FRISCO, Texas – The eyes of the NFL world are turned toward Houston and Super Bowl LI – but I wanted to take a look at the tape from the Senior Bowl.
You read our reports from Mobile, Ala., last week while we watched Senior Bowl practices. It's a good bet that you also watched the game yourself on NFL Network this weekend. The fun thing about the game itself is that it offers players a second chance. Perhaps they didn't all have a great week of practice, but this was a big opportunity to show out in front of a big audience.
Here's what I learned from the game tape. Some of it was an affirmation of what we already knew, but there were more than a few surprises thrown in.
- Eastern Washington receiver Cooper Kupp received the majority of the buzz during the practices but it was East Carolina's Zay Jones who stole the show on game day. Where Jones is normally productive is when he has free access in routes and he can work on the move. The South team cornerbacks didn't give him much room and that didn't both him one bit. Jones showed his large catch radius with several balls that were high above his head and below his knees. It didn't matter where the ball was thrown, he was able to adjust quickly then secure the catch. The biggest question of Jones is not his hands, but what will he run during his workout? The time the scouts have been working with is 4.53, and when you watch him play – I am not sure he's that fast, but we will soon find out.
- Heck of a game for Kansas State defensive end Jordan Willis. I didn't notice Willis like Dane Brugler and David Helman did during the week when we had our nightly discussions on "The Draft Show," but he came to play on game day. Willis made life difficult for all of the North team offensive tackles. It didn't matter if he was on the left or the right side, he was able to get a rush. The North team tackles had a hard time getting their hands on him due to the way that he was positioning his body as he was going up the field. There just wasn't much hitting surface and they were unable to control his rush. At his current height and weight of 6-4, 255 pounds, that makes him a nice fit to play on the right side. But from what I saw from him during this game, I wouldn't be surprised to see him move anywhere along the line as needed. I'm looking forward to studying his game in the coming weeks.
- If I were running a scouting department, I would find a way to draft San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey. I really don't care that he is 5-8, 169 pounds -- the kid is a football player. I am going to work with my coaching staff and find a spot for him. He might not be an every down player, but with his explosive quickness, toughness and ability to comfortably catch punts, he needs a spot on a roster. His creativity and balance give him rare traits with the ball in his hands. I love to watch him dart and dodge through and around tacklers. Despite his limited size, he is a difficult guy to get on the ground. Some team is going to hit on a player here when he is selected.
- I didn't think it was a great week of practice for Indiana offensive lineman Dan Feeney. I had scouted him before traveling to Mobile and had him solidly behind Western Kentucky's Forrest Lamp in this draft. Feeney might not have shown up in those workouts, but he made up for it during the game. He was able to hold his own against the likes of Alabama defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and Clemson defensive tackle Carlos Watkins. His ability to match their power was impressive. Tomlinson and Watkins were credited with several tackles, but those were accumulated while Feeney was on the sideline.
- I have to admit, I had no idea who Florida linebacker Alex Anzalone was coming into this Senior Bowl. At 6-3, 240 pounds, he physically is an impressive player. There were flashes during the practices where he showed up arriving at the ball. His final numbers for the game were outstanding -- four tackles and one for a loss. Anzalone does a really nice job of flowing to the ball for a guy that's his height. He plays like a natural knee bender and uses his hands well to keep himself clean to the ball. He does a really nice job of finishing and getting the ball carrier on the ground.
- If you are looking at a one-technique from this game – Iowa's Jaleel Johnson is your guy. I thought he did a much better job in the game of not playing tall. When you watch him on tape, he struggles when he is tall. He played with better knee bend and it helped him at the point of attack. He generally is a hard guy to move inside due to his upper body strength -- but when he bends those knee and gets that leverage, you're not going to get him off the spot. I like what he was able to do as a pass rusher, as well. There was a better attempt to use moves, which is something that he struggled with in the past. I had him in the fourth round before the game and will likely move him up before the draft.
- I thought Temple linebacker Haason Reddick could chase the ball, but LSU's Duke Riley is just as effective. Reddick was the top tackler on the North squad while Riley led the South. I could see them both going to a club that plays a 4-3 scheme that allows them to run to the ball as weak side linebackers. Both were all over the field and a blur on tape. Hard guys to block due to their playing speed.
- Keep an eye on Toledo running back Kareem Hunt in this draft. Hunt had a great week of practice and backed it up with a tremendous game. He showed coaches and scouts his ability to be a complete back. His running style is that of a back weighing in the 220's even though he only weighs 208. He ran through tacklers with ease and he was difficult to bring down once he got into the second level. Hunt finished the game with 118 rushing yards and one reception for 11 yards. Where he really caught my eye was his ability to step up and pass block. Blitzers tried to overpower him and he would stand his ground. This guy is extremely tough and could no doubt help a NFL team right now with his ability.
- Dane Brugler was correct when he said on "The Draft Show" that USC tackle Zach Banner has slow feet, which could be a problem for him. As a matter of fact, both Banner and Pittsburgh's Adam Bisnowaty struggled in this game when it came to protecting the edge. Neither could get out of their stances with any consistency and the quarterbacks on the North team paid for it.
- The game wasn't too big for Villanova pass rusher Tanoh Kpassagnon, which was something I worried about coming into the week. Kpassagnon didn't look out of place at all. His quickness off the snap was impressive, as was his ability to control blockers. He did a nice job of using his length to his advantage when getting off blocks. He showed the ability to bend and capture the corner, which was an area of concern on his college tape. He didn't play as tall, which didn't allow blockers to get into his chest. By keeping his pads down and knees bent, he was a much better player. This is nothing against the coaches at Villanova, but he was able to take things he learned from Clyde Simmons of the Browns and transfer that into his play. I initially thought he was a solid third-round player, but depending on his workout he could see his stock go up after a productive week.