With three days of intense practice at the 2011 Senior Bowl concluded (see our Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 reports), here are the players who benefited the most and a few who must find a way to recover.
Cameron Jordan/DL/California: Jordan was dominant from the first practice of the week and improved every day. He beat big offensive tackles when lined up at defensive end in pass rush drills while also overpowering offensive guards on the occasions he was used at defensive tackle. Jordan displayed a complete game and, most importantly, the versatility to line up at a variety of defensive line positions. He's solidified himself as the top senior prospect in April's draft and has cemented himself as a top 10 selection.
Colin Kaepernick/QB/Nevada: Scouts wanted to see if the athletic quarterback who ran the pistol offense at Nevada (which allowed him to run the ball almost as much as he passed it) could play in the NFL style. Kaepernick proved from the start he was up to the challenge. He successfully completed all the passes NFL coaches required him to throw and did so with pinpoint accuracy.
His timing was outstanding as Kaepernick had the ball in receivers hands the moment they left their breaks. He was able to get the ball through the tight spots with regularity. He still needs a bit of work on his delivery, which will only improve his downfield accuracy, yet vaulted himself to the top of the list of senior quarterbacks. Expect Kaepernick to be drafted in the early part of the second round.
Christian Ballard/DL/Iowa: Ballard improved his play each day in practice, showcasing a variety of skills. He beat blockers off the snap, overran them on occasion or viciously fought until he was in the backfield. Ballard showcased a nice combination of athleticism and movement skills, displaying the ability to make plays up the field or chase the action in pursuit.
He rarely receives the media recognition of his Iowa teammate Adrian Clayborn, yet Ballard's play left scouts thinking he's at least equal in ability. Ballard secured a spot in round one with his play.
Brooks Reed/DE-OLB/Arizona: Reed was another multi-purpose defender who impressed scouts with his skill and intensity. He was ferocious in pass rush drills, often beating much larger linemen up the field. Later in the week, when Reed played linebacker and dropped into coverage, his ball skills were as proficient as many of the every day linebackers he played next to. The depth of talent on the defensive line will knock Reed out of the draft's initial 35 selections, but don't be surprised if a 3-4 defense acquires him in the middle part of round two.
Titus Young/WR/Boise State: Young was considered by many as the top senior receiver in the draft and his performance in Mobile did nothing to blemish that. He was the quickest receiver on the field, easily beating defensive backs off the line and immediately settling into an open spot on the field. Young also had the best burst of any wideout and outran opponents down the flanks. After a few drops early in the week, Young caught just about everything thrown in his direction. He also flashed skill lining up during special teams drills, something that must be watched during the game. Young solidified himself as an early second-round selection.
Leonard Hankerson/WR/Miami-Fla: Scouts were concerned about Hankerson's inconsistent hands entering the week; he quelled much of the doubt during practice. Hankerson was terrific all week long, displaying the ability to continually break free from defenders. He consistently implemented sound pass catching skills, extending his hands to make the reception away from his body. He even surprised scouts by showing deceptive speed. Hankerson leaves the Senior Bowl stamped with a second-grade projection.
Ryan Kerrigan/DE/Purdue: Kerrigan was one of the more explosive pass rushers of the week and a defensive end that opponents had a tough time getting their hands on. His ability to fire off the snap had offensive tackles twisting in the wind and Kerrigan's upfield speed was impressive. When the Purdue product was asked to play linebacker he looked solid dropping into coverage. Scouts love the attitude and character of Kerrigan, who is likely to land in the bottom third of round one.
Roy Helu Jr/RB/Nebraska: Helu was one of the most complete backs in Mobile and was successful in every facet of the game. He surprised scouts with his speed and ability to run off tackle. Helu showed competent hands out of the backfield as a receiver. He was by far the best blocker of any running back in attendance. With the draft lacking true feature running backs, Helu is likely to be a top 75 choice.
James Kerley/WR/TCU: The Mountain West product showed he has the skills to play at the next level and did everything scouts asked of him all week. Kerley was one of the best route runners on the field as cornerbacks had no ability to stay with him in or out of breaks. He constantly separated from defenders and almost always made himself an open target for the quarterback. Kerley also displayed reliable hands and terrific pass catching technique. He projects as a third receiver/return specialist for the next level and has likely moved into the third round based on his performance in Mobile.
Vincent Brown/WR/San Diego State: Brown is another wideout who will make the MWC proud. Like Curley he ran scissor sharp routes, displayed terrific pass catching technique and caught everything thrown to him. Brown impressed scouts with his field awareness and feisty play. He battled defensive backs hard and won out in battles, coming away with the tough reception on a daily basis. He's another likely to slide into the third frame.
Gabe Carimi/T/Wisconsin: The Senior Bowl is about overcoming perceptions and that's what Carimi did this week. Coming into the event the perception was the big tackle was an adequate run blocker who struggled in pass protection. Yet all week Carimi held his own on the blind side, battling with many of the North's talented pass rushing defensive linemen and winning out on a number of occasions. His play will force NFL teams to revaluate their opinions of his skills and could push him into the late part of round one.
Kendall Hunter/RB/Oklahoma State: Hunter is considered one of the better third-down backs in April's draft and proved as much in Mobile. He's undersized (5-7, 199 pounds) yet amazingly elusive and tough to catch. Hunter slipped away from defenders all week, showing the ability to create yardage when none seemed available. He was proficient as a receiver out of the backfield and threw his body around the field in blocking drills. He is justifiably compared to Jahvid Best, the first round pick of the Detroit Lions last April. Hunter will hear his name called slightly later then Best, most likely during the opening selections of round two.
Jake Locker/QB/Washington: There are a variety of opinions on Locker's performance in Mobile, but from our standpoint the quarterback leaves the week with a much lower draft grade than the one he started off with.
Locker has the athleticism and arm strength to start at the next level, yet his mechanics and accuracy leave a lot to be desired. His erratic point of release resulted in passes that sprayed about the field. More often than not Locker had receivers leaving their feet in an attempt to grab passes that were sailing over their heads, or reaching backwards trying to catch balls that were late arriving.
Many debated whether or not Locker was first-round material once the season ended. The conversation now moves to his ability to remain in the draft's top 45 selections after Senior Bowl practices.
DeMarcus Love/OL/Arkansas: Love entered the season with a grade that placed him among the top senior offensive linemen in the country. That assessment plunged after his performance this week. His technique was pedestrian and opponents took full advantage of the situation. Love was often run over by defenders and left to pick himself off the turf on several occasions. Once considered a possible first-round pick, Love could fall out of the draft's initial 75 selections.
Dwayne Harris/WR/East Carolina: Harris measured smaller than expected, touching the tape at under 5-10. Once he took the field he struggled almost every day, running poor routes and dropping an inordinate amount of throws. He was unable to beat defenders down the field and displayed marginal speed. The performance will push Harris into the middle rounds of the draft.