By BBD Writer Eric Samulski
Senior Bowl week is usually one of the most exciting for scouts and football fans alike. It’s a great opportunity to see some of the best college football players battling against each other one on one. It’s a way to test the players from big schools and really see if the small school guys can step up in competition. For fans of teams, like the Bills, who are used to picking early in the draft it’s a great way to look at some players who might fit with your team.
However, at times it can be hard to sort through the names and short glimpses of practice on NFL Network. Below is a list of prospects to really keep an eye on this week. I’ve left off some of the guys that Bills fans probably have been hearing about since the season ended (Ryan Nassib, Eric Fisher, Mike Glennon, Ezekiel Ansah, Alex Okafor) and tried to focus on some personal favorites or players that people might not have seen a lot of.
Zac Dysert QB Miami (OH)
Dysert has solid size and exceptional football IQ. His passes have good zip, usually hit receivers in stride, and he does a solid job of looking off the defense. I’m very interested to see what he does with a good supporting cast. In school he had no running game and receivers dropping passes left and right. He could turn into an Andy Dalton-type starter.
EJ Manuel, QB Florida State
Yes, I never miss a time to suggest the value of EJ Manuel. Strong-armed, athletic, solidly built, Manuel has many of the tools needed to be a legit starter in the NFL. He’s one of the most accurate quarterbacks in college football, and although he could do better in the face of blitzes, Manuel would be a strong fit in Marrone’s system.
Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends
Aaron Dobson, WR Marshall
A wide receiver that I really like, Dobson was severely affected by his lack of quarterback play during his time at Marshall. He’s a good athlete, but has incredible ability to make plays at the top of his jumps. He has strong hands and plays bigger than his size. The biggest question marks for him are if he can put the potential together when he has legitimate players throwing him the ball.
Quinton Patton, WR Louisiana Tech
An under the radar prospect, Patton is the type of player who slips in the draft process because he won’t test impressively, but shows up on game days. He’s not fast, but has sneaky speed and can get behind corners regularly. He changes directions well and adjusts to the ball in the air, and he’s also a willing and able blocker. He’s probably a #2 receiver in the NFL, but he can be a very good one.
Aaron Mellette, WR Elon
Coming into the season, many people expected Mellette to have a Brian Quick-type rise up draft boards. Like Quick, Mellette experiences mental lapses that result in dropped passes and him taking himself out of the game. However, Mellette will always intrigue people because of his size and the speed that he brings along with it. If somebody has patience with him and works on his concentration issues, he has high upside.
Cobi Hamilton, WR Arkansas
A physical receiver, Hamilton uses his body well to shield receivers and is tough to bring down after the catch. He catches well with his hands, which is good for jump ball situations because he doesn’t have the speed to consistently get by defenders at the next level.
Ryan Otten, TE San Jose State
Otten might not be the type of athlete that guys like Gronk or Pitta are, but at 6’6” 250 he has sure hands and solid body control when going up for the catch. While not a powerful blocker, he has good technique and is willing, which is a good sign for improvement. He’s been able to get behind linebackers for big gains, so it’s time to see if he can do it against better competition.
Nick Kasa, TE Colorado
Kasa has proven that he can stretch the seam as a receiver. He leads the Buffaloes in yards per reception in only his first season at tight-end after converting from the defensive line. If he can continue to learn the position, he could be a guy that really emerges.
Brian Schwenke, C California
Schwenke is seeing his value rise after a strong senior season that saw him named first team All-Pac 12. He played left guard and right guard during his first three collegiate seasons before moving over to center, so he has the versatility that provides value in a late round pick.
Brian Winters, OG Kent State
Winters has short arms, which will likely mean that he needs to move inside, but he has the type of nasty disposition that I love in my offensive lineman. He keeps his body low and really jams blockers who try to come in on him. Since he’s making the transition I’d love to see him really excel inside in drills.
Larry Warford, OG Kentucky
Warford is a powerful blocker at 330 pounds, but he’s actually surprisingly athletic for his size. Kentucky used him to pull a lot, which helped to open up their run game. He gets little attention because of his school, but powerful blockers always rise up in the postseason.
Kyle Long, OG/OT Oregon
Long has the size and ability to be a star at the next level. The concerns are that he had an issue with chemical dependency at Florida State, spent time playing baseball, and saw inconsistent playing time this season, most of which came at guard. However, at 6-foot-7, Long has the length and foot quickness to develop and has great football pedigree from his father, Howie, and brother, Chris. Long could be turned into a starting left tackle in a season or two or could be an immediate starter at guard.
Offensive Lineman/ Linebackers
Nico Johnson, OLB Alabama
Johnson was Alabama’s third-leading tackler on the season and has163 tackles over four seasons, including 16.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions. He specializes in run defense, shows very good eyes and diagnoses plays quickly. He does a good job using his hands to beat blockers and gets adequate depth on drops in underneath zone coverage. However, he comes off the field on obvious passing downs in college because he has below average athleticism and struggles to change directions. But good tacklers and instinctual players are often successful at the next level.
Chase Thomas, OLB Stanford
Thomas finished his senior year with 7.5 sacks and 64 total tackles. He has position versatility, which is good for a hybrid defense, but his best attributes are his nose for the football and ability to diagnose developing plays. However, he lacks the size to really take on blockers and tries to turn the corner when pass rushing. His experience in coverage is limited, but he can hold down most zones and has the flexibility that could intrigue Pettine.
Kevin Reddick, ILB North Carolina
Reddick is more of a strong tackler, who was used frequently to rush the quarterback on passing downs at North Carolina. He will need to show some coverage skill to get teams to see him as an every-down contributor, but he has the physicality and wrap-up skills that allow him to make lots of plays on the field.
Margus Hunt, DE SMU
Another defensive lineman with limited football experience, Hunt arrived at SMU to train with their track coach. Hunt, 6-7, 280, is something of a prodigy in that area, as he became the first person to win gold in both the discus and shot put in the World Junior Championships. But after joining the football team, Hunt has emerged as a handful for opposing offenses. His best position at the next level may be 3-4 defensive end, which means that he’s drawn (lofty) J.J. Watt comparisons. A dominant week in practice against an impressive crew of offensive linemen could move Hunt into first-round consideration.
Datone Jones, DE UCLA
At 6’4” 280, Jones looks like a prototypical 4-3 DE, but he has incredible athleticism and near non-existent body fat, which helps to make him a truly explosive quick-twitch athlete. He’s been effective all over the Bruins defensive line and has also contributed in special teams. It’s that type of explosion and versatility that could make teams take notice.
Will Davis, CB Utah State
Davis has good size and is a rare college corner that truly excels in man coverage. He leads the nation in passes defended and has a knack for making picks as well. Considering he just recently began starting for the Aggies it suggest that he may still have real room to grow.
Leon McFadden, CB San Diego State
McFadden is a very athletic corner and another guy who has a knack for making plays on the ball. He can “click and close” well when changing directions and has impressive speed. He needs to prove that he can play with more physicality, but the raw tools are certainly there to be a strong cover corner.
Jonathan Cyprien, CB Florida International
A strong safety who some think could project to corner, Cyprien has the type of versatility that would intrigue hybrid defenses. He’s strong in run support, but also showed ability to make plays on the ball in the air. He may not have great size, and has solid but not spectacular speed, but he can do everything well.
Jordan Poyer, CB Oregon State
Poyer might be the definition of a play-maker. Despite missing time with an ankle injury, he still was able to pace the Beavers with seven interceptions. He may not be the best tackler in run support due to his smallish frame, but he plays physicality and truly enjoys being up in press coverage, which seems to fit well with Pettine’s system.
So who will you be watching on Saturday the 26th at 4pm on the NFL Network!
Senior Bowl Week Reports:
OLB Arthur Brown-Kansas State
WR Denard Robinson-Michigan
OLB Khaseem Greene-Rutgers
CB Desmond Trufant-Washington
QB Mike Glennon-NC State
OLB Chase Thomas-Stanford
WR Cobi Hamilton-Arkansas
OLB Zaviar Gooden-Missouri
SAF Jonthan Cyprien-FIU
RB Jonathan Franklin-UCLA
WR Markus Wheaton-Oregon State
OT Kyle Long-Oregon
DT Brandon Williams-Missouri Southern
QB Landy Jones-Oklahoma
DE Datone Jones-UCLA
QB Tyler Wilson-Arkansas