MOBILE, Ala. – The Senior Bowl always feels a bit anti-climactic, because the focus isn't actually on the game itself.
By the time the North and South squads face off on Saturday afternoon, most of the evaluating will be done and the vast majority of coaches and scouts will have left for home. That's not the case for me, though. Having put so many hours into watching these practices this week, I'm eager to see how these guys take their coaching to the field.
Of course, an all-star game isn't the end-all, be-all evaluator. But it's the last chance we'll have to watch these players in pads until they're drafted.
Today, I've compiled a short list of guys I'm especially interested to see when the Senior Bowl kicks off. You might notice some absences, such as Carson Wentz. That's not a knock on anyone's ability. These are simply 10 names you might not know – but I think you'll want to know as the draft process continues.
Here are my 10:
Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky - In my opinion this is the best pass rusher in the draft. I felt like, coming into the game, there was not an offensive tackle that could handle him one-on-one. He will be the most disruptive player in the game. Odds on favorite to be the MVP.
Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma – Shepard had the best practices of any receiver on the South squad. Going to love seeing him work against Eric Murray, Deiondre' Hall and Maurice Canady on the North side. His ability to play inside out of the slot will be difficult to handle.
Tyler Ervin, RB, San Jose State – He's only 5'9, 190 pounds, but he is a much bigger player in person than on tape. He is explosive in the open field with the ball in his hands. Look for him to be a nice option for these North quarterbacks to go to on third downs when looking for safe ways to keep the chains moving.
Jalen Mills, CB, LSU - Normally lined up as a safety for the Tigers during the season, but he was moved to corner to get a little bit of a different look. He handled the transition well and I would not be surprised to see him play there during his NFL career. Long and rangy. His matchup with Braxton Miller should be interesting.
Jordan Jenkins, OLB, Georgia - Hearing some whispers that teams might be looking at him as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. He played all over the place while he was at Georgia. This is a physical, point-of-attack player that really moves well.
DeAndre Washington, RB, Texas Tech- Like Ervin, he is an explosive player with the ball in his hands. Extremely tough and a finisher. In watching him practice this week the only thing he lacks is height – he's just 5'8 -- but every other trait is there. The Jacksonville coaches were creating ways to get the ball to him on the move. Could have a huge game running the ball.
Kevin Byard, S, Middle Tennessee - College tape showed the ball always ending up in his hands – he is a turnover machine. Had two interceptions in practice on Wednesday. Right place at right time type of player. Showed some ability this week to line up and play in coverage, and he will get a chance to show that talent against Ohio State tight end Nick Vannett, who has made a ton of plays in practice.
Jordan Payton, WR, UCLA - Didn't know much about his game coming into the week, but he was impressive with his ability to line up at several different spots in the formation and handle them all. Smooth routes with the ability to get separation. He managed to catch everything that was thrown in his direction. Could be a sleeper for a postgame MVP award.
Jerrell Adams, TE, South Carolina - Big target that can get up the field. Outstanding at getting across the field and up the seam. He has a feel for how to get open in the red zone. Not going to hammer defenders off the ball but finds ways to tie up his man with position. If running plays are going to work off the edge for the South squad it is likely due to a point-of-attack block from Adams.
Jeff Driskel, QB, Louisiana Tech - Of the quarterbacks not named Carson Wentz, I believe that Driskel has shown scouts the most. His play has been the most consistent. When he has had the chance to run the offense, his throws have been on the money. He does find ways to move in the pocket and deliver the ball, but if he has a weakness, it's that he needs to do it a little quicker. There were times while watching him where I said to myself "Throw it." He needs a strong performance in this game to separate himself from pack of quarterbacks in the middle of this draft.