For NFL scouts, the most important part of the Senior Bowl is the practices and how the players look during the week. Even though NFL scouts don't put a lot of stock in the actual game, there can be some players who showcase their skills for the next level in the culmination of the week's events. With every player being a draft prospect, we will focus on the players who had noteworthy games positively or negatively.
Oklahoma cornerback Jamell Fleming had a nice forced fumble on the first drive of the game. Arkansas wide receiver Joe Adams had the ball ripped out by Fleming. Adams bounced back to finish the game strong. He made a number of good gains that showed his sudden athleticism and speed. He caught a short hitch route that he broke downfield for a nice gain to set up his team inside the North's 10-yard line. In the third quarter, Adams caught another hitch route and broke a tackle from Iowa State's Leonard Johnson to get downfield for a big gain. On another reception, Adams made a few defenders miss on a quick pass near the line of scrimmage. After ducking through a few defenders, Adams ran for a gain of about 10. The fumble was disappointing, but overall Adams had an impressive game that would impress any observer.
Fleming did not have a striking performance in the practices, but he did well in the Senior Bowl game. He had an interception on a poorly thrown pass later in the game. Fleming is a mid-round prospect.
LSU safety Brandon Taylor had nice interception in the first quarter. Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson threw the ball way late and Taylor burst over to cut in front of the pass. Taylor was overshadowed by teammate Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne, but he is a legit starting safety prospect who could go on the second day of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden helped lead a field goal drive in the first quarter, but he made a bad decision after that. He tried to force a pass over Bobby Wagner, but the Utah State linebacker leapt and caught the pass for an interception. In the fourth quarter, Weeden threw a weak pass and it fell short. Fleming had the ball fall right into his arms for the interception. Weeden was one of the prospects who helped himself the most in the Senior Bowl, but he did not have banner performance on Saturday.
Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson threw a nice touchdown to Cal wide receiver Marvin Jones in the second quarter. He scrambled and threw an accurate pass to Jones in the front of the end zone. Other than that pass, it was a mixed outing for Wilson. He looks like more like a third-day prospect. If Wilson were three or four inches taller, he could be a first-rounder.
In the first quarter, Washington defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu had a nice tackle for a loss of four yards. Ta'amu burst through the line to blow up the play and force a gang tackle. He was inconsistent in the practices, just like he was as a senior. The week in Mobile probably didn't help Ta'amu very much, but he shouldn't be knocked heavily. He looks like he would be best as a 3-4 nose tackle.
Arizona wide receiver Juron Criner did what he has done throughout his college career with tough catches to reward his new signal caller. Criner made a career out of bailing out Arizona quarterback Nick Foles, with Foles' stats benefitting from a trustworthy receiver who won on balls thrown up grabs in traffic. In the third quarter, Criner ran a dig route and caught a nice gain from Foles. Shortly later, Criner caught an out from Foles and broke up the sideline for a nice gain. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Criner ran a great route to open up a throwing lane for Foles. On a bullet, Criner leapt in the air to haul in a big reception from Foles. Throughout the week, Criner was one of the most impressive receivers. He showed size, speed, hands, physicality and route running. Criner definitely helped his stock and should be a second-round pick after his Senior Bowl performance.
North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples was the consensus top-rated prospect in Mobile, and he showed why again on Saturday after an strong week of practice. Coples ran around a cut block from Washington offensive tackle Senio Kelemete to get a sack in the second quarter. Coples had a good first half rushing the quarterback, while Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams had a good half blocking. Coples made a nice tackle in the fourth quarter after he came off his block to drag down a running back from behind. Late in the fourth, Coples made a fabulous tackle on a draw for a loss of a three yards. He blasted into the backfield and Coples reached out to rip running back Isaiah Pead to the ground.
On the same drive as Coples' first sack, North Carolina offensive tackle Zach Brown blew up a screen pass for a tackle for a loss. Brown made a great read and fired into the backfield. He had some good plays and some bad plays in the Senior Bowl game. He is a fabulous athlete with rare speed, and he could have shown enough in Mobile to have teams give him a first-round grade.
Alabama defensive end/outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw disengaged from Adams to log a coverage sack in the third quarter. Other than that play, Upshaw was rather quiet in the game, but he had an excellent week of practice.
Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead had a nice punt return in the second quarter. Pead broke around the edge to get downfield for a big gain of 38 yards. Pead had another punt return of 16 yards. NFL teams will like how Pead stacks up as a backup halfback plus a third-down running back who can contribute on special teams.
Ohio State wide receiver DeVier Posey had a bad dropped touchdown pass on a pass from Moore. Posey had some bad practices in Mobile. Add that to the off-the-field concerns, and his stock could fall into the middle of the third day of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins had a nice pass for 22 yards to North Carolina State wide receiver T.J. Graham. Cousins couldn't keep it going as he missed a wide open receiver, Arizona State's Gerell Robinson, for a good gain. A few plays later, Robinson caught a short crossing route that he broke down the sideline for a huge gain. Robinson powered his way through Alabama cornerback DeQuan Menzie to cross the goal line for a score from about 40 yards out. Robinson started the week strong before falling quiet on Tuesday and Wednesday. Cousins and Robinson look like third-day picks.
Boise State running back Doug Martin had some nice runs in the third quarter to contribute on a touchdown drive. He showed some nice start-stop ability to make defenders miss and pick up some yards. The quick and strong Martin has a nice skill set and he could be a good sleeper prospect in this draft. Martin could be a mid-round pick who surprises and he could have starting potential in the NFL.
Clemson defensive tackle Brandon Thompson had a nice tackle for a loss of four yard in the third quarter. He broke by Utah guard Tony Bergstrom to break into the backfield. Thompson had a quality week at the Senior Bowl, but he looks more like a second-round pick than a first-rounder.
Wisconsin fullback Bradie Ewing made a great catch in the fourth quarter with a pass that was dropped in over North Carolina's Zach Brown. Ewing is a quality fullback who could use some more power to blast through NFL linebackers. He could be worth a late-round pick and should be a valuable special teams player.
Nevada linebacker James-Michael Johnson had a nice catch from San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley for an interception at the end of the fourth quarter. Johnson is more of a thumper and stiff without quick feet. He looks best as a 3-4 inside linebacker.
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