Darren Page, DLD Lead Scout
Perspective is a virtue when it comes to evaluating Senior Bowl prospects at the end of the week. Each player has multiple seasons worth of game tape out there where they played in diverse schemes instead of the vanilla looks of Saturday’s game. The lack of chemistry between players in only a week playing together is also a big factor in their performances.
Comparing prospects as they practice next to each other in the same drills is a worthwhile tool though. Some did themselves favors by showing technical ability or athletic potential that shined when compared to others at their position group or prospects they competed with directly. Little changed from the way I thought of the best prospects coming into the week, but certain guys solidified themselves near the top or bottom of this list.
1. Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Martin staked his claim to be the first player drafted from the Senior Bowl with a phenomenal week and consistent showings in 1 on 1’s. There will be discussions of what position he needs to play, but surely some team will pull the trigger on him as a tackle, a more valuable position.
2. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Donald’s week should not have surprised anyone. Now it seems unlikely that he could possibly fall from the first round after backing up what the tape shows and doing it in style. Donald proved to be more than a one trick pony. He beat blockers in every which way in both practices and the game.
3. Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
Ford’s rampage through any and all offensive tackles over the course of Senior Bowl week has him pushing for first round status. He even, to some degree, answered questions about his ability to play the run. Either way, you’re drafting Dee Ford to wreak havoc on quarterbacks. He does it in many ways.
4. Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota
Accounts of how Hageman’s week went vary depending on who is asked. I would say his week was his own inconsistency in a nutshell. The Falcons staff did him no favors by playing him at end in the game, but I expected more thorough domination from such a physically talented man in practices.
5. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Consensus opinion appoints Derek Carr as the top quarterback in attendance. He did little over the course of the week or in the game that varied significantly from his game tape. The biggest question with Carr is how he reacts when the bullets fly, and it’s still there. His natural talent is a fine building block though.
6. Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
Ward was the best defensive back in attendance without debate. The Mobile native lived up to his fine play as a senior and should have made a believer out of those who haven’t seen him yet. Ward’s versatility in coverage is a hallmark. Some draft analysts even called him the best cornerback at the Senior Bowl.
7. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
Van Noy had as strong a week as any linebacker in Mobile. His successes as a rusher and in pass coverage serve to solidify his place as a three down linebacker who may fit in multiple schemes. Few parts of his game are sensational or rare, but his game as a whole is as solid as they come.
8. Jerry Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech
Attaochu played off the ball as a traditional linebacker during the week, but disappointed when sent to drills as an edge rusher. His athleticism and flexibility should have given tackles big issues, but it didn’t. Attaochu is one of the most explosive athletes around, but his rawness makes him a boom or bust prospect.
9. Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State
Jackson is one of the best interior linemen in the class and didn’t show much to change that this week. He’s a massive guard who generates power in his hands while staying balanced. He had some issues with Aaron Donald in the actual game, but had a strong week otherwise.
10. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Much was expected from Matthews coming into the week. He still may have been the best receiver in attendance, but his issues attacking the ball in the air to best utilize his size are concerning. Matthews didn’t look like the type of receiver who teams will consider in the first round.
11. Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas
Smith may have made more of his opportunity in Mobile than any other prospect. He beat tackles in drills and in the actual game in ways that he really didn’t show over the course of his senior season. Arkansas’s defensive scheme may have been holding him back all along.
12. Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia
Sims’ Senior Bowl week didn’t provide too much insight into his draft projections, but all-star games aren’t the best stage for running backs. Sims is a three tool back who runs, blocks, and catches with effectiveness. He may be flying under the radar at the moment, but has the talent to be the best back in this class.
13. Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
Sutton surely would have come in higher on this list before his senior year, but he put in an inconsistent season at best after adding significant weight (at the instruction of coaches). He predictably looked sloppy and was up and down all week. His all or nothing play is a cause for concern.
14. Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor
Richardson was one of the more disappointing prospects in attendance. He struggled to compete with lateral quickness and was all too narrow with his hands as a blocker. When you get Richardson on the move, his effectiveness increases exponentially. He’s still too raw with technique though.
15. Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford
Murphy is a prospect who did little to help his cause during Senior Bowl week, but he has a solid track record of production to go off already. The issue is that he isn’t especially athletic or especially strong. He’s not the type to put on a show in drills, so Mobile wasn’t his perfect setting.
16. Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin
Most “winners” at the Senior Bowl were that because they confirmed good tape. I thought Chris Borland actually played far better in Mobile than on tape. He did a better job bringing power as a tackler while showing off fluid hips,
athleticism, and the type of intangibles coaches want from a middle linebacker.
17. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
Garoppolo didn’t quite do enough to separate himself from other quarterbacks in terms of velocity, accuracy, and footwork. He showed some nerves earlier in the week, but got more comfortable throughout. Projecting quarterbacks is a blurry venture, but Garoppolo looks like a 3rd round type.
18. Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
After a solid week at East-West Shrine, little-known Pierre Desir held his own against the receivers in Mobile. His length, long speed, and transition ability will endear him to teams looking to get bigger on the outside. If Desir could stay lower in his pedal and play with better balance, he’d be even higher.
19. Billy Turner, OT, North Dakota State
Even though he had as rough a week as any prospect in attendance, Billy Turner still deserves mention. His size, athletic ability, and mentality aren’t found in the late rounds. A move to OG might better suit his footwork and waist-bending issues.
20. Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State
Richburg’s Senior Bowl week has me convinced that he’s right there with Travis Swanson if not the best center in the class. He was one of the few who shined in the pit, which is a favorable drill for the defense. Richburg backed up a season of solid tape with a big showing in Mobile.
First 5 out: Travis Swanson, Josh Huff, Christian Kirksey, Seantrel Henderson, Marcus Smith