By Adam Hoge-
MOBILE, Ala. (CBS) — My time at the Senior Bowl is up, but after seeing four practices and having nearly 48 hours to talk to scouts, agents and team representatives, there are plenty of thoughts on my mind about the NFL prospects in Mobile. Here are 10 takeaways from my two days at the Senior Bowl:
1. A.J. McCarron should have been there. The Mobile native controversially decided to skip the Senior Bowl, a decision made based on information given to him by his agent Todd France. And after seeing what I saw from the quarterbacks in Mobile, I think it was a mistake for the Alabama quarterback not to be there. I’m confident that McCarron would have stood out as the second-best quarterback at the Senior Bowl, behind only Fresno State’s Derek Carr, who is looking like an early to mid first-round pick. Instead, Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo has commanded most of the attention from scouts and media and established himself as the second-best quarterback talent in Mobile.
Remember, if McCarron had accepted his invite, Garoppolo wouldn’t have even been at the Senior Bowl.
In my opinion, Garoppolo has passed McCarron on the quarterback depth chart and if NFL teams agree, that will cost the Alabama quarterback money.
Sure, it’s possible Garoppolo would have passed McCarron by May anyway, but the Senior Bowl is the one place where NFL front-office executives, coaches and scouts gather in a large setting to watch these guys perform in actual practices against the top senior talent in college football. It’s unique from the Combine and Pro Days in that manner and this week is where a handful of players stand out above the rest.
I believe McCarron would have been one of those players. Instead, the lasting image is still that poor performance against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
2. Some team will take Logan Thomas earlier than they should. I’ve been hard on the North quarterbacks this week, but for good reason — they don’t look very good. Thomas clearly stands out from Tahj Boyd and Stephen Morris, mainly because he’s 6-5 3/4, 250 pounds, with good speed and mobility. Scouts love that. He also has an above-average arm and his throwing motion is pretty fluid.
The problem is, Thomas isn’t accurate and he never improved much during his time at Virginia Tech.
That said, I believe there will be at least one team that looks at the measurables and believes they can develop him. Personally, when in doubt, I trust the tape over measurables, but many NFL scouts tend to do the opposite. I always say, all you need is one. There will be one team willing to take a chance on Thomas, possibly in the third or fourth round.
3. Tahj Boyd shouldn’t get drafted. He will, but he shouldn’t. I didn’t see him make a single NFL worthy throw on Monday or Tuesday. He’s only 6-0 3/4, 222, isn’t accurate and his arm is just average in my opinion. I’m good.
4. David Fales has a lot more work to do. I wish he could have been traded to the North team after Monday’s practice so I could have seen him next to other quarterbacks besides Carr and Garoppolo. Throwing next to those guys, the San Jose State quarterback looked below-average as his arm wasn’t as strong and his passes fluttered in the air. My guess is he’s still the third-best quarterback in Mobile, but he’ll need to impress in Saturday’s game and down the road at the Combine.
5. Don’t give up on Aaron Murray. I had a chance to talk to the Georgia quarterback Monday night and he remains upbeat and confident despite a poorly timed ACL tear in November. He’s on track to perform at Georgia’s pro day April 16 and should be good to go when NFL training camps open up this summer. Murray has always stood out to me on tape and I think he provides a ton of value if he slips to the middle rounds because of his injury. For teams looking to develop a starter in a year or two, Murray is still a good second-day draft option. I’d certainly take him over Thomas, Boyd or Stephen Morris.
6. The cornerbacks were fun to watch. From Utah’s Keith McGill to Florida’s Jaylen Watkins to Nebraska’s Stan Jean-Baptiste, I really enjoyed watching the group of corners in Mobile. McGill and Jean-Baptiste are bigger corners who showed the ability to play press-man coverage, while Watkins’ ball skills were impressive. Watkins is 5-11 3/8, 194, and showed good instincts and quickness.
7. Don’t sleep on the B1G tight ends. Iowa’s C.J. Fiedorowicz and Wisconsin’s Jacob Pedersen didn’t exactly blow me away in college, but both were solid blockers and reliable red zone targets. They don’t compare to Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro and North Carolina’s Eric Ebron but both players can be good good, fundamentally sound tight ends at the next level.
8. Robert Herron might be the next NFL speedster. The Wyoming wide receiver won’t climb as high as Tavon Austin did a year ago, but at 5-8 7/8, 193, Herron flashed top-end speed that a number of teams are going to covet. I’m not a fan of using early picks on players of that mold, but the “all it takes is one” rule applies here and it wouldn’t surprise me if Herron ends up as a Day 2 pick.
9. Jared Abbrederis will make a team happy. The best receiver in the Big Ten the last two seasons flies under the radar a little bit at 6-0 7/8, but he possesses sneaky speed and might be the best route runner at the Senior Bowl. Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews and Texas’ Mike Davis might have higher ceilings, but Abbrederis is actually a pretty safe pick in the third or fourth round. He’s in the Eric Decker mold and can put up similar numbers in the right situation. He comes with that former walk-on mentality and if you turn on the Ohio State tape this year, you’ll see all he does is catch passes, even against top cornerbacks like Bradley Roby.
10. Princeton’s Caraun Reid is a sleeper. The defensive tackle stood out in Mobile and is an intriguing prospect coming out of the Ivy League. He needed to show what he can do against better competition and he held his own. He looks like a 3-technique right now, but at 6-2 1/8, 301, has a little room to add some weight and possibly play as a 1-tech too. It will be interesting to see how he performs at the Combine. A total of 110 players weighed-in at the Senior Bowl Monday morning, so if I didn’t mention your guy over the last few days, I apologize. I can promise you he’s been evaluated closely by NFL scouts though and there’s still plenty of time to impress before the NFL Draft in May.
You can read all of Hoge’s Senior Bowl Coverage Here.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.