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January 25th, 2017

2017 Reese’s Senior Bowl: Day 1 North Team Notes & Observations

Trey Daubert @treydaubert

Toledo’s Kareem Hunt looked good at the 2017 Senior Bowl practice. Who else caught my attention. (Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports)

The Reese’s Senior Bowl is college football’s most decorated All-Star Game. The best collegiate seniors across the country gather around during the week in hopes of improving their draft status moving forward. Tuesday opened up the first day of practices in a week-long evaluation for each player. The North team is being coached by John Fox and the rest of the Chicago Bears coaching staff as they get the advantage of getting to know these players a little better. Starting with the South team, who caught my eye for better or worse down in Mobile?

Quarterbacks:

For starters, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson opted not to participate in the Senior Bowl. He would have been eligible to compete after graduating in only 3 years despite declaring for the Draft as a Junior. Clemson’s head coach Dabo Swinney could not have given more praise to Watson.

Last year the North team had a bunch of buzz surrounding them when Carson Wentz put on a show. This year the North team wasn’t so fortunate as none of the 3 quarterbacks stood out. Sefo Liufau from Colorado, C.J. Beathard from Iowa, and Nate Peterman from Pittsburgh are this year’s North quarterbacks.  I watched Liufau during the Pac 12 title game where he threw 3 picks before leaving the game due to an injury. He did not look like a draftable quarterback during the practice either as there was a reason why Colorado recruited Davis Webb so hard prior to this season. Beathard isn’t any better. To be frank, I don’t care if Beathard lights the world on fire because if you’re only completing 56.5 percent of your throws in college, you have no chance of making it in the NFL. The Iowa product should also be considered undraftable especially when you add in that his hand size is well below average. Finally, there is Peterman that did have his moments in college but is probably a career backup. He didn’t have a bad practice but I absolutely need to see more to gather an accurate opinion.

Running Backs:

The North team does, however, have a great group of backs to work with. The only member of the group that disappointed was De’Veon Smith who we saw at the East-West game. Smith seemed to be missing that extra gear that the other backs have. Kareem Hunt out of Toledo is a perfect off tackle runner and will make a nice career out for himself. Wisconsin’s Corey Clement not only impressed me running the football but also in the passing game. Something he didn’t have to do a whole lot of in college.  I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Sam Rogers who is probably the best fullback prospect I’ve seen since Jalston Fowler. All I know is this guy’s a football player and could surprise people catching the football.

Wide Receivers:

The highlight of the day was watching the North team’s wide outs. Cooper Knupp screams Jordy Nelson to me. The rise in the level of competition wasn’t too much for him either as you never know what someone from Eastern Washington truly brings to the table but he simply put on a show. Watch him toast Desmond King from Iowa who is considered a first-round pick by many.

 

Zay Jones from East Carolina was another one that had a big day. Jones is the all-time leading receptions holder in FBS history which is an incredible feat. Jones at 6’2″ was able to use his size to get open.

 

Amara Darboh from Michigan also stood out. Darboh is a similar receiver to Jones as they both have big physical frames. The question I had was how good was Darboh after he was overshadowed by fellow teammate Jehu Chesson. Watch him bully Iowa’s Desmond King to the football. (Desmond King had a really bad day but we will get to that later).

 

The other 3 receivers can be summed up in this way; long striders who can’t run routes.

Tight Ends:

I’m going to repeat this statement a lot. There are a ton of excellent tight ends in this draft. Michael Roberts of Toledo who I talked about at the East-West game carried over that momentum this week and put on another good showing. Roberts continues to look faster than I anticipated him to be after watching his games in college. Linebackers were consistently no match for him in the drills. Let’s not forget this guy is also a complete prospect who can block. Speaking of blocking, Jeremy Sprinkle of Arkansas can also hold his own in that department. It goes without saying that it’s a requirement in the run heavy Razorback offense. It’s almost like this guy is way too athletic to be playing tight end. Sprinkle for whatever reason seems to be getting overlooked and is someone I need to do more homework on because he didn’t get a ton of opportunities in the Arkansas offense.

Offensive Line:

A common theme for this draft is the offensive line group is fairly weak. That mantra held up pretty well as the North team was bullied by their fellow defensive lineman with the exception of one player, Zach Banner. Did I mention that Banner is a house that can move! At 6’8″ 361 pounds, defenders looked lost trying to get by this guy. For a guy that size, you may expect him to struggle with speed edge rushers but he shut down everyone in his path. In my opinion, he is clearly the best offensive line prospect at the Senior Bowl. Take a look at some of his highlights below.

 

 

 

Three other guys to note quick who all struggled. Julien Davenport from Bucknell got some hype as a small school guy. He somehow looked athletic and terrible at the same time. I’m interested to see what day two holds as the transition from Bucknell to the NFL is a tall order. Jordan Morgan from Kutztown is another guy I have high hopes for. He struggled for a good part of the drills but as the day went along you could see the small school guy’s confidence grew. There is some hope as Ali Marpet did it as a D3 guard who now starts for the Bucs. Finally, let’s talk about Dan Feeney from Indiana. All week all I heard was Feeney was the best guard coming into the draft and he couldn’t have looked worse. I literally lost count of how many times I saw him on the ground. Unless I see a drastic improvement, there is no way that Feeney is a first round pick in my eyes.

*Let’s show some love to the Kicker from Arizona State Zane Gonzalez. He hit a long of 59 yards last year and didn’t miss an extra point. I’m not an expert on kicking mechanics but maybe he is a guy you will be seeing on Sunday’s shortly.

Defensive Line:

Ryan Glasgow of Michigan was the star of the group for one reason, he’s relentless. The motor on him is incredible as it appeared like he would run through a brick wall if he had to. I’m not sure he’s even that talented but you love having guys on your team that will give you maximum effort. Duwuane Smoot of Illinois was explosive off the edge but he is probably one of those 3rd down pass rushers only. The same can be said of Tarrell Basham of Ohio. The question always is how high do you pick a guy that can only do one thing. Stevie Tu’ikolovatu from USC also predictably looked pretty good in the drills considering he is a 350-pound nose tackle. Every 3-4 team needs a dude like him to muddy up the middle of the line of scrimmage.

Linebackers:

Wisconsin’s Vince Biegel is an interesting prospect. He did not hold up well in the 1 vs. 1 drills as it became pretty clear he is a 4-3 outside linebacker only. I liked what I saw in college but I want to see him participate more in coverage drills in the future. It was hard to distinguish Illinois’ Carroll Phillips and Temple’s Haasan Reddick. You get that feeling that one of them makes it but they both look so similar as undersized speedy linebackers who held up well in the coverage drills.

Defensive Backs:

Desmond King looks like a good place to start after he got beasted and feasted upon in the receiver section of the article. It became pretty apparent that this guy is not a first round pick let alone a cornerback. The transition needs to happen immediately. King does not have the long speed that is required to be a corner and didn’t seem to understand the concept of press coverage. If he’s a corner, it’s in a zone scheme only. We also found out that Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis is the real deal. Lewis covered receivers like a blanket every time he was asked to take the field. His teammate Channing Stribling also got some love last week at the East-West game. Lewis might be a borderline first rounder at this point. Aarion Penton reigning from Missouri also impressed me as a scrappy, undersized, slot corner.

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