January 29, 2010

NFL coaches have left Mobile and most of the scouts are headed home. The only thing left at the Senior Bowl is to tee up the ball and kick off the game. After three full days of practice its time to look back at the highlights and lowlights of the past week, many which will impact April's draft.

Dexter McCluster/RB/Mississippi: McCluster presented himself as the jack-of-all-trades in Mobile and someone who mastered all the applied trades. He was explosive carrying the ball, making defenders miss and creating yardage while also running hard on the inside. He was also a game-breaking pass catcher who sprinted past opponents down the sidelines. All that's left is for McCluster to showoff his return abilities during the game. He's improved his draft stock at least 30 slots and could now hear his named called as soon as the early portion of Round 2.

Honorable Mention:Taylor Price/WR/Ohio: Scouts were aware of his underlying talent entering the week but few expected Price to be as polished as he was on the field. He displayed the ability to make all the catches in the short and deep field. Price is another who moved up draft boards almost a full round based on his performance this week.

Alex Carrington/DE/Arkansas State: Carrington came to Mobile with a complete game, which caught scouts off guard. He was fast and powerful, the latter which answered questions about his playing strength. Scouts loudly applauded Carrington each day at practice. Coming into the week he was a mid-round choice. As Senior Bowl practices end Carrington leaves a top-60 pick.

Honorable Mention: Daryl Washington/LB/TCU: Expectations were high when Jerry Hughes, the All-America from TCU, was originally listed on the Senior Bowl roster. Hughes bypassed the event with a quad injury but the Horned Frogs program never missed a beat as his college teammate proved to be a star. By Wednesday scouts branded Washington as the top athlete of all the linebackers in Mobile and the only true three-down defender at the position.

Taylor Mays/S/USC: For Mays the week turned into a potpourri of skills he's likely to struggle with in the NFL; he'll struggle handling man-to-man coverage assignments and struggle making plays sideline-to-sideline as a true NFL centerfielder. Mays is still a legitimate prospect for the next level but the limitations he displayed this week will reduce the number of teams wanting to acquire him in April.

Honorable Mention: Eric Norwood/LB/South Carolina: Norwood's inability to make plays in coverage all week was alarming. He looked like a fish out of water trying to stay with running backs and tight ends down the field. Like Mays, he has a place at the next level, yet the number of NFL systems Norwood can line up in has been reduced.

Joe Webb/WR/UAB: Webb has been the Blazers starting quarterback the past two seasons yet made a seamless transition to receiver this week and looked like a seasoned veteran at the position. Webb was solid catching the ball all week, regularly beating defensive backs that are graded as early round picks.

Honorable Mention: Myron Rolle/S/Florida State: Rolle certainly did not look like someone who has not played football in over a year. He never embarrassed himself on the field. In fact by weeks end he was making plays and playing at a higher level than many of his teammates.

Midway through the first practice of the week Andre Roberts of The Citadel went across the middle trying to catch one of the many wayward throws made by the quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl. He was met head on by Mays, who laid out the small-school receiver with one of his patented crunching blows. After the crowd reacted with gasps, Roberts peeled himself off the turf, brushed himself off and quickly got back to the huddle.

NOTES: With the media hammering Tim Tebow at every given opportunity this week, we decided to stay away and give it some time. Through no fault of his own Tebow was put in an impossible situation at the Senior Bowl. His supporters were expecting an instant transformation from college legend to NFL franchise quarterback. His detractors were ready to pounce on any ounce of bad news. They all failed to realize there was no magic button to push and four years of poor throwing mechanics would not be repaired in three practices. The process will be a long one and NFL decision-makers understand this. His passion for the game and knowledge of the position puts the Heisman Trophy winner ahead of the curve, but he won't be NFL ready any time soon. ... NFL scouts and general managers were disappointed in the overall talent on this year's Senior Bowl roster. Just one player, Penn State's Jared Odrick, leaves the week as a certain first-round choice. This compares to last year when 11 veterans were selected in the opening round. Several top prospects that were invited to play bypassed the event thinking it would do more harm than good to their draft ranking. History has proven them wrong as players from B.J. Raji to Marcus Trufant to Philip Rivers all benefitted from good performances at the Senior Bowl. NFL scouting departments will also not take kindly to the fact many of these players purposely avoided competing head-to-head with some of the nation's best.

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