The NFL Draft gods granted us beautiful weather today in Mobile, Ala. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and there was a nice breeze coming through as draft hopefuls on the North team performed in shells at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
There was a lot of play installation and wishy-washy drills, so I wasn't that serious in scouting since a lot of players were getting their feet wet and settled in, and some drills you just have to take with a grain of salt since they just don't show much. Tuesday is always a better day to judge the talent. Let's get right to it:
When I first walked into Ladd, I headed to the back end zone to watch the punt returners field balls. Mardy Gilyard did a great job focusing and looking the ball in - he looked like a natural out there. "Make sure to judge the wind, Mardy," said a Lions special team coach.
This coach also told the player to cheat a bit to the right so they could come back to the left to make the catch based on the wind direction. I love these little tidbits you get watching an NFL coaching staff.
Jacoby Ford did a consistent job getting under punts, but running back Joique Bell from Wayne State struggled a bit in this department.
After the horn sounded for the next drill, I made my way to the sidelines and caught up with Chris Steuber of Scout.com and we watched the quarterbacks work.
Sean Canfield showed very unimpressive arm strength and really struggled to throw the ball on basic out patterns that he must complete at the next level. One time, the receiver ran a 12-yard out and Canfield had to get a bit of air under the ball to complete it. This throw needs to be a frozen rope and this is a deficiency you just have to doubt a quarterback to overcome at the next level, but I think Canfield has potential as a solid backup in the league.
Gilyard, a receiver I'm not a huge fan of, had a great day so I have to give it to him. He came cleanly out of his breaks and showed very good hands in a 3-cone receiver drill. He did a great job of adjusting to poorly thrown balls and I liked his body control. With Brandon LaFell out, the top senior receiver here is up for grabs and Gilyard is standing up to the pressure in front of scouts.
I thought California CB Syd'Quan Thompson had fluid hips in dropback drills, but we need to see how these translate to live action or if it was just a mirage.
Washington linebacker Donald Butler showed very slow feet in footwork drills, while TCU's Daryl Washington was textbook with his smooth athleticism and movement. Washington is a good technician who plays with a low center of gravity so this doesn't surprise me in the least.
In passing drills ,Tony Pike was awful today, and this is a big platform for him to make a push for the second round. A lot of his balls were wobbly and didn't come out crisp. It go so bad Steuber called him Tony "Bad Ball" Pike. Later on in the practice, Pike had a nice, accurate throw on a go route and did a good job of putting it in the breadbasket of his receiver. Overall Pike really struggled today, but you never want to overanalyze this stuff - there is a difference between a bad practice and a bad week. Sometimes it just isn't your day, but Pike isn't doing much to sway over the big boards of front offices.
During blocking drills, I thought Oregon's Ed Dickson showed good technique and hand use, but this was against a dummy so I'm not getting that excited. Tight ends coach Tim Lappano yelled at Wisconsin's Garrett Graham, "Roll your hips ... that's better!" Lappano got on Dickson later on in the practice for his ball security, "Put it away!"
Jacoby Ford and Danario Alexander showed very inconsistent hands today. These players might be borderline third-round picks so there is no doubt they need to step it up - especially Ford who has intriguing speed and athleticism over the middle.
I wasn't impressed with Ohio receiver Taylor Price today at all in individual receiving drills or 7v7's. He rounds off his routes and struggles getting out of the break. He also had some bad hands, and as a lesser-known player he needs to step it up.
Ohio State's Kurt Coleman struggled to match up in man coverage drills. This just isn't his forte and usually safeties always struggle with this drill. He had bad footwork and balance, but in space he seems to be a better player on tape where he can see the field and react. Nickel is probably out of the question of his skill set, however.
One of the players to watch this week is Rutgers corner Devin McCourty. I think he is presently a late second-round value, but he did an outstanding job today in drills breaking on the ball and showing great instincts. He's a player to watch with the title of No. 1 senior cornerback up in the air.
About an hour into practice, I noticed O'Brien Schofield getting helped off the help and it didn't look good. Unfortunately, Schofield tore his ACL. I don't need to tell you that this is a BIG hit to his draft status. I wish him the best.
Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount ran with authority today in drills (take it with a grain of salt). Surprisingly, no punches were thrown, but I'm not throwing in the towel yet on that prediction. In all seriousness, I don't like how Blount runs with a high pad level so that's something to look for. Non-explosive backs who stay high generally can't pan out in the NFL because they don't maximize power and expose their legs to linebackers.
A player to watch this week is Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour. He was highly impressive showing a solid arm and touch, but later in 11v11's he struggled a little bit. By far he was the most impressive QB out here today.
I watched Michigan State kicker Brett Swenson and I just wasn't that impressed with his leg strength on kickoffs as he struggled to get the ball into the end zone with an average hang.
My defensive MVP for the day has got to be Boise State's Kyle Wilson. In coverage he showed fluid hips and did a great job of locating the football and making plays. He was very physical with his jam and he certainly made the most plays. I like him as a second-round value as a corner/nickel with added value as a return man on special teams.
Wake Forest's Brandon Ghee looked solid. He dominated receivers on deep routes because he can turn and run with anybody here. I want to see how he performs against Clemson's Jacoby Ford who will run in the 4.40 range. Ghee needs to make plays tomorrow if he wants to end up in the late first round.
Defensive tackle Tyson Alualu out of Cal had a very good practice in 11v11's. He was very physical and blew up a couple runs. He checked in at 6-2 at the weigh-in, so now I have serious concerns if he can play 5-technique. He might be a 3-technique only.