Scouting The Senior Bowl: Evaluating Cornerbacks & Safeties On Day 3

MOBILE, Ala. – The final day of Senior Bowl practice is complete. Saturday’s game is a great opportunity for these draft prospects to stand out, but the last three days of workouts have also provided valuable evaluation time.

Here are my observations from watching Day 3 here in Mobile:

  • I was surprised how many times Brian O’Neill (OT, Pittsburgh) struggled to handle his man inside. There’s no question O’Neill lacks power, but not footwork. Both Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (DE, Oklahoma) and Kemoko Turay (LB, Rutgers) gave him problems with quick, inside moves that put him in poor blocking positions. This was an area I didn’t notice on tape when I was studying him. His feet should have helped him but didn’t.  
  • Was not the biggest fan of Mike Gesicki (TE, Penn State) because I felt he lacked toughness as blocker. Where Gesicki does shine is his ability to find space in route, especially in the red zone. It didn’t matter whether he was covered by a linebacker or safety, he consistently made receptions to finish plays.
  • It took him a couple of practices, but Marcus Davenport (DE, University of Texas-San Antonio) finally got home on a rush. Davenport was able to get inside against Brandon Parker (OT, North Carolina A&T) and, much to the disgust of Bill O’Brien, bring Kyle Lauletta (QB, Richmond) to the ground. It was the type of play that was more about frustration than being an accidental hit on the quarterback. I am sure Davenport has been hearing the whispers about his practices to this point.
  • Duke Dawson (CB, Florida) is only 5-10 and will likely be drafted on Day 3 as a nickel player. In these practices he has been playing mainly in the slot and has not had many poor snaps. Where he got exposed in practice was in the red zone where he had to deal with bigger receivers and the ball going over his head. It wasn’t comfortable watching him get pushed around and struggling to put himself in position to make plays.
  • Really nice day for Justin Watson (WR, Pennsylvania) making plays in the red zone. He was a favorite of Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming) on several opportunities where he had to make adjusting receptions. Watson has the physical size you like (6-3, 215), but he doesn’t have the quickness or burst to separate down after down.

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  • Taron Johnson (CB, Weber State) caught my eye in coverage. His interception of Tanner Lee (QB, Nebraska) was my play of the day. With not much space to work with, he drove on a ball to the near pylon when Lee was attempting to fit the ball to Cedrick Wilson (WR, Boise State). Initially it appeared Wilson had his hands on the ball, but Johnson swooped inside and took it away while getting both feet in bounds. Earlier in the practice, Johnson contested and knocked away a ball that was thrown on the slant to Justin Watson.
  • The moment for Chandon Sullivan (CB, Georgia State) doesn’t look too big. There are times during these all-star games where kids from smaller schools become overwhelmed and their play suffers. Sullivan was all over the field in coverage, knocking down several passes during the 1-on-1 and team periods. It didn’t matter who he was matched up on, his technique was rock solid and his finish was right where it needed to be.
  • Thought there were more good releases from James Washington (WR, Oklahoma State) than poor ones during these practices. I did notice one where Siran Neal (CB, Jacksonville State) absolutely destroyed him off the line, which caused me some concern. It showed me that if Washington doesn’t win with initial quickness, he’s going to have problems. Washington is going to have to develop a first step to get himself free. Once he does that, there is no telling how good he could become because he has all the other tools to work with.
  • Been keeping an eye on safeties in these practices, and Kameron Kelly (San Diego State) jumped out with a couple of plays where he denied passes to Jordan Akins (TE, Central Florida), who had been catching everything in sight. Kelly was able to handle Akins up the field in the red zone. Later in the short yardage period along the sideline, he knocked a high ball out of Akins’ hands before he had a chance to bring it down.
  • Saw more coverage from Tre’ Williams (LB, Auburn) than physical point-of-attack plays. Williams physically looks the part (6-1, 239), but he had some problems carrying running backs in route. He started in good position but struggled when the back broke across the field. He didn’t have the burst to keep himself in position and there was separation. Rashaad Penny (RB, San Diego State) and Darrel Williams (RB, LSU) were just too much for him to handle.
  • When I see D.J. Chark (WR, LSU) I think of Terrance Williams. He’s capable of making a big play, then misplaying the ball on the next play. It takes Chark a little time to get going once he’s up the field, but he can separate. He’s not a polished route runner and I don’t believe he trusts his hands. What bothers me the most is during pressure situations, he tends to cradle the ball. Brandon Silvers (QB, Troy) put a ball right on top of him in the corner of the end zone where he didn’t extend but let it get to his body. He was fortunate his body was in good position and the corner he was going against didn’t track the ball, or it would have been likely knocked away.         
  • With the chance of rain forecasted for game day, it was interesting to see three of the four quarterbacks for the South wearing gloves on their left hand. Lauletta, Mike White and Silvers all happened to be right-handed and were not wearing gloves on either hand during Wednesday’s practice.
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