2016 Senior Bowl: Wednesday practice notes

NFL Draft

North Team Practice Notes:

Quarterbacks:

Carson Wentz– Wentz is clearly the top quarterback on either roster, and he’s taking advantage of that fact down here in Mobile, making a strong case for himself to be taken in the first round in April’s draft. Wentz has the natural size teams look for in quarterbacks and he’s displayed good footwork and a strong arm in practices. He’s still raw overall and at times it seems like he forces throws, but he’s still helping his stock this week at the Senior Bowl playing versus better competition.

Cody Kessler- While there is a noticeable gap between Wentz and Kessler, there is also becoming a noticeable gap between Kessler and the other two North QB’s Kevin Hogan and Jeff Driskel. Kessler doesn’t have a big arm and his upside is limited, but he showed the makings of being a solid number 2 QB in the league. The deep throws and velocity aren’t there, but he had consistent ball placement and got rid of the ball quickly.

Tight Ends:

Bryce Williams- He still needs work as a blocker, but as a receiving TE there is a lot to like with Williams. He’s got massive size at 6’6″, 260 and runs pretty well. He could be a bit crisper in his route running, but he’s got pretty solid hands and is an intriguing mid-round TE prospect.

Nick Vannett- Vannett is very similar in size and pass catching ability to Williams, but he’s much more refined as a blocker. He can step in day one and compete for a teams’ starting inline blocking TE role, and he’s got the pass catching potential to be the overall starting TE for a team down the road.

Wide Receivers:

Braxton Miller- Miller had a fantastic day in practice and the coaches used him in a variety of ways. He got some work returning punts/kicks, worked both inside and outside receiver roles and even got some carries out of the backfield. Miller’s versatility was well on display and he met the challenge flashing big time ability in every drill throughout the day. Despite only being a receiver for less than a year at this point Miller has taken well to the position change and looks really smooth in his route running and catching ability. He’s just a natural athlete and is just scratching the surface of his potential. Miller cramped up at the end of practice, but it proved to be nothing serious.

Leonte Carroo and Tajae Sharpe- Both of these receivers had strong showings early in practice, and Carroo especially was turning some heads, but unfortunately their week will be cut short with injuries. Assuming neither injury is too serious, both players should have helped their stock with their stay in Mobile.

Jordan Payton- With Carroo out, Payton may be the 2nd best receiver in this group behind Miller. He hasn’t done anything spectacular in practice, but he’s been solid in most of the reps I watched him, catching most of the catchable passes thrown his way and getting consistent separation.

Offensive Linemen:

Jason Spriggs- Spriggs was the top OL of the group today, and he more than held his own versus top DL Jihad Ward. Spriggs rarely gave ground in his 1-on-1 reps and he looked good in 9-on-7 and full team drills as well. He has good feet and doesn’t over extend himself. He looks capable at either tackle position and should be a nice pick-up for a team in the top 2 rounds.

Jack Allen- Allen had a strong day at center, and while he lost a few battles, he showed a decent anchor overall and some powerful run blocking.

Nick Martin- Martin will of course draw a number of comparisons to his brother, and overall they are well deserved. The younger Martin has excellent technique and he uses it to his advantage in neutralizing bigger/stronger defensive tackles. He’s the type of guy who could start early in his career and become a quality starter long term.

Kyle Murphy/Josh Garnett- These Stanford teammates both had a mixed day, but overall I thought both ended on the positive side of the ledger. Murphy was beaten badly on a couple edge pass rushing reps vs Kyler Fackrell and Jihad Ward, but he redeemed himself later in practice with a number of nice reps stonewalling guys (including Ward on one play). Garnett struggled at times with some of the highly talented interior DL, but he also won his fair share of battles as well.

Defensive Linemen:

Kyler Frackell- Frackell is being primarily used as a 4-3 LB, so his rushing attempts are limited, but when he did get a chance to showcase his edge rushing ability he didn’t disappoint. While he’s not playing his best position for most of practice he looked to be holding his own at LB as well as flashing big time upside as an edge player.

Jihad Ward- Ward is a bigger DE at over 290 lbs, but he plays like he’s 20 lbs lighter. He’s quick off the snap for someone his size and he gets into a lineman’s base and knocks him back on a number of power rushes. He also showed speed to get around the edge at times as well. The one knock on him right now might be the fact that he’ll struggle at times if he doesn’t gain the advantage initially or if the lineman recovers quickly.

Matt Ioannidis- The Temple product has had a good week so far, and he remains one of the toughest assignments for interior offensive linemen to block. He has excellent power and plays with a good pad level that allows him to take advantage of his strength.

Sheldon Day- Day had some strong early reps in practice displaying nice power and quickness for his size. He’s a bit undersized and a tweener at 6’2″ and 285, but he can be very disruptive in a defense that allows him to shoot gaps and use his quickness to his advantage.

Vernon Butler- It’s not easy to stand out with this defensive line group, but Butler routinely shined in both individual and team drills. Butler has a big powerful frame, but still flashes some nice quickness off the snap. He’s versatile enough to play in different fronts/schemes and he should appeal to most ball clubs.

Austin Johnson, Carl Nassib, Lawrence Thomas- All three of these guys were flashing as well and had a number of strong reps throughout the practice.

Defensive backs:

Eric Murray- Murray had some good reps versus Braxton Miller (and others), blanketing them with tight coverage. Murray has nice size and speed, but one concern was immediately clear in his game and that is his reliance on contact. He might have gotten away with that a lot more in college, but in the NFL he would have drawn a number of defensive holding/pass interference penalties during his reps today in practice.

Maurice Canady- outside of being beaten a couple times by Miller, Canady had a strong overall practice. He’s got excellent size and while he doesn’t always use it to his advantage, he’s got good lateral movement and he breaks on the ball well.

Kevin Peterson- Peterson was probably my favorite corner of the day. Like everyone else he lost a couple big battles with Miller, but otherwise he looked really good in every rep I watched. In individual drills he was very smooth and fluid. Despite concerns with his size, Peterson showed good technique in press drills and was one of the better corners in this area.

Darian Thompson- Thompson clearly has excellent range and he combines that with nice size and instincts making him one of the rising safeties in this class. He had a strong day at practice and flashes some big time ball hawking ability.

 

South Team Notes:

Quarterbacks:

Dak Prescott– I was not overly impressed with any of the South QBs in this practice, but the one that kinda stood out from the group was Dak Prescott. For the most part he threw a solid ball with decent velocity and accuracy. Despite not being a drop back QB in college, his footwork was managable and it really didn’t get him into any trouble. There is a lot of inconsistency in his game, but of the bunch he stood out.

Wide Receivers;

Sterling Shepard– Shepard is putting on quite a show on the South team squad similar to Braxton Miller on the North squad. Shepard has been consistently the toughest receiver for any DB to cover on the South squad and he’s consistently open. Shepard combines his natural speed with precise route running and he’s been leaving DB’s in his tracks. Unfortunately the QB play is more inconsistent on the South team and it’s led to Shepard being open on some plays, but not having a chance to make the catch because the ball was thrown poorly.

Jay Lee- Lee had a really good practice today showcasing his deep speed, size and route-running ability. Lee was overshadowed at Baylor, but he’s making quite a name for himself this week and helping his stock. His size and speed are a nice natural combination to have, and with him displaying good route-running and hands this week, he presents a lot of upside as a mid-round receiving option.

Offensive Linemen:

Cody Whitehair- The offensive lineman that had fared the best versus the talented South DL was by far Cody Whitehair. He wasn’t perfect on every rep, but he won most of his battles throughout the practice. He’s got excellent size, movement ability and technique that allowed him to slow down the top rushers. He was able to counter both power and speed moves and he looks capable of starting day one in the NFL at guard. Though it’s not his natural position, he did work on snapping early in warm-ups, showing some extra versatility.

Sebastian Tretola- Tretola had a really good practice overall. He was one of the better match-ups for some of the top DL, and he won a number of tough battles. He’s a big physical guard who shows really good movement skills for his size. In 9-on-7 and full team drills he did a really nice job getting to the second level and opening up big holes in the running game. He also earlier in practice showed nice ability to get to a couple of reach blocks that weren’t easy given the level of competition he was facing.

Graham Glasgow- Glasgow was one of the better OL from the East-West Shrine Game reports last week, but he’s clearly seeing a step up in competition here as he had a lot of struggles versus this talented interior group. Overall he’s got sound technique, but he struggles to anchor at times and got blown up a few times.

Spencer Drango- Drango struggled with edge rushers for much of practice and he lost a number of battles versus Spence and Tapper. He is probably better suited inside, so it’s tough to knock him too much. He did better versus the run, and handled power rushers better than speed guys (further pointing to a move inside).

Defensive Linemen:

Noah Spence- Spence is one of the better edge rushers in this draft class and if he answers the off the field concerns, he should have no problem hearing his name called in the top 25 picks (and likely higher). Spence was nearly unblockable in pass rushing drills today as he used his speed and quickness to dominate. When running plays were away from him, his pursuit ability kept him in a position to prevent any cut back attempts. He’s not great at the point of a attack on running plays in his direction and on a couple of reps he was easily blocked out of the play, but on the positive side he even though he lost the battle he kept fighting.

Jarran Reed- Early on Reed had a bit of a mixed day as he was getting swallowed up in some double team drills. The drill naturally favors the offensive line, but the point is to see how the DL does in that situation. At times Reed struggled to get off blocks, and stay involved in the play, but he improved as the drill wore on. Later in practice Reed showed really well in pass rush drills and full team work. Reed relies primarily on his power to win, but he displayed good quickness as well and if he’s left 1-on-1, he’s going to collapse that pocket enough that it will keep him on the field on passing downs.

Sheldon Rankins- Rankins is arguably the best DL from either squad, which is saying something given the talent in this group down in Mobile. He displays tremendous hand usage, to go along with his natural quickness and power. He’s going to be a force in any defense at the next level, and he should live in the opposing backfield. If he continues this trend expect him to solidify a first round draft stock and he could see himself land in the top 15.

Charles Tapper- Tapper had a good all-around practice. He is a little light for a 3-4 5 tech, but he could be a solid end in a 4-3 scheme. He showed good pass rush technique and was fairly quick off the ball. He doesn’t have the elite bend, speed or power you typically want in edge players, but Tapper is good enough to carve out a solid role at the next level.

D.J. Reader- Reader isn’t the quickest DT and he doesn’t always play with the best pad level, but he’s a big physical DT, who is tough to be blocked off of his spot in the run game. He’s a guy who won’t fit every scheme and will probably only be an early down player, but he can be an effective player versus the run at the next level.


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