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2013 Senior Bowl: Top 10 Performers

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

KCCD Staff Writer: Sam Mitchell

Unfortunately I was not able to make the trip to Mobile to attend the Senior Bowl this year. It is something I want to do in the future, but it just didn’t work out this year. That being said NFL Network had a lot of really solid coverage from the Senior Bowl this past week, airing six practices and the actual game.

It’s hard not to mooch ideas off of great evaluators like Mike Mayoc and Charles Davis, but I was dedicated to go off of just what I saw with my own eyes, so the opinions below are my own from watching the televised practice.

Another point of note is that since I was not there in person, I was unable to see a handful of players, such as the linebackers and safeties, that were not shown much on the TV broadcast, so there are probably going to be some good performers that I do not mention for that reason.

10. Johnathan Franklin, Running Back, UCLA

Franklin was impressive this week because of his ability to do everything you need from a running back. In pass protection drills Franklin did a good job engaging and rushers with his a little punch and keeping his feet moving to stay square to them and not overextend. In receiving drills Franklin was able to cross the linebacker’s face to the inside multiple and was quick enough to create consistent separation and didn’t drop any passes that I saw.

As a runner Franklin was able to hit the hole pretty hard, seemed to have good vision and patience, and showed enough speed to at least challenge, if not turn, the corner. I didn’t see much of the South team’s running backs, but Franklin was by far my favorite of the North backs as I believe he can be a three down running back that will find the hole, keep his legs moving on contact, and make some people miss in the open field, to go along with solid blocking and receiving ability.

9. Justin Pugh, Offensive Tackle, Syracuse

Pugh’s Senior Bowl week didn’t start off well when his arm measurements came in at only 31.5 inches, very short for an NFL tackle. But Pugh did what he could on the field to convince evaluators that he’s still one of the better left tackle prospects in this year’s class. Pugh displayed most of what you want ability wise from a pass protector with quick feet, balance, and lateral agility contributing to an efficient kick slide, and enough base strength to anchor against the bull rush, though he will still need to get stronger in an NFL weight room.

I really liked Pugh as a run blocker as well, as he showed the ability to flip his hips and seal off to defenders to open lanes, and was able to reach the second level where he has the mobility and bend to connect with linebackers. Pugh overset outside in pass protection once or twice allowing inside pressure, but had a nice week overall and showed the movement skills needed to play the left tackle position.

8. Alex Okafor, Defensive End, Texas

Alex Okafor was not an extremely explosive pass rusher at the Senior Bowl that threatened the edge each snap, but he was a consistent and polished all around defensive end who posses the proper technique to be a productive NFL player. When Okafor did get around the edge in one on ones it wasn’t because of his burst, but because of his hand use to remove the blockers hands and his bend to dip his inside shoulder and get under the blocker around the corner of the pocket. Okafor’s hand use was great all week and he really looks polished disengaging from blocks.

I was also impressed by his understanding of leverage as he was able to get underneath even Eric Fisher’s pads to walk him into the backfield. While Okafor may not have the highest ceiling of the pass rushers in this draft, he was the most NFL ready defensive end this week.

7. Aaron Dobson, Wide Receiver, Marshall

There was nothing flashy about Dobson’s play this week. He wasn’t super fast down the field and he wasn’t overly explosive in and out of breaks, but Dobson still manage to create enough separation nearly every of his I saw. Dobson is a very smooth mover throughout his entire route. He gets off the line well with little exaggerated or wasted movement, and doesn’t give away his routes downfield. Dobson also shows real fluidity into and out of breaks, as he doesn’t gear down or lose momentum.

Dobson is very strong with the ball in the air as he can pluck it out of the air with his hands and is good at using his big body to shield defenders from the ball. Dobson impressed me gaining inside positioning against press on a couple slant routes and really looks like a dependable consistent target who can get open and go up and snatch the ball.

6. Cornelius Washington, DE/OLB, Georgia

A tweener to some extent between 43 defensive end and 34 outside ‘backer, Washington showed this week that he has the speed and burst off the edge to be a big time pass rusher at the next level. Washington has a blazing first step off the line of scrimmage that puts offensive tackles in bad positions. Washington challenged edge so quickly many times this week that offensive tackles would turn their hips or overset to the outside to counteract his speed, leaving an opening inside that Washington recognized and exploited with a nice inside move.

Washington doesn’t look very powerful as he is very long and lean, but he showed a really nice bull rush this week converting speed to power, and a good understanding of leverage, getting under the tackle’s shoulder pads and walking him back. I would expect Washington’s role as a rookie to be limited to that of situational pass rusher, but his variety of moves and counter moves should allow him to be a contributor.

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