Senior Bowl Observations And Notes

Yesterday I watched the Senior Bowl on DVR, and yes I know that nominates me for the “lack of a life” award.  It was the first Sunday in 5 months without football, and I needed something to ease my withdrawals.  I’m actually glad I did because it provided really good insight into some of the draft prospects.  Unfortunately, as the name implies, the game only showcased college seniors and therefore was devoid of all juniors and red-shirt sophomores that declared early which make up at least half of the players that will be taken in the first two rounds.  That in itself was ok because it exposed me to some of the less publicized players in the draft that could be good for middle rounds.  I watched primarily for defensive players considering that is our principal need(s), which wasn’t hard because the only offensive skill position players that really showed anything worth paying attention to were a couple of RBs.  Some of the OL played well but I only noticed because I was specifically watching whoever they were going against (DL/LB) and therefore didn’t pay attention to who was who.  Below are all of the players that caught my eye for good or bad play.

Robert Ayers – DE – Tennessee.  I officially have a new man-crush.  This guy played absolutely lights out.  His stat line for the game included 3 tackles and 1.5 sacks, one of which forced a fumble in the end zone that was recovered for a TD, all of which lead to him being named “Outstanding Defensive Player”.  Several things make these stats even more impressive: 1) He played RE and thus went against some the best collegiate senior OTs, 2) He only played half to three quarters of the “South” team’s snaps because it’s an all-star game and the coaching staff had to give everyone a chance to try and shine, 3) He was held on several occasions but for the most part the refs weren’t calling penalties.  At 6’3”, 273 lbs., Ayers is already big enough for the NFL, and while his 4.75 40 isn’t exceptional, it’s not terrible.  Throughout his career his primary strength was shedding blocks and defending against the run, but the Senior Bowl highlighted his pass rushing ability.  In drills throughout the week and the game he showed advanced moves including a speed rush around the edge, a bull rush and a swim move to the inside.  If you do some research on him, you will find he has detractors.  He was arrested for assault his freshman year and eventually pled guilty to a much lesser misdemeanor charge.  Since then he hasn’t gotten in any off the field trouble and his coaching staff, including Phil Fulmer, have gone to bat for him saying that he matured quite a bit.  He also only started his senior year, and a lot of scouts say that he needs to develop more pass rushing moves.  Before the Senior Bowl he was projected as a mid-round pick, but after his performance many are speculating that he will be a mid to late second rounder.  If we got him in the second I would be doing cartwheels, but if he follows up the Senior Bowl with a strong Combine, he might even end up as someone we target if we trade down to the end of the first round.  I’ve included this for your viewing pleasure.

Patrick Chung – FS – Oregon.  I didn’t see Chung a whole lot, but when I did see him he was impressive.  All of the Safeties didn’t really get tested because the QB play was atrocious, which sucked because we need someone who can cover.  His run support was excellent, as shown when he shed a tackle by LSU FB Quinn Johnson (who looked really impressive) and made a tackle on the two yard line in a goal line situation.  He also showed he’s willing to lay the wood when he blew up the 6’5” WR from USC, Patrick Turner, on an incomplete pass.  Chung runs a 4.5 40, and even though he is undersized at 210 lbs., scouts were impressed with how strong he was for his size.  The one problem Chung has that he cannot do anything to improve is his height.  At 5’11”, he will have problems covering taller receivers in the league.  Overall, he was the most impressive Safety I saw.

Fili Moala – DT – USC.  I didn’t know that much about Moala before the Senior Bowl, but he was impressive.  Reading his scouting reports that were obviously written before the Senior Bowl, the main negative point was lack of strength, but he was noted by several scouts during the week of drills as the strongest participant.  As far as the game itself, all the plays I noticed him dominating were early in the game which may or may not be an indicator of the low motor that scouts site with him.  He’s projected to be a late second to early third rounder, and I didn’t see enough dominance during the game that would leave me to believe that would change.

William Moore – S – Mizzou.  Moore looked terrible.  He missed two tackles that I saw before he injured his ankle.  Everyone seemed to be down on him.  I don’t see any chance that we take him with the fifteenth pick.  The analysts in the game actually made mention of the possibility he will be drafted with the intention of making him a WLB.

D.J. Raji – DT – Boston College.  I won’t insult anyone’s fanhood by explaining who this guy is because he’s probably been talked about more on Texans blogs than any other prospect since Mays decided to stay in school.  Supposedly he had a monster week in drills, but I honestly didn’t see it in the game.  He was only getting doubled on about a quarter to a third of the plays that I saw, but he had very little impact in the game.  Even Mike Moyock (NFL Network’s version of Mel Kiper), who was all about this guy before the game, made mention a couple of times about his lack of productivity.  I’m not saying he’ll be a bust because he had one terrible game, but it certainly was disconcerting.

Rashad Johnson – S – Alabama.  I was really high on this guy before the game, and I haven’t done a complete 180, but I’m not as confident in him as I was before.  He gave decent run support on a couple of plays, and I remember him keeping containment nicely on a sweep play, but other than that I really didn’t see him do much.  Maybe that was because of the QB play and he didn’t get to show his stuff, or maybe it was because he didn’t have much to show.

Andre Brown – RB – NC State.  I was really just looking for players on the defensive side of the ball, but it was hard not to notice this guy.  He is 6’0”, 235 lbs. and runs a 4.6 40, which isn’t great for a RB, but we don’t need a burner (see Steve Slaton).  What he did do was run with power especially along the goal line.  The problem is that before this game we probably could have gotten him in the fourth round, but now he probably moved himself into the third.  He really made some people look stupid that tried to tackle him high, and he would be a great compliment to Stevie Wonder.  I don’t think, however, that we would spend a third round pick on any back, nor do I think we should.

Rashad Jennings – RB – Liberty.  He, like Brown, was impressive enough to mention.  He didn’t have as good of a game as Brown, but he did look good running the ball with burst despite being 6’1"/235 lbs.  Jennings started his career at Pitt but transferred in order to be closer to his father, who was having complications due to diabetes.  He is projected to go somewhere between the late second to early third, which again is way too soon for us.  I would rather have Brown anyway, based solely on their performances in the game.

Brian Cushing – OLB – USC.  Everyone was talking about how amazing he looked all week, but I saw the exact opposite on the field.  He looked generally sluggish in coverage and in running to the sideline.  He missed a couple of tackles and made a couple of nice ones, but for a first round LB he should be a tackle machine.  I was really not impressed.

Ray Maualuga – MLB – USC.  Almost ditto what I said for Cushing, although he did come up with some big plays.  He had one stripped fumble and another big hit on a great read of a screen.  For the most part, I expected more from him.  I saw him combine with Peria Jerry for a tackle, but the back drove both of them forward for a couple of more yards.

Ray Butler – CB – UConn.  He had the most plays on both ends of the spectrum out of all the players on the field.  One second I’m telling my buddy that he had great coverage, the next he’s getting burnt.  I saw a great open field tackle and then a quarter later he attempted the worst tackle ever.  Chung saved him on a play after a speedy back juked the crap out of Butler but Chung was there to assist.  It was annoying to see him flash so much potential but be so inconsistent.  I don’t think he was ever a consideration for us in the second round, and he definitely shouldn’t be now.

Scott McKillop – LB – Pitt.  At 6’1”, 240 (which I think is generous), this kid looked small for a LB, but he was all over the place.  I don’t know what he ended up with, but it seemed like every other play he was making a tackle.  He reminds me of Zach Thomas; he shouldn’t be able to do what he does because he’s too small, but somehow he does.  He’s projected as a third to fourth round pick.  I don’t think we have any use for him because we’re all stocked up on the undersized LB department (see Zac Diles), but he was impressive.  He played with a lot of heart.

Peria Jerry – DT – Mississippi.  Jerry is a prime candidate for us if we trade down so I paid a lot of attention to him.  He made a couple of nice plays, but overall I wasn’t sold.  I’m not sure why I’m so down on him, but I really don’t want us to draft him.  He got a sack and a pass deflection, but too many times he was taken completely out of the play by one blocker.  Maybe I’m biased and it’s in your best interest if you don’t listen to me when it comes to Jerry.  I think he's not big enough to replace Travis Johnson and we don't need to replace Amobi.  I just don’t like him.

Louis Delmas – FS – Western Michigan.  The only thing I saw Delmas do was a sweet open field tackle.  Besides that, I’ve got nothing.  Sorry, I wished there was more because of the good things I hear about him, but like I said, crappy QB’s.

Micahael Hamlin – SS – Clemson.  He did not look good at all.  He seemed to be out of position most of the time and when he wasn’t he missed the tackle.  I was not impressed at all.

I wish that NFL Network did a better job covering all of the Senior Bowl drills and practices in the week leading up to the game as it seems that is where a lot of scouts make their judgments.  This might account for Raji’s poor play during the game because he knew he had impressed so many people, but if that’s the case I would be just as leary of a player that felt he could turn it off as I would a player that just couldn’t perform.  I think the players that wowed me the most that the Texans might actually draft were Robert Ayers and Patrick Chung.  Based on what I saw, if we got the two of them in the first and second round I would be happy.  I hope this helps. 

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