With only the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl left of the 2009 NFL season, the unofficial 2010 NFL Draft season has begun. The first premier event of the season, the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, kicked off today with the first day of practice. Today's practice was held in pads and shorts, whereas Tuesday's and Wednesday's will be in full pads, followed by another light practice on Thursday and the actual game on Saturday.
The Senior Bowl is often overshadowed by the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where players are treated like lab rats as their physical abilities are measured with exercises such as the 40 yard dash. The Senior Bowl, however, is the only chance for NFL scouts to see draft prospects compete in football activities. Unfortunately though, as the name suggests, only graduating seniors are invited to participate in the event, which leaves underclassmen out of the spotlight, despite underclassmen constituting the majority of the early round talent this year.
There will be a variety of outlets covering the Senior Bowl this week. First of all, NFL Network will be showing the parts of the practices live Tuesday through Thursday, and will air the game live at 4:00 EST on Saturday. Various draft sites will be covering the event daily, including SB Nation's own Mocking The Draft, which is one of the best blogs on this network. For those of you that don't have the time or subscriptions to some of the sites, I will be compiling as much of what I see from the perspective of the Houston Texans.
First I should establish what I feel are the immediate needs, i.e., positions targeted in rounds 1-3, of the Texans. I know that you can always improve any squad including Matt Schaub's offense, but my top three positions of need are all on the defensive side of the ball. Dunta Robinson was embarrassed early and often as cornerback #1, the depth at free safety was abysmal behind Eugene Wilson who was injured again, and the Texans have never had a big, space eating defensive tackle since they switched to a 4-3 in 2006.
Out of all of the "Draft Experts", I respect NFL Network's Mike Mayock the most. Mayock, who is on the team of analysts covering the event for NFLN, posted his top five at each position today. Here are the top five for three positions I detailed earlier:
1. Joe Haden - UF
2. Kyle Wilson - BSU
3. Parrish Cox - OKST
4. Patrick Robinson - FSU
5. Devin McCourty - RUT
1. Eric Berry - TENN
2. Taylor Mays - USC
3. Earl Thomas - UT
4. Larry Asante - NEB
5. Chad Jones - LSU
1. Gerald McCoy - OU
2. Ndamukong Suh - NEB
3. Jared Odrick - PSU
4. Dan Williams - TENN
5. Lamarr Houston - UT
For details on the practices today, continue after the jump.
- Kyle Wilson, the CB from Boise State, was the biggest standout of the day. During the CB vs. WR drill, Wilson undercut an out route for an interception on his first rep and was an offensive pass interference away from another on a nine route. Wilson was a premier punt returner in college, which means he is dangerous after an interception.
- Mays made the hit of the day on Citadel WR Andre Roberts, but missed an easy interception a few plays later when going for another hit. This highlights Mayock's stated concern of lack of interceptions (five over his career).
- Terrance Cody, in an homage to former teammate Andre Smith, showed up grossly overweight. NFLN pointed out that he had difficulties even setting up in his stance before the snap.
- Dan Williams had a good day stuffing the run, at least as good as possible without full pads. He didn't do well in pass rushing drills, however, which is a drill designed to favor the defensive player. I'm not particularly concerned if the DT Rick Smith drafts is an elite pass rusher as long as he can stuff the middle, so this development might actually be beneficial.
- Myron Rolle is a popular story because of his year hiatus from football as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, but unfortunately that break has caused some rust. He has plenty of time before the Combine and his Pro Day, but even then he is considered more of a strong safety who lacks coverage skills. Probably not a consideration for the Texans.
- Wide receiver might not be high on the list of priorities, but it's worth noting that Ohio University's Taylor Price looked fantastic. He may not have elite speed and he played at a smaller school, but it looked like he had superglue on his hands.
- Offensive Guard Vladimir Ducasse will be under the microscope this week. Ducasse moved to the States from Haiti when he was 14 and has only played football for six years, but he has enough raw talent that Mayock compared him to Jeff Otah. On his first pass rush drill, the quicker O'Brien Schofield blew by him on the edge as Ducasse was playing LT. Before the analysts could even finish stating that Ducasse never saw speed like that at UMass, Ducasse went against Schofield again, anchored down and unfortunately injured Schofield when he fell on him. I mention all this because he is rated as a guard and could be a steal after the first couple of rounds.
That's pretty much the news worth printing from day one since it was a light day of practice. I'll post what is hopefully more news tomorrow.