2013 Senior Bowl Preview: Defensive Prospects to Watch
2013 Senior Bowl
The Week of January 26th, the NFL descends upon the city of Mobile, Alabama and it is overtaken by the league and hundreds of media members who are all there for a single purpose. The 2013 Senior Bowl. The Senior Bowl is the premier college football all-star game among what is an ever-growing number of these exhibitions that showcase the top college football prospects in what is their final real audition for the 2013 NFL draft.
The Senior Bowl is a staple of the NFL draft circuit and every season they are able to boast that when the draft comes around, their players are among the top seniors drafted. This year that should hold true once again. For NFL teams and draft pundits the real action of the Senior Bowl takes place during practice. This is where players can be observed closely and under a controlled environment that is controlled by NFL coaching staffs. This year's teams will be coached by the staffs of the Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders.
The way many teams operate when it comes to scouting players is they give prospects a grade so to speak, and to this point is based on their play during the season. And obviously every team weighs the Senior Bowl practices and game differently, but in over ten years of doing this I have never heard of a team that did not weigh how a player does during the Senior Bowl week significantly into their final evaluation.
Senior Bowl prospects fall into 3 categories for me. First you have the highly rated prospect who comes out and performs to either cement or improve their draft stock. For some players it's just a matter of getting their name out there and bringing attention to their game to NFL teams and sending them back to find film on them. These might be players who played on bad teams or against lower level competition and this is a chance for them to open some eyes to them as prospects. The final group are those prospects who might have gone into the season highly rated, but for whatever reason have struggled, so the Senior Bowl is their own personal road to NFL draft redemption.
But ultimately what it comes down to is this is the most important job interview any of these young men will ever have and it's 5 days long. This is my list of the 10 defensive players who I am going to be watching the most closely during the week of practice and in the game, because all of these players have a lot of prove during this week. Don't forget to find me on Twitter @nfldraftboard for all my other football ramblings.
Margus Hunt, Defensive End-SMU
Hunt is a mythical creature born in the forests of Estonia. Actually he's a massive defensive end who has wowed college football fans all season with his remarkable athletic ability. Hunt has critics that say he's too raw and not polished enough, so his week of practice against some top offensive tackle prospects will either quiet his critics or confirm them.
Kawann Short, Defensive Tackle-Purdue
Short came into the season as a top defensive tackle prospect, but has played stuck on a terrible Purdue defense. That meant he was under constant duress and double teams, which really hurt his numbers for the year. He's still a top prospect and can really help himself in a crowded defensive tackle group.
Ezekiel Ansah, Defensive End-BYU
Ansah is another freakish athlete who is just learning how to play football. I've seen him touted as a first round pick already, but I think in order to get into that elite company he's going to have to show that he has the refinement and technique to beat top tackle prospects. His athleticism cannot be denied but how much he's learned about the game will be on display that week in Mobile.
Sean Porter, Outside Linebacker-Texas A&M
When discussing the top prospects on the Texas A&M team, the one name that doesn't get thrown out there is Porter. He's so overshadowed by his teammates he is a forgotten man. His week in Mobile could be his shot to open some teams' eyes to just how talented an outside linebacker he is.
Johnny Adams, Cornerback-Michigan State
There was a point in the season in the beginning that Adams was though of as a 2nd round pick. But he's struggled this season and not shown the poise or consistency that was expected of him. His week in Mobile is going to be a real test because this cornerback class is crowded and he's lost a lot of ground. I think he can be a great NFL player, but he's got some work to do.
Robert Lester, Safety-Alabama
Lester became the forgotten man on the Alabama defense this year. He's missed plays he should make. And with the great players in front of him, lots of plays never got to him. But he's an incredibly experienced player in a tough conference and has a very high football IQ. But he's going to need to show a lot of skills particularly in play recognition and coverage this week to cement a sport in the top 3 rounds.
Robert Alford, Cornerback-SE Louisiana
Alford is one of 2 small cornerbacks at the Senior Bowl who will need to overcome having played against inferior competition but shows a lot of skill. He's got nice size and shows serious swagger and cover skills. But he's not covered many NFL prospects at his time at SE Louisiana, so seeing if he can hang with them this week will mean a lot.
BW Webb, Cornerback-William & Mary
Webb is going to have a lot working against him. He's been very productive at William & Mary, but he seems to rely more on his athleticism than much in the way of technique. Against top tier wide receivers that's going to get him killed. Webb's stock is pretty low right now, so he should be able to really make some headway this week if he can play well.
Brandon Williams, Defensive Tackle-Missouri Southern
I've had the opportunity to watch Williams play several times up close and personal, and he's very good. He's a massive NT prospect at 6-2 and around 330lbs, and while he's not going to wow you with his quickness, he's got good feet and plays with nice leverage. He can split a double team and push guys around and is an excellent tackler. He's a top D2 prospect and should be able to hang with the top interior offensive lineman at Mobile.
Lavar Edwards, Defensive End LSU
If there's a sleeper pick in this draft it's Edwards. He was an understudy to fellow LSU defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, but I've been told by many LSU fans that Edwards might have been the most consistent of the 3. He's got better size than either and shows excellent athleticism and power off the edge. The spotlight will be on him and he has a chance to really open some eyes with a big week.