The buzz of the first day was in the air at Ladd Peebles Stadium as the North team began practice. It's impossible to track everything going on. That is why teams have their entire scouting department here, as well as positional coaches. They have their eyes on everything. Today, I focused on the offensive and defensive linemen.
After drawing "awws" at the weigh-in due to his long arms and low fat build, Oklahoma tackle Phil Loadholt followed up with an impressive showing. On film I saw slow feet, but today he looked quicker in person. He devoured Donald Brown in one-on-ones, but we are talking about nearly a 100-pound weight differential. Brown had no chance.
The battle royale for the No. 1 center spot was on between Max Unger and Alex Mack. As projected, Unger looked more athletic in drills and showed quicker feet, but I feel like Mack showed more toughness and strength in 11v11. This is the battle we have all been waiting for and millions are on the line. It will be interesting on how it all plays out.
William Beatty is a player I was really looking forward to since I only saw Connecticut play once. He has great feet and a quick kick step, but once he was in position, he simply lacked toughness and couldn't lock on. Larry English demolished him with a rip move (best rip move I have seen in years on film) and Beatty didn't have a chance.
I really feel like English made a name for himself today. He shows athleticism and a solid jump off the snap. He lacks the elite lateral agility of an Everette Brown, but he makes up for it with experience and a fierce motor. He showed great discipline on a few running plays maintaining his gaps. Can he play in the 4-3? I love his passion for the game and when all is said and done, I think I will be surprised if his name isn't called in the first round.
While Mack and Unger battle it out, they have to worry about their competition against the defensive tackles in practice. Mitch King put a show in one-on-ones, displaying great agility and tenacity. Unfortunately, there is no place in the league for 6-1, 275-pound defensive tackles. He is an underdog everyone is rooting for in Mobile, like Rudy.
B.J. Raji has a lot of buzz right now. Many of the draft scouts I talked to were blown away with his performance today, including myself. As to no surprise, yours truly feels like he is one of the more underrated players in the country, and I have him going to the Packers at No. 9 in my mock draft. That's probably his ceiling, but if he continues to show great agility, strength, and quickness, then why not the top 10?
Another defensive lineman who had a great day was Ziggy Hood of Missouri. He is the prototype three technique and he played like it today. He shows a great ability to dip and explode through the guard. He executed a swim move to perfection against Max Unger when he was at right guard. He really impressed me at the weigh-in because he carried his weight well and had proportional lengths. His play and build led me to believe he has a strong work ethic.
Some receivers who really impressed me today in which I saw limited action of were Ramses Barden and Brandon Gibson. Barden made a great sideline catch and just has a phenomenal frame towering over 5-10 corners. Consistency is the key for him to be a high second-round pick. Washington State gave Gibson nothing to work with, so he could be this year's Eddie Royal. I liked his speed and he ran a beautiful speed out against Mike Mickens.
This is just the first day and the players are just settling in, so I expect to see a more clear view of what is really going on tomorrow at Ladd.