Senior Bowl Practices begin early this week and it should be fun to see the competition take place, which is much more important than the game itself.
In the past two years, two interior linemen have dominated the practice session of Senior Bowl week. In 2009, BJ Raji was unblockable, and this week propelled him to a top ten pick. In 2010, Mike Iupati was dominant in practice, and named the player most likely to become a Pro-Bowler from those on the field. Both are on their way to future Pro-Bowls.
At the same time, Taylor Mays entered Senior Bowl week last year as a very highly rated prospect, but his struggles in coverage all week caused his stock to drop, well into the second round.
So, who emerges this week? Here are my thoughts:
OT: The Best competition (LT on the North roster):On the North squad, three of the four top OT's in the draft will duke it out for the right to start. Nate Solder of Colorado, Gabe Carimi of Wisconsin, and Anthony Castonzo (no relation to George Costanza), are all scrapping to be the first OT taken in April. I'll rank their performances this week as: Solder, Castonzo, Carimi, with Solder emerging as the top OT for the North. On the South, it should be a landslide, with Derek Sherrod emerging as the top dog, and my pick to emerge as the top OT drafted in this draft.
QB: The Jake Locker show:Jake Locker has taken a beating this year from many who saw his stock drop. However, this is the week he puts it all together, and shows the tools that make scouts drool. Expect Locker to dominate the position for the North, over a raw Kaepernick, and inconsistent Ricky Stanzi.
The better competition at QB should be on the South roster. I have stated all along that this week will propel Andy Dalton into 2nd round draft consideration, bettering the effort of Christian Ponder, and Greg McElroy. Dalton should have the strongest arm of the three and best mobility. The question will be how well he transitions under the center, something the other two QB's have more experience.
Stephen Paea????Nobody will be making this statement after this week. Paea will be unblockable, and the biggest surprise at the Senior Bowl this week. Way too fast in drills for some of the lumbering OG's. Too bad he won't match up with Rodney Hudson until the game.
Maybe a better competition will be on the edge, between Von Miller, Ryan Kerrigan, Jeremy Beal, Sam Acho, and Brooks Reed. I will give the edge to Miller and Kerrigan over the pack, with a surprising show from Reed. I expect Beal to be a slight disappointment. One of the biggest single moments of the week will be Von Miller's weigh-in. He needs to come in over 240 to help his draft prospects. He will be a full 20-30 pounds lighter than the above listed players.
The competition for the best 3-4 DE should be very exciting. Cameron Jordan is emerging as a potential top 10 pick; Christian Ballard, another first round prospect; and Allen Bailey, who has been inconsistent. I think this will be the pecking order coming out of this week.
Who is the top Dog at RB?The North roster has the much better grouping with a number of underrated prospects: Kendall Hunter of Oklahoma State, Roy Helu, Jr. of Nebraska, and DeMarco Murray of Oklahoma. I've going out on a limb for some time now to say that Hunter will be the best NFL running back in this draft class, and this week he gets the chance to show his overall game, running between the tackles, around the ends, and terrific hands. I expect Helu to be really fast and impress as well.
Yikes!!!The DB's are not very goodRough year for the DB Senior Bowl class. Not many top athletes. The top CB's emerging from this should be Curtis Brown of Texas and Jalil Brown of Colorado. The better competition should be at safety between Ahmad Black of Florida, DeAndre McDaniel of Clemson, and Quinton Carter of Oklahoma. I'll give the edge to Carter.
Finally, one for the kickersI love both the special teams stars for the North, UCLA kicker Kai Forbath, and Nebraska P/K Alex Henery, who I give a third round grade in the draft. Henery has the strongest leg in college football, and can kick field goals regularly from 55 yards. Most importantly, he saves a team a roster spot, as he kicks and punts. I'd love them to split duties at K, but Forbath will get the lion's share.
Warning, Special Interest Stories Coming to You, in Mass NumbersFrom Mark Herzlich's recovery from cancer, to Casey Matthews trying to follow in the footsteps of his brother, to Owen Marecic, the two-way starter for Stanford. There will be a ton...hand me the tissues.
Should be a great week. Cheers.
[ Edited by MadDog49er on Jan 20, 2012 at 7:26 PM ]