What to Watch For: 2011 Senior Bowl
By: Craig Vanderkam
January 21, 2011
Jake Locker
The Senior Bowl is one of the NFL Draft's premier pre-draft events and Sideline Scouting will be back in Mobile for a second straight year with an exclusive look at some of college's finest athletes from Mobile, Ala. with daily practice reports, interviews and photos. Check back often as the site will be updated multiple times a day. Throughout the week, general managers, head coaches, assistant coaches, scouts and other front office personnel from all 32 NFL teams use the Senior Bowl to watch North and South practices as draft season continues. Chan Gailey and the Buffalo Bills' staff will coach the South team while Marvin Lewis and the Bengals' staff will lead the North team. The game is scheduled for Saturday, January 29th in Mobile's Ladd-Peebles Stadium, with kickoff set for 4 p.m. The practices and game will be televised by NFL Network. With that said, here's a look at the intriguing storylines we'll be following next week.

Washington QB Jake Locker didn't live up to expectations this season, but he led Washington to a bowl win over Nebraska despite a severe lack of talent at receiver and on the offense line. Locker had #1 overall hype coming into this season; in fact, had he entered the 2010 draft there is a chance he could be in St. Louis under center for the Rams right now -- not Sam Bradford. The hoopla surrounding Locker was mostly based on potential but this season raised a lot of red flags and Locker's stock slipped from top five overall to that of a late first or early second round. Locker has the athleticism, competitiveness and intangibles that teams should love and has the ability to work back into top ten consideration but if he struggles making NFL caliber throws versus NFL caliber cornerbacks he might find himself out of the first round all together.

Von Miller
Von Miller has had tremendous success for Texas A&M; to the tune of 27 sacks over the past two seasons but is seen as a bit of a one-trick pony for his ability to rush the passer but struggles against the run and dropping into coverage. Miller is an ideal fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker and might be a Top 15 selection on his ability to rush the passer alone, but he has a lot to gain and could even get looks at OLB from teams running a four-man front if he looks comfortable in the mandated 4-3 scheme with no blitzing allowed. Miller has all the tools to be a productive pass rusher right away at the next level, but he will make himself a more enticing option in the first half of round one if he shows he's a more complete linebacker prospect.

Phil Taylor
The Senior Bowl weigh-in might not be the most glamorous event but to say it's not important would be a huge understatement. Last year, Terrence Cody weighed in at 370 lbs. and looked all of it and this year there might be a lot of attention on 3-4 nose tackle candidate Phil Taylor. Taylor has been as heavy as 385 lbs. but had the best season of his collegiate career by far playing at 340 lbs. He's a space eater that occupies double teams and can be difficult to move, but needs to show he's committed to staying in shape for second day consideration.

As always, there will be some no-shows that will weaken the Senior Bowl field. Last season, Oklahoma OT Trent Williams, TCU DE Jerry Hughes, Tennesee RB Montario Hardesty, USC OT Charles Brown, LSU Brandon LaFell and LSU RB Charles Scott backed out, some because of injury, and others at the request of their agents, fearing it may hurt their clients. One scout told us last year that Brown felt he was locked into the first round, though he ended up slipping to New Orleans with the final pick in the second. In hindsight, some were good choices, while others were not. Both coaches last year said they look at the no-shows on a case-by-case basis.

Finally, if you get a chance, be sure to tune in to the practices on NFL Network. Many scouts stay only through the Thursday practices since they are more indicative of a player's ability as the game restricts the defense much like the NFL's Pro Bowl, including no blitzing, no press coverage, no 3-4 and no defensive line stunts or twists. Remember the Senior Bowl is just a week's worth of scouting and while some players will see their stock rise and fall it does not outweigh four years of game tape so very rarely would one week make or break a prospect. And while coaching is a great opportunity for player interaction in practices and meetings, the Detroit Lions (North coaching staff) took zero players from the 2010 Senior Bowl while the Dolphins' (South coaching staff) first four picks were Senior Bowl representatives, so it is not necessarily associated with any team's drafting style or tendencies.

(May 1) -- The NFL Draft is in the books and Sideline Scouting would like to thank our visitors for making this our most successful year to date. We hope you enjoyed our coverage. Sideline Scouting will be back next year and better than ever. We have some big changes planned that we hope will make your visits here even more enjoyable.

*Cameron Newton
QB, Auburn
Von Miller
LB, Texas A&M;
*Marcell Dareus
DE, Alabama
*A.J. Green
WR, Georgia
*Patrick Peterson
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