to see more of him.

RB Dare Ogunbowale – 8-42 on the ground. Sometimes we assume Wisconsin RBs are a product of the system. Dare had a good showing and looked like he could be a good backup RB in the NFL. Also caught 2 passes.

RB Joe Williams – The Utah star was 7-48 on the ground. Ran hard and showed terrific burst. Busted loose for a 35-yard run. Good to see him show the big play ability in an all-star setting.

TE Michael Roberts – Caught 2 passes for 25 yards. On one of those, he broke multiple tackles and fought his way down the sideline for a 1st down. That’s exactly what you want to see from a TE who is 6-4, 259. Play big.

WR Gabe Marks – Muffed a punt. Had a couple of drops. Did catch one pass for 8 yards. Came close to breaking that for a huge gain. Was wide open for a potential TD on another play, but the QB never saw him.

CB Fabian Moreau – Strong performance from the best player on the field. Covered receivers with ease. Broke up at least one pass. Looked the part of a cover corner.

DE Darius English – Measured in at 6-5, 237. Will be a LB for a lot of teams, but others will see him as a Wide-9 type of DE. Looked good rushing off the edge with some space to work with. Worth developing.

DE Deatrich Wise – Really impressed me. Played both sides at DE and even some DT. Showed burst off the edge. Played the run well. Got push up the middle when rushing from DT. Excited to watch more tape on him.

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Value of Comparisons

Former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah is always a great source of draft and scouting information.

This can be a valuable tool, but it is challenging. There are some prospects that I really struggle to find a good comparison for.

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Senior Bowl Update

The draft features a really strong set of CBs and the list of guys playing in Mobile in a few weeks is very impressive.

Jourdan Lewis – Michigan

Desmond King – Iowa

Marquez White – Florida State

Rasul Douglas – West Va

Corn Elder – Miami

Cam Sutton – Tennessee

And they just got a big name to join the group.

That’s a really good group of prospects. Normally I love watching the OL/DL battles more than anything, but this is a year where I will likely watch a lot of the WR/CB drills. Should be a lot of fun.

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Mystery Man

Solomon Thomas had a great year for Stanford. He’s now off to the NFL. I’m interested to see how teams look at him.

4-3 DE?

3-4 DE?

4-3 DT?

Thomas goes about 6-3, 275. That’s not an ideal size for any of the positions. But this is one of those cases you have to be careful not to get too caught up in numbers. Anyone who watched his performance against UNC in the Sun Bowl saw just how dominant Thomas can be.

And some highlights.

I think Thomas is one of those guys you find a spot for. Don’t obsess on size and labels. This dude can play and you want him on your team.

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Freak

Wow. Just wow.

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Around the League

Sean Payton is one of my favorite coaches. The Saints offense was so much fun to watch a few years back when Drew Brees was in top form and he had some good playmakers around him. Payton knew how to design a great offense and then how to call plays to bring out the best in his guys.

One of my favorite memories is the Saints trailing the Dolphins by 10 or more points in the 2nd half of a game. Instead of turning Brees completely loose, Payton went to the run game. That helped to open up the passing game and New Orleans won. It always frustrates me when coaches panic in the 2nd or 3rd quarter when trailing by 2 possessions or less. There is still plenty of time left. Stay balanced. Run the ball. Be physical. If you get down too much or it gets late, then panic and go pass happy.

Back to Payton. I hate to say this, but he’s turning into the offensive version of Jeff Fisher.

2014  7-9
2015  7-9
2016  7-9

Yikes. Payton is still a great offensive mind, but the Saints defense has been a mess in recent years and it feels like time for a change. I’d love to see Payton go somewhere else and see if he could get back to where he was 5 or 6 years ago.

*****

If you watched the playoffs last weekend, chances are you heard that Houston had the #1 defense in the league. They mentioned it over and over. And over.

The Texans had a terrific season on D, but let’s take a look at the big picture. They were 1st in yards allowed. They were 11th in scoring D. That’s fine, but clearly isn’t compelling.

Jon Gruden was asked if the Texans could ride their D to the Super Bowl, like the 2000 Ravens or 2002 Bucs. Always prone to hyperbole, Gruden said yes.

No.

No.

No.

The Ravens and Bucs were two of the greatest defenses in the history of football. They were special. They were unique. The Texans finished 11th in points allowed. There is nothing unique or special about that.

Good isn’t great.

*****

I loved Matt Ryan coming out of Boston College. I thought he was a great prospect and deserved to go Top 5. Ryan has been a good QB in the NFL since coming into the league.

For some reason, he has been heavily criticized his whole career. I never really understood it. Ryan hasn’t been a great player in the NFL. But he’s been pretty darn good. He has a career rating of 93.7. He averages 26 TD passes a year. The Falcons never had consecutive winning seasons before his arrival. They have only had a losing record twice in Ryan’s 9-year career.

Ryan posted freakish numbers this year, throwing 38 TDs and only 7 INTs. His rating of 117.1 is one of the highest in NFL history. I’m glad to see Ryan getting some of the credit he’s deserved.

Winning in the postseason is the next hurdle for him.

*****

Can Dallas win with rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott leading the way? I have my doubts.

The Cowboys had a great season. Prescott broke records and Elliott is a legitimate contender for league MVP. But the postseason is a very different animal. I’m curious as to whether they can handle it.

Dallas did beat Green Bay in mid-October, but the Packers are a very different team right now. Aaron Rodgers is playing out of his mind and that offense is coming up with huge contributions from a variety of guys.

Their defense is still flawed, but they seem to make big plays. This should be a great game.

*****

It still blows my mind that Bills LB Lorenzo Alexander had such an amazing season. He had 12.5 sacks, 3 FFs, and an INT.

Alexander came into the season with 9 career sacks. 9.

That’s just crazy.

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Next Little Man Up

There was Deion Branch.

And Troy Brown.

Then Wes Welker came along.

Danny Amendola.

Now we have Julian Edelman.

Who is next?

The Patriots seem to do a great job with developing small to medium-sized slot receiver types. Ryan Switzer from North Carolina would seem to be a great fit. He is a gifted WR and a dynamic PR. He has great RAC skills and is the kind of competitive, productive player that Bill Belichick just loves.

Belichick also loves UNC players. His father Steve was an assistant coach in Chapel Hill and Belichick seems to still have a fondness for the guys wearing light blue.

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Staying Put

It seems like every underclassman is coming out, but that isn’t the case. A few key guys are staying in school.

Luke Falk will return to Washington State. Falk had a good year, but there was no reason to come out. Another year could help him develop into a better player and better prospect. Glad to see he made a smart decision.

Wyoming star Josh Allen is also coming back. There was some thought he might come out after a good year and with this being such a lackluster QB class. Luckily Allen will stay in college. A strong Senior season could make him a pretty high pick.

Is Sam Darnold eligible yet?

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