It is time to really crank up the postseason bowl games, with Senior Bowl practices starting in about 24 hours. As I did last year, here are my projections from this week. I will add throughout the day.
QB- not an inspiring group of players this season, nowhere near the level of Dalton, Locker, Ponder of 2011. With Tannehill out of the game, most of the guys are mid-rounders at best. I will go out on a limb and say that the old man, Weeden, has the best practice sessions, but that Russell Wilson wins the game MVP award. ranking: Weeden, Foles, Lindley, Cousins, Wilson, Moore (no arm)
RB- another anemic group, except for Chris Polk. He should easily be the star of this group.
WR- Ok, let's have some fun. We have big guys, short guys, slow guys and rockets. Kendall Wright should emerge as the star of this week, and Dwight Jones should be the best big receiver out there. Joe Adams probably emerges as the most explosive of the group, but little Patrick Edwards of Houston may be the guy that surprises some people. I expect a big week from him. As for the big WR's, forget Criner, McNutt, Fuller, Robinson. The big man to watch is Appalachian State's Brian Quick. This is his coming out party, and I fully expect him to look better than theo bigger named guys. Great, great group.
TE- the star of the whole week on offense may be a little known TE, from. Louisiana-Lafayette named Ladarius Green. 6'6" , 240 and unstoppable. Welcome to the NFL, Mr. green. Lots of work needed in blocking, but this guy is a nightmare matchup problem for defenses. UMass TE/FB Emil Igwenagu is a blocking machine. May end up the best blocking FB in the draft and has good hands. A terrific late rounders for a smart team.
OL- a really mixed bag on the OL this week, with underachievers and overachievers. The hot name right now is gigantic Mike Adams, from Ohio State. He is 6'7", with long arms, and a lot of teams will be taking a long look at him. He should emerge easily as the best OT on the field, while Utah's Tony Bergstrom should also have a terrific week. I think Levi Adcock emerges as the third best. This is the week link to the OL for the week. the real battle is to see who emerges as the best interior player of the week, and this is my favorite group of players in the game. you have Cordy Glenn of Georgia, who was so athletic that he played at a high level at LT for the Bulldogs this year. Big, smooth, and a terrific player. Kelechi Osemele of Iowa State is another first round potential player. Both should be fighting for the top spot as OG. i will give the edge to Glenn. Should have a great week. Ben Jones is clearly the best center in the game, and will be a solid second round selection for a team looking for an anchor in the middle of their line. however, one lesser known guy that should have a monster week is Silatolu of Midwestern State. He may be the guy I am most staring at this week. Finally, how could a draft go by without a standout Wisconsin guard. Kevin Zeitler is not a match for his junior sidekick Peter Konz, but the kid still pretty good. Wisconsin OL come ready made for the NFL, and Zeitler will probably be starting for someone next year. Will he be on the board when the Niners select at the end of the second round? Not sure. Watch this group.
DL- The DL star of this week should be a two-horse race. Devon Still, in my opinion, will be the first front seven player taken in the draft, and I can see him going as early as number four to the Browns/Rams. He is a dream player. Great size at 6'5", 305, and a non-stop motor. Competing with him is Quinton Coples, who may be the most versatile DL in the draft. He can play the 4-3, 3-4, can play inside and outside. Coples and Still will battle to be the best, and I give the edge to Still.
The drop off is pretty steep after these two. Billy Winn of BSU is a big named guy, but
he is not at their level, and will probably be a bit too short to be graded as a top level 3-4 DE and too heavy to be a 4-3 DE. He is headedbto the DT position. A better 4-3 DT will be Brandon Thompson of Clemson, who I expect will have a solid week. He is a classic 4-3 undertackle, someone who can penetrate and disrupt an offense. I think we will see some tremendous battles in the trenches with Still, Coples and Thompson versus the stellar group of interior lineman. One more guy the Niners may want to look at for. 3-4 DE. Kneestton Randall of Texas is built in that perfect frame, 6'5"" 305, and the kid is a hard worker and team leader. I also expect him to be fully ready to go, and a player the team may target in the third round if he is still on the board.
As for toilet-clogging NT, Washington's Alameda Ta'amu is virtually unmovable at 6'3", 337, and should be the best of the 2 gappers.
As for the DE/OLB players in the game, Andre Branch will generate the most attention. The Clemson star at 6'4", 260 is the perfect size for a 3-4 defense. He also has the ability to drop into coverage, which will make a lot of 3-4 teams interested. Relentless motor. Expect a big week. Got to love the Arkansas DE Jake Bequette. Could be the fastest DE in the game, and I think will get himself at least one sack in the game. At 6'5", 270, he runs very well. Not sure how they will line up Texas DE Emmanuel Acho, but the younger brother of Arizona Cardinal Sam Acho will run from sideline to sideline, and will be the games best hustler. Great character guy, but I think he will be limited to a 4-3 OLB role in the NFL. As for the final guy to take a long look at, Vinnie Curry of Marshall has been one of the most productive players in the nation the past two years, is a team leader and high character guy, and can flat out play. I will go out on a limb and name him the Defensive Player of the Game with two sacks. Branch, Bequette and Curry are the three guys to really focus on, in my opinion.
Note added Monday: Totally omitted information for Alabama's Courtney Upshaw. Upshaw was one of the most dominant defenders in the country this past year, and yet he presents a risk for teams at the next level, as I expect him to be less than 6'2" in the weigh-in. This is certainly not a disqualifier, but makes it that much more difficult, as there are few highly successful edge rushers at this height. We have seen recently the struggle of another stud college defender of the same height and frame in Brandon Graham. This will be a gigantic week for him, as he competes with some of the best OT's, to prove that this is a non-issue at the next level. I think we will see mixed results.
DB- The top graded DB entering the week will be CB Alfonzo Dennard of Nebraska, who might end up a top 25 pick, followed by Alabama safety Mark Barron. Here is the problem for Niners fans: most of the top graded CB's entering the Senior Bowl are shorter than what the team likes. Dennard, Brandon Boykin, Leonard Johnson are all around 5'9 1/2", and the team likes its corners to be taller. I think some of the Shrine contest CB's better fit their mold. There may be one exception to the rule. Vanderbilt CB Casey Heyward may simply be too good to pass up. At a bit taller, at 5'11", Heyward appears to have the length to play bigger at the next level. The weigh in will be huge for him. I expect him to keep up with, or even better Dennard this week. It is a shame that Montana CB Trumaine Johnson was not invited to come to the game. I am guessing his arrest earlier this year played a part in the matter. A final player to cover is the controversial Janoris Jenkins of North Alabama, who was booted off the Florida squad for two arrests. Way too good to dismiss, way too smooth in his backpedal, and should show pretty well this week. But, the off the field stuff is going to have him off many teams boards, including the 49ers, in my opinion.
At safety, it is all about Barron and Oklahoma State FS Markelle Martin, who I think is an instant starter in the NFL. I expect Martin to show exceptional coverage skills, and Barron to be somewhat exposed in coverage. Barron is better suited as an in the box safety, and he will be superb in that area. But Martin is the star of the two. The player I think will shine this week is South Carolina SS Antonio Allen, who is strong in both run and pass defense. To me, he is an option the the team will have to consider if the team sees Goldson leave in free agency and they think Whitner can shift to FS.
To wrap, I see the stars of the week (guys who either play at the top level/and or small school guys who prove they can play with the big boys and outdo them) as Ladarius Green of Louisiana Lafayette, Markelle Martin of Oklahoma State, Devon Still or PSU (who will be very emotional this week), Chris Polk of Washington, Vincent Curry of Marshall, Brian Quick, and Casey Heyward of Vanderbilt. The best units will be the interior OL, the DT's and the CB's.
[ Edited by MadDog49er on Jan 23, 2012 at 10:37 AM ]