2014 Senior Bowl: Tuesday South Practice Notes

Dee FordIt was a fully padded practice day today, so it was a chance to see more full contact along with see the linemen work at 100% throughout practice.

The “winners” of the day for the North Practice were QB Jimmy Garoppolo, RB Antonio Andrews, OG Jon Halapio, DT Daniel McCullters, DE Dee Ford, and CB Jaylen Watkins.

We had myself (@OptimumScouting) covering the OL and DL today.
We had Mark (@MarkDulgerianOS) covering the QBs, RBs, and LBs today.
We had Alex (@OS_AlexBrown) covering the WRs, TEs, and DBs today.

-Jimmy Garoppolo edged Derek Carr for quarterback of the day on the South squad.  He has the quickest set-up and release of all the Senior Bowl quarterbacks, which is actually an advantage and a disadvantage in an all star setting.  Garoppolo doesn’t get ideal depth in his drop backs (a very fixable issue), which affected the timing with his receivers during the first half of practice.  However, he adapted and by the time 7 on 7’s were underway, and showed much better timing with his wideouts for the remainder of practice.

-David Carr’s velocity, especially in the gusty wind, was once again impressive.  There really is no competition in terms of arm strength among the South quarterbacks.  Looking elsewhere, Carr looked very athletic in an escape drill in which quarterbacks must drop back and spin out of trouble before rolling out and hitting a 12 yard out on the move.  His habit of dropping his back shoulder and fading away, however, was magnified in this drill.  His accuracy inconsistencies stem from these types of mechanical issues that have plagued him for much of his college career.

-David Fales had quite the challenge set up for him with the practice conditions today.  He actually wasn’t awful throwing the football but it kept coming off his hand awkwardly and the wind certainly affected his accuracy a bit more than the other quarterbacks.  Fales is an above average athlete but next to Carr and Garoppolo, he moves noticeably slower in everything he does.  Much credit goes to Fales for competing this week but it’s not exactly an ideal set up for a guy whose timing, touch, and anticipation are his best throwing qualities.

Running Backs
-Keep an eye on Western Kentucky’s Antonio Andrews as a back who could have an early impact for an NFL team.  He was easily the best back from both squads during blitz pickup drills, showing the strength to absorb contact and riding defenders away from the quarterback.  He caught the ball well again today and showed patience and burst in the team session.  The Hilltopper does all the little things but he must continue prove to teams that he’s beyond the fumbling issues he had in college.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
-Former SEC standout Jordan Matthews had a rough day at the line of scrimmage, struggling to fight through press looks. Matthews is an extremely coachable player, constantly interacting and receiving instructions from the staff here in Mobile, but his lack of burst off the line of scrimmage hurt the timing of routes and allowed defensive backs to stay in the lurch. More overachiever than I expected coming into the event, Matthews finished every reception by running to the endzone. As a route runner, I liked his pad level, footwork and body control out of the break. More of a #2 receiver at the NFL level, Matthews can also operate out of the slot with effectiveness. 

-Tulane’s Ryan Grant also had difficulty getting by the press coverage during practice; however, he ran routes with outstanding body lean and a low center of gravity to transition cleanly out of breaks. His hands were the softest of the South group, as he absorbs the football at the catch point and is comfortable snatching receptions away from his frame. He’ll need to improve at the line of scrimmage but Grant appears ready to contribute out of the slot for NFL teams.

-Former Texas Longhorn Mike Davis had a bit of a streaky practice, burning cornerback Chris Davis on a double move sluggo pattern and then dropping a simple out pattern. Focus drops have been an issue in Mobile for Davis, but his natural athleticism and movement skills allow for clean, consistent releases. He’s not bothered by contact early at the line of scrimmage and arguably was the best receiver against press looks. What concerns me is that even when he’s won at the line of scrimmage, cornerbacks were able to recover at the route break due to his inability to plant and redirect explosively at the top of his pass patterns.

-Alabama native Kevin Norwood won’t be able to play outside right away in the NFL, but he’s clearly a plus athlete with size, speed and high pointing skills. Although he remains raw with his hands versus press and lacks refinement in that area, his physical tools are worth drafting and developing.

Offensive Linemen
-It was a rough day for the South offensive linemen, as the pass rushers and interior threats the defensive line possess did them no favors on their scouting reports. The best of the bunch was Florida OG Jon Halapio, who was the only lineman to slow Daniel McCullers during drills today. With powerful hip thrust upfield and working hard to keep his hands inside, Halapio had ample success working as a power blocker and generating push upfield.

-Fellow interior lineman Gabe Jackson entered the week as the 2014 draft’s top interior offensive lineman, but has been inconsistent today. He’s a thick, strong-handed, powerful blocker, but he struggled today shuffling laterally vs. quicker interior rushers along with leaning too much as a zone blocker. In one-on-one situations, Jackson has the strength and power upfield to win, but he hasn’t been the dominant force I hoped for entering the week.

-North Dakota State’s Billy Turner entered the week with a lot of buzz, including from Optimum Scouting where I felt he could emerge as a Top 40 pick with a strong week. He’s been able to show his powerful hands and ability to drive downfield as a power run blocker, but he struggled mightily today in his kick slide in pass protection, getting abused a handful of times by Dee Ford and Chris Smith. Team’s likely will consider moving him to guard, where he could thrive, but we’ll look at tomorrow’s practice to see if he can improve and cement his offensive tackle projection.

-Morgan Moses of Virginia looks the part of an NFL offensive tackle, and his kick slide is adequate to go along with the length he possesses to have success on the edge. However, his ability to track his blocks downfield along with struggles against bull rushers at times could cause concerns for teams. Wesley Johnson of Vanderbilt showed he’s likely not an NFL tackle, but could provide quality depth across the line. In a zone blocking scheme, Johnson could be a developmental starter. Finally, Travis Swanson was the clear best center, and despite some struggles in one-on-ones with Will Sutton and Daniel McCullers, Swanson has shown he’s a future NFL starter on the inside.

Defensive Linemen
-If there’s one prospect that may begin to earn first round grades from NFL teams after this week, it’s Auburn’s Dee Ford. Possessing remarkable quickness off the edge and the bend that embarrassed offensive tackles at times today, Ford has proven that he can have consistent success against offensive tackles. Ford also showcased a natural spin move and outside-in rushes that showcase his versatility as a rusher. I’ll be curious to see him more during team drills to look at his impact in the run game.

-Along with Ford, Chris Smith of Arkansas had another fantastic day, being the quickest off the snap of the defensive linemen. He’s an explosive athlete who’s able to play low and with quick hands to consistently disengage and keep pass blockers off balance. He wasn’t as speedy as Ford, but he made his impact felt very similarly to opposing blockers.

-Big Daniel McCullers of Tennessee was a guy I thought would struggle in this environment due to his immense size and question marks about his stamina and motor while in college. While he does still play consistently high off the snap and seems to lack great bend, he was consistently able to over-power blockers with tremendously strong hands and upper half, and sorted through blockers at a high level, particularly when they ran zone blocking plays. He’s a work in progress technique-wise, but his natural talent and ability to have success against interior lineman in this game should ease team’s mind about his future impact.

-Will Sutton of Arizona State is still working to lower his weight during this draft season after playing the year at 325 because his coaches asked him too. His goal is to get back down to 300 pounds by the NFL Combine, which could further help his quickness after his first rush. He uses his hands very wisely, attacking guards and centers with quick, decisive hand movements and generating pressure initially with high frequency. However, when he didn’t win initially, he struggled to quickly exchange laterally and was controlled at times during drills.

-Both Caraun Reid of Princeton and Brent Urban of Virginia played well today. Reid is a bit linear as a rusher, but can win with upfield burst and ability to drive his blocker back while extended. Urban consistently fires out low out of his stance and plays in front of his hips well, and he needs to remain balanced throughout his rush moves and win more as a pass rusher.

-For those that follow BYU football, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Kyle Van Noy is the clear leader of the South defense.  He plays fast and covers a lot of ground in coverage defending the seam to hook to curl territory.  Van Noy’s hand usage also really stood out today in pass rush drills as he showed outstanding hand eye coordination in finding offensive linemens’ hands and slapping them away from his body before setting them up for counter moves. 

-Alabama’s Adrian Hubbard has yet to find a place on the field he’s comfortable with.  Today, it was clear he’s not built to play from outside linebacker spot.  He plays way too high and exposes his entire torso as a pass rusher and he’s much too leggy and stiff to drop into coverage.  An anti-space defender, Hubbard may need to focus on mastering an end role with his hand in the dirt.

Defensive Backs
-The top cornerback for the South squad was Oklahoma’s Aaron Colvin, whose foot speed and fluidity through the turn limited separation versus all receivers faced during practice. Colvin dominated in press drills by keeping ideal base width, landing an inside jam on his opponent and wasting no movements in transitions. Unfortunately, Colvin got his feet tangled up while driving on a post route, resulting in a knee injury. At this point we do not know the severity of the injury.

-While Colvin is the most NFL ready corner, Florida defensive back Jaylen Watkins took to coaching very well and looked increasingly more confident with each rep. Soft with his hand usage on tape, Watkins progressed nicely with his press technique and earned the praise of his position coach for his improvements. Even when he didn’t land a clean jam, makeup speed and route anticipation allowed him to recover. On such instance, he failed to get his hands on the release, sprinted back in recovery, read the receiver’s post route and located the football for an interception. He’s still not great with his hands and needs to keep a squared relationship to receivers in his off man pedal technique, but he’s an athletic corner that got his hands on throws today and proved himself to be coachable.

-Auburn corner Chris Davis was another corner that developed in confidence and fundamentals during Tuesday’s practice, being far more patient and controlled in delivering a jam. Having a firm base, strong build and explosive feet, Davis is at his best when he can initiate contact to direct the receiver’s release. An issue I noted in Davis’ off-man technique is his lack of sink and bend through his pedal footwork. He’ll need to improve at keeping his nose over his toes and put less weight distribution on his heels as the route develops.

-The corner with the highest ceiling looks like Utah’s Keith McGill. At 6’3, 214 pounds he moves with tremendous fluidly through transitions and impressed during T-step redirect drills. He’s not a natural hands guy and continued to drop interception opportunities. Nevertheless the length to affect the catch point is still overwhelming for some of the South receivers he faced. When lined up in press man, he flashed the ability to mirror and wall receivers to the sideline but will require further development with his hand usage through the release.