It was a beautiful, sunny day in Mobile this morning for the North team practice, but it was somewhat cold and very windy - not quarterback weather. Scouts and positional coaches roamed around following their assigned positions and you could really feel how much pressure is riding on these practices. And let me say, Lindsay Soto is much hotter in person than on the NFL Network. I also saw ESPN reporter Michael Smith. I'll have to catch up with him later in the week. On to what I saw at practice today:
Brandon Gibson is a player I had my eye on a lot today. He wasn't very productive on a soft team at Washington State, but a West Coast scout told me he is head and shoulders the best receiver in the Pac-10. Then, I asked him if he has ever heard of Damian Williams and he got pretty quiet. Gibson was very fluid and really sunk his hips on comeback routes. He showed consistent hands and is really making a name for himself. I think he could be this year's Eddie Royal, and if he keeps at it in practice, there is no doubt his name will be called in the second round. He is a smart player who flipped Patrick Chung's hips completely around on a double move.
Derrick Williams is a player I have been extremely frustrated with on film, and after today, I just think he needs to make a full time move to corner. He displayed, by far, the worst ball skills of any receiver out here, even muffing a few punts. His routes are lazy and he doesn't put much effort into selling them. The natural receiving skills just aren't there, but can he fly in the open field. Yeah, he can run a 4.3, but when it gets down to it, this is football. I really have a hard time liking this player. The receiving coach was really dogging him today and I can see why.
The safety/weakside linebacker Nic Harris put on a show today. He was very aggressive and is extremely athletic when you move him to linebacker. He looked the part, and I think he has the frame to put on 10 pounds without losing much speed. He was instinctive, disciplined, and maintained his gaps. I liked his initial acceleration and agility. A lot of the people I talked to felt like he really stood out today, so I think it I safe to say his stock is slowly rising.
The quarterbacks down here are absolutely terrible to say the least. Nathan Brown can put some zip on the ball, but he was inaccurate on many of his throws. Rhett Bomar has a three-quarters release and it gets too low at times, causing his throws to sail wide right. Graham Harrell fumbled the ball at least three times from what I saw under center and the quarterback coaches really can't like that. He put great touch on the football today, but struggled with the deep out. Someone needs to step up or they will all be late second-day picks.
Everyone's MVP today is Western Michigan product Louis Delmas. He put a huge hit on Ramses Barden, knocking him off his feet and doing it with authority. He was always around the football and displayed great range and instincts. I talked with Chris Steuber of Scout.com and he really felt Delmas is a pure free safety. Delmas' stock is skyrocketing and Taylor Mays returning to USC really helps him.
In the 1v1 battles going on at the North end zone, Ziggy Hood continued to dominate, but not if Kraig Urbik had anything to say about it. Urbik handled Hood's spin well and stood him up and displayed a nasty demeanor. B.J. Raji continues to impress, but Ron Brace looked really sluggish today in defensive line drills. He just lacks the agility and quickness to be a three technique and the more I see him, the more I feel like he is strictly a 3-4 nose tackle. Alex Mack pulled away in the center battle with Max Unger and he displayed a lot of strength and great technique. I really liked what I saw in Andy Levitre as he destroyed Alex Magee. Playing left tackle this year really helps his pass protection resume at guard and he is quickly becoming one of my favorite interior linemen since Duke Robinson dropped out this week.
I can't remember the last time I saw a better blocking/receiving tight end ever since I looked at Brandon Pettigrew's tape last summer. He really is nasty and loves to block. It's fun to watch. Unfortunately, he struggled getting off the line of scrimmage in passing drills, but he is a solid enough receiver to be taken in the first round.
Tyrone McKenzie is a player I feel is one of the more underrated linebackers in the country and he has a unique set of physical tools that is going untalked about. He showed very good range today in zone coverage and does a great job of anticipating and pursuing.
This is the second day William Moore has struggled somewhat in 11v11s. He looks sluggish and unnatural dropping back, and some people I have talked to don't feel he can play strong safety in the pros. Rashad Johnson reportedly had a great practice yesterday, Delmas is a hot prospect, and Patrick Chung flashed some plays, so if Moore doesn't step up soon, he could see his stock fall a little.
The receiver who has generated a ton of buzz this week among scouts and the media is Cal Poly product Ramses Barden. Barden displayed some consistent hands today, making a difficult grab on the sideline, but I am just not sold on him as a route runner. He looks awkward coming out of his breaks and a little slow off the line of scrimmage. Maybe I just watch him at the wrong times today, but it doesn't bode well if you can't separate from the better corners in the country.
Cincinnati defensive back DeAngelo Smith showed a lot of athleticism today, but he should have come up with at least two interceptions. His hands are not soft at all, but the good thing is he was in position to make plays and showed solid anticipation.
I'll admit I was as shocked as everyone on draft night. It took me a dew days to regain my senses and delve into what Pace actually did this off-season. This rant basically mirrors my sentiments exactly. Time will tell if this was a genius move by Pace or not, but you have to give him credit for being ballsy and aggressive.