Senior Bowl Practices: Week in Review
By: Sideline Scouting Staff
January 28, 2011
Gabe Carimi - Out Saturday
The Senior Bowl practices are in the books and many general managers, coaches, scouts and other front office personnel have left Mobile. Saturday's kickoff is set for 3 p.m. and while the game does have some draft implications the practices are far more indicative of a player's ability, especially the intangibles such willingness to try a new position and how the players respond to NFL coaching. The game itself 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. Since the Senior Bowl is just a week's worth of scouting it does not outweigh four years of game tape so very rarely does the one week make or break a prospect. In fact, this year several players have risen up draft boards but very few have actually hurt their stock. Thus, it's a shame some of the top talent pulls out of the Senior Bowl as they can really showcase their abilities and solidify their draft status but it also gives other unheralded players an opportunity to boast their stock and become a household name around draft circles.

The Senior Bowl also provides a good snap shot of the scouting world with a number of practice reports and evaluations, some of which provide different observations than others. Two players this week that have gotten a lot of hype yet haven't really risen up on our board is Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick and Texas A&M; Von Miller. Kaepernick is still a project that will take years of seasoning before he's an NFL caliber starting quarterback and while Miller has been impressive as a pass-rusher that was his forte coming into the week anyway. He lacks the necessary skills to immediately be a three-down linebacker in the NFL and shouldn't be used as more than a pass-rushing specialist in his rookie season. He also appears scheme limited in that he did nothing to prove he'd be an adequate fit in a 4-3 defense.

Colin Kaepernick
The buzz this week has been Colin Kaepernick being the best quarterback here in Mobile, and Fox Sports writer Adam Caplan said earlier today, "it's not even close." Coming into this week, Kaepernick was a mid-round prospect coming from Nevada, where he ran the pistol offense. Coaches wanted to see his ability to take snaps from under center and see how receptive he would be to coaching since he will need to adjust some of his mechanics in the NFL. By all accounts, he has been very likable and receptive to coaching and he has shown that he will be able to take snaps under center. His footwork has been surprisingly good all week which has caused his draft stock to sky rocket to the fringe first round range. But, I would not touch him any earlier than the third round. Kaepernick is a very intriguing prospect; he has a good arm, he's very athletic, a leader, and he can throw on the run. His skill-set includes almost everything that teams look for in an NFL quarterback. However, he is still a project, and is not a finished product by any means. Teams that select quarterbacks in the first two rounds expect that player to start within two years and Kaepernick is going to need a lot of coaching to be an effective NFL starter. It seemed that during the week that people were trying to find something with Kaepernick that wasn't there; he was constantly praised for his arm strength yet after watching it in person, it was nothing special. Kaepernick's arm is somewhere in the middle of his North teammates, Jake Locker and Ricky Stanzi. I think people need to take a step back and look at Kaepernick's entire body of work before over reacting to his four practices in Mobile. Is he an interesting prospect who can be an NFL starter down the line? Absolutely. But should a team spend a first or early second round pick on him? No, I don't think so. Teams that draft a quarterback in the first two rounds hitch their wagon to that player for a couple of seasons and Kaepernick simply is too much of a risk for a team to do that with him.

Von Miller
People have raved about Von Miller all week. Some are even contending that he could be gone in the first five picks of the NFL Draft. Personally, I haven't seen it this week. He is a physical specimen with speed, quickness and agility, but he also seems to lack some of the necessary skills to be a three-down linebacker immediately in the NFL. This week, Miller spent a lot of time working on pass-rushing drills. Even in team 11-on-11s, Miller was lined up at the end of the line in a two-point stance. He did work a little during the week in coverage, but he did not stand out at all. He can run with running backs and tight ends. He just lacks the natural coverage skills of a full-time linebacker. At Texas A&M;, Miller spent a ton of time simply rushing the passer. He has never been utilized as a traditional outside linebacker, and I think that showed this week. Some players get jumbled up in the hype machine, and Miller is one of them. The Senior Bowl game may be more important for Miller than the practices were, and that's not very common for Senior Bowlers. We'll have to see how he plays in the game tomorrow, but I'm still not sold on Miller as anything more than a pass-rushing specialist right now. He still looks like a developmental guy who teams can use on second and third downs in the NFL.

Twitter Q&A;:

@sidelinescouts: Realistically, over/under 25 percent chance a team wants the first pick enough to trade for it? Obviously that'd be [Carolina Panthers GM Marty] Hurney's dream.

This year is a tougher year than any to project that based on the uncertainty that surrounds the CBA negotiations, and how those dealings will have an impact on a possible rookie pay scale. Most people believe a pay scale will be implemented in the new CBA, but only time will tell when that will be decided upon. That said, assuming there will not be a rookie pay scale for this year's draft, I find it highly unlikely anyone will want to trade for the number one pick and risk paying a ton of money for the pick. With Andrew Luck returning to school, it seems the lack of elite game changers might affect the top of the draft board more than some anticipate. A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson and Nick Fairley are basically the consensus number one overall player available, but it is hard to imagine a team will want to trade into the top three picks to get him. The value to trade up for Green or Peterson just isn't there when you consider where Prince Amukamara and Julio Jones may be available, and the talent at the defensive tackle/3-4 end position is very good this year throughout the first couple rounds. Without a top-tier franchise quarterback available, I think it will take a minor miracle for Carolina to be able to trade the top pick away.

Mason Foster
@sidelinescouts: Is Mason Foster a 3-4 or 4-3 OLB? Love the kid, but I'm a Bills fan.

Your head coach seems to think that doesn't matter a whole lot. Here is a small bit of Chan Gailey's press conference from last night on the way we see players fitting into systems:

"I think we get caught up in saying, 'Is this guy a 3-4 guy? Is he a 4-3 guy?' Football players are football players. If they're a good football player, I'll move somebody around to make sure he gets on the field. We'll adjust something to make sure he gets on the football field if the guy's a great football player. Because we're going to get the best guys on the field that help you win. I think sometimes we get caught up in the 3-4/4-3 thing. So many teams now are hybrid anyway. You do a four-man front if you have to do that and you play just enough 3-4 to make people mad."

It really is true. Football fans and draft analysts do put too much stock in that sometimes. Look no further than Jay Ratliff, who is far from the prototypical nose tackle size, but he's a Pro Bowler, and he plays the position well. However, to be more specific about your question, Foster is a fairly versatile player. He has an extremely high motor, and he's a guy that will keep improving no matter where he plays. I think he fits best in a 4-3 if you want to get specific, but there is certainly a place for him in a 3-4. He has the athleticism and size to even move to a strong-side inside linebacker position in a 3-4. The bottom line is this: Foster is a good player, and I think no matter what system he plays in, there will be a spot for him, and he will be successful. The Bills could do much worse than to take him in the early third round.

Mark Herzlich
@sidelinescouts: Did Mark Herzlich attend the Senior Bowl and how did he do? Where do you see him getting selected?

Herzlich played on the North squad this week at the Senior Bowl, and I'd say he did fairly well. His big issue is pass coverage. He weighed in at 250 pounds, which makes me think he could fit in well at the inside linebacker position in a 3-4. His coverage skills have not looked good, however. I don't think he will be able to cover the deep middle in a cover two if he were to play inside linebacker. He practiced all week at outside linebacker, which was his position in college, and he looked very physical. No one has ever questioned his motor and determination, and I think that intensity is going to land him somewhere in the middle rounds on draft day. He's not the most athletic player, but it's hard to not like his intangibles and physicality. And it always seems like Senior Bowlers end up getting drafted a little higher than previously expected because of the exposure. Look for him to go somewhere in the third round.

Jake Locker
@sidelinescouts: I'm hearing mixed reviews on Jake Locker and Von Miller. What is your take on them thus far? Stock up or down for each?

Miller has gotten good reviews, but I haven't seen anything to warrant the top-five talk he is getting. Granted, he's a physical specimen. Miller has the muscular frame to fit as a full-time linebacker in the NFL. I just haven't seen the skills that could make him a three-down linebacker. His pass-rushing abilities are very good, although I'd like to see a wider variety of pass-rushing moves from him in the long run. He hasn't done much to show me he can play well in coverage or in run defense. Almost all week he was lining up at the end of the line in a two-point stance. He is good for what he is, but I think it's going to take him a few years in the NFL to develop into an all-around player. The game might actually help him more than practices did, and that's not usually the case for Senior Bowl participants.

Locker is another player that did not impress this week, but the reviews on him are all over the place. People have been high on every quarterback at some point this week, but I personally have not seen anyone who stands out. Locker has been inconsistent all week. There hasn't been anything this week people haven't said about him before. He has a pretty good arm and very solid mechanics, but his footwork has been marginal at times and his accuracy has suffered as a result. It's just hard to justify Locker going in the top 20 based on his performance this year and during this week. Of course, you can't evaluate a prospect too heavily from Senior Bowl week alone, but he did not do himself any favors this week. Stock down.

Cameron Jordan
@sidelinescouts: Is Cameron Jordan really looking like a 10+ sack guy at RE?

Jordan has been very impressive this week, and everyone has noticed. As mixed as the reviews have been on a lot of the other top prospects, Cam Jordan's have not been. He is a beast at the defensive end position. He has great size, strength and quickness, and certainly looks like one of the best defensive linemen this week. It was almost uncommon for him to not be in the backfield on passing plays during practice. If he ends up at right end on a team with some space eaters in the middle, I see Jordan making a big impact from a pass-rushing angle. Ten sacks in a season is no easy feat, but I wouldn't doubt that he does it in the NFL at some point. I've heard some comparison to Julius Peppers this week, and that says a lot about how well he has performed. He has an extremely high ceiling.

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