NFL Draft Prospects To Watch: Senior Bowl Edition


Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson

Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson has put together a really impressive week and is in a great position to solidify himself as the No. 3 tackle in this year’s draft class. A good showing on Sunday could potentially push him up into the discussion for one of the top 20 picks.

Johnson (6’7, 303 lbs.) has been solid at left tackle for the Sooners this season. Oklahoma had their inconsistencies on offense, but the offensive line was one of the best in the country, allowing only 15 sacks all year, good for 10th in the nation. Johnson wasn’t well known coming into the year, but his strong play this year has improved his stock to the point where he is a likely second round pick with the potential to find himself at the end of the first. He was very impressive in Oklahoma’s blowout loss to Texas A&M, winning matchup after matchup in both pass protection and in the run game. Johnson held his own when going one on one against a likely top five pick in defensive end Damontre Moore and was impressive all game, as he has been all year.

Washington CB Desmond Trufant

No one has improved their draft stock as much as Desmond Trufant has this week. He’s clearly been the best corner at the Senior Bowl and there’s talk that some personnel executives seem him as a first-round pick.

This year’s class is limited in terms of talent at the cornerback position, so there’s a realistic chance that Trufant could make his way into the first-round with a good showing on Saturday and an impressive Combine.

BYU DE Ezekiel Ansah 

There’s already been plenty of buzz surrounding Ansah heading into the Senior Bowl, but opinions appear to be mixed in terms of performance during this week’s practice.

Some believe Ansah has displayed the physically gifts that scouts have been raving about for months now, but needs to improve his overall approach towards being a more effective defensive end. He was by no means dominant in one-on-one drills, but there’s no question that Ansah’s upside far outweighs some of the concerns relating to his overall technique.

It really wouldn’t take much more than a few standout plays on Saturday to turn the consensus in his favor.

Texas WR Marquise Goodwin

Marquise Goodwin has displayed exception speed and explosiveness this week and is the type of game-changing talent that’s worth keying in on.

NFL teams would definitely like to see his solid week of practice carry over into Saturday’s game. He could be popular player to watch not only at this year’s Combine, but possibly on day-two of the NFL draft.

Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson

There has been a lot of talk about North Carolina State QB Mike Glennon in recent weeks and while he was pretty good this week, Tyler Wilson could end up being this weekend’s big winner in terms of the quarterbacks.

I think what we’re seeing right now is that, given the opportunity to come out here with all that baggage gone, I think he’s taken advantage of it,” said Mike Mayock of the NFL Network. “I think he’s looked real good. … Wilson’s a guy I’ve heard a lot about this week at night from the coaches and scouts. Because he had such mixed reviews coming off the tough senior season. Came down here, spun it pretty effectively.

Oregon RB Kenjon Barner

Kenjon Barner had a fantastic season for the one loss Ducks. He ranked in the top five in the nation in rushing yards, rushing yards per game, and rushing touchdowns. It will be interesting to see how Barner responds to playing in a more traditional, pro style offense where patience and vision will be key, as opposed to a spread option offense where the holes were plentiful and he could use his speed in open field on an every down basis. How will he fare against the best of the best, and not just your average PAC-12 defense?

Barner (5’11, 192 lbs.) has good size for a running back in the NFL, and couples elite speed with good hands. He is one of the fastest backs in the nation, and is very deadly once he gets to the corner. Though speed is his calling card, he was often used on inside option plays, and showed toughness running inside. One thing he will have to work on is not being too used to trying to bounce it outside, as he was able to get away with that on the collegiate level, but won’t always be able to do that in the pros. As of now, he is a likely third round pick, with potential to maybe move into the latter portion of the second round.

This season, Barner had 279 carries for 1,767 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also had 20 receptions for 256 yards and two touchdowns.

Michigan WR/KR Denard Robinson

Denard Robinson played quarterback at Michigan, and he finished his career as the all-time NCAA leader in rushing yards by a quarterback with 4,495. When projecting Robinson to the NFL, it’s clear that he isn’t a pro-level quarterback, as he is lacking in everything needed to be a quarterback from arm strength and accuracy to receiver progressions and field vision. In fact, after he missed a couple games with injury, he came back and didn’t even play QB; he played running back primarily for the final three games of the season and actually looked good. In the Senior Bowl he is listed as a WR, but it’s expected he will see some carries as well despite the fact that he said he will be focusing completely on receiver.

Robinson (6’0, 197 lbs.) has very good vision and patience for someone who’s played quarterback his entire collegiate career, and those traits will serve him well on the next level at his new position. He is a threat in the open field due to his breakaway speed and shiftiness, and his experience under center should help him understand what his quarterback expects on certain routes. A move from quarterback to receiver comes with many questions; How will he handle press coverage? Can he handle going over the middle and making the tough catch in traffic? How reliable will his hands be? You get the idea. Many former college quarterbacks have tried making the transition to wideout over the years, but almost all of them have failed to produce in their new role. It’s because of these questions that some wonder if Robinson will be better suited as a running back/return man, but only time will tell, and what he does this week might give us an idea as to what he can do on the next level.

This season, Robinson completed 53.3% of his passes for 1, 319 yards, 9 touchdowns and 9 picks. He had 177 carries for 1, 266 yards and 7 rushing touchdowns. He also notched three receptions for 31 yards.

San Jose State TE Ryan Otten

The NFL is a copycat league, and after seeing the kind of damage tight ends did in the Conference Championship games, teams will be looking for playmakers at the position. Post season All-Star games aren’t kind to receivers/quarterbacks, but if a tight end can find a seam for his quarterback in these kinds of games, he will be found. San Jose State tight end Ryan Otten is the highest rated tight end in this game, and he will have a chance to raise his Draft stock with a good week.

Otten (6’6”, 245 lbs.) was one of the better receiving tight ends in the nation, as he ranked third in yards receiving at his position this year and averaged a very solid 15.79 yards per reception. Otten isn’t a stud blocker in the run game, and his value comes as a receiver. He is good at finding open holes in zone coverage, and his size gives his quarterback a nice big target in the middle of the field. Otten isn’t considered a burner at his position like an Aaron Hernandez, but he has enough athletic ability to be used split out wide or in the slot, and this was often the case in college, and he has a Dennis Pitta feel to his game. Otten was most effective when used as a red zone target, as three of his four touchdown catches this year were in the red zone.

This season, Otten had 47 receptions for 742 yards and four touchdowns.

Small School Players

QB Joe Flacco (Delaware), CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Tennessee State), WR Ramses Barden (Cal Poly), G Vlad Ducasse (UMass), WR Andre Roberts (Citadel), WR Brian Quick (Appalachian State), and CB Janoris Jenkins (North Alabama) are all players that attended non-FBS schools, showed well at the Senior Bowl, and improved their stock to be picked in the first three rounds.

This year’s group consists of WR Aaron Mellette (Elon), DT Brandon Williams (Missouri Southern), OL Garrett Gilkey (Chadron State) and J.C. Tretter (Cornell), DT Montori Hughes (Tennessee-Martin), CB’s Robert Alford (Southeastern Louisiana) and B.W. Webb (William & Mary), and S J.J. Wilcox (Georgia Southern).

Every year there’s always a small school prospect or two who comes into Mobile and impresses, and this year should be no different. As of now, none of the above mentioned players are seen as potential top 100 selections, but that could change with a good week and some solid workouts later in the Draft process. It’s always interesting to see how the small school athletes will fare against some of the best talent in the nation.

One player to be on the lookout for is Elon WR Aaron Mellette (6’2, 215 lbs.) as he has good size to go along with long arms and good hands. He had 97 receptions for 1,408 yards and 18 touchdowns this past season.

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding Missouri Southern DT Brandon Williams as well. He may have the best shot of the bunch to make it into the Top 100 picks.

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