The scouts, coaches and general managers have long left Mobile. All that’s left are the players, their families and a few agents waiting to kick the ball off this afternoon. Yet even with that there was still plenty of buzz remaining after a weeks worth of practice.
– There were an inordinate amount of injuries during the week. Gabe Carimi/T/Wisconsin, Marcus Gilbert/T/Florida and Rashad Carmichael/CB/Virginia Tech have been ruled out of the game. As a result several players that only take the field for two quarters are likely to play the entire game.
– Were we harsh in our criticism of Jake Locker during the week? Depends on who you ask, or better yet the answer is “yes” and “no”. Speaking with people yesterday there is still a feeling amongst scouts Locker could end up in the late part of round one. They believe the expected rookie salary cap may make him too good to pass up. Those we spoke with said Locker could be good on a team willing to build an offense geared around him and gets him outside the numbers. That said there’s a feeling Locker made a mistake coming to the Senior Bowl and lost at least ten-to-twelve slots in the draft based on his performance. His situation this year is being compared to what we witnessed a year ago with Taylor Mays; they both need a lot of coaching and the Senior Bowl practices put each in a situation which exposed their weaknesses.
– Phil Taylor is one player very glad he came to Mobile. The thought process yesterday was the Baylor defender has likely locked up a spot for himself in the first round of the draft based on his performance. This assumes a team is willing to overlook the character concerns.
– Who were the players that hurt themselves by not coming to the Senior Bowl? Three names loomed large yesterday. Considering how terrific the defensive line from both sides looked all week the resounding belief was Adrian Clayborn of Iowa should have been here. We reported from Shrine Game practices that an alleged injury kept Troy receiver Jernell Jernigan away from Mobile and it might cost him. Numerous teams had Jernigan as their top rated senior receiver after the season but that will change after the play of Titus Young and Leonard Hankerson this week. Finally most everyone thought the absence of Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith could prove costly. Considering no corner really stood out during the week it would’ve been a great proving ground for Smith to establish himself head and shoulders above the rest of his class and potentially cement himself as a potential to 25 selection.
– One player who really surprised scouts, in both positive and negative ways, was Von Miller of Texas A&M. The belief was Miller would be the premiere 3-4 outside linebacker in the draft yet that ended when he weighed in a bit smaller than expected and showed marginal strength all week, displaying himself as basically a speed rusher. That said, Miller also proved to be a terrific athlete who did a good job in coverage. He may now be the top 4-3 outside linebacker in the draft, with Akeem Ayers of UCLA being the best fit for a 34 defense. As one insider told us, if Miller runs a 4.7 forty at the combine he goes in the second round. Should he stop the clock in the low 4.6’s he’s a late first rounder while something in the 4.5’s will push him into the middle of the initial frame.
– Speaking of workouts, scouts expect Cameron Jordan to keep the momentum going at the combine. He’s expected to run in the high 4.6’s/low 4.7’s at 290-pounds next month in Indianapolis.
– When we asked Rodney Hudson what scouts told him he had to do in order to be a successful pro he answered, “gain weight”.
– There was mention of several underclassmen in Mobile. Right now the most overrated group seems to be the trio of juniors coming from Illinois. Scouts were surprised defensive lineman Corey Liuget, linebacker Martez Wilson and running back Mikel Leshoure all entered the draft as each was given a grade of 4th-7th rounds by the advisory committee.
– Though not a surprise entry, Wisconsin’s John Clay is working hard in preparation for the combine. Sources told us he’s down to 250-pounds after playing the season at 275lbs.
– Finally, with the ever present labor negotiations a constant topic of conversation in Mobile and the potential of a long lock out looming, the consensus is there will be a lot of surprise selections in April’s draft. Talented but raw prospects that will need time to develop are likely to fall by the wayside in favor of the lesser athletic yet more “NFL ready” players. Teams feel taking a developmental player in the first few rounds will be a waste of time since they are likely to miss out on rookie mini-camp, OTA’s and a host of other off season training critical for their development. In essence, depending on the length of the presumed lockout, 2011 could be a washout for a number of incoming rookies. This sentiment will be interesting to watch and see how it plays out with prospects such as Cam Newton.