With the close of the college football season and near end of the NFL postseason, members of all 32 franchises will be heavily represented in Mobile, Alabama, the location of the 2009 Under Armour Senior Bowl. The Senior Bowl has become one of the most important events where players get some of their final opportunities to showcase their talents to scouts, coaches, and GMs that have made the trip. Beginning Monday, January 19, the first major event of the draft process will get underway. Practices will span from Monday-Thursday with the game to be played on Saturday at 6:00PM (CT). NFL Network has television rights to all of the practices and the game, but Football’s Future will be bringing you exclusive analysis of the Senior Bowl all week long.Players with the most on the line
Ramses Barden, WR, Cal Poly – It’s not every day that a small school player gets as much hype as Barden has received this early in the draft process. At 6’6, 227 pounds, it’s not a surprise that he’s as well-known as he is. With over 1200 yards and 18 touchdowns in each of the last two seasons, Barden’s production equals his size and athleticism. How will he handle getting separation from some of the top senior corners? The right answer to this question could net him a lot of money in April.
Connor Barwin, DE/TE, Cincinnati – Barwin is one of the most intriguing players in the draft. After having played some tight end for the Bearcats earlier in his career, the team converted him to defensive end where he went on to lead the Big East in sacks (11). Interestingly enough, Barwin could be converted back to tight end for the Senior Bowl. The move would be stunning considering his production on the other side of the ball, but he has a lot to gain by displaying versatility.
William Beatty, OT, Connecticut – It’s no question that one of the money positions in recent Senior Bowls has been along the offensive line. The one-on-one drills are heavily emphasized and pass protectors such as Chris Williams have made a lot of money in the span of a week. Beatty looks like a player that could be a fast riser this year. He possesses the athleticism that teams salivate over at the left tackle position. With a good Senior Bowl, he could move into the first round.
Rhett Bomar, QB, Sam Houston State – After getting booted from the Sooners after accepting extra money from his job at a car dealership, Bomar has rebounded with a solid career at Sam Houston State. Bomar has the arm strength, athleticism, and competitiveness giving him plenty upside. If there are any questions, they stem from his level of competition. Shining against top senior competition could help his case in trying to become the first senior quarterback selected.
Arian Foster, RB, Tennessee – Why did the former Volunteers superstar see a cut in production to half of what he gained in his junior season? Does he still have the talent to become a solid back in the NFL? These are the biggest questions on Foster right now. He has the size, displays great vision, and hits the hole hard. The biggest concern on him, aside from his senior production, is his ability to turn the corner as a pro. This will be put to test this week and depending on how he answers the question, Foster could go as high as the third round or as low as the seventh round.
Nic Harris, OLB, Oklahoma – Moving from safety to linebacker will be a challenge for Nic Harris. At 6’3, 230 pounds, he’s a tweener, but probably doesn’t have the speed to play at safety at the next level. It will be noteworthy to see how he moves as a linebacker as the movements vastly differ. He’ll also be asked to cover backs closer to the line. If he can shed blocks and flow to the football, Harris will get a serious chance to play the position in the NFL, but the failure to do so could see a hit in his stock like Darnell Bing several years back.
Rashad Jennings, RB, Liberty – At 6’1, 230, Rashad Jennings is an intriguing small school prospect. His numbers looked good (1500 yards, 5.7 avg, 17 TDs), but how will that translate to the NFL. A lot of his stock will be built on what happens at the Senior Bowl. Scouts will look to gauge his burst and acceleration getting to the outside. He has the strength and will for the NFL, but there is still a critical question to be answered. Will he be an every down back like Brandon Jacobs or a situational back like Tim Hightower?
Domonique Johnson, CB, Jackson State – Like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie a year ago, the tall, athletic small school corner is becoming an annual thing. Can Johnson show similar talents to DRC who a year ago excelled at the Senior Bowl and Combine to be selected at pick 16 to the NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals? Johnson will need to show physicality at the line of scrimmage and discipline down the field to protect double moves to move into the first day.
Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi – Oher has the most to lose or gain at this year’s Senior Bowl. In recent weeks, concerns over his consistency and motor have surfaced giving room for tackles like Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe, and Andre Smith to work their way over Oher. One of his biggest questions is his ability to hang with the quicker defensive ends. He’ll be isolated on an island in the one-on-one drills, so he’ll have ample opportunities to put an end to those criticisms. A poor outing could do just the opposite and drop him to the late first round.
B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College – For those closely following the draft, a name repeatedly talked about is Boston College’s B.J. Raji. Along with teammate Ron Brace, who will also be participating in the Senior Bowl, he has dominated the trenches. Throughout the season, Raji has demonstrated his ability to assert his will in the running game while finding lanes to the quarterback as well. From a year ago, Sedrick Ellis was among the biggest winners and if Raji can duplicate similar results, he could also work his way into the top 7 selections, which would be a considerable improvement from what many projected him to go a season ago.
Lawrence Sidbury, DE, Richmond – Sidbury is known to be an athletic freak. At 6’4, 265 pounds, he has the size and athleticism to be an every down end. If he can use his freakish speed off the edge and show an ability to drop into coverage, he may arise as a candidate for 3-4 teams, which would open up even more possibilities. Small school prospects always have plenty on the line at the Senior Bowl, but Sidbury can really make a splash with a great week coupled with a superb outing at the Combine.
Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest – At 5’9, many teams may decide that it’s not worth the risk to select Smith early, despite his production. With several large receivers on the other side of the football, Smith will have the opportunity to show man-to-man skills against bigger guys. If he can show enough discipline and make plays on the ball, Smith could go in the first round.
Pat White, QB, West Virginia – Pat White will get one more chance to audition as a quarterback. If this doesn’t pan out, the odds are that he will be converted to wide receiver at the next level. Look for White to struggle under center, but keep a close eye on how he looks passing down the field and near the sidelines. He’ll likely be selected in the middle rounds regardless of how he plays, but his position is still yet to be determined.