NFL Personnel folks didn’t have to travel far this week.
After this past week’s East West Shrine Game at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, NFL Draft season shifts from Florida to Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl.
Saturday’s game from Ladd-Peebles Stadium will air at 4pm on NFL Network. Senior Bowl practices will also air throughout the week on NFL Network.
Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta and Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz lead a group representing the organization in Alabama.
Before I continue to with my player profiles, I remind you of the players we have already profiled.
QB-Ricky Dobbs (Navy), Pat Devlin (Delaware)
FB-Anthony Sherman (UConn)
RB-Evan Royster (Penn State), Da’Rel Scott (Maryland)
WR-Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic), Terrence Toliver (LSU)
OT-Matthew O’Donnell (Queens University Canada)
DE-Justin Trattou (Florida)
S-Jermale Hines (Ohio State)
With the only movement for the organization this week being the (reported) extension the team gave K Billy Cundiff, there’s no movement in my “biggest areas of need”…
1. Defensive End
2. Offensive Tackle
3. Wide Receiver
6. Inside Linebacker
9. Running Back
Now here’s a look at 10 players participating in this week’s Senior Bowl who you should keep an eye out for.
WR Leonard Hankerson (Miami)
Look, I don’t want to watch this video again any more than any other Terrapins fans reading this. But the 1:40 mark is a perfect example of something Hankerson could bring to Charm City…
Here’s what we know. Hankerson is 6’2″ (205 pounds), but can both stretch the field and get up and get balls-although maybe not quite as well as some of the 6’4″ and 6’5″ receivers available.
Hankersoon broke Hurricanes single season records in 2010 with 72 catches, 1,156 yards and 13 touchdowns. He had 75 receiving yards or more in eight of the Canes’ 13 games his senior year.
Those single season records come from a school that produced the likes of Andre Johnson, Santana Moss and Michael Irvin just as a reminder.
There really aren’t any red flags with Hankerson. There are no obvious character flaws (although he’ll certainly be picked apart when he reaches the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis) and he served as a team captain in Coral Gables last season.
If he was two inches taller, he’d be a slam dunk. If he’s on the board in the 2nd or 3rd round he might still be.
LB Mark Herzlich (Boston College)
The good news for Mark Herzlich is that no matter what happens in his quest to reach the NFL, he already has enough material for writing his first book.
Herzlich is best known now for his recovery from Ewing’s sarcoma, a form of bone cancer that caused him to miss the entire 2009 season. But before getting cancer, Herzlich was on his way to being a potential Top 45 pick in the NFL Draft.
In ’08, Herzlich tallied 110 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, six interceptions and two TD returns. He was an absolute wrecking machine.
He was still one of the better linebackers in the ACC when he returned in 2010, but he didn’t post the same type of season. He finished with just 65 tackles, but still forced two fumbles and brought down four interceptions.
He looks like he can still perform at a very high level, but it isn’t a guarantee. NFL teams will take his recovery into account, but they will look at both the positive and negative aspects.
On the positive side, he’s a solid human being who has already shown the ability to to overcome adversity.
On the negative side, teams will have to at least CONSIDER the possibility that he might not ever regain the dominance he showed in Chestnut Hill before his diagnosis.
He might very well be a hell of a player, perhaps the exact type of defender the Ravens could line up next to Ray Lewis and let him learn from the future Hall of Famer.
Neat story-Herzlich was such an impressive athlete coming out of Conestoga High School (Pennsylvania) that was actually offered a lacrosse scholarship by Dave Pietramala at Johns Hopkins. Doesn’t make him a better option, just a neat story.
OT Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin)
While Carimi will almost certainly at least START his National Football League career as a Right Tackle, his 6’7″, 325 pound frame will make some scouts think of him as a Left Tackle of the future.
Carimi’s representatives will ABSOLUTELY throw around the name of Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl Tackle Joe Thomas during Draft season. Thomas was also a dominant O-Line force for the Badgers, although he was thought to be more of a slam dunk at the NFL level than Carimi has been thus far.
Not only does Carimi have a solid ability to protect the passer, but he showed quite the ability to run block as well. The Badgers finished second in the league in rushing, just five yards behind Illinois. RB John Clay rushed for over 1,000 yards despite missing two games.
Mobile is a big week for Carimi. Indy will be a big week for him as well. His size and his success in the Big Ten (not only did he take care of NFL prospect/Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward for the most part in the video above, he also handled NFL prospect/Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn as well) combined with a strong Draft season could push him to the Top 10 in the Draft.
But much like Michael Oher, if he’s around in the early to mid 20’s (especially at 26), the Ravens might not think twice to grab him. With Jared Gaither’s future in Baltimore in question, the Ravens could be wise to try to bookend Oher and Carimi moving forward.
LB Casey Matthews (Oregon)
As NFL fans watched Matthews lead the Ducks against the Auburn Tigers in the BCS Championship Game out in Glendale, many of them thought to themselves, “this guy could really help my team.”
Some of those same NFL fans will be watching Clay Matthews (III) lead the Green Bay Packers against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl next week and will think to themselves “my team needs to get his brother.”
It’s with that in mind that I point out Casey Matthews ISN’T Clay Matthews. It doesn’t mean he isn’t a good player that could help NFL teams, it just means he isn’t the type of sack machine his brother has been.
Casey Matthews is more of inside linebacker, perhaps the type of player that could step in and learn the WILL spot that Jameel McClain, Dannell Ellerbe and Tavares Gooden have failed to nail down.
Matthews is 6’1″ and 232 but isn’t quite as quick as a number of other inside linebackers. He averaged over 69 tackles a season from his sophomore year to his senior in Eugene; adding eight sacks, four interceptions and a forced fumble over the same three year span.
The NFL is clearly in his blood. Not only is his brother an All-Pro performer, his father (Clay Jr.) was a four time Pro Bowler over a 19 year career with the Browns and Atlanta Falcons. His grandfather (Clay Sr.) played for the San Francisco 49ers in the 1950’s. His uncle (Bruce) was a Hall of Fame OL for the Houston Oilers. His cousin (Kevin) is a lineman for the Tenneessee Titans. His cousin (Jake) just finished his freshman season at Texas A&M and could well reach the NFL too.
He looks like he could hang around for awhile on Draft weekend. If he’s available into late Friday night or Saturday, he could end up being a steal for the Ravens.
(Thanks to Mobile Press-Register for headline photo of Matthews)
DE Allen Bailey (Miami)
The Ravens need a Defensive End. Unfortunately for them, Bailey has looked better on the inside of the D-Line in Mobile-at least according to CBSSports.com.
Bailey measured in at 6’3″, 278 pounds in Mobile; which reportedly left him at a not-so-surprising disadvantage when matched up against the better Offensive Tackles participating in the Senior Bowl. It might be nothing more than a blip on the radar screen for a player who will eventually become a dominant Rush End. It might be a sign that Bailey will never truly be an End at the NFL level.
Bailey showed an ability to get after Atlantic Coast Conference quarterbacks, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to the next level. He tallied 102 tackles and 19 sacks over his final three seasons with the Canes. He has the moves, but the power is a question.
He might prove to be an effective interior lineman at the next level. But if the consensus is that he’ll be a Defensive Tackle in the NFL, he probably won’t be the guy for the Ravens in the first or second round.
WR Austin Pettis (Boise State)
Yep. That’s impressive.
There’s a lot that’s impressive about the former Broncos receiver. First, he’s 6’3″ and can get up (as you saw in the video). Second, he’s quick. He’s expected to be able to run in the 4.5’s at LucasOil Stadium.
Pettis finished his career with 229 catches for 2,838 yards and 39 touchdowns. In BSU’s 2010 Labor Day upset of Virginia Tech at FedEx Field, Pettis also blocked a punt and held for an extra point. Later in the season he even THREW for a touchdown.
Clearly some of Pettis’ impressive numbers came from being part of a high-powered WAC offense that included Heisman Trophy QB candidate Kellen Moore and fellow Senior Bowl WR Titus Young. The question will be whether or not he can still be effective at the NFL when a team doesn’t have the football for as many plays and a coordinator (say…Cam Cameron) isn’t calling quite as many passes.
Right now Pettis looks like a potentially dangerous target for QB Joe Flacco if he’s available late Friday night or Saturday afternoon. He could be a solid compliment to Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason and whoever else the team lines up at WR.
RB DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma)
Much like Carimi’s reps will do their best to use the words “Joe Thomas” as much as possible during Draft season, Murray’s reps will ABSOLUTELY look to use the words “Adrian Peterson” as much as possible during the same stretch.
They’ll do well to compare Murray’s explosiveness to the fellow former Sooners back. They’ll unfortunately also remind NFL personnel that Murray (hamstring, knee, etc.) has a bit of an injury background much like Peterson.
Murray’s size (6’1″, 207 pounds) and ability (he once ran a 4.42 40 and recorded a 36.5 inch vertical leap while in Norman) should translate to the NFL with no problem. Murray averaged well over four yards per carry during his career in the Big 12. He ran for 50 touchdowns and caught another 13 over four seasons. The word “explosive” certainly fits.
If he’s available in Round 2, the Ravens would likely do well to pair him with current RB Ray Rice, especially if RB Willis McGahee departs.
QB Colin Kaepernick (Nevada)
This much I know. In Reno, there couldn’t be a negative word said about Kaepernick. The guy is an ICON.
I understand why. Kaepernick LOOKS like a quarterback. He stands at 6’6″ and weighs in at 225 pounds. He’s unbelievably quick, with the capability to run a 4.5 40 (or maybe even under that) at the Combine.
During his four year career with the Wolf Pack, Kaepernick became the only NCAA FBS quarterback to throw for 10,000 yards and rush for another 4,000. He was also the only player to ever have three seasons of 2,000+ passing yards and 1,000 plus rushing yards.
At times (including the team’s upset win over Boise State in 2010), Kaepernick looked absolutely brilliant.
There will be one particularly big question mark surrounding Kaepernick during Draft season. NFL personnel folks will have to figure out how much of Kaepernick’s success can be tied to Coach Chris Ault’s “Pistol Offense.” The system was fun to watch and produced explosive numbers-but it isn’t a system that will translate to the NFL level. Kaepernick doesn’t really have much in the way of injury concerns, with his only notable injury being an ankle sprain against the Terps in the 2008 Humanitarian Bowl.
Kaepernick looks like he could be very good. If he keeps performing at a high level during Draft season, he’ll probably be picked too high for the Ravens to consider him as a compliment to Flacco.
OT Nate Solder (Colorado)
As of right now, Solder looks like he could very well be in the mix when the Ravens pick at 26.
If so, he could be a VERY tempting option to join new Offensive Line Coach Andy Moeller’s group.
Solder is an enigma. His technique and ability didn’t always match his mammoth size (6’9″, 315 pounds) during his Buffaloes career. There were absolutely times where he manhandled players who were clearly matchup problems. There were also times where quicker ends and linebackers were able to move around him.
Reports from Mobile say Solder has struggled against players like Cal’s Cameron Jordan, but has impressed against Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan.
He looks like he could be a franchise tackle; but he’ll need further development. The Buffs weren’t really an offensive juggernaut, but that isn’t necessarily Solder’s fault.
The question for the Ravens will be whether or not a project like Solder is a good compliment to Oher. It’s a fair question. They’ll hopefully get an answer as Draft season progresses.
S Jaiquawn Jarrett (Temple)
I’ve been having trouble trying to figure out exactly how good Jarrett is.
He had a very good career for the Owls, collecting 292 tackles, forcing two fumbles and tallying nine interceptions. He was often the best player on the field during MAC contests.
Jarrett has the look of a NFL player, checking in at 6’2″ and weighing 202 pounds. He’s agile and looks good in man coverage. He’s not necessarily an Ed Reed-type ballhawk; and might translate better at strong safety at the next level.
He’s probably a Friday night guy at this point. With Dawan Landry potentially leaving, he could be an option to get into the mix with Tom Zbikowksi and Haruki Nakamura next season.
(Thanks to YouTube, NFLDraftScout.com, WNST.net (The AP), ESPN.com, Wikipedia, and various official college websites for help in putting together the profiles.)
Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…