While for scouting purposes the Senior Bowl game is clearly not as valuable as the week of practice that doesn’t mean that it can’t help a player boost their stock. Here are the 10 players who’s level of play in the game helped them the most:
-Ford was the player of the game after tallying two sacks and creating a number of pressures. The North team offensive tackles flat out couldn’t block Ford and he was disrupting play after play. He was named the MVP of the game and really set the tone for the South team all-around. Adding this game to a really strong week of practice should have Ford flying up draft boards in the coming weeks as he looks like he has the ability to be an impact pass rusher. He may not hold up the best versus the run, but teams will draft him high for his pass rush ability alone.
-The only player who arguably had a more disruptive day than Ford was North defensive tackle, Aaron Donald. If you watched the line play in the game at all you would have seen Donald dominate snap after snap. He was a nightmare for the South offensive linemen to block. On one play Donald walked Gabe Jackson a highly rated guard on the South squad back right up to the quarterback. While that is impressive enough, just on the face of it with a DT pushing an OG back that much, consider this: Jackson outweighs Donald by 51 lbs. Any questions about whether or not Donald is big enough to make an impact at the next level should be answered right there. If that isn’t enough evidence, watch (well anything from Donald) the rest of Donald’s game. He was beating linemen with consistency and was even breaking double teams. The most crazy thing about Donald’s game is he technically doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. He didn’t have a single tackle, assist or sack. My guess is the South offense wouldn’t agree with the idea that Donald didn’t “show up”. Donald’s pressure forced a number of broken plays from the South and one time led to an interception.
-It is very tough for running backs to shine in these all-star games. While there is hitting, players don’t dive, make big hits or finish tackles. So a running back may break a play to the outside, but the linebacker/safety/corner can’t dive to try to make a play. Or a running back is going through the line and a defender gets his hands on him, but the back breaks the tackle, the question becomes did the back really break it, or was it just do to the limitations of the practice. In the game though backs can actually showcase some value and James White made the most of this opportunity. He ran the ball really well, showing nice burst and vision. White also did a nice job catching the ball out of the backfield and was the North’s best player on offense. White isn’t going to jump into the top 75 picks or anything like that, but in that 4th-5th round range he could get some nice consideration.
-Borland paced both teams with 8 tackles in the game and forced one fumble. He showed really nice pursuit and reaction, allowing him to be consistently around the ball. Borland also showed up well on punt coverage, not only showing his dedication to the game, but that he had the quickness and speed to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. Borland was also named defensive captain by his teammates, showing his leadership and maturity. This game capped a strong week for Borland that will have a number of teams forget about the fact that he’s slightly undersized.
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-Gilmore was an injury replacement but made the most off his time in Mobile. He had a really strong Wed. practice and followed it up with a really nice game performance. Gilmore has improved quite a bit as a blocker and he catches the ball cleanly and has some ability to pick up yards after the catch. He won’t be highly drafted, but he’s moving up boards a little bit.
-Carr capped off his strong week with a really nice game. He was very effective on the South’s first TD drive, showing nice touch, a quick release and quick decision making. Carr’s best pass of the day though came on an incomplete ball off the flea-flicker pass attempt to Kevin Norwood. Norwood stopped his route and didn’t seem to locate the football, but Carr threw a beautiful 60 yard strike that probably would have been complete if he had worked more than 1 week with the receiver. For a quarterback who some questioned his deep ball coming into the week it was an impressive throw and one that created some buzz.
-Reid doesn’t get the credit that he deserves, but it’s not entirely shocking considering his easier college schedule, and the fact that he was being compared to all the talented players on both of these rosters at the defensive tackle position. Reid showed up nicely in the game though notching a pair of sacks and making his impact felt. He’s not going to go too high given all the DT talent in this draft, but he could be a steal as a mid-rounder.
-Desir had an up-and-down week in coverage, but is a guy with a lot of buzz given his size and potential. He showed just what that potential could do with a really strong game today. He rarely allowed separation of the receiver he was facing and the quarterbacks typically didn’t challenge him. When he was challenged late in the game, Desir came away with a nice interception in the end zone.
-Smith was overshadowed a bit by Dee Ford, but he also made his impact felt as an edge rusher. He didn’t have a sack, but he was consistently causing pressure and disrupting plays in the backfield. Smith may get some looks as an outside linebacker, but profiles quite well as 4-3 pass rusher. This was a nice end to a strong week for him.
-Kirksey was overshadowed somewhat this week by the stellar play of a number of other defenders, but shouldn’t be taken that Kirksey struggled this week. Kirksey may not have separated himself during the week, but he did that during the game. he was all over the field making tackles and chasing plays. He showed great instincts and pursuit and will get a lot of looks as an outside linebacker in a 4-3.