Sunday, 31 January 2010

Senior Bowl thoughts

By Rob Staton
Before I start this review of yesterday's Senior Bowl, I want to qualify that I firmly believe you can only learn so much from a game like this. The event is a good opportunity to give the prospects some NFL level coaching, meet coaches and scouts and show what they can do. However, precious little of what happened yesterday has influenced my original thoughts during the 2009 season. There's absolutely no substitution for watching numerous games, studying the tape in detail in proper game scenarios.

Brandon Graham was the Senior Bowl MVP and he's getting a lot of attention because of it. I would have been more surprised with his performance if he hadn't done well. When you watch Michigan last year, clearly Graham is the stand-out performer on their entire team. Yesterday, he was going up against Ciron Black who isn't going to play tackle in the NFL. He's an interior project who is likely a late round pick at best. He's not athletic and nine times out of ten you'd expect Graham to win that battle.

He also came up against Selvish Capers - someone who probably doesn't get drafted in the first three rounds. When you watch Graham destroy Bryan Bulaga (a first round prospect) to the tune of two sacks and nine tackles during the season - you just expect the same to happen in Mobile against lesser opponents. All yesterday did was confirm what we knew - that Graham is a likely late first round pick for a team looking for a 3-4 outside rush. I had him going to San Diego in my latest mock draft and that would be a good move for both parties.

So what about Tim Tebow? He generated the most attention this week and yesterday was no different. It was a difficult afternoon for all the quarterbacks, but then they're under the most scrutiny and are working in unnatural situations - quickly learnt schemes, new receivers, new offensive lines. They're thrown in at the deep end. Tebow didn't look great, but I don't think his situation changes all that much. If a team felt they could mould him into a NFL starter before this week, they probably still do. Those teams will be in the minority of course, but as Tebow himself has stated often - he only needs one team to believe in him, not thirty-two.

Mike Iupati is someone who really caught my eye during the season. He worked out really well in Mobile, but during the game he struggled with leverage. Too often he was caught standing too tall, allowing the defensive lineman to get underneath and force him backwards. The combination of Dan Williams and Lamarr Houston really tested him at both guard positions. He's a huge guy, very athletic and he has all-pro potential. However - he needs to work on getting better leverage at the point of attack. He was ineffective in the run game yesterday.

Speaking of Williams and Houston - if anyone helped their stock significantly yesterday it's this pair. In a year when defensive lineman - particularly tackles - are going to go early and often, these two will be amongst the rush. Williams could play in a 3-4 or 4-3 system, but I think a team looking for that guy who can play the valuable nose tackle will take him early. Houston could be a mid-first rounder for 4-3 teams, you can see where both went in my latest mock draft.

LaGarrette Blount had a good performance. He'll get drafted at some point. The Oregon runner is best in a downhill running system that values power in the trenches. I'm not sure he's an ideal fit in the Gibbs system and for that reason - he's possibly unlikely to land in Seattle. But teams that run a man-blocking scheme will find some value in a power runner who hits the hole hard and fights for yardage. A proper power-back, unlike Jonathan Dwyer who's just out of shape.

I know Dexter McCluster had a good week, but I think yesterday showed up that he's still a later round pick rather than the hyped up 2nd-3rd rounder some were suggesting. That's Senior Bowl hype for you. He's playing in the 160lbs range and when he got levelled in the fourth quarter, coughed up a key fumble. People talk about using him as a Percy Harvin-esque receiver/runner/returner. My message to those people - go and watch Ole Miss from early 2009. They tried to force McCluster to be that all round threat and it backfired badly. He ran bad routes that led to some interceptions, he was ineffective - it helped put Snead in a slump from which he never recovered. When the Rebels reverted back to just using him as a pure runner, he had success. NFL scouts need to ask if they can trust a guy this small to carry a work load at running back and if not - he's a return guy. That's only worthy of a mid/late round pick.


Donald Duck said...

Thank you for your thoughtful warning not to make too much of the Senior bowl.

However, I do think Mike Iupati's holding should cool some of the hype. IMHO, he is very good but over rated.

Rob Staton said...

I think Iupati is more of a project than some think. I don't think he walks onto a line as a rookie and domninates. He's a pure left guard, not a tackle - that limits his value. He can be pro-bowl good, but he needs to learn leverage. He has the tools (size, agility, power) but he's raw. A good team late in round one might feel he's worth taking based on the fact he has huge potential. Wouldn't surprise me if he fell a bit either though - and this isn't just based on Senior Bowl. I think concerns with his leverage existed before. He's a solid 2nd round pick, a good late first rounder on a decent team.

Anonymous said...

Well that eliminates an indecent team such as the Seahawks from drafting him. Besides Simms is good enough at LG.

Thanks for the great articles Rob, Kyle & Kip.

Anonymous said...

Hey Rob,

I just finished watching the Senior Bowl, and I agree with virtually all of your evaluations (though I feel Iupati performed better in than running game than you, but it's splitting hairs). One guy you did not mention that really impressed me was Dan Lefevour. I know in a game like this where there is no blitzing, line-stunts, or bump and run coverage allowed, it greatly favors QBs when it comes to read, but Lefevour looked smooth with his footwork, was quick and accurate for the most part, and threw a couple of nice deep balls. Dan Williams, Ordick from Penn St. and Graham all we're very impressive against lesser talent on the South O-line. One guy I'm also intrigued with given Seattle's need at O-line is Jeff Byers from USC. They moved him to center in this game, but throughout practice and in the game he showed good ability to hold at the point and get to the 2nd level and make blocks. I read earlier you thought he'd be undrafted, and if that's the case, I'd love to see the Hawks get him in to camp. As far as the rest of the QB's, I thought Canfield was okay, and both Brown and Robinson showed some promise, but we're both ultimately done in by bad decisions and turnovers (I love Brown's long-term potential though, throws a great ball).

Lastly, one guy no one really mentioned was Perrish Cox, CB from OSU. Both him and Kyle Wilson were not thrown at much when they were in, and both made good tackles whenever catches were given up. I like Cox's size for a CB. Could you see him ending up in Seattle? Keep up the good work Rob.

- Chris (Seattle)

Vince Mulcahy said...

Iupati did struggle at times, but thats to be expected in a game where you are moving linemen in and out of the game constantly. None of the o-linemen could develop a rapport with each other. He does stand too tall and relies on his upper body strength (which is a TON) and should have had more holding penalties called on him then there were. Even though Iupati doesnt sit down in his blocking he still was rarely moved. The guy's arms are enormous. Still a mid to late first round pick no question.

If Cox is around we would have to spend our second round pick on him. But even then he is one of the bubble players and might be taken late round one.

I thought Patrick Robinson played the best CB for the game though, he was picked on a lot and held up well. Excellent tackles in space, and the game rules favored the offense with the soft coverage.

Chris I think Byers would be an interesting late round pick (4-5), after this week he got too much coverage to not be drafted and showed versatility with all 3 interior positions. At 300 lbs he already has good size for the inside. He did really well with his combo blocks, especially considering the talent at LB on the north squad. Needs to work on his cut blocks in space, but overall impressive.

Rob Staton said...

Hey Chris,

Byers has had a good week. However, we're talking about a guy here who missed two years with injury and kept on applying for extra eligibility. He's going to be coming into the NFL at about 25-26 years old. From what I've seen on tape and his background with injuries, I don't see how a team spends a pick on him. Maybe a 6-7 rounder at best. I still think he's most likely to be a UDFA in camp with a chance to land on a practise squad and eventually offer a team a decent backup lineman. That's his highest ceiling.

LeFevour is someone else I previously thought would go undrafted. When you watch the tape, you see a guy who throws completely out of the gun. He takes reads and plays from the sideline. He eyes up receivers, he hasn't got a big arm. He played in a pass-friendly offense which allowed him to wrack up numbers. He reminds me a lot of the Graham Harrell situation, but he seems to have adapted better in Mobile than Harrell did. He threw one decent deep throw for the TD with Gilyard, I think the same WR bailed him out with one throw that was behind the receiver. His short range stuff was hit and miss. I think it's an ambitious team that takes him earlier than round five. He could stil be a UDFA.

I like Perrish Cox. He's in round one of my latest mock. Playmaker, capable of staying with his guy and making a play for the ball. Decent return guy too. Some character issues after he missed the bowl game against Ole Miss. He did well to repair his stock in Mobile, in a bad corner class he could go late first/early second. That's his ceiling. He could be an option for Seattle at #40, depending on what direction they go in round one.

Playstead said...

What impressed me about Graham (besides the obvious) is his discipline. It's easy to get caught up in wanting to do well in an all-star game and go for the sack or big hit and he held his assignments really well.

I am terrified of taking on another DE for the Hawks. We have wasted so many resources in that area that I would rather go for someone who has actually shown the ability to play at a high level instead of just having a high upside. You draft either a pass rush specialist or someone who can rush and play the run, but neither one really, really well. This is the most important Hawk draft in years.

Mardy Gilyard also looked good.