Armed with early draft grades and plenty of scouting information, NFL Head Coaches head to Mobile Alabama in late January to get (in most cases) their first glance of this years aspiring rookie talent. The Senior Bowl is an invite only event, where those graduating Seniors considered "NFL Ready" have a chance to display their talent. The Senior Bowl is the first time that early draft grade perceptions begin to change. The chosen talent pool provides a unique parity among prospects to separate themselves from the competition.
Here we take a brief look at some of the most intriguing fantasy prospects to keep your eye on through the 2010 NFL Draft Season.
Quarterbacks face the tough challenge of learning new terminology and offensive systems. They must also prove they can make all the throws in the NFL route tree within a rigid timing limit very dissimilar to the usual college based spread offense. The Senior class of QB's were generally underwhelming this week, with no impressive standouts.
Tim Tebow (Florida) was the big story this week. Amidst much criticisim of his ability to play QB at the next level, Tebow further defended his high character and competitiveness by choosing to take part in this weeks activities. Tebow struggled most of the week, looking really good at times followed by inept. His inconsistency results from a tendency to guide the football with both high and low releases of the football. His poor mechanics further increase his lack of arm strength. His long delivery is comparable to Byron Leftwich. Tebow had difficulty getting through his progression this week. When throwing to his first option read, he looks NFL ready. When required to go to his 2nd or 3rd options, or forced to move within the pocket, he looked lost. He did show some improvement with his footwork through the week however. Tebow went 8 for 12 for 50 yards passing in the game. His ability to rush the ball also looked limited.
Tony Pike (Cinncinati) is looking to be the highest rated Senior QB. Because of his size (6'-6" 225 lbs) he will be compared to Joe Flacco throughout Draft Season. Despite his huge arm however, he does not quite have Flacco velocity...yet. He appeared to drop casually within the pocket earlier in the week, but showed improvement on his 5 and 7 step drops by the end of the week. While definitley a developmental prospect, Pike is a video game type of QB that over time can use his skill set to evolve into a starting NFL QB. Look for Pike to improve his draft stock at the combine. Pike went 5 for 12 for 45 yards in the game.
Jarrett Brown (West Virginia) looks to be a player that would benefit to play for a couple of years within a system that implements the wildcat. He is a big player (6'-4" 223) that throws better on the run. A consistent release point and an agressive throwing style makes for him to be an intriuging prospect. Brown went 4 for 7 and 57 yards and 1 INT in the game.
Sean Canfield (Oregon State) is a left handed quarterback that is known more for his mechanics and accuracy than arm strength. Canfield will likely find a place on an NFL roster, however his skill set (smart QB with a weak arm) makes him more of a solid backup quarterback prospect than future starter. Canfield went 2 for 4 and 37 yards with an INT in the game.
Dan LeFevour (Central Michigan) passed for more yards than any other MACC player in history. While LeFevour was the standout QB of the Bowl game, his inconsistencies (similar to Tebow) were evident enough that he still has lots of technique work ahead of him. Without ideal arm stregth, LeFevour will look to earn a spot in the league as a perennial backup. LeFevour was the North squads standout with a couple of nice deep throws in the 4th quarter. LeFevour went 5 for 10 for 97 yards and a TD in the game. He also added a rushing TD.
Dexter McCluster (Ole Miss) will be one of the most intriuging prospects in this years draft. McCluster is very small, measuring in at (5'-8" 165 lbs). Recognized as the fastest player on the field throughout the entire week, he let it be known that because of his size he will always play with a chip on his shoulder. He will obviously take criticisim about his ability to handle an NFL workload as a RB, but his versatility will surely land him on an NFL roster somewhere. He is a very good kick returner and can be utilized as more of a Wes Welker, Percy Harvin, DeSean Jackson Hybrid type player we are seeing more of in the NFL.
LaGarrette Blount (Oregon) is a big boy measuring in a 6'-0" 245 lbs. A prototypical inside rusher, he will likely find a spot on a roster looking to add a power rusher of necessary depth to their backfield. His size will make him an intriuging prospect to NFL teams, however he already has knocks against him with regard to character issues and whether he can develop and NFL IQ. He showed to have nice speed, but a lack of a "second gear". Blount scored the only rushing TD by an RB in the game.
Joique Bell (Wayne State) is a very deep sleeper in this years draft. At times this week, his skill set was compared to a Brian Westbrook type of versatility, and at (5'-11" 223 lbs) he can be an inside runner at the next level. An absolute Beast in Division II, he set many records at Wayne State. Bell improved over Senior Bowl week and showed great rushing ability, terrific receiving skills and was a dangerous open field runner.
Anthony Dixon (Mississippi State) is another big body inside rusher prospect. At 6'-1" 245 lbs, Dixon can raise his draft stock by posting good numbers at the combine. Dixon had a very productive collegiate career where he was the focal point of opposing defenses. Dixon also played in a West Coast and Spread System while at Miss. State, so his background will raise his stock some. Dixon served a suspension in 2009 for being charged with a DUI in his senior year.
Jacoby Ford (Clemson) is looking to make a name for himself as a vertical deep play threat. At 5'-9" 181 lbs, Ford has a skill set to establish himself as a kick returner and slot receiver in the proper situation. He struggled early in the week, but made improvements as the weekend progressed. Ford had a single rush for 6 yards and 1 receptions for 7 yards in this years Senior Bowl game. We are excited to see more here.
Mardy Gilyard (Cincinnati) remedied an early week slow start and plethora of dropped passes by posting a stat line of 5 catches for 103 yards and a TD. He also showed great explosiveness on kick return duty with 77 yards on two returns. Gilyard weighed in at only 179 lbs raising concerns about his ability to beat press coverage against NFL corners. His Combine 40-time is a very important number for Gilyard's draft stock.
Jeremy Williams (Tulane) was the surprise WR standout of the Senior Bowl game. His 110 all purpose yards on 7 total touches are sure to gain the attention of scouts this upcoming season. Williams has an injury plagued past, most noteably two separate knee injuries, one of which ended his 2008 season after only 5 games.
Jimmy Graham (Miami) will take knocks for only playing one season of collegiate football while at Miami, however his talent is undeniable. At 6'-6" and 250 lbs (some reports have him as big as 6'-8" 258) he showed an ability to run crisp routes and displayed excellent hands catching everything in site. An ex-basketball player (forward) Graham is not a blocker by any means, but in the right situation, he could become a dangerous deep field threat. He reportedly stepped in immediately in early week practices and burned linebackers and safeties with ease. Graham finished the 2010 Senior Bowl with 3 catches for 29 yards.