The Road to Mobile

Sobodawg heads to the Senior Bowl this weekend - here's who he's going to be tracking for The OBR...

Going to the Senior Bowl….
And what will I see?
Copious amounts of talent trying to impress NFL brass
Along the Gulf Sea.

Okay, so maybe my career as a poet should end before it ever began, BUT the point which was trying to be conveyed certainly has its merits.  The talent in this year's Senior Bowl class is astounding.

Just how important is the Senior Bowl to the NFL draft? According to Senior Bowl officials, "Over the past six years, the Senior Bowl has averaged ten first-round selections each year as 61 first-round draft picks have played in the contest from 2000-2005. Also, a total of 537 Senior Bowl players have been selected in the NFL draft over those same six years."   Look for that average to get a little boost from this year's Senior Bowl class.

While perusing the "unofficial" rosters for the upcoming All Star game, any scout or plain old draftnik has to be watering at the mouth. 

By all indications, there are seven players who will be entering the week with solid first round grades. Those seven would include:

1. D'Brickashaw Ferguson  OT Virginia – The Brick will come in as the highest rated prospect at any position during the week.   He is as smooth as you will ever see as a pass blocker on a quarterback's blindside.  His big question to answer all week is what he will weigh in at during the annual "meat market".

2. Jay Cutler QB Vanderbilt – No one has improved him stock more this season than Cutler.   His meteoric rise can only be helped by a solid week down in Mobile.   Some are even starting to look at him as another top five quarterback prospect just outside of Matt Leinart and Vince Young.

3. DeAngelo Williams RB Memphis – Another small school product who put up HUGE numbers in his career.   Williams is the NCAA's all time All Purpose yardage leader as well as being fourth on the all time rushing list in college history.  This week can go a long way into proving whether Williams is close to Reggie Bush talent or just a big fish in a small pond.

4. DeMeco Ryans LB Alabama – For Browns fans most of us have already heard or read Mr.Savage has been sniffing around the Tuscaloosa area.  When you consider just how much this team needs defensive front seven help, Ryans name immediately pops to mind.  Again, this is a situation where size will come into play.   Ryans will be fully expected to be one of the best defenders on the field all week, but does he have the size NFL scouts are looking for to really make his stock rise?

5. Tamba Hali DE Penn St. – One of the premiere pass rushers off the edge in college football.   What many scouts will love about Hali is his work ethic.  He has a motor to rival any player in both college and the pros.  What some teams will be looking at is if Tamba is a pure defensive end, or is he athletic enough that some teams will look at him as a 34 outside linebacker.

6. Chad Greenway LB Iowa – It is not often that you will find a 6'4' 245 lbs. linebacker who runs a legit 4.5.    Along with great measureables and athleticism, Greenway has had the production to back up his first round talent registering over 400+ tackles in his career at Iowa.  The question which MUST be answered is if Chad is physical enough for the next level.

7. Marcus McNeill LT Auburn – Personally this is a player I would stay away from; but there are a whole lot of scouts slobbering over his 6'9' 330+ size.   Not to mention his forty two game sackless streak Marcus currently has going coming out of the college ranks.   Technique will be a big issue with the NFL coaching staffs this upcoming week; and McNeill is in more need than most in said area.

Now looking at the list of prospects which were just provided, I am sure you are thinking to yourself; "….but SOBO the average is TEN first  rounders each year while you only listed seven."    Ahhhhhhhh, but here is where it will get real interesting REALY quick this coming week. I said there were seven who are entering the week with "solid first round grades".    Meaning those are the guys already expected to go in said range. 

What I did not include was a list FIFTEEN other players who are generally rated right on the cusp as first round talents. These are all players who have a very good chance of being first round pick with solid performances this coming Senior Bowl week along with good workouts. Now this list would include (in no particular order):

- Derek Hagan WR Arizona St. – Hagan is currently sitting atop the wide receiver class.  Whether or not he stays ahead or falls behind underclassmen, Santonio Holmes, as the top prospect at the position will depend a lot on this week.   Hagan is a big receiver, who has reliable hands and runs good routes.   He would be a nice complimentary receiver to any team looking for more of a possession type player at the position.

- Marcedes Lewis TE UCLA – One of the prime reasons the Bruins had such a fine season was the receiving threat of Lewis.   The Mackey Award winner put up numbers greater than the "Chosen One" who went sixth overall in their final years as well as being slightly bigger and just as fast.  

- Max Jean-Gilles OG Georgia – The question becomes, "Does a team take a guard in the first round?"   The last couple seasons it has been done (Shawn Andrews and Logan Mankins).  Jean-Gilles a nice combination of athleticism and prototype size (6'4' 350), as well as experience starting at the tackle positions.  

- Claude Wroten DT LSU – Just a couple weeks ago, I would not have even questioned whether Wroten was a first round talent or not because he was and would have been drafted as such.   NOW with recent charges of marijuana position along with a firearm in his car, it is not such a foregone conclusion.   I have to give Claude credit because he did admit to the to both the allegations.   Now what teams will look over this little snafu?

- Thomas Howard – The description always heard about Howard is how he has prototype size and is a top end athlete.  The question this week which needs answered is whether or not he can step up against elite competition.

- Tye Hill – Overall this is not the strongest secondary class.  What is known about the draft is corners are primetime commodities.   Hill enters this week as arguably the second best prospect at his position in the class.   With a strong week and solid workouts, he will certainly move up the charts because of the position value throughout the league. Carlos Rodgers is a perfect example of this just last year in the Senior Bowl.

- Dwayne Slay – How often do you find a 6'3" 215 lbs. safety who hits like a Mack truck?  This is exactly the case with Slay.   This year's Big 12 defensive player of the year came on strong this year after transferring in from a community college last season and really opened up some eyes.

- Will Blackmon – Point blank, Blackmon is a first round talent.  The problem lies in the fact, he is a man without a position.   Last season he was an All Big East performer as a cornerback.   This season he led the ACC for 20+ yard catches as a wide receiver.  His position in the NFL is at corner, and rumor has it that Blackmon will return to the position this coming week.

- Broderick Bunkley – How many watched the "Senior" Bowl this year?  Raise your hands.   This year's Orange Bowl was an instant classic.  For those who watched it, you saw Bunkley is just a warrior in the trenches.  Through three overtimes, it was obvious Bunkley was gassed but he kept being a disruption in the backfield every single play.  Who does not love a player like that?

- D'Qwell Jackson – Depending on whose draft ratings you look at, as well as what system in particular is being used in reference, D'Qwell could be the top rated inside linebacker on the board.

- Daryn Colledge – A small school prospect who has been climbing boards all year.   He has been personally a favorite of mine for a couple years now, affectionately nicknaming him the "Polar Bear".    Colledge is a smooth pass protector, an effective run blocker, and just downright nasty.   A nice combination which could make him shine come this week.

- Gabe Watson – One of the true enigmas of this draft class.  Watson is arguably a top ten overall talent.   Then his lackadaisical play and attitude found him a seat on the bench behind a freshman courtesy of Coach Lloyd Carr.  IF Gabe were to show a consistent motor all week without taking one single play off, then he MIGHT find himself back in first round territory.

- Sinorice Moss – Yes, he is the younger brother of the NFL's second leading receiver, Santana Moss.   Sinorice would be another example of a "smurf" receiver with blazing speed.   Mr. Mel Kiper had Moss in his top twenty five for a good chunk of the season and some NFL team always falls in love with these versatile but smallish receiver types.  Moss shows a little toughness in Mobile along with top return abilities, and his stock could move up very quickly as well.

- Eric Winston – Just a year ago, Winston had a shot at being a top ten pick.   Then the worst happened, as he blew out a knee.  Coming into this year, Eric was assumed to regain his previous standings as a top tackle prospect but never lived up to the same billing.  Winston was the next version on Robert Gallery….tall, lean, and very athletic as a former tight end.  His athleticism simply has not shown through as in previous years.   Will he or will he not be able to block the speed rushers in Mobile on the blindside?

- Manny Lawson – Someone just say something about speed rushers?  Lawson fits the bill perfectly as he had shown all season as one of the nation's premier pass rushers.  Lawson is undersized and considered one of the top targets for teams who employ a base 34 defensive front.

Soooooooooooo, the average of ten players in the first round which the Senior Bowl and its officials are so proud of could easily rise this year with so much talent abounding at Ladd Peebles Stadium in 2006.  It should be quite the exciting week!


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