2014 Senior Bowl Preview By Taber Small
The Senior Bowl annually showcases the top NFL Prospects and is considered the premier post-season college football all-star game. It’s played in Mobile, AL and majority of NFL teams send their entire scouting personnel department and coaching staff to evaluate prospects during the all-star game practice week. This year’s game will be played Saturday January 25th on NFL Network at 4PM.
Ra’Shede Hageman, DT Minnesota
Hageman was the best interior defensive linemen in the Big Ten and had an impressive final two seasons for the Gophers. Hageman was mostly a backup lineman early in his career after switching from tight end to defensive tackle. He possesses great athleticism, strength and size at (6-6 311). Scouts like his combination of power, length and quickness. His consistency is still a question for scouts but he’s played with more of a motor in his senior year, which has them excited about his potential. Hageman is a versatile lineman who can play in any defensive scheme and will selected in the first round.
Deone Bucannon, SS Washington State
Bucannon is the top rated senior strong safety prospect in the eyes of most scouts after an All-American 2013 season. He possesses NFL size at (6-1 215), speed, instincts and ball skills that teams heavily covet for the position. Bucannon led the conference and team in tackles with 109 while also snagging 6 interceptions. He plays in the box closely towards the line of scrimmage and is an aggressive hitter and punishing tackler. Bucannon plays with exceptional range and shows good awareness in coverage. He does get caught with his eyes in the backfield at times leading to some blown coverages. Bucannon needs to improve his consistency when diagnosing play-action and also reading the eyes of quarterback. Overall, he is a top 60 NFL prospect that is projected to be drafted in the early to mid second round.
Josh Huff, Oregon WR
Huff is an exciting player to watch and is one of Oregon’s top offensive weapons. He is Oregon’s most experienced and sure handed receiver as he finds the open spots in the defense. Huff displays above average lateral quickness and a good burst of speed. His ability to stop on a dime and create separation makes him a tough receiver to defend. He is very effective working out of the slot but can also make plays when lined up outside as well. Huff possesses the strength and quickness to beat press coverage and is a solidly built receiver. He is listed a shade under 6-foot-0, which is a concern for scouts and is probably the main reason why he is currently rated as a middle round prospect. Huff will be a great pick up in the middle rounds because of his value as a receiver and return man.
Aaron Donald, DT Pittsburgh
Donald is an undersized, highly productive interior defensive lineman who’s been unstoppable all season. He leads the nation with an astounding 26 tackles for loss. This gridiron warrior was very disruptive against offensive lineman all season. He uses pure strength and quickness to beat offensive lineman in the trenches and is very active with his hands. The issue with Donald is his size. At 6-foot-0, 285-pounds where does he fit into a NFL defensive scheme? He is too good of a player to ignore and the NFL team that selects Donald will find somewhere on the field for him to contribute.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB E. Illinois
Garoppolo participated in last weeks East West Shrine game and did not disappointment. The 2013 Walter Payton Award winner impressed scouts last week with his quick release, accuracy, decision-making and presence in the pocket. He has good size at (6-3, 222) and is quickly soaring up draft boards in most scouts’ opinion. Garoppolo lacks a very strongest arm but makes up for it with the accuracy and timing on his passes. He led FCS in passing yards with 5,050 passing yards (26 yards away from FCS single season record), 53 TDs and only 9 interceptions. An impressive Senior Bowl week for Garoppolo could push him into potentially being selected in the first round.
Marcus Smith, DE Louisville
Smith is an explosive and athletic defensive lineman who had a breakout senior year as he led the nation in with 14 ½ sacks. He started his Louisville career as a quarterback but made the transition over to the defensive side ball and improved with each season. Smith is very quick of the snap and shows a good burst of speed. He’s undersized to play DE in a 4-3 at (6-3/252) and is projected as a 3-4 OLB in the NFL. Smith will need to show scouts during the week practices that he rush standing up and play in space.
Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor
Richardson had a strong senior year and has solidified himself as the top guard prospect for the 2014 NFL Draft. He played right tackle for a season in college, which gives him some versatility, but his natural NFL position is at guard. He’s a massive and dominant drive-blocking lineman who easily opens up running lanes for ball carriers. Richardson is extremely powerful at the point of attack getting a good push off the line of scrimmage while consistently finishing his blocks. He has quick feet and is agile in the pass game. Richardson possesses a forceful punch and uses good hand placement when sliding back in pass protection. Richardson has struggled against fast interior pass rushers and gets overextended on some of his blocks. He must improve getting to the second level while getting his hands on LBs as he has some limitations moving laterally, which doesn’t make him an ideal fit for NFL offensive zone-blocking scheme. Richardson opens up a lot of running lanes and has greatly improved as an interior pass protector. He has great size and enough quickness at guard to start right away in the NFL.
Taylor Hart, DT Oregon
Hart is a tall, athletic defensive lineman with tremendous size and ability. He is an explosive player and consistently got pressure in the pocket against UCLA offensive linemen. Hart is a gritty, tough interior lineman who does the dirty work of taking on blocks to tie up offensive linemen. This allows his defensive mates to make plays. He is a versatile player that can line up on the outside or inside at the three technique. Hart is a perfect fit as a DE in a 3-4 defense and has the frame to gain weight as he can easily carry over 300-pounds. His toughness, versatility and quickness could also land him with a 4-3 team as well. Hart provides great value in the middle to late rounds because of his versatility to play multiple positions along the defensive front.
Derek Carr, QB Fresno State
Carr had a sensational senior campaign and set a FBS record for not throwing an interception in 266 pass attempts. He does a decent job of taking care of the football and has impressed scouts all season with his efficiency and pinpoint accuracy from the pocket. Carr has the size, arm strength and mobility of a true NFL QB prospect. He’s backed up those skills with a highly productive season and is the number rated senior QB on most draft boards.
C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE Iowa
Fiedorowicz is a tall TE with excellent size, athleticism and strength. He also shows soft hands and comes back to the ball out of breaks. Fiedorowicz uses his body well to box out defenders extending his hands. He makes the difficult catch in traffic, physically beating opponents to come away with the pass. Fiedorowicz is an effective blocker and opens up running lanes. Will occasionally drop catchable passes and lose focus when looking the ball in. Fiedorowicz has been a solid blocker for the Hawkeyes but also needs to improve in this area to become more consistent. Heavily relies on his athleticism and could use more fine-tuning in both his receiving and blocking technique. Fiedorowicz definitely has the size and strength to be a starting TE in the NFL. He has the receiving ability to be a weapon in the passing game and provides a nice target for quarterbacks.
James Gayle, DE Virginia Tech
Gayle is a freakish athlete with great length and tremendous ability. He is an explosive edge rusher who displays good movement skills and fluid change of direction. He is quick off the snap and gets penetration in the pocket. He is an elite athlete who plays with tremendous speed in pursuit and covers a lot of area. He struggles with consistently getting off blocks and stays engaged too long with offensive linemen. Gayle needs to learn how to works his hands and consistently play with better pad level. He is a little undersized for a NFL defensive end and would fit best in a 3-4 defense as a stand up outside linebacker. If his production can ever match his measurable, Gayle could be a top 100 draft picks. He is a player that needs a great practice week and needs to put it all together to be considered an elite prospect.
Jacob Pederson,TE Wisconsin
Pederson is an athletic TE who plays with solid strength and quickness. He does a good job of quickly releasing off the line of scrimmage with selling his routes. He knows how to find the open spots in the defense. Pederson shows good hands and makes receptions away from his body. Effectively uses his hands and quickness to separate against linebackers and defensive backs. He doesn’t possess the prototypical size at (6-4/241) for the NFL TE position and needs to add more bulk to his frame. He easily gets overextended when blocking and doesn’t consistently show good balance against defenders. Pederson also doesn’t have great speed to vertically threaten defenders. Pederson is a decent receiving tight end who could also serve as an H-back in the NFL.
Kadeem Edwards, OT Tennessee State
This athletic offensive lineman has really put it all together this season. Edwards has good size at (6-3/320) and the athleticism to pull on screens, traps and power plays. He’s shown better technique and awareness in both the run and pass game. Edwards is a late round prospect that could rise with a good Senior Bowl showing.
Sharmar Stephen, DT UConn
Stephen possesses an impressive combination of size at (6-5/315) and athleticism. He is very explosive off the snap and shows quick closing burst of speed when in pursuit. Stephen gets penetration in the backfield and displays the ability to be disruptive at times as an interior pass-rusher and run stuffer. He needs to improve his technique and hand placement to consistently get off blocks. Scouts would like him to improve his upper body strength and become more active with his hand and length. They are intrigued with Stephen’s upside, athleticism and potential to get stronger. He started all 12 games and compiled 60 tackles, including 10 for loss and three sacks finishing third on the team in total tackles while leading the defense in tackles for loss and finishing second in sacks. Stephen productive senior campaign definitely put him on the radar of more NFL teams this year.
Shaquelle Evans, WR UCLA
Evans is a well-built receiver that has a nice combination of size, speed, and quickness. He started his college football career at Notre Dame and flashed some talent early on. However, he didn't become a star until the 2012 season, emerging as UCLA's top receiving target in his first year at the school as a transfer. Evans did not live up to lofty expectations in 2013 as his production declined from the previous year and he disappeared in some big matchup games. NFL scouts are intrigued with his soft hands, size and unique skill set but would like to see him become more consistent in his route running while limiting his occasional drops. He doesn't possess the burst of speed to vertically stretch defenses and is projected as a possession receiver for the next level. Evans offers a decent package as a 4th/5th NFL receiver.
Will Sutton, DT Arizona State
Sutton is an explosive defensive line prospect that fits best as a 3-technique at the next level. He plays with exceptional balance and is very active with his hands against offensive lineman showing an effective punch. Sutton stays low to the ground out of his stance, displaying quick feet and agility when changing direction. He fires off the snap aggressively with an explosive first step using his speed to beat offensive guards to disrupt the pocket. NFL scouts like that he runs with a relentless motor and goes hard until the end the play. Lacks the great size for the DT position, which makes NFL scouts fear that he may struggle against larger offensive lineman at the next level. He’s battled some injuries throughout his college career, which also has scouts wondering if his body can hold up in the NFL. Sutton had a sensational 2012 season but had a slow start to 2013 and came on strong towards the middle of the season. He finished his career as a highly productive player for the Sun Devils and he’s been one of the best pass-rushing interior defensive linemen in college football.
Jalen Saunders, WR Oklahoma
The Fresno State transfer is a small but explosive playmaker who is a threat to score any time he touches the ball. Saunders quickly releases off the line and can immediately get to top speed. He is a tremendously quick, elusive receiver that easily separates from defenders and quickly get in and out of his breaks. Saunders is also a dangerous punt returner and had a return for a TD against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship game. He is Oklahoma’s primary slot receiver and effectively works the middle of the field mostly running underneath routes. Saunders caught the game winning TD with a few seconds left in the Oklahoma game showing good hands, body control and concentration. He has been Oklahoma’s most exciting player to watch this season and is rated as a 3rd to 4th round prospect by NFL scouts.
Christian Jones, OLB Florida State
Jones is a hybrid athlete and versatile defender who’s been a perfect fit in Florida State’s multiple scheme defenses. Jones is moved around all over the field mostly lining up in their outside linebacker position and is the team’s best pure pass rusher. He is an exceptionally fast and physical player that can make plays anywhere on the field. Jones has showcased his big playmaking ability all season and his athleticism, versatility and ability to play in space make him a very interesting outside linebacker prospect that NFL teams love to covet. Scouts love his motor and his ability to drop back in coverage. Jones is projected as a standup outside linebacker prospect in a 3-4 NFL defense and his stock has continue to rise to where he should be taken within the first three rounds.
Kenny Ladler, S Vanderbilt
Ladler is an underrated player with an impressive overall game at the safety position. He is an instinctive and aggressive defender who flies around the field and is always near the ball. Ladler shows good discipline in coverage displaying a great burst of speed. He constantly locates the football and puts himself in a position to make the play. Ladler comes up the field fast when defending the run and is a solid wrap up tackler. He’s undersized at (5-11/205) for the safety position and also lacks the height that NFL scouts look for. At times, Ladler becomes overmatched in man coverage situations especially when covering the tight end down the field. Ladler has been an extremely productive player for Vanderbilt the last two season and burst on to the college football scene in 2012 as a prospect. Every time I watch the Commodores defense, Ladler stands out on film and is one of the team’s top leaders. He led Vanderbilt in tackles two straight seasons and has the ability to mix it up in the pass and run defense. Ladler has a great opportunity to climb up NFL draft boards with an impressive all-star week of practices and could land somewhere in the top two rounds.
Dee Ford, DE/LB Auburn
Ford is an athletically talented pass rushing specialist who possesses an explosive first step. He is a fierce edge rusher with exceptional speed and power to get around tackles. Ford uses his long arms and active hands to fight off blocks. He beats offensive tackles with speed, quickness and strength. He consistently gets pressure in the pocket and Auburn has specific schemes for him to rush the QB from a three-point stance and also the two point stance standing up. He looks confortable rushing from the two-point stance, which is his projected position at the NFL level in a 3-4 defense as an OLB. Ford will need to adjust to dropping back in coverage and also playing in space. He rushes too far up the field at times, which takes him out of the play on running plays. Overall, scouts are excited about his upside and athleticism at the next level. Ford is still a raw player and will need to land with the right NFL team that could groom him into a starter.
Adrian Hubbard, LB Alabama
Hubbard is Alabama’s top pass-rushing specialist and his athleticism and size makes him a great fit as OLB in a NFL 3-4 defense. He rushing hard up field and gets pressure, which forces quarterbacks to escape out of the pocket. Scouts would like to see him have more production in the sack department. He has steadily improved his play in the run game this year and added more weight to his imposing 6-6, 252 lbs. frame in the offseason. Hubbard is an athletic, instinctive and physical player that NFL scouts believe has excellent potential at the next level.
Craig Loston, S, LSU
Loston is an athletic and explosive hitting safety with good size at (6-2/210). He moves quickly from the secondary to the box when stuffing the run. He is very fluid and navigates well through traffic to locate the ball. Loston plays with terrific closing speed and executes textbook angles when tackling ball carriers. He shows good range in coverage with the ability to make plays in the secondary as well as outside the hashes. Loston has made vast improvements in coverage, but still needs to show better instincts in this part of his game. He will occasionally bite on play action and ball-fakes causing him to get caught out of position. He possesses average quickness, which creates a struggle when covering receivers come out of the slot. Loston is a solid player for LSU and has greatly improved his style of play each season. He’s also a decent special-teams player, which gives him added value as a defensive back at the next level.
Solomon Patton, WR Florida
Patton at (5-9/178) is a small but explosive receiver who is a threat to score anytime he has the ball in his hands. He quickly gets to top end speed and acceleration when releasing off the line of scrimmage. This allows him to vertically stretch defenses deep. Patton is extremely elusive and can easily separate from defenders when breaking out of his route. He shows sure hands and will make the difficult reception in traffic. Patton is also a creative runner after the catch with exceptional agility and quickness. Defenses have been successful at times when moving up their corners to aggressively press Patton and jam him at the line of scrimmage in order to slow him down. The team that selects Patton should use him primarily out of the slot so he an easily release of the line. Patton is a prospect to keep an eye on because of his dangerous speed and also the value he shows in the return game.
Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State
Jackson is a powerful run blocker who has great size and is agile for a big man. He gets good leverage and knows how to position himself to control his opponent. He is explosive and moves relatively light on his feet showing the ability to change or redirect to defensive lineman. Jackson is better at run blocking than pass protection, but he’s made great improvements in the latter. Jackson needs to become more consistently active with his hands especially in the pass game. He also needs to improve his footwork when sliding back in protection. NFL Scouts would like to see him improve his recognition in picking up twists, stunts and blitzes. Jackson is a terrific guard prospect who has a large upside and great potential. He can effectively block in a zone or ground-and-pound run offense. Jackson possesses the tools that teams look for to develop into a quality starter in the NFL.
Caraun Reid, DT Princeton
He is an athletic and productive defensive lineman who’s been on scout’s radar since early last season. Reid plays with a relentless motor and quickness. Scouts are very interested to see how he will play in the Senior Bowl.
Chris Davis, CB Auburn
Davis is an aggressive and physical cornerback who is three-year starter in the Auburn secondary. He is an underrated player who makes plays around the ball and is Auburn’s best cover man. Davis is currently the teams leading tackler and has really stepped up his play this year in coverage with 15 PBU’s. He comes up strong in run support and fights through blocks to make tackles. I have been impressed with his man coverage skills and his ability to make some nice breaks on passes thrown his way. He shows the speed to run with receiver with a smooth backpedal and ability to change direction. Davis is also a dynamic punt returner, who ran back a kick for 85 yards this season. He is undersized at 5-foot-10, which is a concern for scouts. Some think he may be better suited as a safety at the next level because of his aggressive style of play. He is also a little too aggressive at times and will bite on fakes and play action, causing him to blow some coverage assignments. I believe that Davis has the tools to be a productive third or fourth defensive back along with the ability to serve as a nickel corner. His combination of speed and athleticism, along with his production and return skills has him projected as a 4th-6th round draft prospect.
Aaron Colvin, CB Oklahoma
Colvin came into the season as a highly rated CB prospect but has played his way out of those rankings in 2013. He struggles in press coverage and is overly aggressive. Colvin bites on play action and double fakes showing average awareness and instincts. He is strong against the run and is a big hitter, which has many scouts believing that he will transition over to his natural position at safety in the NFL. Colvin, a good size defensive back with decent speed and athleticism, will need strong performances in all-star games and combines to keep his status as a Top 100 draft prospect.
Telvin Smith, LB Florida State
Smith is a very physical and athletic player with great range and speed. He is the emotional leader of Florida State’s defense and sets the tone for their fast style of play. Smith is a big hitter and is more like a safety playing LB who uses his exceptional closing speed to his advantage. He is a high-energy player that covers a lot of ground with his non-stop motor. The issue with Smith is where he will play at the next level. Some scouts project him as a strong safety while others believe he can add weight to his (6-3/218) frame keeping him at linebacker playing on the weak-side of a 4-3 defense. Smith has been one of my favorite college defensive players to watch this season and it will be very interesting to see where he will play in the NFL.
Brent Urban, DE/DT Virginia
At 6-foot-7 and 295-pounds, Urban has the combination of speed, power and size that NFL scouts heavily covet for the interior defensive tackle position. He is a well-built player that is extremely athletic and explosive off the snap. Urban shows great upper body strength at the point of attack and uses his long arms effectively to get off blocks. I been impressed with his lateral quickness that he displays down the line of scrimmage as well as his instincts to beat offensive lineman to the spot causing penetration in the backfield. Urban gets his arms and hands up on pass plays to knock balls down and has a total of nine PBU’s on the season. Scouts would like to see him play with more controlled strength, technique and leverage. He also needs to improve his skills as a pass rusher while developing some moves to become more productive in this area. Urban has the ability to be a dominant player but needs to put it all together. He’s drawn some comparisons to Houston Texans star J.J. Watt because of similar size and body build coming out of college. NFL scouts believe that he can fit into a 3-4 or 4-3 defensive scheme because of his athleticism and versatility. He’s battled through some injuries during his senior season, which shows toughness. Urban has a great opportunity this week to increase his stock.
Jerick McKinnon, RB Georgia Southern
McKinnon played QB at Georgia Southern and proved to be a versatile athlete. This year’s version of Dennard Robinson will need to make the transition to RB in the NFL. He will get every opportunity at the Senior Bowl to display his quickness and field vision.
Billy Turner, OL North Dakota State
Turner is a tall, athletic offensive lineman with tremendous starting potential at the NFL level. He’s mostly played left tackle in college but is projected to move inside to guard for the NFL. Turner is an extremely fluid and powerful lineman who plays with a nasty streak. He was extremely dominant all season against FCS competition. Turner is very strong as a run blocker and finishes off his blocks to the end of the play. He needs to improve his consistency; technique and footwork in pass protection. If Turner receives the necessary NFL coaching that will improve his weakness as a pass blocker he could stay on the left side in the NFL because of his excellent size at (6-5 315), athleticism and upside that scouts covet. Turner is one of the top rated offensive lineman prospects and will be drafted in the early middle rounds.
Terrence Brooks, FS Florida State
Brooks is a run-defending safety who has played with improved awareness this season. He is an aggressive player who is best coming downhill in the box to tackle ball carriers. Brooks shows good range in coverage and burst of speed to run with receivers. He also has some versatility and spent sometime early in his career at cornerback. Brooks is a very solid player that will bring good value to a team as a projected 2nd day pick.
Jordan Matthews, WR Vanderbilt
An explosive receiver that possesses nice size, sure hands and the instincts to reads defenses. Matthews consistently finds the open spot on the field and is a fluid receiver who flashes big play ability. He plays with both balance and body control and is elusive running after the catch. Runs good routes and shows good timing out of his breaks. A good downfield blocker and is a consistent player. Matthews doesn't possess a quick release off the line of scrimmage and is not a constant deep vertical threat. He needs to learn how to fight through double teams to get open. Matthews is a complete receiver who has the ability to be a number one receiver at the next level and sometimes gets lost in the shuffle with all the highly rated declared junior wide receivers. He’s been a very consistent player for Vanderbilt and brings a strong work ethic to all areas of his game. He is projected as a middle-to-late first round pick and could go higher if he performs well at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine.
Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB Coastal Carolina
A big bruising running back at (6-1/230) with NFL size that wears down defenses is the best way to describe this gridiron terror. He intrigued scouts with his running ability and skills at the Medal of Honor Bowl week. Taliaferro was the 2013 Big South Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 1,487 yards and 27 TDs. He brings value as a short yardage and backup running back at the next level.
Jay Prosch, FB Auburn
The Illinois transfer is an athletic freak of nature who possesses incredible size and speed at the fullback position. He is a hard-nosed football player that punishes defenders with his physical blocks and opens up running lanes for RB Tre Mason. Prosch is primarily used in Auburn’s pro-style offense, but he will occasionally line up in their spread option split backfield set as well. He shows soft hands and is also a technically sound blocker in pass protection when picking up blitzes. Prosch has great speed for a guy his size and runs in the high 4.5 to low 4.6’s in the 40. Scouts are impressed with his size, strength, speed, versatility and value as a standout special teamer. Prosch is projected to be the first fullback taken off the board in the 2014 draft between the 5th and 6th round.