With all the general managers, coaches and scouts in attendance at the Senior Bowl, there is a lot of chatter going around. Here are some of the highlights from the rumor mill on the second day.
Texas defensive end Alex Okafor had a strong first day of practice for the North squad on Monday. Over the past months, many draft pundits haven't gotten on board with Okafor being a first-round pick, but a few scouts in Mobile I spoke to said they feel that Okafor is definitely a top-32 pick. Okafor's pass-rushing ability and versatility to play in a 4-3 or 3-4 defense should prompt him to go on Thursday night. Scouts say there are a variety of teams that have Okafor on their radar so going in the top 20 is possible if he plays well at the Senior Bowl and looks good at the Combine.
Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro is the consensus top safety prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft. Scouts were disappointed with his decision not to play in the Senior Bowl, but it won't be held against him. There haven't been that many first-round safeties in recent years, but scouts say that Vaccaro will buck the trend. Vaccaro is reliable in pass defense and defending the run. They weren't sure he would go in the top half of the first round, or be a top 10 pick like Mark Barron last year, but they felt he would go in the back half of the first round.
Another safety prospect that is trending in the opposite direction is Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson. Scouts are saying that Jefferson has been getting trashed by some of his former coaches for horrible practice habits and a lack of work ethic in the weight room. Jefferson has a lot of physical talent, but it is really going to hurt his draft stock to have former coaches telling NFL teams to pass on him. A couple sources said they wouldn't be surprised if Jefferson has a free fall in the draft from a second-day pick to the third day. It will be really important for Jefferson to test well and interview well at the Combine.
Don't be surprised if SMU defensive end Margus Hunt has a steady rise up draft boards and cracks the top 20. Some 3-4 teams would like to see Hunt add 20 pounds to be a stouter five-technique defensive end. The former track athlete is expected to be a star at the Combine. He incorporated more track training prior to his senior season and that helped him to be more explosive. Sources have said that teams have also been impressed with Hunt's intelligence and character. They also know that the NFL is a copycat league and the success of five technique ends like the Texans' J.J. Watt and 49ers' Justin Smith will help Hunt. The 6-foot-8, 277-pound Estonian could thrive in that role after some developmental time.
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