The 2008 Senior Bowl had one of the greatest crop of quarterbacks in recent memory. However, this is not the case in 2009. Going into the season we knew the senior quarterback class was weak, but not this horrible. Some thought Cullen Harper was a first-round talent. Some felt Curtis Painter displayed some upside in his junior year. Todd McShay loved Tom Brandstater (shocker). Hunter Cantwell had a very strong arm and had some hype.
What a difference a football season makes. Graham Harrell has the statistics and led Tech to a big season, but he lacks arm strength and never made NFL throws in his offense. If Harrell displays accuracy and an ability to pick up a scheme during SB week, his stock could be on the rise.
Many Draftniks and scouts have Rhett Bomar rated as the No. 1 senior quarterback in the country, including myself. I saw one game against McNeese State (thank you ESPN360) and saw accuracy and some arm strength. Still, I only have a third-round grade on Bomar. With a big week, he could end up being drafted high in the second round.
No one is expecting anything out of Pat White. Quite frankly, I am not happy the Senior Bowl did not extend an invite to someone like Mike Reilly or Chris Pizotti. This was clearly an effort to increase ratings. Cullen Harper had a terrible senior year, showing bad decision-making and an extreme lack of confidence. It will be difficult to build some momentum, but there is hope for him in the mid rounds. The hype surrounding John Parker Wilson when Alabama was rolling early in the year made me laugh. He has no upside and never displayed much consistency in his career.
Senior Bowl Running Backs
I am not very high on scouting running backs at the Senior Bowl. I feel by far the best way to evaluate running back talent is in game speed, so I will be waiting for Saturday to see what happens. It is hard to determine running instincts during practice. Nevertheless, we have an impressive crop with Jeremiah Johnson, James Davis, Arian Foster and Javon Ringer. I have a second-round grade on Davis, third-round grades on Foster and Ringer, and a fifth-round grade on Johnson.
Senior Bowl Receivers
Everyone is looking forward to the damage tight end Brandon Pettigrew will do on the practice field. In the preseason, he was my No. 1 tight end by a mile because he had the best combination of blocking and receiving at this position. Months later, Mike Mayock completely agrees. Mayock is old-school and loved blockers at tight end, so he ranked Pettigrew No. 4 on his initial Senior big board.
The talk of the week in Mobile at wideout will likely be the buzz about super sleeper Ramses Barden of Cal Poly. He is 6-6, 225, and dominated against less competition this season. Everyone is anxious to see how he performs against most tougher competition.
Eddie Royal, Jordy Nelson and Dexter Jackson made a name for themselves last year and ended up in the second round. There is a little potential in the receivers in Mobile this year. Louis Murphy needs to have a big week because he has to answer questions about route running and consistency catching the football. During the BCS Championship, Juaquin Iglesias dropped a few big passes and must give scouts confidence again that he has soft hands. Can speedster Derrick Williams fly up draft boards like Eddie Royal last year?
Senior Bowl Offensive Linemen
This year's center class is beastly, and it all starts with the battle for the No. 1 center off the board between Alex Mack and Max Unger.
Some relative unknowns will showcase their skills this week. I am anxious to see unheralded prospects like Andy Levitre, Troy Kropog, Kraig Urbik and Tyrone Green. Kropog has potential to be drafted in the first round, and is looked at as having the ability to play left tackle. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia fans wanting a left tackle should keep their eyes on him all week long.
Senior Bowl Defensive Linemen
Peria Jerry and B.J. Raji are likely first-round prospects and will make their presence felt in Mobile. Jerry is more of a three technique, and Raji has the ability to play nose in the 3-4.
The defensive end talent is pretty solid. Tyson Jackson is looked at as a 3-4 end and could go in the first round. I am very excited to see Robert Ayers display his talent. He is underrated and shows me athleticism in the Tennessee film I have watched. A lot of draftniks are looking forward to see Larry English go up against the top talent in the country. Can you imagine Oher vs. English? Let the countdown begin!
Senior Bowl Linebackers
Mobile does not look anything like Los Angeles, but it might have a little more feel of the metro because the entire starting USC linebacking corps takes camp. Rey Maualuga, Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing are all expected to come off the board in the first two rounds. Expect many big hits all week long from this trio.
One player who is a lock to come off in the first 15 picks is Aaron Curry. I have been much more critical on him than the rest of the draftnik community, not giving him my 4.5 star/Top-8 grade. I do not see the range, fluid hips or ability to drop into zone coverage to claim he is an elite talent. I will be watching him closely this week.
Senior Bowl Defensive Backs
There are a few cornerback prospects flirting with the first round who will be in Mobile. Macho Harris, Mike Mickens and Alphonso Smith all have some momentum going into Senior Bowl week and could make or break their draft stock. If Harris struggles with speed, he could be relegated to the second or third round.
More talent at corner includes Darius Butler and DeAngelo Smith. They are likely second- or third-round picks. Both have 4.4 speed, and it will be interesting how they react to faster receivers. The sleeper of the week in the defensive backfields is Jackson State product Domonique Johnson. Could he be this year's Leodis McKelvin or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie?
The safety class is pretty solid this week. I will say there are mixed reports of Mizzou safety William Moore participating this week, and I cannot confirm that. He is the odds-on favorite to be the first safety off the draft board.
A high riser on draft boards is Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas. From what I saw in his bowl game against Rice, he is fast and rangy, but very thin. Other players I am looking forward to seeing are Patrick Chung, Michael Hamlin, Rashad Johnson, Sherrod Martin and Derek Pegues.
I also think free safety is the big need, not necessarily strong safety. We can live another year with Devon Kindred and Ibraheim Campbell at strong safety. Maybe if we didn't have so many other more pressing needs I wouldn't mind addressing SS, but there are other priorities on this team.