IRVING, Texas– I took Monday off from watching college tape, because I wanted to take another look at the Senior Bowl.
We spent all week covering the game in Mobile, Ala., so it only seemed right to go back and see what I could glean from watching these guys go against each other in a game environment. Obviously, it's not quite the same as watching tape of a real game, but I was still able to pull some useful notes from it.
Here are my thoughts from the re-watch of the game. They should come in handy as we dive back into film study in these three weeks before the NFL Combine.
Here's a look:
- If you ask me which quarterback played best off the Senior Bowl game tape, I would tell you it was Brandon Allen of Arkansas. Dak Prescott of Mississippi State might have received the Player of the Game Award for the way he led his South squad on a touchdown drive, but in overall play he wasn't as sharp as Allen. Physically, the other quarterbacks in this game were more impressive than Allen, but when it came to running the game and executing the plan – he was right where he needed to be. His decision-making, poise, vision and timing were outstanding. There were several snaps where he was able to extend plays with his pocket awareness and movement skills. He was accurate and consistent with the location of his ball. Whether he was throwing the out, curl outside or deep in – he was on the money and we can't say that for all the quarterbacks that played in this game.
- There are not many three-techniques in this draft, but if I was looking for one, Ohio State's Adolphus Washington would surely be a consideration for me. One of the necessary traits to play as an under-tackle in this 4-3 scheme is the ability to explode off the ball and attack the gap. That was what Washington was able to accomplish throughout this game. He was consistently the first defensive linemen off the snap and there were several plays where he was able to put Arkansas guard Sebastian Tretola and Kansas State guard Cody Whitehair in some poor blocking positions with his quick arm-over move. He can be a difficult guy to handle one-on-one -- especially on the move.
- If you're a club that needs a center – this might be a good year for you. There are two or three others that didn't play in this game, but one that did was Austin Blythe from Iowa. Blythe was one of those guys that, even during the week of practice leading up to the game, flashed at you especially in the one-on-one drills. Blythe was able to carry those productive practices into the game, where he more than held his own at center but also showed some flex at guard. The tape showed lateral agility, balance and power. He did a solid job holding his ground and sitting down on the rusher while in pass protection. Even without blitzing in the game, you could see he was aware to help when uncovered -- which allowed these North quarterbacks a clean pocket to work with in front of them. Blythe was also able to show some position flexibility lining up at guard and handle those responsibilities well.
- I was very critical of what I didn't see from Penn State defensive tackle Austin Johnson during the week of practice, given how impressive his college tape is. Johnson's play in the game was more in line with what I believe he can become for a team that selects him. He played with effort, power and technique. During these practices I didn't see any of these traits. It was as if he was comfortable being blocked -- but in the game he played with more of a sense of urgency. He was disruptive and difficult to block. He played off blocks against the run and provided push as a pass rusher. Along with Alabama's Jarran Reed and Louisiana Tech's Vernon Butler, Johnson will likely be strong a consideration for when the Cowboys select in the second round to fill that role as the nose tackle in this defense.
- Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman was named as the Outstanding Defensive Player of the Game with his two sacks. Initially I had no problem with the selection, but the tape painted a different picture. Oakman was good, but not Player of the Game-worthy. I have seen him play with better technique and quickness than what he showed in this game. He wasn't playing on his toes and his movements were stiff and at times, non-athletic. When he plays with body lean he can really get up the field. In this game I thought there were too many snaps where he was playing flat-footed and shuffling -- which slowed his rush down. What is madding about Oakman is his inconsistency from game to game and snap to snap. Coming into this game I thought the Jaguars coaches would try to open his stance up more to spread him out, but he was still balled up too tightly and I think that gives him problems.
- I do not see Alabama running back Kenyan Drake as an every down back, but I was impressed with what he was able to accomplish with the opportunities he received. I thought he ran with toughness between the tackles and when he had to bounce to find space, he was able to do so. I was also impressed with two Big XII running backs – TCU's Aaron Green and Texas Tech's DeAndre Washington. I had yet to study either of them before heading to Mobile, but they showed up in the game. What was impressive about Green was his vision – not just on his touchdown run but throughout the game. There were several snaps where it appeared that the hole was closing and he quickly adjusted to find another path. Both he and Washington did a nice job of finishing runs, especially when those runs were not clean.
- I was expecting a big game from Oklahoma wide receiver Sterling Shepard, but instead it was Baylor's Jay Lee and Southeast Missouri State's Paul McRoberts, Southeast Missouri who stood out. There were not many snaps of man coverage, so their routes were usually executed against zone or off coverage -- which made their jobs a tad bit easier. What I did like was how both of these receivers were able to finish -- whether it was the curl, slant or in, they were able to work to the open space and receive the ball. They did a nice job of presenting themselves as targets. I especially liked what I observed from McRoberts in his ability to adjust to the ball that Dak Prescott threw behind him in the red zone for a touchdown. It was a tough play in a very tight area, but he was able to come up with it. Now my job is to go back and see how they played against defensive backs that worked to beat them up.
- I have studied over 120 players in this draft so far, but I have yet to look at one fullback. That should change this week with Dan Vitale from Northwestern. There were some snaps in this game where Vitale did flash as a point-of-attack blocker and pass receiver. His contact balance is very good and he is not afraid to stick his nose in there. He hits square and keeps his feet working on his block. Vitale can get some movement at the point, and more importantly he doesn't get in the way of the running back. His hands also appear dependable and he is able to adjust to make the catch coming out of the backfield and into the flat. There appears to be some athletic ability to his game and that is rare for a fullback in this day and age.