25 Standouts, 15 Disappointments from the 2015 Senior Bowl

Three days of practices and Saturday’s game later, the 2015 Senior Bowl is complete. More than 100 NFL draft hopefuls, including a number of players with a real chance to be first-round picks, participated in this year’s event in an effort to improve their draft stocks.

While the practices are considered to be more important than the game—and all the Senior Bowl activities still are not considered to be as important as what a player showed in his college career—this past week in Mobile will have a real effect on who goes where and when in the draft this April.

In the following rundown, we take a look at which players had the best and worst weeks in Mobile. Note that the following rankings are not a ranking of the order in which these players should be drafted—they are simply indicative of which players helped or hurt themselves the most with their performances at the Senior Bowl.

Top Performer, Defense: Carl Davis, DT, Iowa

Named the Most Outstanding Practice Player of the Week at this year’s Senior Bowl, Davis was also arguably the best player in Saturday’s game. As impressive as any player in Mobile this week from start to finish, the Iowa defensive tackle proved that he is an early-round talent.

In all three of his practice sessions as well as Saturday’s game, Davis made regular appearances in the opposing backfield. The 6’5”, 321-pound defensive tackle displayed tremendous first-step quickness and a great swim move that led his charges through the line of scrimmage to bring pressure against quarterbacks or shut down running plays, including one tackle for loss in Saturday’s game.

Projecting as a starting defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme, Davis solidified himself as a second-round pick this week, and he might have even helped himself to end up in the late first round.

Top Performer, Offense: Ali Marpet, G, Hobart

No player, not even Davis, helped his draft stock more over the course of Senior Bowl week than Hobart College offensive lineman Ali Marpet.

One might have expected that Marpet, the only Division III player at the game this week, would have his flaws exposed as he went up against bigger, stronger and faster opponents than he faced on a weekly basis in college. That’s not what happened. Instead, Marpet won a majority of his battles in pass protection while he showed the power and nastiness to drive his opponents downfield as a run blocker.

An offensive tackle at Hobart, Marpet spent the entire week at guard, a position he looks well suited to continue playing in the NFL. No longer a sleeper, Marpet projects as a fourth-round draft pick after his outstanding week.

3. Hayes Pullard, ILB, USC

In regards to athleticism, playing the run and dropping back into coverage, Pullard stood out far above his peers in the linebacker group at this year’s Senior Bowl.

When going through positional drills with the rest of the linebackers on the North squad during practices, Pullard was clearly the most fluid mover of the crop. He did an excellent job in coverage drills of getting himself in proper positions, staying with his man and even getting his hands on some passes. Against the run, Pullard consistently took good angles to the ball, including on gameday when he tied for the North team lead with five total tackles.

Pullard is small for a linebacker, at just 6’0” and 236 pounds, but he is a very good all-around football player, as he showed this week in Mobile. He has solidified himself as a player who should be a second- or third-round pick.

4. Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State

Lockett probably won’t be the first wide receiver drafted out of this year’s Senior Bowl because he’s not the biggest or fastest. There is real reason to believe that he’ll be the best receiver out of this year’s senior class, however, based upon the polish he showed this week and throughout his collegiate career.

While Lockett is small for a wideout, at 5’10” and 181 pounds, that didn’t stop him from consistently beating defensive backs in Senior Bowl practices. By running clean routes and catching just about every ball that came his way, Lockett was able to take full advantage of his speed and quickness.

Lockett had a solid showing on gameday as well—although he had one drop, he also had three catches for 48 yards, including one concentration grab off the hands of Miami (Ohio) cornerback Quinten Rollins. He gained seven yards between two end-around plays and had a 22-yard kickoff return.

5. Clive Walford, TE, Miami

When safeties and linebackers tried to cover Walford in Mobile this week, they often got embarrassed. Walford put his athleticism on display as he was able to get open and make plays all week long.

While he had as many drops as receptions in Saturday’s game (one each), Walford caught just about every pass that came his way in practices. He was not one of the better blocking tight ends in Mobile, but the 6’4”, 254-pound tight end’s receiving ability stood out well above his peers.

With his great week, Walford solidified himself as one of the top two tight ends in this year’s class (along with Minnesota’s Maxx Williams), which should make him a Day 2 draft pick.

6. Ladarius Gunter, CB, Miami

Much like Walford this past week and defensive end Anthony Chickillo at the East-West Shrine Game, Gunter was another Miami product who stepped up his level of performance in his all-star showcase.

Gunter, the tallest cornerback at the Senior Bowl at 6’1” and 200 pounds, was as good as any cornerback in coverage this week. He showed good feet and fluid hips as he was able to run deep downfield with receivers, while he also showed that he is physical at the catch point and can get his hands on the ball to break up plays.

With four tackles, including one touchdown-saving stop just before halftime, and quality coverage throughout the contest, Gunter continued to impress in Saturday’s game. Possessing one of the best combinations of size and athleticism in this year’s cornerback draft class, Gunter might have elevated himself into the second round with his play in Mobile.

7. Henry Anderson, DE, Stanford

Heavily hyped by a faction of draft analysts coming into the week, Anderson made his supporters look smart with a strong showing during the week’s practices.

Anderson, who is well-built to play defensive end in a 3-4 scheme at 6’6” and 287 pounds, showed an impressive combination of strength and hand skills this week. He held his ground well against the run while he consistently showed the ability to rip with his hands to work his way off of blocks and get through the line of scrimmage.

In Saturday’s game, Anderson missed a couple of opportunities for tackles but had two quarterback hits. Overall, Anderson had a great week and established himself as a likely third-round pick.

8. Laken Tomlinson, G, Duke

A first-team All-American this past season, Tomlinson proved himself to be one of the top guard prospects in this year’s draft class during Senior Bowl week. The 6’3”, 323-pound Duke product showed his strength and technical prowess this week as he showed an ability to move defenders off the line of scrimmage while he held his ground regularly in pass protection.

Known for his excellence not only on the field, but also in the classroom and in the community, Tomlinson received no shortage of praise for his play this week. He was named by a panel of NFL scouts as the top practice performer among offensive linemen, while Carl Davis and Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton both named Tomlinson as one of the toughest opponents they faced in practices this week.

Having impressed scouts in Mobile, Tomlinson is now in good position to be a second-round pick.

9. Kevin White, CB, TCU

White is small for a cornerback at just 5’9” and 180 pounds, but that did not stop him from shutting down his opponents in coverage all week at the Senior Bowl. A physical and technically sound cornerback with great feet, White won the majority of his coverage repetitions and showed his ability to make plays on the ball.

Named as the top practice performer among cornerbacks this week, White continued to impress in Saturday’s game, in which he had a diving interception. Even though his draft stock is limited by his lack of size, White made a strong case in Mobile for being a Day 2 draft pick.

10. Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke

Another small player with big game, Crowder measured in at just 5’8” and 174 pounds at weigh-ins yet gave defensive backs trouble in trying to cover him all week.

Explosive off the line of scrimmage, Crowder was able to use his acceleration to release around cornerbacks and beat them deep. By coming off the line so fast and then being able to extend his separation with quick route breaks, Crowder was able to keep cornerbacks from taking him out of plays with their size and physicality.

Cornerbacks “consistently said” Crowder was the toughest receiver to cover this week, according to NFL Media’s Charles Davis, and it was apparent throughout the week of practices that he gave them trouble. He had a gaffe in Saturday’s game as he muffed a punt, but overall, he boosted his chances this week of being a Day 2 draft pick.

11. Preston Smith, DE, Mississippi State

A versatile defensive lineman, Smith showed his ability to win both outside and inside this week.

While Smith is not the type to explode around the corner with speed, he has a great combination of length, strength and hand skills. He showed that combination this week as he was able to work his way through blockers into the backfield. After a productive week of practice, Smith tied for the South team lead with five total tackles, including a strip sack.

Smith has the skill set to multiple roles in any defensive scheme, and should be a second-round draft pick as a result.

12. Grady Jarrett, DT, Clemson

Jarrett was the smallest defensive tackle in Mobile, at just 6’1” and 288 pounds, but he played to his strengths all week as he consistently showed the ability to work by defenders and penetrate the backfield during practice drills.

Quick with his hands and explosive with his burst, Jarrett beat many blockers off the snap in one-on-one drills, and even showed some ability to bull-rush blockers back.

Jarrett’s lack of size makes him unlikely to be a regular interior run-stopper at the next level, but the ability to penetrate that he showed this week gives him potential as a 3-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 front. He is a likely third-day draft pick.

13. Stephone Anthony, ILB, Clemson

Known coming into the week for his ability to be a run-stopping thumper between the hashes, Anthony showed more athleticism this week than many thought he had, and put himself in strong position to be a third-round draft pick as a result.

Named as the top practice performer among linebackers this week, Anthony showed good fluidity in moving outside and held his own in coverage drills. He continued to perform well in Saturday’s game, in which he recorded four tackles.

14. Joey Mbu, DT, Houston

Another of the many defensive tackles who had strong showings in Mobile, Mbu displayed impressive point-of-attack strength and a strong spin move which he used to work his way around offensive linemen throughout the week of practices.

While Mbu is not particularly explosive off the snap, he is a solid athlete at 6’3” and 315 pounds. He looked the part of a 4-3 nose tackle this week, and put himself in good position to be a fourth-round draft pick.

15. Gabe Wright, DT, Auburn

Coming off an underwhelming senior season, Wright rejuvenated his draft stock in Mobile as he once again put his explosive quickness and ability to penetrate on display.

With a great burst and quick hands, Wright proved to be a handful for his opponents to deal with in practices, especially on Wednesday. Then even after missing Thursday’s practice with a foot sprain, Wright not only participated in Saturday’s game, but blew up two plays in the backfield, four yards behind the line of scrimmage each time.

Wright is somewhat inconsistent but when he has a good repetition, he can be in the backfield in a flash. That ability, reaffirmed this week, could make the 6’3”, 299-pound defensive tackle a second- or third-round pick.

16. Hau’oli Kikaha, OLB, Washington

Clearly best suited to be an edge defender, Kikaha was put into a tough position to succeed this week as he spent most of the practice sessions working with the linebackers rather than the pass-rushers. This was especially problematic for Kikaha in coverage drills, in which he looked completely out of place trying to match up with tight ends downfield.

When he had chances to pass-rush this week, however, Kikaha continued to look like the player who led the Football Bowl Subdivision in sacks this past season. He used his burst and hand skills to beat tight ends with ease, and also to work his way past offensive tackles when he had opportunities to work as a defensive end. Kikaha also did a nice job setting the edge against the run in team drills.

Some analysts focused on the negatives with Kikaha this week, but he was impressive at his best. While he was put in unfamiliar territory when asked to play as an off-ball linebacker, his effort to improve was clear, especially on Wednesday, when he came back to the field more than 30 minutes after the end of practice to work on his coverage drops.

17. Danny Shelton, DT, Washington

One of the most highly rated players at this year’s Senior Bowl, Shelton stood out from a physical standpoint and solidified his standing as a first-round draft pick.

A massive man at 6’2” and 343 pounds with enormous calves, Shelton continued to overwhelm many of his opponents with his combination of size and quickness, much like he did in his collegiate career. Shelton still needs to do more with his hands, but his potential stood out in Mobile. He was among the eight players in Saturday’s game to record five total tackles.

18. Louis Trinca-Pasat, DT, Iowa

Even this week, Trinca-Pasat could not escape the shadow of his more highly regarded teammate Davis, but he had an impressive week in his own right. Very agile for a defensive tackle, Trinca-Pasat showed his abilities to burst into the backfield and to move laterally in order to bring pressure and make run stops around the line of scrimmage.

At times this week, the 6’2” and 291-pound defensive tackle was driven backward by bigger and more powerful opponents. But he also showed some surprising bull-rushing ability of his own, and was as disruptive in the backfield as any defensive tackle—except for Davis—in Mobile.

19. Rob Havenstein, OT, Wisconsin

While Havenstein was among the players who I projected to make money before the week began, my expectation was that Havenstein would see more work at guard this week and stand out there. Instead, he continued to play right tackle for most of the week and flourished at that position, as he looked much better than a number of offensive tackles who came into the week more highly regarded than him.

One of the biggest players at the Senior Bowl at 6’7” and 332 pounds, Havenstein had an impressive week in pass protection, as he used his length and strength to consistently get his hands on his opponents and shut them down. Also a strong run blocker, Havenstein elevated his stock as a right tackle prospect this week, and solidified himself as a Day 2 draft pick.

20. Tyler Varga, RB/FB, Yale

Accentuated by an impressive weigh-in to start the week and a two-touchdown performance in Saturday’s game, Varga had a very good week at the Senior Bowl that proved the Ivy League product and Canadian native is a legitimate NFL draft prospect.

A tailback at Yale but listed as a fullback on the North roster this week, Varga turned heads immediately as he displayed an impressive physique at 5’10” and 227 pounds during Tuesday morning’s weigh-in. He proceeded to show a well-rounded skill set over the course of the week as he caught the ball cleanly in practices and made some strong lead blocks in Saturday’s game.

Varga is not an explosive athlete, so he won’t be selected higher than the late rounds of the draft, but his ability to contribute in many ways could make him a valuable role player on an NFL roster.

21. Rannell Hall, WR, Central Florida

No receiver made more highlight-reel-worthy catches over the course of Senior Bowl week than Hall. Including a 32-yard leaping grab over Oregon State cornerback Steven Nelson in Saturday’s game, Hall showed the ability to attack the ball in the air and make contested catches all week.

A good athlete who is also known for his returning ability, Hall legitimized himself as a receiving prospect this week. The 6’0”, 193-pound pass-catcher should draw serious consideration as a Day 3 draft pick, and should be a solid fourth or fifth receiver on an NFL team’s depth chart.

22. Steven Nelson, CB, Oregon State

Aside from the aforementioned deep catch he allowed to Hall—a play on which he was in perfect coverage position—Nelson stood out in his ability to shut down opposing receivers and help lead the North squad to win during Saturday’s game.

Following up on a solid week of practice, Nelson provided tight coverage all game long as he recorded two pass breakups and was in position on a number of incomplete passes that were thrown his directions.

Nelson is a small cornerback, at just 5’10” and 199 pounds, but he is a good athlete who should draw serious consideration after this week from teams looking for a slot cornerback. He is a likely third- or fourth-round draft pick.

23. Dezmin Lewis, WR, Central Arkansas

He didn’t get much attention this week, as Yahoo! Sports’ Eric Edholm noted, but Lewis was one of the most impressive small-schoolers who participated in the Senior Bowl.

Both in practices and the game, Lewis consistently showed the ability to adjust to the ball and make tough catches. Possessing a good combination of size and speed at 6’3” and 215 pounds, Lewis had no trouble elevating his play against top competition. Likely a fourth- or fifth-round pick in a deep class of wide receivers, Lewis could turn out to be a steal.

24. Lynden Trail, OLB, Norfolk State

Perhaps the most intriguing physical specimen at this year’s Senior Bowl, Lynden Trail showed this week why he is generating buzz as a draft prospect despite playing his college football at Norfolk State.

While he has the size of a defensive end at 6’6” and 262 pounds, Trail showed this week that he has the athleticism to drop back into coverage and pick up tight ends and running backs. Trail even switched sides for some red zone work as a tight end himself during the final day of practice, and he made a touchdown catch over coverage.

Trail is still a raw talent—that much was clear this week—but his physical attributes give him the potential to be a very versatile addition to an NFL defense. An impressive showing in Mobile makes him a likely third- or fourth-round pick.

25. Lorenzo Mauldin, OLB, Louisville

While fellow edge defenders Kikaha and Nate Orchard (Utah) looked out of place as linebackers in pass coverage drills, Mauldin—like Trail—looked comfortable dropping back into coverage this week.

On one instance in practice, Mauldin dropped 40 yards to the end zone to cover a tight end effectively, a play for which he was rightfully praised by a Jaguars coach. He continued to impress in coverage in Saturday’s game, making a diving play on a 3rd-and-8 pass that broke up what would have been a first down, and nearly resulted in an interception.

It is impressive to see a well-built player like Mauldin, at 6’4” and 256 pounds, show the versatility to be an off-ball linebacker that he did this week. While he is best suited to be a 3-4 outside linebacker, his display this week showed that he could also play some linebacker in a 4-3 scheme, even though he might be better suited there to play defensive end. Mauldin solidified himself as a second-round pick in Mobile.

Honorable Mentions:

Za’Darius Smith, DE, Kentucky – One of the stars of the Shrine Game, Smith continued to take advantage of his opportunities with another productive week in Mobile after getting a late call-up to the Senior Bowl.

Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn – During the week of practices, Coates looked like the first-round player that some analysts believe he is, as the big, fast wideout ran crisp routes and caught the ball consistently. Saturday’s game did not go as well for Coates, however, as he missed multiple opportunities for catches and had to leave early with a groin injury.

Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami – Quite possibly the fastest player in the 2015 draft class, Dorsett was yet another standout from Miami this week. He made some impressive catches downfield against coverage and was named the top practice performer among wide receivers.

David Cobb, RB, Minnesota – Cobb followed up a solid week of practices with a strong gameday performance in which he had 69 rushing yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, as well as two receptions for 16 yards.

Disappointments

1-6. The Quarterbacks

Exactly the same way I started off my list of Shrine Game disappointments last week, all the quarterbacks are grouped together because none of them did anything this week to dispel the notion that this year’s senior class of signal-callers is devoid of prospects with the potential to be NFL starters.

Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson was named the top practice performer among quarterbacks this week, and he leaves the Senior Bowl in position to be the top senior quarterback and fourth overall passer selected, but that’s only because he was and has been the least bad of a group of signal-callers—excluding quarterbacks who still had remaining collegiate eligibility in Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Florida State’s Jameis Winston and UCLA’s Brett Hundley—that does not include any player worthy of a top-100 draft pick.

As a whole, the group of quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl—which also included Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Oregon State’s Sean Mannion, East Carolina’s Shane Carden, Alabama’s Blake Sims and Southeastern Louisiana’s Bryan Bennett—struggled this week with accuracy and decision-making. Grayson and Petty are likely to be selected between the third and fifth rounds because of the quarterback class’ lack of depth, but none of the others are sure bets to be drafted.

7. Ty Sambrailo, OT, Colorado State

Like his teammate Grayson, Sambrailo was a player who I expected to make money coming into this week, but I was wrong. Instead of solidifying himself as a first-round pick, Sambrailo appeared to not belong within the draft’s top 32 selections.

Sambrailo struggled all week with bull-rushes and inside moves, while the 6’6”, 309-pound offensive tackle’s noted athleticism did not stand out. He admitted himself after the first practice that he struggled with the move to right tackle—where he spent most of the week—and it looked as though he never found his comfort zone this week.

While Sambrailo has the upside to potentially play on either side of the line as a tackle or guard, he needs to become stronger and more technically sound. He should still be a second-round draft pick, but his stock took a big hit in Mobile.

8. T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh

Another offensive tackle who was projected to be a first-round pick coming into Senior Bowl week, Clemmings also failed to live up to expectations, putting his potential to be a top-32 pick in jeopardy.

A 6’5”, 307-pound offensive tackle with tremendous length, athleticism and ability to generate power, Clemmings has arguably the most potential of any offensive tackle in this year’s draft class, but he’s still a raw talent. The latter was clear this week, as he was regularly beaten in pass protection during one-on-one drills.

Clemmings’ physical attributes could still be enough for a team to take a chance on him in Round 1, but his week in Mobile that he is a developmental right tackle prospect, not an instant fix at the position.

9. Reese Dismukes, C, Auburn

Dismukes is in the mix to be one of the top centers selected in this year’s draft class, but he didn’t look like he belonged that at any point during Senior Bowl week.

A small center at 6’3” and 295 pounds, Dismukes looked physically overmatched throughout the week, as he was regularly driven straight backward on bull rush or beaten off the snap by quickness, raising serious questions about whether he can actually be a starting center in the NFL.

Dismukes is an experienced and smart player who had a great collegiate career, but he’s no sure bet to be selected any higher than the fourth round after a disappointing showing in Mobile.

10. Austin Shepherd, OT/G, Alabama

There are annually more players from Alabama at the Senior Bowl than those who actually deserve to be there, but the one who looked really out of place this week was offensive lineman Austin Shepherd.

Shepherd spent time lining up at both offensive tackle and guard during practices, and did not look good at either position. Limited in both strength and quickness, the 6’4”, 324-pound lineman was beaten like a drum in one-on-one drills. He should not be considered worthy of a draft pick.

11. Donatella Luckett, WR, Harding

While there were a number of small-schoolers who stood out against top competition this week, Luckett was one who did not look like he belonged.

A 6’0”, 206-pound wide receiver with no spectacular physical traits, Luckett dropped passes off his hands throughout the week and struggled to separate from coverages. In a very talented group of receivers at this year’s Senior Bowl, Luckett simply did not stack up. He did not look worthy of a draft selection.

12. Anthony Jefferson, S, UCLA

Jefferson was another miss for me on my list of players that were expected to make money. The UCLA safety was as solid in coverage as any safety in attendance, but he did not stand out and struggled against the run.

The 6’1”, 194-pound safety had a really poor performance in Saturday’s game, in which he was made to miss by multiple running backs and was also hurdled by Delaware tight end Nick Boyle on a catch-and-run. Jefferson should be a draft pick but selected no higher than the fourth or fifth round.

13. Martrell Spaight, OLB, Arkansas

While nothing stood out about Spaight’s game in Mobile, he was regularly beaten while trying to cover tight ends in coverage drills. At 6’0” and 227 pounds, Spaight is an undersized linebacker who struggles in pass defense, which is a bad combination.

Spaight was more impressive in Saturday’s game, in which he tied for the game lead with five total tackles, but there was not much to indicate that the probable late-round pick’s production Saturday will translate to next-level success.

14. Senquez Golson, CB, Mississippi

Golson, who was unable to play in Saturday’s game, was in proper coverage positions for the most part during practices this week. Even so, Golson still allowed many catches in front of him because bigger receivers were able to box out the 5’8”, 178-pound cornerback.

While some other small cornerbacks like Kevin White and Florida Atlantic’s D’Joun Smith showed an ability to compete for every ball this week because of their physicality, Golson did not show the same ability to get his hands in on passes and break them up. He is a talented slot cornerback prospect coming off a big senior year, but he might have been surpassed by players like White and Steven Nelson this week.

15. Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State

Known for his ability to be a game-changer in the deep passing game, Smith did not make any of his signature big plays in either practices or Saturday’s game.

Smith did not necessarily have a bad week, as he showed some skills in the short and intermediate passing areas, while he also made a strong tackle on a kickoff return in Saturday’s game, showing his special teams value. What this week did show, however, was that the sudden first-round hype that Smith was receiving—hype predicated on Smith’s ability to win deep—was overzealous, as Smith failed to stand out in one-on-one battles this week.

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