The first day of the Senior Bowl is always nuts. From morning weigh-ins to back to back practices 30-plus minutes apart to media night interviews. I will not be sharing thoughts on weigh-ins and body types (although Tyler Varga is a destroyer of worlds).
Some measurements might stand out to some: Ameer Abdullah, Jamison Crowder, Rannell Hall, Tyler Lockett and Donatella Luckett were all skill position players with hands smaller than 8.5-inches. Does this matter on its own? I do not believe so, but this figure coupled with drop rates could lead to some interesting results.
Some position switches are notable for the rest of the week. Nick Marshall has completely moved from QB to CB, and the event said it was his choice. He was extended an invitation long ago as a defensive back, but held out until offered as a quarterback. Things apparently changed on Tuesday after he discussed his future position with those close to him. Using the Senior Bowl as a latching platform for a position switch is always tricky, but at least Marshall has a bit of experience on defense dating back to Georgia. Hau’oli Kikaha lined up at LB in drills. He was surprised by the move and told me it was not his idea, but the Washington defender is happy to take on the challenge. Kikaha is at his best rushing the passer and dropping into space might only be a quarter of his role in the NFL.
Since players were just in shoulder pads I mainly focused on WR and CB matchups. Jamison Crowder will be a huge “winner” this week. He absolutely wins in the small game, meaning creating constant separation with burst and breaks. However, Crowder can continue the trend of smalls winning big, as Crowder fights for the ball at the catch point and is not afraid to leave his feet. Crowder told me he has the same aggressive mentality in routes, when fighting for the catch and with the ball in his hands: aggression. Tyler Lockett and Phillip Dorsett can fit in the same category.
Two WRs I questioned heading into the week: Antwan Goodley and Ty Montgomery. Goodley exceeded expectations. He looked natural and fluid in multiple routes and caught targets with ease. Montgomery continued his pre-event struggles, however. He still does not sustain speed in his breaks to separate and REALLY fought the football, which resulted in a number of drops. If you struggle to win with separation or in contested situations… that is an issue. For a more detailed tape evaluation, check out the video below.
Small schooler Dezmin Lewis stood out with his body control. He obtained ball vision early, tracked the target, and adjusted his positioning and frame to come up with (near) sideline catches on underthrown or poorly placed passes, even against corners with good positioning.
Speaking of corners, the physical style of TCU’s Kevin White stood out, as expected. Last spring I consistently praised Jason Verrett for playing much bigger than his frame and competing in contested situations. White does the same, even against bigger receivers. Josh Shaw is carrying over his good East West Shrine performance to this week, consistently using his length early and sticking to receivers’ hip pockets in routes along the sideline. Northwestern State CB Imoan Claiborne is a prospect I will be watching a lot more of. He flashed.
Blake Sims was erratic early against air but hit a few beautiful throws in 7 on 7 and team, specifically when forced out the pocket to his right. Garrett Grayson was nearly perfect in one on ones or against air, but had some terrible decisions and throws in 7 on 7 and team.
On Sims, I was informed about the connection he has with Lane Kiffin. This might already be out there, but Kiffin recruited Sims as a WR while Lane was the head coach at Tennessee. After joining Alabama as a running back, the two finally crossed paths again this season. I am not saying Sims is perfect, as he definitely has frenetic placement. However, I really like his functional mobility to win inside and outside of structure and arm to test multiple levels.
No college backs are good pass protectors, and there might only be a handful of reliable ones in the NFL. So rather than treat it as a negative for prospects entering the league, lets just highlight those who show proficiency in the area. David Johnson, who I see moving to an H-back role, and swiss army knife Jalston Fowler were the best on Day 1. Finally, I could see some comparisons made between Ameer Abdullah and Gio Bernard.
That is it. Be sure to watch PFT on NBCSN today at 5:30 EST. Paul Burmeister and I will have a handful of segments live from Mobile, AL.