With an epic Super Bowl taking place in Houston not many people (who aren’t scouts or GMs) have paid a lot of attention to the college athletes entering the NFL. I watched the East-West Shrine and Senior Bowl practices and games for you to catch up to who improved their draft stock the most. Here are the players who helped themselves the most:
Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo:
I was concerned first when the power-back with 230 pounds I watched on tape arrived at Senior Bowl week weighing in at 208 lbs. I may still not know what he looks like when he enters the league, but I know how good he looked like in Mobile. He only needed a crease and exploded through it. When the ball was pitched to him he showed excellent speed to the edge and made defensive ends look slow. As a receiver he displayed natural hands and good route-running. He has the track record of getting it done with power (almost 5000 rushing yards at Toledo), but he also showed me the ability to run away from the entire defense. He put up 118 yards on 15 carries in the actual game.
De’Veon Smith, RB, Michigan:
The Wolverines were so good defensively this season most people didn’t pay a lot of attention to the offense, especially their running back. Smith has some nice burst and kind of a Le’Veon Bell running style, even though he is more of a downhill guy behind the line of scrimmage, avoiding negative plays. I liked what I saw in terms of him shuffling sideways and running through tackles with outstanding lower body strength. What I appreciated the most though at the East West Shrine game as well as Senior Bowl week was his attention to pass protection, really taking on defenders and giving his QBs time and room to step up in the pocket.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington:
This EWU kid dominated the FCS competition, but he was even better against his two biggest opponents Washington and Oregon State. He is big vertical target, but looked very quick out of his cuts for his size in Senior Bowl practices. I was most impressed by how well he did releasing against press-coverage of some top-tier competition because of his power. I can’t recall a rep he lost. He was sensational.
Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina:
The Pirates receiver finished his collegiate career with more catches than anybody in FBS history (399). During Senior Bowl week he continued to catch everything thrown his way. Not only did he track the football very well, I thought he was tough as nails going over the middle. At 6’2’’ I really like his catch-radius and how natural he catches the ball. Going into draft preparation I wanted to see how much East Carolina’s scheme blew up his statistics. He was outstanding no matter what the coverage was and he ate cornerbacks for breakfast in one-on-one, which was the biggest concern for scouts. In the game he had two huge touchdowns called back, but even without them dominated the afternoon. My doubts are gone.
Eric Saubert, TE, Drake:
Throughout the East-West Shrine practices the Drake tight-end impressed with his size and big-play ability. At over 6’5’’ and 250 pounds he ran like a deer and simply looked like a better athlete than most of his opponents. My biggest question with him was how natural his hands are because of some drops I saw from him, but with the way he dominated that week I’ll have to go back to the tape and re-evaluate that.
Dion Dawkins, OG, Temple:
After starting two+ seasons at left tackle, I was curious to see Dawkins move inside and get some reps at guard. I think he has a ton of upside at the position. He had some growing pains Day 1, but continuously got better throughout the week. He showed good core strength an quick feet to mirror defenders. I’m a big fan of his versatility and Temple toughness. You can tell he takes coaching well and received that at Temple. He could easily be one of the first five offensive linemen off the board.
Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova:
This tongue-breaking name is very intriguing. Kpassagnon is very long and lean, reminding me of guys like Carlos Dunlap or Devin Taylor. He dominated Day 1 one-on-ones at Ladd-Peebles Stadium and showed different pass rush skills all week long. He hustles around the edge and has the speed to catch guys from behind. He certainly is still pretty raw, but his natural talents and competitiveness will help him shoot up the boards.
Tarell Basham, DE, Ohio:
I only saw a couple of tapes on Basham, but what I saw there compared pretty well to Senior Bowl practices. He plays extremely hard and is physical against the run with a shock in his hands. He is super explosive with an initial burst, displaying the best get-off from anybody that week. What I really like about the MAC Defensive Player of the Year’s pass rush skills is that he knows how to convert speed to power and still has lots of room to grow.
Trey Hendrickson, DE, Florida Atlantic:
This guy is what you would call twitchy, but in a good sense. He has a non-stop motor chasing ball-carriers down the field, sometimes making tackles 10 yards away from the line of scrimmage. The biggest criticism on him is that he’s not the most explosive pass rusher, but at FAU this season he was often double-teamed and still put up good numbers (9.5 sacks). At the East-West Shrine Game I saw a lot I like about him – he takes advantage of offensive tackles leaning too far to the outside, he can drive them back on bull rushes and when he rushes outside he knows when and how to flatten to the QB. He will have to improve his get-off even more and make himself more dangerous with speed around the edge, but he should hear his name called early on Day 3 now.
Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA:
When I watched UCLA this season I was really disappointed in Vanderdoes’ immobility. Now one-and-a-half years away from his ACL tear he looked more athletic and much quicker than most of the year. He is a rock against the run, but he surprised me by how well he used his power to drive offensive linemen back and also get around them in one-on-one drills at Senior Bowl practices. I still think he has to get under better control when he’s rushing the passer, but can be very explosive when he’s healthy.
Montravious Adams, DT, Auburn:
The Tigers’ monster defensive tackle has a huge frame and much better quickness than his size would indicate, shown by a couple of nice spin moves. He was dominant in one-on-ones at the Senior Bowl simply manhandling opposing linemen. Like he did at Auburn he was once again he was a frequent visitor in the backfield, disrupting running plays from the get-go. Plain and simple – he was a man amongst the boys.
Haason Reddick, LB, Temple:
This guy was not only the brightest star at Senior Bowl week, but of the entire pre-draft season. In Mobile he showed me he can line up in multiple spots and make big plays even though he had his hand in the dirt mainly in college. He is very active, plays downhill and impressed with good movement skill and hip fluidity in coverage. Of course he is a very natural rusher, but it’s important for him to be able to do out from different alignments, most importantly a LB stance, and he has displayed that. Actually, his 30 minutes of covering and rushing against linemen and running backs in one-on-ones on Day 2 were the most remarkable portion of practice I have ever seen there. He always was around the football and showed outstanding screen recognition because of D-end experience. I think he’ll be suited best as a Will linebacker, who can be used in a variety of ways on passing downs.
Damonte Kazee, CB, San Diego State:
I saw San Diego State a bunch of times this season and I enjoyed watching their ball-hawking defense, which led the FBS in interceptions. What I didn’t pay enough attention to, because of how often they turned the opposition over, was the play of Kazee. When I finally saw him moving around by himself or in one-on-ones at Ladd-Peebles Stadium I saw unbelievable change of direction skills and an ability to stick his foot in the ground and attack the football. You can tell he really trusts what he sees (17 picks). At SD State he only lined up at right corner and in off-coverage, but he showed me he can play press with extremely physical hands, compete with the best and find the ball in the air.
Rasul Douglas, CB, West Virginia:
This guy looks like what you want in a tall, athletic corner. He is 6’2’’ with very long arms and a knack interceptions (eight in 2016 – tied for the most in the nation). In Mobile I thought he looked a little tight early on, but like he did at WVU he excels in press coverage with a patient approach and good hand placement on receivers. I feel like he was one of the top three or four corners at the Senior Bowl and considering how many plays he made on the ball – especially in team drills – he probably improved his draft stock by at least one round. If he runs well at the combine even more so.
Obi Melifonwu, SS, UConn:
At 6‘4’’, 220 pounds the former Huskies safety has very unique measurements. It was unbelievable for me to see how well he moves for a guy his size in Mobile. He demonstrated outstanding range, shooting downhill on run and quick pass plays to get involved early. Some might think his body type is not the prototype, but when you look at the receivers coming into the league you can see a trend of taller and bigger body types. Obi could become a great matchup player, who can be used in man-coverage against a talented tight-end one week and then take on the role of a tone-setter the next.
Others who helped themselves:
Davis Webb, QB, California – It’s always nice to be named the Senior Bowl MVP but what Jared Goff’s successor did that week was showing the scouts he has the most potential among the QBs there. What I liked most were a couple of plays where he stood strong in the pocket and delivered the ball while taking a hit.
Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU – I liked the all-time leading rusher in BYU history a lot already, but against top competition he showed his physicality, breaking a ton of tackles and running hard downhill in Mobile.
Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo – He’s a nice route runner with an ability to leave defenders standings, but can also throw off tacklers and simply run them over. He made noise in St. Petersburg.
Forrest Lamp, OG, West Kentucky – Unfortunately Lamp suffered a high ankle sprain on Day 1 of Senior Bowl practices and I didn’t see him take any reps at center, but in just one day he left me doubtless about his potential as an interior offensive lineman and he could be the first of those to be drafted.
Derek Rivers, DE, Youngston State – After racking up 38 collegiate sacks he took his ability to collapse the pocket to Mobile – also in the game where he got another quarterback takedown. In the run game he chased outside plays all the way to the sideline.
Alex Anzalone, LB, Florida – This guy looked like a new-age LB. He showed he can diagnose plays quickly and has the speed to make up for misreads on play-fakes. Teams will be very interested in his physical because he hasn’t been really healthy at college.
Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA – At the Shrine game practices he showed fluid hips and great movement skills in general. He did a great job guiding receivers to the sideline and finding the ball, even though he’s best in off-coverage attacking the ball.
John Johnson, FS, Boston College – I really thought this guy showed great movement skills and the range to make plays on the ball as a former corner who can also cover slots in man-coverage.
Lorenzo Jerome, SS, Saint Francis – With two interceptions and a forced fumble on a reverse he put his name on the map in the Senior Bowl game. He also flashed during the practices and showed he’s a fearless playmaker.