Top Seniors Not in MobileTuesday, January 24, 2012
The present focus of NFL front offices is in Mobile, Alabama, but several top seniors are not attending the Senior Bowl for various reasons. Before we get too far into the week, I wanted to give my thoughts on the top senior prospects not participating.
Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill (6-4/222/4.65) - The former Aggie was forced out of the Senior Bowl due to a broken foot, curtailing his NFL exposure in a prime opportunity. The quarterback-needy Redskins would have coached him in Mobile. Tannehill played some wide receiver at A&M, but is a natural signal caller. Possessing a compact release with velocity to make throws downfield or outside the numbers, Tannehill projects as an NFL starter. The biggest issue is that he requires more time to develop after starting at quarterback for just over one year. Tannehill's decision-making is also in question, as he forces throws into coverage too often while not setting his feet. Tannehill does flash top-level arm talent and his mobility is a bonus, but like many rookies his aptitude to diagnose coverages quickly must improve.
Baylor WR Kendall Wright (5-10/190/4.42) - In a class lacking a clear-cut premier wideout, Wright will top many positional rankings among teams in need of a vertical threat. But pigeonholing Wright as a downfield threat only undersells him, as versatility is one of his best assets. At Baylor, Wright lined up at all three receiver spots and faced press, off, man, and zone coverage. He beat them all consistently with explosion at every segment of his routes. Wright makes acrobatic catches look easy, adjusting to poorly thrown balls and regularly laying out despite contact. Few receivers below six-foot get drafted in the first round, but Wright will be an exception. While the Steve Smith comparisons are valid, keep in mind that Wright makes fewer plays after leaving his feet on 50/50 balls than the Panthers' All Pro. He's a bit less physical at the catch point. Still, it would not be shocking if Wright emerges as a top-15 overall draft pick. His return ability is another big plus.
Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd (6-3/224/4.54) - Like Wright, Floyd has had success from every receiver position, but in a bigger frame. Floyd may lack quicks off the line, but he eats up cushion with long strides and is very physical at the top of routes and at the catch point. Floyd's length helps when securing contested catches away from his body and he is unafraid of leaving his feet. Floyd’s most glaring red flags may be character concerns; he had multiple alcohol-related issues early in his college career. But with an outstanding catch radius and understanding of how to use his large frame, Floyd is directly in the battle to be the first receiver taken as long as he passes background checks.
Penn State DT Devon Still (6-4/310/5.06) - No defensive tackle in the nation was more consistently dominant than Still this season. While Still shows a tendency to come off the line high, he uses his powerful upper body to lift the opposition and create leverage. Still's height is another advantage, as he is regularly aware of the developing play. He always seems to have his eyes up while dealing with offensive linemen -- an undervalued skill. Anticipation and timing to shed blocks are two more areas where Still shines, using strong hands that repeatedly overpower guards and centers. For a player with a massive frame, Still gets plenty of penetration, either shooting the gap or using an arm-over swim. Still's biggest concern may be his medical history. He tore his left ACL and MCL in 2007 and broke his left ankle in 2008. He's missing the Senior Bowl with a toe sprain.
West Virginia DE/OLB Bruce Irvin (6-2/245/4.54) - Irvin played severely out of position in college as a defensive end in a 3-3-5 scheme. A JUCO transfer before his junior year, Irvin relied too much on natural athleticism rather than technique. His best move is a speed rush to an outside dip, blowing by heavier-footed tackles. However, Irvin's get-off is average at best, and he lacks any kind of counter move after his initial momentum is stopped. In fact, Irvin rarely engages in contact, acting more like a running back avoiding hits than a physical pass rusher. This translates to limited success versus the run, where Irvin continuously looks tentative and nearly helpless. While 3-4 teams are intrigued by Irvin's speed rush, he needs badly to develop a counter move. The reason for Irvin's absence this week is unclear.
Alabama S Mark Barron (6-1/218/4.56) - Widely considered the draft's top safety, Barron's experience at both free and strong will appeal to teams that employ interchangeable safeties. Barron is very communicative on the field, either in the box with linebackers or with defensive backs. Barron is not the most fluid safety with short hitches when flowing to play, but he takes aggressive angles and closes quickly against the run. Barron uses a methodical approach, limiting his broken coverages and overrun plays. Though he is a well-built safety, Barron possesses fluid hip turn in deep coverage and undercuts catchable throws. I would like to see Barron play with a bit more controlled aggression when delivering hits, but his patience is better than the alternative. Not believed to be dealing with any injury, Barron declined his Senior Bowl invite and is focusing all his efforts on the Combine.