Senior Bowl Preview

In just over a week, the best senior draft prospects in the country will gather in Mobile, Alabama to participate in the 2010 Under Armour Senior Bowl. The Senior Bowl is regarded as the official start to the draft season and representatives of all thirty-two NFL teams will be present to see the talent on display.

While some NFL teams value the Senior Bowl more than others, it is no doubt that the majority of the players invited to this game will be putting on NFL uniforms a few months later.

This year's Senior Bowl class might be the best in recent years, mostly due to the defensive line and pass rushers that will participate. The 2010 NFL Draft class is deep with talent that knows how to rush the quarterback and control the line of scrimmage and those of us who are lucky enough to attend Senior Bowl practices will get to see some of these stars first hand. With so much depth at these positions, look for the defensive lineman and pass rushers to give it their all to try to stand out. A solid performance in Mobile might be the difference between a first and second round draft pick.

The defensive tackles that we know for sure will attend the Senior Bowl will be exciting to watch. Led by Alabama's massive nose tackle, Terrence "Mount" Cody, scouts will be watching if he can keep his motor running hot throughout practices and the game. Cody also has to worry about one of the hottest names in the draft community right now, Tennessee's Dan Williams. Williams has the size to play nose tackle in the NFL but will also need to show that he can play as a standard one gap defensive tackle.

If you're looking for a great group to watch, it's the defensive end / outside linebacker tweeners and the Senior Bowl will have plenty on display. One of the biggest issues going through the draft process is whether or not an undersized college defensive end can make the transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. These prospects will get chances in practices to play from a 2 point stance and drop into coverage. Scouts will get to see if these guys can flip their hips and have the agility to run with tight ends and running backs at the next level. The Senior Bowl includes several tweener prospects including Michigan's Brandon Graham, and TCU's Jerry Hughes, who are bound to have eyes on them at all times. There are a few other players that will hopefully get the chance to play in Mobile that fall into this category, and that's Clemson's Ricky Sapp and Ole Miss defensive end Greg Hardy. It's odd that Hardy received an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game, but hasn't received an invite to Mobile. Perhaps with a strong showing, Hardy can be a late addition to the Senior Bowl roster.

Looking at the offensive side of the ball, the wide receiver position seems to have the most intriguing players. Danario Alexander, the huge target from Missouri, led the nation in receiving yards this season but has struggled with injuries throughout his career. A recent addition, Florida wide receiver Riley Cooper will be fun to watch. Cooper became a reliable target for the Gators this season and has the size and speed to compete at the next level. Perhaps the wide receiver with the most to gain in Mobile will be LSU's Brandon LaFell. Before the season, LaFell was regarded as one of the top receiving prospects in the nation. After a pedestrian senior year, LaFell has fallen down draft boards and is projected as an early second round pick at this point. With a number of talented junior wide receivers declaring for the draft, the senior players need to bring their "A game" to every practice.

Without a doubt, the most watched person at the Senior Bowl will be Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow has a resume' that is probably more impressive than any other prospect in the draft. However, it's the fundamentals of his position that scouts and front office executives will be watching closely. Tebow wasn't required to play from under center at Florida and ran an option oriented offense that was able to spread defenses. The intangibles that Tebow brings to the game are off the charts and NFL teams will fall in love with his personality from the very first interview, but is his skill set solid enough to warrant a first or second round draft pick? Right now, Tebow appears to be a third round draft pick but a solid performance in Mobile could lift him into the second round. The Senior Bowl committee loves having Tebow perform in this game as they have seen record ticket sales since he announced that he would participate in the game.

While most people only pay attention to the actual game, the practices that go on throughout the week are actually more important. For those of us that spend the week in Mobile, it's apparent that NFL scouts and front office personnel don't care much about the game. In fact, most NFL staffs leave on Thursday evening as Friday's practice is only a walk through. Only a small amount of scouts stay to watch the game on Saturday.

Draft Breakdown will be LIVE from the 2010 Under Armour Senior Bowl starting on January 24th. We'll be bringing you live Twitter updates (@draftbreakdown) from the practice field, daily reports on practices, player performances, and what NFL teams are observed talking to your favorite prospects. We'll also bring you exclusive video of practices as well as photos from throughout the week, giving you the most in-depth coverage of the Senior Bowl anywhere on the internet!

Will Spencer is the lead writer at Draft Breakdown, where you can get news and analysis of the NFL Draft 365 days a year, and always 100% free.

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