2014 Senior Bowl: Wednesday North Practice Notes

Charles SimsOn a frigid Day Three at the Senior Bowl, it’s the final day for many NFL scouts as they finish up watching their particular week assignments and complete their player interviews before coming to their final Senior Bowl conclusions of the week.

The “winners” of the day for the North Practice were RB Charles Sims, WR Josh Huff, OT Jack Mewhort, DT Aaron Donald, LB Chris Borland, and CB Pierre Desir.

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

Quarterbacks
For the quarterback evaluation today, I decided to steal new Detroit Lions’ head coach Jim Caldwell’s “passer GPA” evaluation tool. To quickly summarize, all throws are charted as A, B, C, D, or F quality: an “A” throw constitutes an accurately thrown pass that requires little to no adjustment by the receiver and does not impede the receiver’s stride; a “B” throw requires some adjustment, slightly outside framework and allowing receiver to still keep momentum upfield; a “C” throw is a complete adjustment by the receiver, away from framework of the target and impeding his stride; finally, a “D” throw is an incompletion and an “F” throw is an interception.

 

Here are the following grade point averages for each event, followed by a total GPA and total number of throws by each quarterback.

 

On Air

1. Thomas (3.54)

2. Morris (2.95)

3. Boyd (2.91)

1-on-1’s

1. Thomas (3.00)

2. Boyd (2.85)

3. Morris (2.38)

Redzone 1-on-1’s

1. Thomas (3.40)

2. Boyd (3.14)

3. Morris (2.43)

7-on-7

1. Thomas (3.12)

2. Morris (2.83)

3. Boyd (2.67)

Team

1. Boyd (3.40)

2. Morris (3.00)

3. Thomas (0.00)

Total GPA

1. Thomas (3.29)

2. Boyd (2.94)

3. Morris (2.71)

Total Throws

1. Tajh Boyd (54)

2. Morris (49)

3. Thomas (48)

*Spot throws were excluded, as none of the quarterbacks misfired and it served as more of a footwork/setup drill than a testing of accuracy.

-It was clear that Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas outclassed the other quarterbacks in terms of arm talent and accuracy across the field. Thomas’ lack of polish regarding reset footwork and progression timing became more evident as the practice continued, ultimately resulting in an untimely interception during team drills. Unfortunately two interceptions clouded an otherwise strong practice, as Thomas drove a variety of intermediate and deep concepts with confidence, back end velocity and consistent placement on the receiver’s numbers. 

-Moving forward, I’d like to see more sink and lower half activity from Logan Thomas at the back end of dropbacks. His makeup velocity allowed him to be late with multiple progressions during earlier drills that featured 1-on-1 or 7-on-7 defensive looks; however, his 0.00 GPA from team drills stems from his singular pass attempt and ensuing interception. Late with his reset and delivery, Thomas did not identify the Mike linebacker on a short mesh concept resulting in an interception by Chris Borland. Thomas has tremendous arm talent and inconsistent setup mechanics, but looked worthy of development in today’s showing. It’s worth noting that he sprinted to and from each drill.

-The next best quarterback, Tajh Boyd started the day off poorly, misfiring on air and lacking the confidence to pull the trigger with proper timing on downfield throws. Boyd has arm strength deficiencies and that was obvious throughout the session. When attempting throws downfield and vertically, there’s a noticeable difference in finishing velocity and a looping trajectory. Underneath and in the three-step pass game, however, Boyd is comfortable and in rhythm. He’s got an adjustable delivery but will need to further improve his base width, weight transfer and release mechanics to be able to execute all of the throws at the next level. On a more positive note, Boyd interacted well with teammates, was constantly pulling the coaching staff aside during spot drills for questions regarding dropback mechanics and weight transfers, and genuinely pushed himself towards improving on every rep. Inability to push the ball downfield with drive and back end velocity is a very real concern with Boyd.

-Miami quarterback Stephen Morris struggled today and could be best described as a loose cannon. The positives to his practice session include his live arm, along with willingness to throw back shoulder and attack tight windows during 1-on-1’s and redzone drills. Nevertheless, his arm talent makes up for remarkably inconsistent setup and release mechanics. At times overstriding and other times unable to get on top of his delivery, Morris threw the most incompletions with 14 misfires. Morris’ inability to progress through multiple targets in his progressions should be a concern for teams, as he routinely stared down the primary receiver in his 7-on-7 passing opportunities.

Running Backs
-Charles Sims continued to excel as a pass catcher, showing the soft hands and radius to extend and adjust in the flat areas. He’s well prepared to handle third down duties as a pass protector as well, but needs to keep his feet moving to absorb and control his opponent with more effectiveness. Overall he was the best in blitz pickup drills and continues to impress with his smooth running style.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
-Of the receivers, Josh Huff of Oregon had the best day of the bunch. While he still struggles a bit with press coverage, and did so today, he plays with plus physicality down the field, especially in the red zone fade. He finished at the catch point very well today, and used his hands to separate (legally) against all types of cornerbacks

-Battling for the top receiver of the day was Wyoming’s Robert Herron. He’s quick throughout his route tree, flips his head around with tremendous snap back to the quarterback, and is smooth at the top of his route in attacking the ball. He also get of press remarkably well today for a small receiver, even though he likely won’t be asked to do that much in the NFL as a slot receiver.

-Jared Abbrederis of Wisconsin is such a technician as a route runner, and he works so well to get cornerbacks outside the framework of their body as he sets up deep breaking routes. He’s finished his routes and seems focused throughout his route tree on every play. Throughout the week, he’s been arguably the top receiver in attendance at the Senior Bowl

-Shaquille Evans of UCLA has the size and athleticism to attack vertically and separate with that body control. But his routes are very rounded at this point, and despite beating defenders at time throughout the day, his routes won’t be suitable for the NFL level in terms of getting his own separation.

-At tight end, I though CJ Fiedorowicz of Iowa was clearly the best of the bunch, and his size, fluidity as a receiver from the tight end position in the short area, and body positioning in both pass catching and run blocking sets was impressive. He’s a polished tight end who may not have the elite athleticism to go in the Top 50, but he looks the part of a long-term tight end in the NFL.

Offensive Linemen
-Jack Mewhort has been working at guard and tackle this week and many believe he can start at both positions in the NFL.  He had a really impressive day as he consistently displayed a heavy anchor, proper slide technique, and efficient hand usage against opponents.  Even better was his determination to finish during the last padded practice.  He worked Hageman to the ground during one on one’s and flattened North Carolina DE Kareem Martin in team. 

-Utah State center Tyler Larsen had a strong showing during one on one’s, particularly against the (likely) biggest winner of the week, Aaron Donald.  He was exceptional in keeping Donald at bay consistently fighting for leverage through his block and sliding cleanly to mirror Donald’s counters.  While his arm length is a concern (30.5 inches), Larsen wins by battling underneath the reach of bigger interior linemen and constantly moving his hands.

-Someone must have had a pep talk with Seantrel Henderson this morning because he came to play today.  Before practice, scouts were overheard ranting about how the Miami tackle “has looked big on the field but hasn’t played big on the field” during Senior Bowl practices.  He flashed dominance (as he does on film) during the team session easily washing out the contain end to open up a huge hole for a Charles Sims touchdown.  His footwork also improved as he took to coaching well during one on ones.  If he wants it, there are teams that will be willing to teach him to be great.

Defensive Linemen
-Aaron Donald was once again absolutely dominant for the 3rd day in a row.  In one on one’s, the Pitt product was unblockable (and it wasn’t close) with the exception of his matchups with Tyler Larson and Jack Mewhort.  His first step is exceptional and he’s a master of the leverage game, attacking opponents’ shells from the ground up.  Baylor’s Cyril Richardson really struggled to react and match foot speed against Donald’s swim move a number of occasions.  

-Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman is massive but he’s not as limber as teams might prefer.  From drills to team sessions, Hageman lacked explosion and had issues finishing the entire day.  He was noticeably frustrated during one on ones as he struggled to shed blocks and was eventually pancaked badly by Mewhort toward the end of the session.

Linebackers
-Chris Borland excelled again in his diagnosis of plays, composed read steps and instincts. Borland fits in the run game better than any of the backers here, has the hip snap to meet blockers in the hole and stay balanced to disengage for the play. During team drills, he even showcased cover skills by baiting Logan Thomas into a interception on a late shallow cross throw over the middle of the field. Borland will be a riser for us at Optimum Scouting after this week.

-Another linebacker that showed out today was Iowa’s Christian Kirksey. Instinctive and fast flowing to the football, Kirksey exhibited the foot quicks and transition speed to more than adequately cover the seams as a weakside linebacker. In addition to movement skills, he flashed multiple times as a blitzer during blocking drills against the running backs and tight ends.

Defensive Backs
-After a so-so Shrine Game week of practice, Pierre Desir of Lindenwood received the call-up to the Senior Bowl, and so far has made the most of it. Today was easily his best of the past two weeks, dominating most receivers (outside of one legal push-off by Michael Campanaro) today. His hand strength and natural press coverage ability forced two receivers on the ground and lead him to two near interceptions during team drills.

-Utah State’s Nevin Lawson was another Shrine Game-to-Senior Bowl call-up, and he was also one of the most impressive cornerbacks today. He stayed tight throughout his receiver’s route, and showed plus ball skills and physicality at the catch point against both receivers and tight ends. He’s sinking and using his hands to play physical in off-coverage, and is showing that he can press a little at the line of scrimmage. He’s earning his role in the NFL with impressive nickel cornerback-like ability and on special teams during practices.

-Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste likely has defensive back coaches’ mouth-watering after this week’s practice, and he showed that tremendous upside today. He sinks and cuts remarkably well in off coverage, has the length and willingness to be physical in press, and makes up speed vertically to protect against faster receivers. He has first round tools, but team’s will still need to answer just how much development he needs before he can be an instant starter.

-Marqueston Huff of Wyoming and Isaiah Lewis of Michigan State really struggled all day today, and neither were highly ranked on film when I saw them coming in. Both have struggled with the quality of receivers on this North Roster. However, Jimmie Ward of Northern Illinois impressed today. He showed plus physicality in man coverage against tight ends, and took explosive and decisive steps upfield in team drills as well.

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