IRVING, Texas – Yesterday, I examined the standouts from the North roster at the Reese's Senior Bowl down in Mobile, Ala. Today, I'm taking a look at what we saw from the South squad.
- There was once a day in NFL draft rooms across the country where if a scout brought up a receiver that measured less than 5-9 in height, he was given a stern look from the general manager and talk quickly moved on to the next player.
What we have seen with the evolution of the NFL passing game is that it is more about the matchups on the outside, which has allowed these smaller college receivers the opportunity to affect the way the game is played. A great example of a player in this draft is Tyler Lockett of Kansas State. Lockett is a tick over 5-9 in height and there is nothing impressive about his features for the position, but in watching him practice this week, he plays like a much bigger player.
I don't believe I saw him drop a ball that was thrown in his direction and that says a lot because of the quarterbacks that he was dealing with. He is an explosive route runner that can quickly eat cushion as he gets up the field. He puts a ton of pressure on the corner because not only can he run by them, but he can also come to a complete stop and change direction in a heartbeat to buy space. In these practices he showed the ability to not only play out of the slot but on the outside as well -- in case teams had questions about that.
- While I am on the subject of short players, another one that caught my eye is Grady Jarrett of Clemson. Jarrett measured at almost 6-0 and a solid 288 pounds. If there is a player that I could compare him to in the NFL, he is a poor man's Aaron Donald of the Rams.
Both Donald and Jarrett have that explosive first step coming off the ball that gets them into the backfield quickly. Where Donald has the advantage over Jarrett is his ability to finish the play, but that's not to say that Jarrett struggles in this area. There were several snaps in these practices where Jarrett quickly beat the center or guard's block and was on his feet working toward the ball.
His ability to redirect on a play was quite impressive and he was a handful to block, whether it was in the one-on-one pass rush drills or the Team periods. He plays with impressive upper body power and strength. He's a fit for a 4-3 team that wants to play him as an under-tackle in a rotating system.
- One of the many wonderful things that the Senior Bowl selection staff does is bring players from all levels of college football to compete this week. One of the really good stories from the South squad is Lynden Trail of Norfolk State.
Trail began his career at Florida with Urban Meyer, but he transferred to Norfolk after the 2010 season. At 6-6, 262 pounds, Trail physically isn't one of your normal outside linebackers due to the way that he rushes the passer -- which is impressive at this size.
Where he got my attention during these practices was when he went against the running backs in the one-on-one pass rushing drills. There were moves that he was able to make that much smaller, quicker linebackers wish they had. Instead of just trying to play with straight power and run over them, he was able to move his entire body with some fluidity. By attacking the blockers this way, he was able to get them off balance, then with a quick arm over, move right past them.
In college he played as a 3-4 rush linebacker and that was clear because when he was asked to drop in coverage, he didn't appear as comfortable. He could play as a 3-4 linebacker on the strong side, but I think he is better suited to play as a 4-3 end on the left side and let him use those rush skills but also take things on in the running game. The fact that he started his career at Florida tells me a lot about the player and what he could develop into.