Senior Bowl: Day One Surprises

The first day of Senior Bowl practice is always full of impressive performances by surprise players. Look inside to see which players caught the eye of the experts.

Bill Huber's Pick- Johnathan Cyprien-Safety-Florida International

Cyprien is the leading tackler in Florida International history. On Monday, the safety was the leader in inflicting punishment on ball-carriers. Cyprien (6-0, 209) went to North Miami Beach (Fla.) High School, the same school that produced Detroit safety Louis Delmas. "He's like a brother to me," Cyprien said. Cyprien started practice by working at long snapper, but where he made his mark was by delivering some jarring pops. He was the dominant player during a nine-on-seven run-game drill. When Johnathan Franklin burst through a hole, there was Cyprien to make the stick. A few plays later, the defense swarmed Franklin at the line of scrimmage, with Cyprien finishing him off – and then flexing his muscles for the scouts jotting down notes. A little later, during a seven-on-seven passing drill, Markus Wheaton beat his man for a catch on a slant, only to get drilled by Cyprien. "Every time I get on the field, I try to put something on film so the next team I play will know who I am."

Jamie Newberg's Pick- Quinton Patton-Wide Receiver-Louisiana Tech

He's 6-foot-2 and 195-pounds. Patton has good size and speed and excellent hands. He doesn't let the ball get to his body, rather snatches it out of the air. On one play during the scrimmage he caught a sideline route and tip toed down the sideline for a huge gain, showing some athleticism along the way. He's not from a BCS school or a household name but this kid showed that he deserves to be in Mobile.

Tim Yotter's Pick- Nico Johnson-Linebacker-Alabama

Linebacker Nico Johnson (6-2, 245) was one of six University of Alabama players to participate in Monday's Senior Bowl practice, but he was the most impressive. Johnson was considered a third- or fourth-round pick – meaning Day 3 of the NFL draft – heading into this week of practices, but he was the best of the linebackers for the South squad in its first day of practice with the Detroit Lions coaching staff. During individual and one-on-one work, he looked generally sharp in coverage for an inside linebacker and was active around the ball. The one downfall came on one occasion when he failed to turn and locate the ball as he trailed in coverage. During seven-on-seven and full-team work, he did a great job diagnosing plays, when it was a run up the middle or recognizing the reverse and making a play on the receiver in space. Other inside linebackers are rated higher, but Johnson more than held his own during the week's initial practice.

John Garcia Jr.'s Pick- Leon McFadden-Cornerback-San Diego State

Leon McFadden isn't the biggest or fastest defensive back on the field, but his awareness during Day 1 says a lot about his ability. Knowing his South teammates for less than 24 hours, the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder was already taking a leadership role both vocally and with his play. He matched up well with Terrance Williams all afternoon, and was one of only a few to get the better of both the Baylor standout and Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton on Monday. McFadden has good ball skills and one of the quicker breaks on the ball of all the cornerbacks on the roster.

Lindsey Thiry's Pick-Johnathan Frankin-Running Back-UCLA

The practice field was split down the 50-yard line and it if weren't for a flash of speed every few reps it might have been easy to spend the afternoon watching receivers and defensive backs go one-on-one. Instead, Franklin was demanding attention as he continued to hit the gaps in the line and take off down-field. The 5-foot-10 200-pound back found daylight multiple times through the first round of drills and then again showed off his ability during full-team drills, breaking once all the way for the end zone.

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