Note from Josh Norris: Rotoworld is happy to partner with The Sideline View's Lance Zierlein, John Harris, and James MacPherson for Senior Bowl week. Each will focus on certain positional groups during practice and share their daily observations. If I have anything to add, a clear distinction will be made.
Be sure to visit The Sideline View, as they have extended reports on many of these prospects on their site.
North Practice Notes
Wyoming WR Robert Herron showed he has the hands to go with the quicks and burst. He made a one hand catch on goal line 1-on-1 drills that had people buzzing down in the end zone.
Wake Forest WR Michael Campanaro is steady, consistent and continues to make one catch after another. He hasn’t wowed the scouts with speed or acrobatic catches, but he snags everything thrown his way.
Wisconsin LB Chris Borland epitomizes the words “football player”. I told people around me to just watch the ball and No. 44 would be there. Wednesday morning’s practice proved just that. He had a pick during team drills and, as he was at Wisconsin, always around the ball.
Northwestern do-it-all offensive weapon (playing WR this week in Mobile) Kain Colter impressed throughout the Wednesday morning practice. Many expect Colter to play in the slot and eventually be a tremendous slot receiver at the next level, but he showed that he can get downfield AND make a play. During team drills, he beat one of the North team corners on a go route and laid out for a catch in the end zone. Quite impressive for a guy that hasn’t played but 30% of his snaps (or less) at receiver and is targeted to be more of a slot WR in the future.
Lindenwood CB Pierre Desir got a little lazy with his technique during Tuesday’s practice and got beat badly on a double move by Wyoming WR Robert Herron. But, Wednesday was a different story. He made at least two plays, knocking away a pass and another forcing the QB to hold the ball and not make a throw. He was a bit unknown by the general draft populace having played at Lindenwood, but he made an impression during East-West Shrine and made a few heads turn today.
NIU S Jimmie Ward threw a blanket over tight ends in 1-on-1 coverage today which was no surprise. He’s lived up to every expectation this week in Mobile and that’s with added pressure playing in his hometown on such an important stage. In half field coverage drills, he showed the ability to get off his hash playing a half field safety. He showed the range to get to the back corner of the end zone for deep corner routes, in addition to his solid 1-on-1 coverage.
We sat in the stands talking to agents and scouts debating the 2014 running back draft class and, as expected, there was no clear consensus as to the No. 1 back in this draft. The hard part is that the top juniors are not here, but one senior that is and continues to make an impression is West Virginia RB Charles Sims. Pass protection. Check. Vision. Check. Burst to and through the hole. Check. Toughness. Check. I heard the words “Matt Forte” and it makes sense. Forte was a relative unknown heading to Mobile after his senior year. After that week, Forte seemingly got more and more attention until the day he was a second round selection by the Chicago Bears. Sims may have played his senior year in a more well-known conference but I gather that people still don’t truly understand how versatile and productive he has been and will continue to be at the next level. Although I like what Wisconsin’s James White has done, Sims is clearly the best RB in Mobile and making money each and every practice.
Miami OG Brandon Linder really struggled with being able to hold off bull rushers as UConn DT Shemar Stephen and Pitt DT Aaron Donald gut under Linder's pads and pushed him deep into the pocket on one on one drills. I want to believe that Linder just needs better technique, but his core strength has to be examined closely on tape.
It's a tale of two practices for Baylor's Cyril Richardson as the mammoth guard had issues again on one on one drills, but was dominant as a run blocker in the team portion of practice. Interestingly enough, one of Richardson's victims was Pitt's Donald who has caused Richardson so many problems in one on ones. Richardson's power and run blocking ability definitely popped today and it's obvious that game tape is the must better measure for Richardson than Senior Bowl one-on-one drills.
One of the players who has really grown on me throughout the first three practices is Colorado State C Weston Richburg. Richburg has been one of the steadiest centers at the Senior Bowl and rarely lets his body get out of control. He's a decent athlete with better strength than you expect when challenged at the point of attack.
Missouri's Michael Sam continues to get reps as a DE and 4-3 OLB. Sam showed good turn around the corner in pass rush drills, but takes a little wider run of the arc than you would like from an edge rusher.
Tennessee State OG Kadeem Edwards isn't going to win any awards for "best looking in the uniform", but he has really stepped his game up over the last two days. He doesn't show as much strength in his hands as he needs, but he's been getting blocked.
Michigan OT/OG Michael Schofield was substantially better today than yesterday showing much more functional strength and tenacity against most everyone he faced in one on one drills including Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman who got pancaked by Schofield in one on ones.
Stanford DE/OLB Trent Murphy was a non-factor in drills and scrimmage. While he has been one of the most productive DEs in college over the last two years, the lack of burst off the edge that scouts had whispered about before the Senior Bowl could be an issue moving forward in our analysis of Murphy who we have been high on.
Pitt's Aaron Donald continued his strong week with another consistent and productive effort on Wednesday. I spoke with one NFL defensive line coach who told me that Donald's size would definitely be a concern for teams in draft meetings but added that "there are just too many guys who don't have prototype bodies or size around the NFL who continue to produce on the defensive line" and that "teams have got to just look at how this kid plays - it's that simple.... his game tape is good."
The North offensive line is just substantially better than what I see with the South and that includes players like Ohio State tackle Jack Mewhort and Clemson's Brandon Thomas who have offensive line coaches excited with their strength and ability to finish. I haven't spoken with a single team who hasn't had something positive to say about Thomas who I think has played himself into no worse than the 2nd round.
South Practice Notes
Texas WR Mike Davis caught the ball much cleaner and was much more crips in and out of his routes today. Tulane WR Ryan Grant was sharp again including a rep where he ran completely away from Georgia Southern CB Lavelle Westbrooks for a deep completion in one on ones.
Speaking of Westbrooks, personnel men love his quick feet and smooth hip turn, but understand that he still has plenty to learn and they are studying his overall deep speed. Westbrooks struggled in coverage today after putting together some solid reps on Monday and Tuesday.
Florida State LB Christian Jones was way too much to handle in pass rush drills against skill position players and he showed fluid, quick-twitch explosion in coverage. Jones has been impressive this week and will catch the eye of defenses looking for scheme versatility.
Georgia TE Arthur Lynch caught everything on Wednesday and was more than happy to get after defenders in pass protection and as a run blocker.
Auburn CB Chris Davis may have to make the transition to safety in the NFL, but he continued to compete in one on ones against quick WRs on the outside. Davis was a little grabby, however, and that obviously won't cut it on the next level.
Georgia Southern RB Jerick McKinnon has been the quickest RB to and through the hole this week. He was a jack-of-all trades at GSU which will appeal to NFL teams. He's made the best runs vs. the South defense in practices this week which is saying something since the South offense has been stagnant for the most part.
Alabama Adrian Hubbard just hasn't jumped off the field at any particular position. Is he an OLB, ILB or DE? We're not sure after the first three days.
Vanderbilt safety Kenny Ladler showed skills in run support and in coverage. He doesn't stay back on his heels, he's always coming forward looking to make things happen.
Auburn DE Dee Ford might be playing the best football of his career right now. He improved as the season went on and he's been unstoppable in practices so far. There are reps where Ford is so quick around the corner that he will go to knock a tackles hands out of the way and the tackle hasn't even been able to begin shooting his punch.
Vanderbilt OT/OG/C Wesley Johnson took reps at every position if my eyes didn't deceive me. Johnson's frame is just too slight for the tastes of many teams, but he's a good football player and looks like he's destined to bump inside to center. Johnson's tendency to get his hands too far outside when engaging was a concern for me today.
Nevada LT Joel Bitonio had his best practice of the week as he looked, focused, determined and confident throughout the practice. Bitonio had guys at the end of his arms in pass protection and showed off his trademark tenacity.
Another solid day for LT Morgan Moses from Virginia. I may have missed on his evaluation headed into this week. One of the biggest mistakes that evaluators make when looking at the offensive line is they tend to look for players who are aesthetically pleasing. Moses isn't always fun to watch, but he understands angles and has done a great job of using his long arms and redirecting rushers around the pocket. In other words, Moses is getting guys blocked - consistently.
Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews didn't look right to us today. He didn't appear to be running as fluidly as in the previous two practices and was as tight with his routes. He might be playing a little dinged up. We will look into it.
After a really strong start to the week, Cal's Deandre Coleman was just okay today. He had his moments with penetration into the backfield, but for the most part, he was just okay.
Louisiana Tech DE IK Enemkpali made his way into practice as an injury replacement and put together a solid practice showing a nice spin move and good hands as a pass rusher. Just one quick pro tip for Enemkpali. On bag drills, you don't have to throw bolo punches - teams are looking for quickness over a knockout punch.
Jimmy Garoppolo - Not a great day but did not really hurt himself either. He missed some throws in passing drills, a deep post off flea flicker pass first play during Team, and was late on a pass in 7 on 7. Still solid accuracy and timing. He seems to understands and grasp everything that's going on and making Mike declarations every play. In Team, he showed really good poise and calm in the pocket. Have not seen him be get rattled. He continues to look like a legitimate NFL QB prospect.
Derek Carr - He looks impressive in all passing drills and making all the right throws and reads. Smart understand the reads, is a leader in the field, and looks like an NFL quarterback. However, during Team period, he got a little jittery in the pocket not setting his feet and wanting to go out of the pocket and rolled out instead of being poised stepping up, sliding and hanging in the pocket and finding his receivers. Pocket presence is the aspect of his game is a question and still is.
David Fales - Made good quick decisions and threw accurate passes in all passing drills. Again struggled a little bit driving deeper throws. He had a nice touch pass to the tight end on a corner route in 7-on-7. He has questions about pocket presence. He looked jittery in the pocket during Team period, taking off to run too quickly with good protection and go routes against press man coverage on the outside. He needs to show more poise stepping up and sliding in the pocket and keeping his eyes down field.