The NFP is down in Mobile, Alabama at the Senior Bowl this week. The beginning of the scouting process for some of the top talent in the 2012 NFL Draft. And here is what I am looking for when I watch practice.
One-on-ones: There is plenty of value in 11-on-11 team work and 7-on-7 drills throughout the week, however my favorite part of practice is watching players in isolated one-on-one periods. Pass rush, WRs vs. DBs, LBs vs. RBs, etc. We get to check out CBs in press-coverage vs. WRs or a rush end vs. a left tackle in one-on-one pass rush. The best drills to test technique, leverage and see who can play a physical brand of football.
QB play: This is what QBs are going to see this week in the secondary: Cover 1 (man-free) and Cover 3 (3-deep, 4-under zone). That's it. No blitz packages, Cover 2 (Tampa 2), Cover 4, combination-man, etc. Standard looks with little to no disguise in the secondary. For Russell Wilson, Kellen Moore, Brandon Weeden, Nick Foles, etc., this is an opportunity to stand out. I want to see if they can drop back, read an underneath curl-to-flat player in Cover 3, look off the FS in Cover 1 and deliver the ball. Throw the base concepts (slant-flat, curl-flat, flat-7, etc.) and produce.
The route tree: When I check out WRs, I always start with the route tree. Can they come out of their breaks with speed, separate down the field and come back to the football? Start with the 3-step game and then work the top of the route tree. You want to see clean routes, players that catch the ball with their hands and vertical speed when they have an opportunity on the 9 (fade) or 8 (post).
Technique: Applies to every position. You want to focus on their footwork, hand placement, mechanics, etc. In Mobile you can't get away with lazy technique, poor eyes in your run-pass keys or bad angles to the ball. For the offensive and defensive line, pay attention to pad level. Play high down here and you will get exposed. Some of these players might have gotten away with technique errors during the regular season, but in an All-Star game it will be noticeable. No free passes this week.
Competition: Who wants to compete? Its one thing to be a speed-size player when it comes to the NFL scouting combine in Indy. However, these are drills in full gear?and there is nowhere to hide. Who hits (consistently), drives on the ball from the secondary, wins up front along the offensive line and finishes plays? Like I said above when talking about the QBs, this isn't the playbook these prospects are going to see in the pro game. Instead, scouts want to watch them line up and play football. Let's find out who shows up this week.
Matt Bowen is an analyst forNational Football Post. You can follow him on Twitter, and keep up with NFP's draft coverage here.