Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
The highest-ranked prospect at the Senior Bowl validated that evaluation with a dominant week. Quinton Coples regularly destroyed offensive linemen with a combination of strength and speed. He was a tough run defender while being an overwhelming pass-rusher. In the one-on-ones, Coples won the vast majority of his reps. He repeatedly and resoundingly beat Florida State offensive tackle Zebrie Sanders. Coples also had wins against Georgia' guard/tackle Cordy Glenn. Both of those linemen entered the week as potential first-round picks. Not only does Coples (6-5, 281) possess ideal size and speed, he is a developed pass rusher. He uses speed and power to execute a dynamic set of moves. Coples can speed rush to either direction. He also has a good rip move, a spin move and he can bull rush. He just needs to become more consistent.
Some draft pundits have knocked Coples because his production declined, but that was clearly from teams double blocking him constantly and rolling away from him. As a senior, he totaled 55 tackles with 15 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. He broke out in 2010 with 10 sacks, 15.5 tackles for a loss, and 59 tackles. After the show Coples put on for scouts in Mobile, he looks like a secure top-10 pick in April.
Juron Criner, WR, Arizona
One of the top offensive playmakers in Mobile was Juron Criner. He transitioned the strengths he showed in college to the All-Star week practices. Throughout his collegiate career, Criner made a steady habit of bailing out quarterback Nick Foles with big catches downfield. He did that at Senior Bowl for Foles and the other South quarterbacks. Criner beat quality cornerbacks all weeks with tough catches over them. He also showed the ability to generate separation and get open against smaller quick defensive backs. Criner runs good routes, has reliable hands and possesses excellent body control.
From practice to practice, Criner was consistent. He performed well each practice. He excelled in one-one-ones, seven-on-sevens and in the team scrimmage. After his strong week in Mobile, Criner made the case to move up into the second round. In speaking to NFL coaches at the Senior Bowl, they felt that Criner was perhaps the most impressive receiver.
Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
For those who may have forgotten, Jenkins showed why he was viewed as a top-15 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft after he decided to stay for his senior season. Jenkins was arrested multiple times for pot possession, and that got him kicked out of Florida. After a dominant season at North Alabama, Jenkins matched up against the top senior wideouts in the nation and showed blanket coverage. Jenkins is an excellent athlete with flexible hips and speed to burn. That allows him to turn with receivers in their routes and not allow separation. When receivers do get a step Jenkins, he quickly recovers and closes in an instant.
Even though Jenkins (5-9, 191) is undersized, he battles tall receivers and does not allow them to beat him with their height advantage. Jenkins' strong week could have solidified his draft stock as a first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft assuming he can convince teams that his troubles are behind him.
Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
Running backs are the hardest position to evaluate at Senior Bowl because practices don't allow tackling. As a result, it is impossible to know if backs would break tackles and get yards after contact. Despite those limitations, Martin stood out above the other breaks for a few reasons. The top one being his third-down abilities. Martin was one of the half backs who performed the best in blitz pickup drills against linebackers. He has the strength to take the hits from linebackers and fits up well on them at the point of attack. He also was one of the best backs for running routes out of the backfield. He burned linebackers with quickness and showed good hands.
Martin showed a burst through the hole and ripped off some good runs in the team scrimmage. At the weigh-in, Martin looked like a body builder. There isn't an ounce of fat on the 5-foot-9, 219-pounder. Martin has the muscular armor to take the hits that come with the position in the NFL. He also is expected to run well at the combine. After a strong Senior Bowl, it wouldn't be surprising to hear Martin's name called in the second round.
Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Ingram was one of the most dangerous defensive playmakers in college football in 2011, and he showed off his amazing athleticism in Mobile. Ingram was dominant in pass rushing one-on-ones all week. He has fabulous speed to go along real power. Ingram bull rushed linemen while also blazing by them around the corner. Ingram has a good rip move and spin move to beat offensive linemen.
As a senior, Ingram had 48 tackles with 10 sacks. He had two fumbles returned for touchdowns and a 68-yard touchdown run on a fake punt. He showed why he is a future first-round pick with his performance in the Senior Bowl. Ingram (6-1, 276) is such a good athlete with rare explosion off the snap. Even though he is short and has short arms, he uses his height to his advantage to play with natural pad level. It wouldn't be surprising if some 3-4 defenses consider him as an outside linebacker.
Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
With the South defensive line, it was a pick your poison between Coples, Ingram and Upshaw. Upshaw got his week started when he caused murmurs from the crowd at the weigh-in. The muscular Upshaw checked in at 6-foot-1, 273-pounds. That was heavier than expected, but he carries that weight extremely well and looks like a bear. On the field, it is amazing how much speed and flexibility that Upshaw has at that weight. As result, he remains an option for 3-4 defenses as an outside linebacker.
Like Ingram, Upshaw has natural pad level. Combining that with his power and weight, Upshaw routinely beat offensive linemen with bull rushes. He also had the speed to turn the corner, and like Coples, Upshaw won a lot of battles against Sanders. He should go in the top 25 picks and has the ability to be a special 4-3 defensive end in the NFL.
Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State
Weeden was the most impressive signal-caller at the Senior Bowl. He has a strong arm to make all the throws in the NFL. Weeden carved up Big XII secondaries with a prolific passing attack the past few seasons, but the terrible defenses in his conference never consistently challenged him. At the Senior Bowl, he showed the ability to throw the ball into tight windows against better defensive backs. Weeden definitely has the arm and pocket stature to start in the NFL. As a senior, he completed 72 percent of his passes for 4,727 yards with 37 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Weeden (6-3, 219) has advanced field vision for a prospect entering the NFL, and does a good job of working through his progressions. The big issue for Weeden is his age. He will be a 29-year-old rookie in the NFL. Thus by the end of his rookie contract, his skills could be declining. That puts pressure on Weeden and the team that drafts him to get him ready to play very quickly. However, his strong week in Mobile has Weeden moving into the second day of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Kendall Reyes, DT, Connecticut
Another defensive lineman who had a strong week was Reyes. He routinely beat offensive linemen in the one-on-one drills. Reyes has a powerful bull rush to go along with some surprising speed rushes. The North defensive linemen really struggled with blocking him all week. He is fast closing on the quarterback with quickness off the snap. Reyes would be a good fit in a 4-3 defense. A 3-4 team could also consider him to be a five technique defensive end.
Reyes (6-3, 300) never had a big season of sack production, and that is curious considering how well he rushed the passer in Mobile. As a senior Reyes had 4.5 sacks with 46 tackles and 13.5 tackles for a loss. With how he performed at the Senior Bowl, Reyes should be a solid second-day selection.
Marvin Jones, WR, Cal
At the Senior Bowl, Jones was able to escape the shadow of college teammate Keenan Allen. Jones was the secondary receiver at Cal, but at the Senior Bowl, he really stood out as one of the more polished wideouts. Against quality defensive backs, Jones got separation with quickness and route running. He is a smooth, well-rounded receiver who has good hands. The 6-foot-1, 198-pounder has good speed to go along with quality size.
As a senior, Jones was the second option behind Allen, but he recorded 62 receptions for 846 yards and three touchdowns. There is no doubt that Jones would have had better production if he had been the primary receiver. Allen looks like a potential first-round pick, but Jones showed that he is worth consideration on the second day of the NFL Draft after entering the week as a third-day prospect.
Mike Martin, DT, Michigan
Martin was a powerful load at the Senior Bowl. Throughout the week, he was overpowering offensive linemen straight back into the quarterback marker during the one-on-one scrimmages. When Martin would expect that they were prepared for the bull rush, he would hit them with a speed rush and rip move to get by the tackles. There were many plays in the nine-on-nine and team scrimmages that Martin would burst through the line and blow up plays in the backfield.
Martin may have helped his stock more than any other player at the Senior Bowl. He entered the week as a third-day pick and now could go early in the second round. Martin (6-1, 307) is a huge man; a mound of muscle. It is a head-scratcher as to why Martin didn't produce more at Michigan. He had a career total of 10 sacks despite being a three-year starter and getting playing time as a freshman.
Honorable Mentions: Virginia defensive end Cam Johnson, Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry, Cincinnati defensive end Derek Wolfe, Clemson defensive tackle Brandon Thompson, North Carolina outside linebacker Zach Brown, Nebraska outside linebacker Lavonte David, Georgia guard/tackle Cordy Glenn, Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams, Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin, Louisiana-Lafayette cornerback Dwight 'Bill' Bentley, LSU safety Brandon Taylor, Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith, Texas defensive tackle Kheeston Randall, Troy offensive tackle James Brown, Cal offensive tackle Michael Schwartz and Iowa wide receiver Marvin McNutt.
2012 NFL Draft Stock Down
Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State
The Seminole offensive tackle had a rough week. Zebrie Sanders was consistently beat in the one-on-one pass protection drills. He especially struggled with Coples, Upshaw and Ingram. That is a real concern. As a starting offensive tackle and edge blocker, Sanders has to be up the task of holding his own against tough pass-rushers. During any NFL season, Sanders will consistently face first-round pass rushers, and it is paramount that he can protect his quarterback.
Some felt that Sanders could be a left tackle in the NFL, but that view should be scraped after the Senior Bowl. For the next level, Sanders should stay at right tackle, the position he started out for most of the past four years. He has the flexibility to play left tackle in a pinch, and that is a nice option on game days if a starter goes down with an injury. While some were pushing Sanders as a late first-round pick, his Senior Bowl performance should place his stock in the 2012 NFL Draft as a selection on Friday night.
Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
Dennard started out the week in Mobile extremely poorly with an ugly practice on Monday. He was better on Tuesday and Wednesday, but his performance overall was disappointing from a projected first-round pick. The big concern with Dennard was it looked like he struggled to flip his hips and run with receivers downfield. Dennard is tough and physical. He showed well in the run defense one-on-ones, but really seemed to be on his heels throughout the pass coverage one-on-ones.
Dennard left the Senior Bowl early with a hip injury, and perhaps that was bothering him throughout the week. If so he should have dropped out immediately as the practices hurt his stock. Maybe the injury is significant enough to convince teams that Dennard's Senior Bowl was an aberration. Dennard does have a lot of good tape from his college career, especially in 2011. Right now, Dennard could fall out of the first round, but there is plenty of time for him to get back into the top 32. There have been many first-rounders and good NFL players who struggled in Mobile but bounced back in the months to come.
Dwight Jones, WR, North Carolina
Some NFL coaches told me they were disappointed in Dwight Jones. They felt his route-running was terrible. Jones takes extra steps in and out of his breaks, and that allows cornerbacks to maintain tight coverage. Jones (6-3, 226) has good size and some speed, but looks like he is going to need development at the NFL level. Coaches were really down on Jones, and he is going to need to stand out at the combine to help rehab his stock. That seems entirely possible, but right now Jones could be falling into the third round.
Chris Polk, RB, Washington
Polk was the most disappointing running back in Mobile. He really struggled in blitz protection as a blocker. To make matters worse, he had a hard time getting separation from linebackers while running his routes as a receiver. Polk (5-10, 224) should probably drop 10 pounds to get quicker. He looked slow hitting the hole and running in the open field. He was a potential second-round pick entering Senior Bowl, but now looks like more like a third- or fourth-rounder. Polk needs to come up with a big time combine performance.
Dishonorable Mentions: Ohio State center Mike Brewster, Ohio State wide receiver DeVier Posey, Ohio State running back Boom Herron, Baylor running back Terrance Ganaway, Texas A&M wide receiver Jeff Fuller, Alabama center William Vlachos and Nevada linebacker James-Michael Johnson.