Well, the Under Armour Senior Bowl preparation week has come and gone with only a 60-minute football game remaining in the careers of these deserving senior prospects.
First off, with over a hundred players participating in the annual event, I would have to say that without the benefit of daily practice session and game tapes, it is next to impossible to thoroughly evaluate these players based solely on a once-a-day 90-minute practice session. That being said, based on my 34 years as a professional scout, I thought there were some things that were obvious to the trained eyes viewing the action.
Let's take a look at the offensive talent in this year's marquee post season matchup.
The big winner at the quarterback position was, without question, Matt Ryan from Boston College, who on advice from his agent Tom Condon decided to pass on the event and continued to train for the upcoming Combine. This plan of action worked for another Condon client, Eli Manning, five years ago. And based on the play of the six QBs in attendance at this year's event, I believe he (Ryan) received some excellent advice from his representative.
Of the six who chose to compete, I felt Delaware's Joe Flacco was the hands-down best of the group. He really has good throwing mechanics, a very live accurate throwing arm, and he made some very good throwing decisions in the team's period.
John David Booty, Erik Ainge, and Chad Henne were all up and down during the sessions, but all have size, experience and some impressive physical qualities to work with and hopefully develop over the next two to three years in an apprenticeship role.
The remaining two in attendance were, to say the least, disappointing. It was painful to watch Kentucky's Andre Woodson, touted a superior athlete, throw the football on the move. And his wind-up, deliberate throwing delivery is going to be extremely difficult to fix in my opinion.
I didn't like what I saw in any of the sessions from Hawaii's Colt Brennan. He is undersized, does not have a particularly strong arm (balls thrown down the field into the boundary appeared to lose interest), his mobility is questionable, and he was not an accurate thrower. Colt, one of college football's all-time leading passers, did not look comfortable on his pass sets, and to say the least, he has the funkiest, most awkward throwing delivery I have seen in quite some time.
USC's Fred Davis was easily the top tight end prospect in attendance this week, and should contribute quickly at the professional level. He has good balance, body control, can hit up, position and steer defenders inline and is a very solid receiving prospect who poses a real down the seam threat).
Jacob Tamme of Kentucky is a highly dependable receiver in the short and intermediate zones, but I see him as more of an H-back in a pro system then that of a pure tight end. In scouting circles, Auburn's Cole Bennett is referred to as a "JAG" (just a guy). He could factor next season as somebody's third TE, but eventually l think most clubs will look to replace him.
The North squad's Martin Rucker from Missouri, is another highly-touted prospect who looks more like a small forward then a professional TE prospect. To be honest, he did little in this week's practice sessions to get me very excited. He does catch the ball well in the under zones, but is neither fast or quick enough to uncover versus man coverage, and plain and simple does not have the core strength to factor in the running game at this stage.
Tennessee tight end Brad Cottam
AP Photo/Winston Luzier
Tennessee's Brad Cottam, a giant of a man (6075, 271 pounds), who missed most of the '07 season due to injury, is going to pose a real concern in the red zone for pro defenders. But he also has a real balance problem (very high center of gravity) which, because of his genetic make-up, he may not be able to fully overcome. He was too often neutralized inline due to his inability to leverage defenders, and finished far too many run plays on the ground.
Michigan State's Kellen Davis is as stiff (hips, knees and ankles) of an athlete as I have ever seen at the position. And given his past inconsistencies as a player for the Spartans, I personally wouldn't be all that excited about his overall professional playing future.
The receiving position in these types of settings are surprisingly difficult to evaluate since all are highly-skilled players, who generally do not look out of place in this type of setting. But let me give you a few of my thoughts on the position.
I was very disappointed in Oklahoma State's Adarius Bowman who was horrendous in Monday afternoon's practice. And although he showed noticeable improvement in the next two sessions, I was not shot in the butt over him. He is a big, strong athletic receiver who has put up some impressive numbers the past two years since transferring from the University of North Carolina. But based on my three day exposure, I didn't see the speed one looks for in a front-line receiver.
I saw Limas Sneed in just one practice, and although I liked his size and straight-line speed, I didn't think he was able to drop his base effectively and get in and out of a break cleanly.
Marcus Smith of New Mexico looks like a RB trying to play a WR position, and doesn't appear to have much in the way of juice or gear changes.
Donnie Avery from the University of Houston, Harry Douglass from Louisville, Virginia Tech's Eddie Royal, and Dorien Bryant are all quick, fast, versatile and athletic. And for the most part, all have solid catching skills. But they are all little guys, and little guys have a tendency to get hurt in the pay-for-play ranks.
Lavelle Hawkins was very impressive in each practice viewed. He ran precise routes and tracks and adjusts to the football well. But not only is he rail thin, I also didn't see the racehorse type of speed necessary to ever be considered a front-line receiver.
Jordy Nelson of Kansas State is not flashy, but he is big, ran good routes, caught clean, and possesses many of the intangibles that you look for in a sub-package receiving prospect.
DJ Hall from Alabama, a big receiver who gets on top of defenders quickly, Florida's Andre Caldwell, a precise route runner who got upfield quickly after the catch and the explosive Early Doucet from LSU, probably didn't separate themselves from the rest of pack this week. But overall, they have the best chance of factoring quickly at the professional level. I really like the aforementioned Doucet a great deal, but I didn't like the way he chopped his steps when running in routes from the left side. I would like to have seen him stick his left foot in the ground and go, but I'm not 100% certain he hasn't been taught this technique by the Tigers' coaching staff.
Gameday will give us our best opportunity to evaluate the horde of running backs, but Chris Johnson of East Carolina University has so much natural ability it's scary. Despite his small hands, he catches extremely well and showed the added ability to run away from people after the catch. He's not particularly big and needs to become more patient when running the football (play development), but once he gets to the second level, Chris has the juice to run away from people.
Peyton Hillis of Arkansas was overshadowed by a pair of outstanding runner this past season, but is big talented fullback and one-back prospect, who catches the football extremely well and is vastly underrated as a runner. I'd love to have him on my football team.
Tulane's Matt Forte' rushed for 2,000 yards this past season (that's impressive at any level of play), and looks to have both balance and power. But I didn't see the necessary speed to consistently get the corner or run away from second- and third-level players.
Tashard Choice is another talented player with the football under his arm, but like Forte, doesn't have the necessary speed to take it to the house.
Justin Forsett of California, Dantrell Savage and Kentucky's Rafael Little are all skillful, talented, all-purpose runners. But all three are under 5 foot 9 in height and look like they would need to get a note from their parents to get on the big boy rides at the State Fair.
Jacob Hester and Owen Schmidt are double-tough, unselfish north-south runners who get their uniforms dirty and will do anything in their power to win a football game.
Chauncey Washington of USC is not special in any one area, but looks like he has the stuff to develop into a serviceable professional back-up type runner.
Along the offensive line, a team is going to have to lose a lot of football games to draft a player with the physical tools and athletic ability of a Chris Williams. I love his feet, hand use, balance, quickness, bend and playing range. He has got it all and barring injury, should play the game for a very long time.
Pittsburgh offensive lineman Mike McGlynn
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
O'Niel Cousins and Mike McGlynn (first time at the OG position) were two wide bodies who impressed me in each practice session viewed.
Kory Lichtensteiger of Bowling Green has short arms and looks a little like Humpty Dumpty physically, but is one heck of a football player who is going to start at the professional level sometime soon.
I was a little disappointed in the play of Arkansas's Robert Felton this week, but I also saw him as having some impressive physical skills and believe he should develop into a solid player at the professional level.
Steve Justice is a skilled performer, but lacks strength and is going to have a difficult time with big people on his nose.
Clemson's Barry Richardson , Heath Benedict and Cody Wallace are big men who I felt struggled during the practice week.
Sam Baker, who was hampered some by a lingering hamstring injury, is a very talented, well-coached football player with left tackle playing potential. I was also very impressed with Nebraska's 25 year-old Carl Nicks, a very physical strong tackle with a great deal of playing range.
Gosder Cherlius, who hails from my hometown (Somerville, MA), is very gifted physically, and although he needs some technique work (sets and hand use), he looked impressive in one-on-one drills. Strangely, in team's periods, I felt he often looked confused and tentative.
Mike Pollack from Arizona State is a steady performer, but like his fellow line-mate Ray Schuening of Oregon State, he probably doesn't want to see or hear the name Sedrick Ellis (USC's super nose tackle and 3-technique prospect) any time soon.
Kirk Barton showed some promise inside at the guard position, but has athletic limitations which will follow him into the pro game.
USC's Drew Radovich and Chad Rinehart both struggled some on pass protection, but should continue to develop over time.
John Sullivan of Notre Dame struggled throughout the '07 season and during the Senior Bowl practice week, but is still considered by most draft pundits among the top five centers in this year's player draft. Based on his practice week, I'm going to let those pundits draft him and hope we (the scout.com team) can schedule them twice during the upcoming season.