2009 Senior Bowl Journal
This event is held in Mobile, Alabama right near downtown and was a week long line of events. From practice each day, to press conferences involving players and coaches, to the actual game itself it was a memorable experience for me. Coaching the North squad was the Cincinnati Bengal coaching staff and coaching the South squad was the Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff. I arrived the Sunday before the first day of practice, which was held on Monday. Before the practice was the official weigh in. There I met Matt Mcguire who writes for Walter Football. We discussed many different players and events throughout the week and I was able to learn quite a bit from him.
The weigh-in was the most awe-inspiring event the whole week in my opinion. It was held at the Convention Center right across from the hotel where the players were staying. Players lined up and walked across a stage in front of hundreds of us scouts, general managers, and coaches. Some of the people I saw at the event were NFL legend Bill Parcells accompanied by Dolphins Head Coach Tony Sporano & GM Jeff Ireland, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones accompanied by Head Coach Wade Phillips, Bucs head coach Raheem Morris, draft expert Mike Mayock, and Packers general manager Ted Thompson. Seeing these guys doing the same thing I was doing was pretty neat that's for sure.
There were some pretty out of shape guys coming in mainly some offensive lineman(Trevor Canield, Andy Levitre, Jason Watkins) all were extremely flat with no real definition, and appeared out of shape. The most impressive bodies go to DB Keenan Lewis, LB Nic Harris, DB Derek Pegues, LB Clint Sintim, RB Andre Brown, RB Rashad Jennings, RB Cedric Peerman, and the most impressive guy to me was LB Brian Cushing from USC. The guy was flawless, extremely cut up, and displayed a very well proportioned body and hardly any body fat.
Practice & Game:
Next up on Monday's schedule was the first practice of the week. The North practiced the same time as the South at two different locations so I was only able to catch the North practice. I'm going to sum up the entire week of practice as well as the game with my most impressive players and the least impressive (which players helped or hurt their stock the most). Keep in mind that there were just five practices, one in helmets and shoulder pads(Monday), two in full pads(Tuesday & Wednesday), and two in just helmets(Thursday & Friday). Practices featured hundreds of locals, as well as the same and more NFL people from the weigh in. Some added names that I saw at practice were draft expert Todd Mcshay, ESPN's Michael Smith, former Browns GM Phil Savage, and scouts from almost every NFL team.
The game I sat in the press box and had a great view of the action. My notes are included in my assessment of my "Risers & Fallers" listed below.
The 7 best players at the 2009 Senior Bowl
1.)DT B.J. Raji - Boston College
2.)C Alex Mack - Cal
3.)OT Michael Oher - Ole Miss
4.)LB Brian Cushing - USC
5.)LB Rey Maualuga - USC
6.)DT Peria Jerry - Ole Miss
7.)WR Brian Robiskie - Ohio State
Risers & Fallers
1. Pat White- White was fairly consistent all week and with no quarterback overly impressing me, Pat showed very good rotation on the ball, above average arm strength and mediocre accuracy. White reminds me a little of former Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith in that they are both 6'0", both have similar college numbers(Smith career completion percentage is 62.7 and White's is 64.8 and yes Pat White attempted more passes as well) Aside from that, coming out of college Smith has shown he can throw the ball more effectively downfield then White has which is correct, but after this week of practice paired with White's MVP performance in the game including a beautiful touch pass to the corner of the end zone for a 39 yard score, I think White at least deserves a shot. Being the realist that I am, I don't see that happening, so expect whatever team that drafts this guy to have the "Wildcat" as a part of their playbook(if they were smart). White had the chance to play some receiver this week but declined, if he does not line up at the WR position at his pro day then I see him falling down draft boards. Right now White's value is a mystery, but if he shows he has a good pair of hands he could get drafted on the first day. He's too much of a play-maker to fall past the 3rd round in my opinion.
2. Rhett Bomar- I thought Bomar had a decent week of practice, displaying the strongest arm of any quarterback on either roster. Like i said before, i felt QB was one of the least impressive positions here, and i do not think any of these guys merit a first or second round pick.
1. Nathan Brown- Central Arkansas- I asked myself more then once this week why this guy was invited instead of some of the other Seniors out there. He appeared lost at times, was very inconsistent with his throws. A team could draft him purely as a project.
1. Andre Brown- N.C. State = At 6'0" 224 Brown possesses great size and appeared in excellent shape. He showed me this week what i kind of already knew watching him in college, he is a tough hard nosed runner who will fall forward. Brown has good leg drive, very good strength for a back, and will pick up those hard earned yards for you. It will be very interesting to see his 40 time. I see Andre as a definite first day pick, possibly a 3rd rounder.
2. Cedric Peerman- Virginia = At 5'9" 210 Peerman has what a lot of NFL team's appear to be looking for, a guy with a low center of gravity. Cedric has big strong legs to go along with his equally strong upper body. He has very good leg drive and will make someone miss as well. One play that stood out during the game, Peerman juked LB Rey Maualuga out of his shoes, then broke LB Brian Cushing's tackle. Seeing Peerman in street clothes you would think he is a Marine. He comes off as a very serious man and he plays like it. I like this guy a lot.
3. Jeremiah Johnson - Oregon = Johnson really improved as the week went on. He showed very good hands and a second gear that not too many guys here had. At 5'8" 198, Jeremiah has good balance and can be an effective 3rd down back, especially catching balls out of the backfield. He has value in the 4th-5th round for sure.
4. Korey Sheets- Purdue = Sheets was relatively quiet during the week of practices, but come gameday, he showed great kick returning ability as well as good leg drive breaking a few tackles as well.
1. James Davis- Clemson = Not that he had a bad week of practice, but Davis didn't really do anything to stand out from the rest of the pack. Coming into the week, Davis had the most buzz(aside from Rashad Jennings). At 5'9" 207 he fits the mold, but he was the worst at catching balls out of the backfield, and didn't show that ability to separate as much as I would have liked to see.
1. Tony Fiammetta- Syracuse = Fiammetta is 5'11" 246 and plays the game with a mean streak. Not only did he show good blocking skills, particularly against the pass, what impressed me most about Tony were his soft hands out of the backfield. One of the most impressive plays i saw all week was during team drills, Fiammetta chipped DE Larry English and decleated him. English took a few moments to get up while Fiammetta engaged another man almost instantly after his block.
2. Eric Kettani- Navy = Eric is a more versatile fullback then Fiammetta with more quickness. He plays with a very high motor and being from the Naval academy it isn't too much of a surprise. Him and Fiammetta will make NFL rosters next season.
1. Brian Robiskie - Ohio State = Robiskie showed that his father's position as Atlanta Falcon receivers coach has made a difference in his game. His route running was the best on either squad, and his hands were as good as anyone's. Brian showed a solid grasp of the position and was clearly the most polished receiver here. The question with him is his ability to get separation from defenders with his lack of great speed. Running great routes and understanding the position will make up for that and he will develop into a solid possession receiver at the next level.
2. Patrick Turner -Southern Cal = Turner is 6'5" 221 and came into the week with a huge void in his production throughout his college career. I'm not sure what happened at USC, but here he showed what you would expect from a man with his amazing size. He screened off defenders in the air using his big body, caught the ball at its high point, and had good body control. I'm not sure what makes this guy any different then former teammate Dewayne Jarrett who has been a huge disappointment with the Panthers, but if he has that drive to get better everyday hes a definite first day pick.
3. Mike Wallace - Ole Miss = Wallace had a good week of practice, but the game is where he showed his game changing speed. Wallace was the recipient of Pat White's touchdown throw, Wallace blew by CB Deangelo Smith on the play for the touchdown. Wallace who is 6'0" 189 can be a very good slot WR at the next level. He has separation speed, good hands, and is a tough player.
1. Derrick Williams - Penn State = As a receiver, Williams showed he has trouble getting in and out of his breaks effectively. He showed mediocre ball skills and average hands all week. He tries to use his body to catch the ball more then his hands. Gameday he put on display his game changing ability in the return game which is where i see him making an impact on the next level.
1. Shawn Nelson - Southern Miss = Nelson came out of nowhere this week in practice, showing me he is a very fluid athlete at the TE position. Pair that with very good hands and the ability to make the tough catch, he looked like he could do some damage at the next level catching the ball. What impressed me as well was his willingness to block and block effectively.
2. Brandon Pettigrew- Oklahoma State = Pettigrew is one of those guys that does everything well. He can catch the ball, block, and run good routes. His blocking is so impressive, in Tuesday's practice Brandon drove Illinois DE Will Davis 5 yards back and then proceeded to pancake him onto his back, into the ground. One of the most impressive plays i saw all week.
3. John Phillips - Virginia = Phillips showed very good hands this week, and a decent ability to get out and block. He is a poor man's Heath Miller. He is an all-around tight end who could develop into a good #2 TE for someone.
1. Travis McCall - Alabama = This guy is strictly a run blocking tight end. He showed poor receiving ability and he isn't athletic enough to be sent out running routes. The Senior Bowl could have selected a much better pro prospect then this guy.
OT- William Beatty- Connecticut = Blessed with a very impressive frame 6'6" 291, Beatty can afford to add 10-15 pounds of muscle. Right now Beatty would get mauled a little bit by some of the better defensive ends in the NFL, but during the week he showed he can stay with and mirror almost any defensive end using his athleticism and quick feet. He is somewhat of a project but playing the premier position that he does, i wouldn't be surprised if a team reached with this guy and drafted him in the first two rounds.
OT- Michael Oher- Ole Miss = Oher came in regarded as a top 3 tackle and didn't disappoint. He showed very good hands and very good feet. To go along with that he was the most impressive run blocking tackle even considering the massive Phil Loadholt from Oklahoma. Oher understands leverage and has very good lower body strength. He showed he was the most athletic tackle here edging out Beatty. This guy is a sure fire first rounder.
OG- Kraig Urbik- Wisconsin = When i found out there was an offensive lineman here from Wisconsin i knew i had to see this guy play. I wasn't disappointed because Urbik showed that mean streak and great technique that comes along with being a former Badger offensive lineman. Urbik showed he is very accustomed to run blocking, with great leg drive, strong arms and hands to go along with his good overall strength. With that being said, he appeared to lounge quite a bit which came from being over aggressive. His pass blocking left something to be desired, although I like this guy's value as a 4th round pick.
C- Alex Mack - California = Mack was the clear cut top center here. I haven't seen a more complete center come out in a few years. With the prototypical center size (6'4" 312) Mack showed the ability to be an anchor for a NFL line. He does everything well, and plays with tenacity that you look for out of an interior lineman. If there is a center that you would use a first round pick on, this is the guy.
C- Eric Wood- Louisville = Wood has somewhat of an inconsistent week of practice. One day he was getting knocked on his back by LB Rey Maualuga and the next he was getting to the next level more consistently then any other center. He does need to get stronger. One thing i took from this guy is he is a gamer. Gameday, I didn't see a more impressive lineman. Wood was consistently handling the most disruptive guy all week (B.J. Raji). He did this with great technique and quickness, even drive blocking Raji back a few yards at the goalline which nobody did all week. He also can pull and do it well when called upon. I attended a press conference with him and he has an infectious personality. He makes it obvious he has a genuine love for the game, and I got the feeling he will give his all to the franchise who drafts him.
C/G- Max Unger- Oregon = Another high character guy here. Unger made a point outside of the hotel one night to talk with a little kid with his mom who said hello to him. He laughed and joked with them for a good 10 minutes in the cold, before continuing his walk. Keep in mind this was out of everyone's sight except mine and the valet parking guys. Guys who do things like this is guys that you want on your football team. With that being said, Max may be the most versatile lineman here. At 6'4" 299, he is a little undersized but has that quickness to get to the next level and the toughness to survive in the NFL. He didn't show me he could be the anchor for a line, but plug him into a zone blocking scheme and he would flourish.
C- Antoine Caldwell- Alabama = Caldwell was one of the best all week at handling the bull-rush and is very tough. He got to the second level well and showed sneaky quickness maneuvering on the inside. He has a strong punch and has a wide base. He plays with an impressive mean streak as well. Showed the ability to pull effectively. Like most of the lineman here, he tends to stand up a little too much.
OG/OT- Herman Johnson- LSU = Johnson weighed in at 382 pounds and is 6'7". His weight is spread out amazingly even throughout his body. I was more excited to see this guy then any other lineman, but what a disappointment he was. For a man of his size, he did not maul or road grade anybody. He plays soft and with no mean streak what so ever. Coming into this week i heard that was his knock and he didn't do anything to change that. Pair that with his tendency to lounge and overextend and it was a rough week for the gentle giant. Gameday Johnson played better then he did in practice where once from not getting low, was put flat on his back by 6'1" 290 lb DT Peria Jerry in 1 on 1's. His position coach will really have to work on leverage with this guy. Overall big Herm will be a first day pick just because of his amazing size and athleticism.
OG- Andy Levitre- Oregon State = This guy was one of the more overrated guys i saw this week. Nothing that he did struck me as really bad but nothing he did struck me as great either. I was expecting to see more of a force out there on the interior. At 6'2" 306 he doesn't have good size at all. He appeared somewhat sluggish to me, and got destroyed by B.J. Raji more then once during the week which he deserves a mulligan for because everyone got destroyed by B.J. at least once. I don't think he will fall very far, but from what i saw, as far as interior lineman go, he wasn't in the top 3.
Defensive Ends/Rush Linebacker
DE - Robert Ayers - Tennessee = Ayers showed great quickness for his size and burst off the line throughout the week. Gameday he was even more impressive, blowing by OT Xavier Fulton & OT Phil Loadholt to notch two sacks for the night. At 6'3" 273 he has great bulk and is also very athletic. I see this guy having good value in the second round.
DE - Kyle Moore - Southern Cal = These USC guys were very impressive and Kyle was on par with that. He is a very big 6'4" 265 in that his body is very well developed. He showed some flashes throughout the week being able to hold up against the run very well for his size, and a decent burst off the line. This guy projects best in my opinion as a LE in the 4-3 defense.
OLB - Larry English - Northern Illinois = English came into this week with the knock of never playing against elite competition but showed he belonged all week. English didn't jump out at me with his pass rush ability but was solid in that he has a lot of moves. He did surprise me with his play against the run taking on drive blocks and displayed very good coverage ability. His value is best in the 2nd round in my opinion.
OLB - Cody Brown - Connecticut = Brown was one of the quickest guys here off the line. He showed super quick feet & hands but is weak against the run. At 6'2" 242 he can afford to add a little weight so he can play on more then just passing downs in the NFL. He is a project player but could provide some pressure on the QB. Once he gets in a NFL weight lifting program i think he could be a force at the next level.
DE - Will Davis - Illinois = Davis had some flashes during the week rushing the passer, but was put on his back more then maybe anybody else. He has a tendency to go too wide when he rushes the passer, often getting walled off. He needs to develop more pass rush moves to be effective at the next level.
DT - B.J. Raji - Boston College = Raji was the most impressive player on either side of the field throughout practice. He was unblockable the majority of the time, making 2 or 3 of the best plays i saw. Once he drove Max Unger into the ground completely overpowering him on 1 on 1's. Another during team drills he ripped by Alex Mack, knocked down the fullback, and almost made the tackle on the runningback. 1 on 1 this guy is dominant. He has great initial quickness for a man his size(6'1" 334) and offers a lot of versatility in that he can play in the 4-3 or 3-4. Gameday left something to be desired in my eyes, he was handled on more then one occasion by Eric Wood, even getting driven back. You can be a beast in practice but to me he needed to show that in the game and he just didn't. I can see him being a Vince Wilfork type on the next level, very good against the run while being disruptive against the pass. Somewhere in the top 15 fits the bill for this guy in my opinion.
DT - Peria Jerry- Ole Miss = Jerry isn't as physically imposing as Raji, but he is quicker off the line and is a better pass rusher. Raji gets by on his sheer size and strength while Jerry gets by on technique and quickness. He could be a very good 3 technique at the next level. Jerry isn't as versatile as Raji, so the scheme he enters on the next level is critical. He is ideal for the Colts or Bucs.
DT - Ziggy Hood - Missouri = Ziggy did not disappoint me this week at all. I was expecting a guy who could do everything well and he did just that. He is stout against the run, able to take head on blocks very well, and he surprised me a little bit with his pass rush ability specifically in 1 on 1's. He is very versatile at 6'3" 298 and can play in almost any scheme to include the 3-4 as an end.
DT - Mitch King - Iowa = Mitch King was a joy to watch all week. He is undersized at 6'1" 275 but has a high motor and great toughness. He reminds me so much of Kyle Williams coming out of LSU. Because of his effort he is a solid all-around player. As a 4th or 5th round pick this guy has great value.
DT - Alex Magee- Purdue = Magee came into the week as a late addition and immediately made his presence felt. He flashed great quickness and burst especially considering he is 6'4" 292. He is another example of having a great body in that all his weight is distributed nicely making him a good all-around player. He can get after the quarterback, and at times was unblockable during practice. He will need to develop consistency, but showed he has a very high ceiling.
DT - Ron Brace- Boston College = Brace came into the week hiding under B.J. Raji's shadow but showed he also is a player to be reckoned with. He can hold up against the double team well and does a solid job of shedding blockers. Aside from the bull rush, he won't really give you much else against the pass. I can see him being a 2 down player on the next level but nothing more. He still improved his stock this week and could go on the first day.
DT - Corvey Irvin - Georgia = In the beginning of the week Irvin appeared to be a solid run defender, and displayed pretty good leverage. As the week went on, and especially during the game i saw him get driven back 5,6,7 yards on more then one occasion. I believe he needs to get a whole lot stronger at the point of attack and work on his leverage. He is poor against the double team which will cost him dearly in the NFL.
Traditional Outside Linebacker & Middle Linebacker
OLB- Brian Cushing- Southern Cal = As i mentioned before, this guy just looks like he was meant to play linebacker in the NFL. Cushing displayed very good range, solid tackling ability, and the ability to shed offensive lineman. He is a big-time hitter and offers a lot of versatility. A sure fire first rounder.
OLB - Clay Matthews - Southern Cal = Matthews has the NFL pedigree and carries himself accordingly. He is a diligent worker and surprised a lot of people this week. He too offers tons of versatility, especially rushing the passer. I like his range and fluid hips. This guy has showed he has excellent value in the 2nd round.
OLB - Nic Harris - Oklahoma = Harris came into the Senior Bowl as a safety and moved to outside backer after the first day. I'm not sure who improved his draft status more then Nic did this week. He showed very good awareness as a linebacker. Coming from safety he showed his obvious advantages and that is his great range and coverage ability. He is another guy who if drafted in the right scheme(cover 2) he could be a very good player at the next level.
MLB - Rey Maualuga- Southern Cal = Rey was the player i expected him to be this week. He showed the intensity all week in practice, being the vocal leader for his teammates. Rey showed above average range, and he will take on blockers as well. He made one of the more impressive plays this week during inside drills. C Eric Wood came out gunning for him on an inside run, Rey took him head on and completely ran through him, while still managing to bring down the runningback. He showed great anticipation as well. He has that "it" that a middle linebacker needs, and that is leadership and the ability to intimidate his opponent. The only negative i saw from Rey was he may be a liability in coverage, particularly if he has to drop further back into coverage.
OLB - Ashlee Palmer - Ole Miss = Ashlee didn't stand out amongst his position much at all. While showing he has pretty good speed, he doesn't appear to be much of a complete player at all.
S - Louis Delmas- Western Michigan = Delmas was one of the most impressive safeties throughout the week of practice. Louis flys around the field and is a very rangy player. He explodes into people and can really lay the wood. During the game RB Antoine Smith from Florida State got past the first level on a run only to meet Delmas coming in full speed, taking out his legs making him do a flip. That one play stood out to me and really showed what this guy brings on the field.
S - Patrick Chung- Oregon = Chung was a player who didn't overly impress me in practice. He is 5'11" 207, ripped with huge arms, and has the intimidation factor working for him. He plays the game with reckless abandon and it inspires teammates which is why he was elected one of the defensive captains for the game. Chung had some big time hits on gameday, showed good range, and very good anticipation while reading plays. I would draft this guy somewhere late on the first day, and if he falls to the second day could be a steal.
S - David Bruton- Notre Dame = Bruton is a big safety (6'1" 210) and is very physical. He is a big time hitter and what surprised me most about him was the solid ball skills. On top of that, during the game he was on kickoff and was a terror. He finished with 5 tackles, 1 pass breakup, and 1 quarterback hurry. This stat line shows his versatility, and if he goes to the right scheme he could be a dynamic guy in the secondary. He is a project as far as developing into an everyday starter, but merits a look in the 4th or 5th round.
CB - Darius Butler - Connecticut = At 5'10" 178 Butler obviously would better his image with some added weight. If he can add 10-12 pounds over the first year or two of his NFL career he could be a special player. Right off the bat he will bolster a team's special teams with his kick return ability. In coverage he has some of the quickest feet you will see. His ball skills leave something to be desired but he can fly. Something about this guy i liked and if he lasts past the 5th round I will be shocked.
CB - Ellis Lankster- West Virginia = At 5'9" 191 Lankster is a tough, feisty player at corner. He has very good ball skills and a smooth back pedal. He got better as the week went on and notched an INT in the game to go along with 5 tackles, 1 for a loss.
CB - Dominique Johnson - Jackson State = I was happy to see a guy from Walter Payton's alma mater and that was the height of my excitement after seeing this guy throughout the week. As far as comparisons to Dominique Rodgers Cromartie, he isn't the same breed of athlete or ballhawk as Cromartie is. With that being said, I'm not bashing this guy, because he did display good ball skills and the ability to high point the ball. He has great size 6'1" 192, but didn't show much during practice. Who knows, maybe after the combine he could post a 39 inch vertical and run a sub 4.4 and jump to the first 2 rounds. Right now this guy would be lucky to get drafted on the first day.
CB - Macho Harris- Virginia Tech = Top end speed is Macho's biggest flaw and it showed this week. He isn't able to stay with speedy receivers on the go route very effectively. To Macho's defense, he has a smooth athletic back pedal and very quick feet. He plays inspired football and will give a receiver fits if he can stay with him. I don't like to harp on one thing, but this is a guy who's career will depend on the scheme he goes to. If i was a cover 2 team or i ran a defense playing more zone then man, Macho has a much higher draft value, possibly the 3rd or 4th round. If I was mainly a man coverage defense then there would be many other corners i would draft before Harris.
Journal was written by Brandon Thorn, who spent the entire week down in Mobile, Alabama covering the 2009 Senior Bowl for NFL Draft Dog.