After Anthony Chickillo was named the East-West Shrine game defensive MVP last week and impressed scouts that way, I thought I’d take a closer look at who improved their draft stock the most during Senior Bowl week. A lot of young players showed NFL coaches and general managers what they can do. I’m not just taking the actual game into account but also what the players did at practice. Here are the guys who I thought really helped themselves this week:
Laken Tomlinson, G, Duke:
He was the only offensive lineman all week I’ve seen not being overpowered by big Danny Shelton. He’s strong from the base up and doesn’t let defenders get his hands off of him. My only concern with him coming into this week were his feet. I saw him get beat with speed a couple of times this year, but that hasn’t been the case in Mobile.
Shaq Mason, G, Georgia Tech:
When you’re an offensive lineman coming from Georgia Tech’s triple option offense and you’re just short of 6’2’’ scouts will question your ability to pass-protect. As expected he struggled on the first day of practice doing so, but he got a lot better each day and looked like a complete guard at the end of the week.
Rob Havenstein, T, Wisconsin:
Here’s another pretty big and strong lineman. He might not have the quickness and athletic ability of some other guys at his position but he knows what he can do, he stays in front of edge rushers and then has the ability to turn them however he wants. His feet are better than people think though.
Jalston Fowler, FB, Alabama:
Fullback might not be the most appreciated position in today’s NFL, but Fowler is an interesting player. He was a tremendous lead blocker at Alabama and he has shown the same this week, but he has proven to not be a one-trick pony. He has beaten various defenders in one-on-one coverage and shown he has much better hands than average fullbacks. To me he’s only ensured his status as the top prospect at his position.
David Johnson, HB, Northern Iowa:
At NUI Johnson was the focal point of the offense. To me there was no question he’s the best receiving back in this year’s draft and he didn’t do anything to change my opinion. What I was concerned about was his upright running style. And while he certainly needs to work on dropping his shoulders at the point of contact, I thought he looked brilliant against all the big school guys. You almost never saw defenders get a clear shot at him and he has a lot of wiggle for a 6’2’’, 220 pound back.
Philip Dorsett, WR, Miami:
Dorsett is known as a guy that can take the top off of defenses and he has proven that in the Senior Bowl as well, but he has looked like a complete route-runner. He made great inside cuts and used his speed to win on comeback routes doing a good job coming back to the football. What I like most about him though is the way he has completed on contested catches. Unfortunately he had to sit out the game.
Nick Boyle, TE, Delaware:
He’s not on this list because of his impressive hurdle over a defender on the North’s first drive of the game. He is a great block-first tight end with all kinds of versatility. In practice they lined him up at fullback and he did a great job as a lead blocker while also making an impression as a receiver.
Carl Davis, DT, Iowa:
This guy just looks like an NFL player. I already knew he was a guy you could plug in and not have him moved whatsoever from the line of scrimmage. This week he showed me he could create a lot of upfield pressure and really disrupt the offense as well. He added an improved ability to shed blocks and make plays. He might have played himself into the first round after being named Practice Player of the week.
Nate Orchard, DE/OLB, Utah:
Man, is he good with his hands. He was second in the nation with 18.5 sacks with a couple of them coming on pure hustle plays. This week he showed he has the ability to get under blockers and showed off great pass rush moves. He made an impression in one-on-ones in practice and the game but kept his ridiculous motor. Whether you use him as a 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker he can make plays all over the field.
Jeff Luc, LB, Cincinnati:
At 263 pounds you’d expect this guy to bring some pop and that’s exactly what he has shown, putting a big lack on the running back on the first play of Day 2 team drills. But what impressed me with this kid were his coverage skills and the ability to play in space. He might have been the most impressive linebacker in one-on-one drills against the backs and tight ends while being the biggest of the entire group.
Kevin White, CB, TCU:
The comparisons to former teammate and last year’s first round pick Jason Verrett are appropriate – they have similar size, body types and play pretty much the same way. White has done an admirable job taking on the best receivers at the Senior Bowl and while he might not be the kind of run-stopper Verrett was in college, he has crazy makeup speed.
Ladarius Gunter, CB, Miami:
This is one of the rare guys who brings great size at the cornerback position. He has long arms to jam and control wide receivers while being able to run with them. From all the players I saw at this position he had the best combination of technique, size and ability to compete for the ball. If he runs a solid 40 I see him as a day 2 draft pick.
Steven Nelson, CB, Oregon State:
Mighty Mouse had a pretty big game. As his name might suggest he’s not the biggest guy at 5-10, but he has the ability and speed to mirror all different kind of receivers. He doesn’t gamble on routes or tries to do too much – he just stays on the hips of his opponent and makes a play when the ball is coming. He doesn’t shy away from tackling either. He capped off an impressive week with a great game yesterday.
Ibraheim Campbell, S, Northwestern:
Coming into this week I thought this was a solid safety who could deliver some big hits. At practice he showed he can play with the best. I thought he looked a lot better in one-on-ones than people anticipated. And while he’s not the biggest guy (6’0’’, 210 pounds) he plays like one – he’s very physical and knows how to use that trait, as a Day 3 Player of the Day honor proves.
Arie Kouandijo, G, Alabama:
He struggled in pass protection Day 1 but improved a lot and just moved people in the run game.
Ali Marpet, G, Hobart:
As the only Division III player on the field he proved he absolutely belonged there
Donovan Smith, T, Penn State:
He was one of the most consistent offensive linemen all week long.
Ameer Abdullah, HB, Nebraska:
The Cornhusker was named the game MVP. He showed a lot of toughness and managed to hold onto the ball, but him fumbling is still the big question mark.
Tyler Varga, HB/FB, Yale:
This is a very versatile guy. He can play fullback, halfback and will be a core special teams player.
Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke:
He showed his quickness and speed to run by people at practice but didn’t have a good game. He proved he can play inside and outside very well.
Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State:
This 5’11’’receiver has all the traits but size. He is already an elite punt and kick returner.
Justin Hardy, WR, East Carolina:
He maybe was the best route runner over the entire week and made a name for himself.
Rannell Hall, WR, UCF:
His ability to play the ball in the air and compete for it is unbelievable.
Clive Walfard, TE, Miami:
He came in as the number one rated tight end and did nothing but make clear that status.
Danny Shelton, DT, Washington:
He was everything advertised – an immovable object against the run with great ability to drive offensive linemen back into the quarterback’s face. Plus he has great lateral quickness for his size. If a team gets him outside the top 10 they’re very lucky.
Grady Jarrett, DT, Clemson:
This guy reminds me a lot of Aaron Donald. He lacks ideal size for his position but uses that to create great leverage. He has active hands and a not-stop-motor.
Za’Darius Smith, DE, Kentucky:
He built on an impressive East-West Shrine game showing and proved he could do the same at the Senior Bowl.
Stephone Anthony, LB, Clemson:
As one of the most unknown players he made a name for himself with his ability to run and hit.
Quinten Rollins, CB/S, Miami (OH):
He’s a converted basketball player and one year starter who showed promise to develop into a corner or safety with great ball skills.
Jaquiski Tartt, S, Samford:
This small school kid showed what Charles Davis called “SEC safety skills” the entire week.