Before we head on home from Mobile, Ala., here are some final thoughts from watching the South team practice here at the Senior Bowl:
- Once I get back to Valley Ranch, I am interested in sitting down and studying the work of running backs Mike Gillislee of Florida and Stepfan Taylor of Stanford both who were on the South roster this week. Like Johnathan Franklin of UCLA, I see backs that can be those every down types that this team is looking for. Gillislee has more of a burst and speed than Taylor and you can see that live during the practice. Thought both caught the ball well with Taylor showing better as a pass protector. Taylor has better thickness to him but neither guy will shy away from contact.
Taylor might be better suited to run in a one back, zone scheme taking advantage of his one cut ability, where Gillislee is more about getting the ball on the edge and getting around the corner. Like the way they both caught the ball and wasted no time of getting it up the field. Neither back was afraid of contact but Taylor has a little more size to him at 216 as compared to 207 for Gillislee. Both backs should be in the range where the Cowboys might consider one with a selection in the fourth round depending what is on the board at that time.
- Really took a good long look at these South linebackers today and came away with the thought that Sean Porter of Texas A&M was the best one of the group of Nico Johnson of Alabama, Chase Thomas of Stanford and Vince Williams of Florida State. The Lions coaches are playing Porter on the weak side where he is allowed to read the play and take off. Williams is playing more as a middle linebacker but also being used on the strong side as well. Thomas has a nose for the ball and will attack the hole but did see him get bounced around some which surprised me at his weight of 244.
I know that Johnson played in a pro style defense at Alabama but he reacted the slowest of the group. Porter appeared to do a better job of getting to the ball. He was able to avoid blocks and snuff out plays. Williams is a load inside but he just doesn’t move as well and the same for Johnson who struggled in coverage when the back came to his side. I will need to look at more tape on Johnson because I thought there were times where he really flashed in games but today wasn’t one of his better efforts.
- I didn’t get the feeling this week that the South defensive backs were better than the North. There wasn’t a dominate player on the South side like Desmond Trufant but the player I did notice and have for the last couple of practices is cornerback Robert Alford from Southwestern Louisiana. There has been a trend here lately in the NFL of small school Louisiana kids showing up on these teams and playing well.
Alford doesn’t have outstanding height (almost 6’) but he does play with quickness and mobility. He is a very hard corner to get away from because he has a feel or a knack how to position himself in coverage. It’s really rare that you see him get fooled or out of position. The Lions’ coaches have him playing in the slot and we all know how difficult that is to do. He can adjust to routes and he does have the ability to carry receivers all over the field. Other than Marquise Goodwin on the North, there is not a receiver that can run away from him, so he should be okay. Smart teams will really do their homework on Robert Alford.
- I doubt the Cowboys would take a shot at another small school linemen but I would be interested to see where they have offensive tackle Garrett Gilkey from Chadron State on their board or if at all. Late in the draft you are looking for measurables or traits, Gilkey has those at 6’6” and 314 pounds. Usually you worry about the small school players fitting in with the kids from LSU and Florida but there has not been one time where he has looked out of place.
There is a reason that Senior Bowl Director Phil Savage who is a former NFL executive put him in this game and it’s not just his size but from what I observed this week, he is making me pull out the tape on Chadron State.