The Senior Bowl website has released their list of the first eleven players to accept invites to the game. This is a very important event from a scouting perspective and allows professional scouts to observe how players from different schools interact in a real-time team setting. The Senior Bowl, as well as the East-West Shrine Game, are far better indicators of a player's potential impact on a professional team than the NFL Combine is, but people often ignore these games. However, a strong Senior Bowl performance can quickly propel a borderline prospect up NFL draft boards. Let's look at the eleven players on the list. I'm going to try to give you some pre-draft analyses on these guys to go with the frustratingly basic information on the Senior Bowl page.
Adrian Amos, S, Penn State. Amos is a graduate of Calvert High School in Baltimore, the same high school that Mel Kiper graduated from. Expect some love from Kiper going into the draft. Amos is 6'0, 209 pounds, and has played both cornerback and safety at the college level. Scouts like his size, and think that he has the skill set to perform at the NFL level. According to NFLdraftscout.com, Amos projects as a 4th or 5th round pick. If you haven't seen Amos in action, here's some film. He'll latch on with an NFL team and has the potential to make an impact at the next level. He's one of the harder hitting defensive backs in college, and that will turn some heads.
Shane Carden, QB, Eastern Carolina. Carden comes from an Eastern Carolina program that has produced four NFL Quarterbacks. Carl Summerall played two seasons for the Giants, 1974 and 1975. Kevin Ingram played for the Saints in 1987 as a replacement player. Jeff Blake had a decent NFL career in the 1990s and early 2000's, most notably as a Cincinnati Bengal. Blake had one of the prettiest spirals in football. Don't believe me? Check this out. Former Jags QB David Garrard is also an Eastern Carolina Alum. In 8 games this year, Carden has thrown for 2791 yards and 18 TDs, so he can definitely produce. Here's some film. Carden is a life-long underachiever it seems when it comes to being scouted. Carden was heavily under-recruited coming out of high school. Carden is rated as the #2 QB in the draft by www.nfldraftscout.com, yet they have him projected as a 3rd or 4th round pick. Carden is 6'2 and 221 pounds, so he won't hear height as a criticism at least. He's produced decent stats through his career at Eastern Carolina. While Mariota gets the hype going into Spring, some QB hungry team will look at Carden earlier than expected in 2015. However, given the volatility in the QB market, he may also fall. I haven't watched enough film on Carden either way to be positive, but I think he's at least comparable to Jimmy Garoppolo in skillset. He's definitely a player to watch going into the Senior Bowl.
Joseph Cardona, LS, Navy. Cardona is one of the best long-snappers in college football. That being said, long snappers don't get much attention going into the draft. However, you do immediately notice when a long snapper isn't doing his job (look at last year's Superbowl with Manny Ramirez). Cardona is drawing attention from NFL scouts, and will likely at least go into the preseason with an NFL team. Film on longsnappers is hard to find, but here are some high school highlights of Cardona.
Carl Davis, DT, Iowa. Carl Davis is a 6'5 315 pound beast of a defensive tackle that will likely be selected in the first two rounds of the NFL draft. Scouts love his upper body strength and ability to handle double teams, and Davis has been a key component in Iowa's defense. Davis' stats aren't elite, but you don't need elite stats from a defensive lineman in a defense. You need a guy that is going to mess up the flow of the offense and open up room for the players around him to make plays. That's exactly what Davis does. Here's some film. He could definitely make a nice impact in the right system at the next level.
Kurtis Drummond, FS, Michigan State. Drummond is a solid player who currently projects as a 3rd round pick in the 2015 draft. Drummond has missed a few key plays, dropping two potential interceptions in big moments. That being said, he's critical of himself for those mistakes. Here's a look at him on the field. Drummond came from a solid, solid secondary that featured first round draft pick Darqueze Dennard, so this is a well-coached unit. With Drummond's work ethic and self criticism, he could be a very good NFL player with the right system.
Geneo Grissom, LB, Oklahoma. Grissom switched from DE to OLB this season for Oklahoma. He's had a solid season, but sprained his MCL against Texas Tech and could miss the rest of the season. A projected 3rd round pick, Grissom could see his draft stock slide because of the injury. It's extremely tough to find film on Grissom, and this is the type of prospect the Senior Bowl could really have helped. He has also played at tight end, and I view him as a project player at the next level. Hopefully he comes back healthy and does well.
Justin Hardy, WR, Eastern Carolina. Justin Hardy is a 6'0 188 pound projected 2nd-3rd round pick at WR who also happens to be QB Shane Carden's best friend on the field. Hardy has a knack for making plays, and his draft stock is on the rise. Here's some film. Hardy projects as a slot receiver in the NFL; he'll be a good tool for any offense but will not likely be a #1 guy. That being said, Hardy also has experience as a kick returner, and that could help him eke out a decent role with an NFL team. I view Hardy as a T.Y. Hilton-type prospect that could surprise a lot of people with the right team. His college QB throwing to him at the Senior Bowl certainly won't hurt his draft stock. I'm interested to see how he performs.
Mike Hull, LB, Penn State. Mike Hull is the second player from Penn State on this list. Hull leads the team with 99 total tackles this year; next closest player has 44. Hull doesn't have eye-popping numbers for a linebacker (only 2 sacks and 1 interception this year), and tends to make a few mistakes. That being said, he's recovering from a leg injury. Here's some film. With good coaching, I project him as a backup at the NFL level. He projects as a 6th or 7th round pick according to www.nfldraftscout.com. He could make an impact in the right system but he needs some work.
David Johnson, RB, Northern Iowa. David Johnson is one of the guys I'm really excited to watch in the Senior Bowl. He's a small school player, an explosive kick returner, and could be one of the surprise running backs in the NFL draft. Him and Zach Zenner are my two favorite non-first-round running backs this year. I think Johnson is going to be a good player in the NFL, and will be drafted higher than the 4th to 5th round ranking given to him by www.nfldraftscout.com after a solid performance in the Senior Bowl. After the elite running backs are off the board, Johnson could be next. But don't take my word for it, here's some film. He could start out of the gate for some teams in the NFL. Oh, and he's a beast in the weight room too. I really, really like Johnson as a prospect, and will do a piece on him soon. So many intriguing players, so little time. Johnson might be my favorite player in the Senior Bowl so far though.
Nate Orchard, DE/LB, Utah. Nate Orchard is a sack machine. Orchard has produced 13 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss so far this season. He's a similar player to Washington DE/LB Hau'oli Kikaha, minus the injury questions. I prefer Kikaha as a player, but Orchard will also be a solid, solid player in the NFL. Orchard projects as a 2nd round pick according to www.nfldraftscout.com. Here's a short clip of Orchard on the field.
Jaquiski Tartt, FS, Samford. Tartt is one of my favorite defensive small school prospects for 2015. The guy is a great safety, and even though he hails from a very small program at Samford, www.nfldraftscout.com has him projected as a third round pick. That's rare for a small school player. Last year Pierre Desir was drafted in the 4th round by the Browns. Tartt is a better player than Desir, and will go higher. Here's some film. He may not start immediately, but Tartt will become a major force on defense early in his NFL career. You heard it first.
I'll update you on Senior Bowl prospects as they are announced, but those are the first 11. I'm especially excited for Tartt and Johnson, but this year's crop looks solid in general. It should be a great game and a great week of practice and workouts to follow in January!
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