For the casual observer, the Senior Bowl is about as meaningful as the NFL Pro Bowl, but more anonymous. But for the growing legion of draft-obsessed scouts, it's a week-long getaway from the cold in Mobile, Alabama, and a chance to see the cream of the senior class in person. When you've spent hours staring at grainy, buffering Youtube highlights trying to get the sense of a player, there's a thrill in seeing that player come to life against top competition.
The Senior Bowl can be revelatory, as it was with a young linebacker out of Texas A&M named Von Miller who simply dominated last year's practices. And it can be a place where teams fall in love with players, as the Bengals did with Andy Dalton and the Vikings with Christian Ponder, surprise picks that have panned out.
So who are this year's potential risers and impact NFL players at this year's Senior Bowl? We surveyed a series of scouts to highlight the names you'll want to remember on draft day.
Top Prospect: DE Quinton Coples, University of North Carolina
North Carolina has a history of producing monster pass rushers, from Julius Peppers to last year's first round pick Robert Quinn. Quinton Coples, who we profiled earlier this year, is the next model off the factory line. Says Wes Bunting of the National Football Post:
Possesses the ideal build for a defensive lineman and the game really comes easy to him. He showcases the ability to overpower on contact, be sudden laterally and uses his length well to shed. If he can keep his motor running on high, looks like a top-five caliber talent.
Runners-up: DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama and CB Janoris Jenkins
Shane P. Hallam of DraftCountdown.com calls Upshaw the purest pass rush prospect among outside linebackers, saying he is "the most violent and smooth."
Meanwhile, Matt Miller of New Era Scouting says of the well-traveled Jenkins: "Jenkins needed a good week ... he quickly shook off the rust and was impressive at the line. Off-field issues aside, Jenkins looks like a top-20 pick."
Best Of The Big Men: OT/OG Cordy Glenn, Georgia
While other tackles have been more highly touted, Glenn's name is the one that is constantly bubbling up to the top of Senior Bowl watchers' lists. Seemingly the only debate is where teams should line him up. Here's Erik Galko from Optimum Scouting on the 6'5" 345 big man who played both tackle and guard this week:
"There was no doubt to me that Cordy Glenn was the best offensive TACKLE here by a fairly wide margin considering the fact that he faced substantially better rushers than the North squad and from what I saw on film study from practices, only got beat twice all week if you consider he'd have inside leverage in a game situation. To me, he's no longer a guy 'that has to kick inside.' "
Bunting argues for the move inside, though:
"Glenn had some struggles this week at OT. However, when lined-up inside at guard he was downright dominant. He showcased good natural quickness off the ball, was able to extend his arms and control blockers with ease through contact. Looks like a first round caliber guard prospect to me."
Runner-up: OT Mike Adams, Ohio State
Standing at 6'7" 320, Adams has that intimidating "big off the bus" size that teams like the Al Davis Raiders would fall in love with. But once he got on the field, scouts starting seeing causes for concern.
Galko calls him a "high-risk" prospect who is not physical enough for the position. Miller and others believe that he is "coachable" and has "elite potential as a pass protector." However, it's easy to say that he is not an Orlando Pace who can change his out of his Buckeye red and silver dominate at the NFL level out of the gate. He could still be a top-15 pick, but will he earn it?
Biggest Debate: QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State
To put it bluntly, the debate on Weeden isn't his skill -- he has been consistently rated the top quarterback on either roster at the Senior Bowl, in his arm, his accuracy, and his decision-making. It's his age: 29.
To compare, 49ers QB Alex Smith has been around seemingly forever, and is only 27.
Does he have an NFL future? How far can he rise up draft boards on existing talent, as opposed to upside? Will teams be tempted to give him a second and third look, in a very thin quarterback class?
Matt Waldman of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio and NY Times' Fifth Down blog believes so:
"The argument of being too old is folly. Weeden is mature and smart, and he has a gunslinger’s mentality. He’s been the most impressive QB here in Mobile and could find his way into the end of the first round."
Here's Galko's bottom line on Weeden, via Twitter: "Brandon Weeden > Matt Flynn to me if I had the option."
Highest-Rising Stock: WR Marvin Jones, California
Jones, to quote Waldman, "was not a headlining act" among the WRs invited to the Senior Bowl. But he may have become one during the practices. He flashed all the technical tools needed to succeed at the next level, and most importantly for young receivers, simply caught everything that came his way.
Galko offers more perspective on Jones:
His routes were crisp at every level, he had little wasted motion in his cuts, caught away from his body well down the field, and consistently was on time and in great position to make a play on the ball.
Runner-up: CB Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama
The former University of Florida standout dropped his own stock significantly last offseason for getting himself kicked off the team. A third drug-related arrest will do that. After spending his senior year at the University of North Alabama, the Senior Bowl provided a powerful two-part audition. For one, he got to showcase his skills, which are formidable, against top-tier talent. For another, though, he got to meet NFL scouts and personnel men in person, and put any questions about his character to rest.
Reportedly appearing contrite and mature in person, Jenkins could have successfully re-raised his stock well into the first round this week.
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