It is just about that time of the year again. The NFL season is culminating this Sunday with the Super Bowl between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints. That means that the Super Bowl is the last professional football game for 6 months. For some, that is sad news. But for the hardcore football fans, it just means that it is time to turn their attention for the NFL Draft. Between now and Thursday, April 22nd, all NFL Draft eligible prospects are trying to better their draft prospects through intense training programs, individual pro day workouts, the NFL Scouting Combine, and multiple “All-Star” Bowl games. One of those bowl games is the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. The 2010 version of the event took place this past Saturday. NFL Scouts from all 32 teams convened in Mobile the previous Monday for Senior Bowl practices and stayed through the week in an attempt to find the next Steve Largent, Joe Namath, Walter Payton or Brett Favre. Based on the week’s practices and the game on Saturday, here are several players who improved their draft stock and several who hurt their stock:
RB/WR Dexter McCluster, Mississippi. McCluster is the versatile speedster that any NFL team could use. He showed he can be used as a slot receiver, as a running back or a quarterback in the Wildcat package. McCluster can also impact the return game with his explosive playmaking ability. Although size is an obvious concern, and he’ll never be an every down running back, McCluster’s explosion and versatility will get him drafted in the Second Round.
RB LeGarrette Blount, Oregon. Blount, has been the subject of one of the larger stories of the 2009 college football season. After being suspended for the season after the first game of the 2009 season, Blount’s draft stock took a huge hit. But he was reinstated late in the season and had a few big carries in the Rose Bowl clinching win over Oregon State. Blount arrived in Mobile at a solid 240 pounds, and rushed for a 14 yard touchdown which showed his good athleticism and power that will make him a Third Round choice in April.
WR Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati. Gilyard was inconsistent during the week of practice. But he displayed that he is a gamer on Saturday with his Offensive Player of the Game performance. The Bearcat receiver caught five passes for a game high 103 yards and a touchdown. Gilyard got behind the South defense a couple times for receptions, as well as adjusted well to a pass thrown behind him by quarterback Dan LeFevour. With his return ability, Gilyard could have pushed himself into the Second Round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
OL Mike Iupati, Idaho. The 6-6, 325 pound offensive lineman from the University of Idaho was the best o-lineman in Mobile this past week. Although Iupati struggled in the game, especially in pass protection, Iupati showcased power and balance in the run game during the week that should translate to him being off the draft board in the late stages of the First Round.
DE/OLB Brandon Graham, Michigan. Graham was the biggest winner of the Senior Bowl. Graham was already known to be a strong defender against the run, but he displayed the ability to get after the quarterback both during the week of practice and during the game, where he earned Most Valuable Player honors by posting two sacks and a forced fumble. Graham is versatile enough to play either defensive end in a 4-3 scheme or outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He has cemented his status as a First Round draft pick.
DE Alex Carrington, Arkansas State. Carrington arrived in Mobile with something to prove as a player from the Sun Belt Conference. Carrington left Mobile impressing NFL scouts with his strength at the point of attack and also bull rushing opposing offensive tackles. The Second Round could be possibly when Carrington will be drafted in April now after last week’s performance.
OLB Dekoda Watson, Florida State. A Seminole linebacker that is fast and undersized? Yep, Watson is another one who fits that description. Watson made a couple big plays for the South on Saturday that displayed his toughness and instincts, which are essential for defensive players in the NFL. On one of the plays, Watson caught fast Fresno State running back Lonyae Miller from behind. Plays like that could get Watson drafted in the Third or Fourth Round.
QB Tim Tebow, Florida. The rock star of the 2010 Senior Bowl struggled all week. Tebow did nothing to dispel his slow release, poor footwork or inaccuracy in Mobile. Sure, Tebow has incredible intangibles, a winning attitude, and is one of the tougher players in the nation, but he needs a few years of intensive work to become an NFL starting quarterback. He at best a Third Round prospect, but more than likely someone will overdraft him in the late First or Second Round.
QB Sean Canfield, Oregon State. Canfield had a chance to really improve his draft stock with a strong showing in the Senior Bowl. But instead he hurt his stock immensely. Canfield already is not a great athlete or strong-armed, but in Mobile he also telegraphed his throws and made poor decisions. He is now considered to be a late round choice.
NT Terrence Cody, Alabama. The prototypical 3-4 nose tackle, Cody, showed up in Mobile at a giant 370 pounds. He appeared slow for his weight, out of shape, and displayed poor technique. Tennessee defensive tackle, Dan Williams, looked to be the better of the nose tackle draft prospects in Mobile. There is now concern that Cody could be out of the NFL early because of his weight issues. Cody looked to possibly move into the late First Round with a strong performance in the Senior Bowl, but with showing up at a sloppy 370 pounds, he is now a Second or even Third Rounder.
S Taylor Mays, USC. It’s hard to believe that when Mays was considering entering early into the 2009 NFL Draft that he was considered a top 10 pick. Now, Mays is at best a late First Round pick. Some evaluators are even giving him mid-round grade. Mays’ size, strength, and speed combination are off the charts for a safety. But during last week’s practices and during the Senior Bowl, Mays was lacking the instincts and playmaking abilities needed for an NFL safety. His lack of instincts are especially concerning for a defensive player.