What We Learned: Senior Bowl Week

No consensus whatsoever on the QBs

The three best quarterbacks in Mobile are all playing for the North team: Washington’s Jake Locker, Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick and Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi. Locker started off hot Monday but seemed to cool off Tuesday and then took a step back Wednesday. Kaepernick is an intriguing prospect because of his size and athleticism, but he’s nowhere near a polished passer at this point. While Stanzi looks like an NFL signal caller, his footwork is slow and his accuracy is questionable. Overall, it’s a decent group at best.

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Intentional Hounding

As for the South, it’s Alabama’s Greg McElroy, Florida State’s Christian Ponder and TCU’s Andy Dalton. Like Locker, McElroy shot out of the gate fast Monday but had tapered off considerably by Wednesday. Ponder has a great understanding of the position, although he doesn’t appear to be totally healthy after a forearm injury that bothered him in 2010. Dalton was hit-and-miss going from his spread-option attack to a more conventional pro-style system.

At one point or another, I had an agent, scout or reporter tell me each of the six QBs was the best one there, and then I had another agent, scout or reporter tell me each of the six QBs was the worst one there.

Nobody made more money than Jordan

California defensive end Cameron Jordan came to the Senior Bowl probably no better than a second-round prospect, but he was so dominant against some of the best players in the country that he now has to be considered for Round 1. Quite simply, the 6-4, 280-pounder couldn’t be contained by any of the tackles on the North squad, and three of them are potential first rounders themselves: Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi, Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo and Colorado’s Nate Solder. He made it especially tough on the aforementioned Stanzi, who tends to be a bit slow taking his seven-step drop, as Jordan would practically be waiting for him in the pocket by the time the Hawkeye planted his right foot.

The fact that Jordan has prototypical size for a five-technique end in a 3-4 will only up his stock further, as more NFL teams are using the scheme and that position tends to be rare at the collegiate level.

Three-down running backs harder to find

It’s a good thing so many teams in the NFL are using two-back systems and not relying on 25-carry workhorses anymore, because the Senior Bowl has a lot of secondary ball carriers and third-down options but very few every-down runners. The best bets are Oklahoma’s DeMarco Murray (6-1 and 217 pounds) and Louisville’s Bilal Powell (6-feet, 216), both of whom did well for themselves in Mobile, but Murray looks like a third-round talent and Powell probably won’t come off the board before Round 4. Although he is big enough (6-feet, 230) to take the down-to-down pounding, Georgia Tech’s Anthony Allen has to re-learn how to play tailback since he was a “B” back this past year in coach Paul Johnson’s option offense, which may have been why fellow Yellow Jacket Jonathan Dwyer dropped to Round 6 last April.

As for the little guys, Kendall Hunter of Oklahoma State and Derrick Locke of Kentucky did better for themselves in three days of padded practice than the more highly touted Noel Devine of West Virginia.

Senior Bowl won’t feature a shutdown corner

With the passing game never more important at the NFL level than it is today, every defense in the league needs a plethora of cornerbacks and safeties with coverage skills. There are a pair of elite corners in April’s draft, LSU’s Patrick Peterson and Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara, but neither one of them was at the Senior Bowl, so lesser-known prospects like Curtis Brown of Texas and Kendric Burney of North Carolina took center stage. While Brown’s nature to be overly aggressive made him look bad in a couple of double-move situations, Burney played a lot bigger than his 5-9, 180-pound frame would suggest and starred in one-on-one drills.

Despite six fairly average quarterbacks slinging the ball around in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11, we didn’t see a lot of clean interceptions from the cornerback spot for three days.

Better structure needed for week of practice

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While Marvin Lewis and his staff from the Bengals coached the North team, Chan Gailey and his assistants from the Bills handled the South squad. Looking back, it’s almost impossible to describe just how different the North practices in the morning were when compared to the South workouts in the afternoon, with the former being full of energy and the latter conjuring up images of naptime. Lewis and Co. were barking instructions and encouraging their players to battle it out from start to finish, but Gailey’s crew was much more nonchalant and probably cost a few prospects some valuable reps.

The Senior Bowl isn’t governed as closely by the NFL as February’s Scouting Combine in Indianapolis will be, although it may a sound idea to give next year’s coaches some sort of blueprint so every player has an opportunity to get noticed.