||01-21-2014 11:15 PM
Re: Todd McShay on 2014 NFL Draft
Senior Bowl: One-tool standouts, NFL fits
MOBILE, Ala. -- The North and South teams both had two-hour practices Tuesday in preparation for the Senior Bowl, and several of the players who stood out did so for not necessarily having the most well-rounded games, but for showcasing talents and abilities that will make them coveted by NFL teams for specific roles.
Let’s take a look at four guys who fit the description of being very strong in one area, along with NFL player comparisons and NFL team (and scheme) fits for each.
Dee Ford, Auburn Tigers
Role: Pass-rushing specialist
NFL comparison: Jerry Hughes, Buffalo Bills
NFL fits: Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys
Ford played defensive end at Auburn, although it’s likely that he’ll make the transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Regardless of what scheme he plays in, the one thing he’s going to be able to do is serve as an edge rusher. He’s exploding off the ball in practices this week, showing a really good first step. For an undersized guy (he measured at 6-foot-2, 243 pounds), he showed impressive pop and explosiveness during the bag drill, which tells us he has the potential to get better over time with his rip and club moves as a pass-rusher. That’s really important for a guy like him who lacks ideal size. He got home as a pass-rusher more times than any of the other D-ends in practice Tuesday, and he displayed a great motor and energy level.
Missouri’s Michael Sam is another guy who fits this mold, although he struggled a bit in practice Tuesday as he attempts to make the transition to linebacker. And while Sam is a little bigger, Ford is the more explosive athlete.
Teams are always looking for pass-rushers, but Tampa Bay, Chicago and Dallas are three teams that would make sense for Ford given their schemes (Tampa 2) and current personnel needs.
Kain Colter, Northwestern Wildcats
Role: Slot receiver
NFL comparison: Jeremy Kerley, New York Jets
NFL fits: Texans, Broncos, Falcons, Browns, Saints
Spending as much time at quarterback as he did at Northwestern likely stunted his growth as a receiver, so Colter still has plenty of room to improve as a route runner and with the other nuances of the position. He also doesn’t have great size at 5-10, 199 pounds, so if you ask him to match up against a bigger, more physical cornerback he can have his route disrupted.
However, he has the potential to develop into an effective slot receiver, where it will be tougher for defensive backs to get their hands on him. He has the burst to separate quickly on his routes as well as get free after the catch. He was by far the best slot guy in practices on Tuesday, catching the ball well with his good-sized hands (10 inches), including a one-handed snatch.
Colter is beginning his transition from QB to receiver on the same field that Antwaan Randle El did several years ago, and while Colter isn’t the same special kind of athlete Randle El was, he has the raw abilities to possibly contribute as a returner down the road, as Randle El did during his NFL career.
Keith McGill, Utah Utes
Role: Press corner
NFL comparison: Brandon Browner
NFL fits: Seahawks, Jaguars, Packers
Given the size of some of the more prolific receivers in the NFL today, there is an increased need for bigger cornerbacks who can match up with them in press coverage. As we mentioned on Monday, there are several bigger corners in practices this week, and McGill is one who has stood out both days so far.
McGill has pretty good instincts in terms of his overall awareness and route recognition. He also does a good job of finding the ball in the air and playing it. He had some ups and downs this season, and there are aspects of his game he needs to clean up (his hip fluidity can improve). But because of his size, he doesn’t need to always be in ideal position to be disruptive to a receiver’s route and make a play on the ball when he’s forced to turn and run. He really knows how to throw his weight around -- not all big corners are aggressive, physical and competitive, but he has been all three in practices.
He needs to improve his press technique, but he has the tools to do it. McGill's size will be tempting for teams. He’s 6-3, 214 pounds, which is slightly bigger than Richard Sherman when he was coming out of school (6-2, 205) and roughly the same size as Browner when he was coming out (6-3, 221). For teams in the middle rounds looking to add size at cornerback, particularly one who can hold his own in press coverage, McGill could be an intriguing option.
Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh Panthers
Role: 3-technique defensive tackle
NFL comparison: Peria Jerry, Atlanta Falcons
NFL fits: Bears, Cowboys, Falcons, Cardinals
Donald’s snap anticipation and first-step quickness are up there with any defensive tackle in this year’s draft class. That was on display in practice Monday, when he was phenomenal, and again at times on Tuesday. That isn’t surprising, as he has been really disruptive throughout his career.
This is why he’s an ideal fit as a 3-technique D-tackle who can get up the field and be disruptive in the backfield. His initial quickness allows him to get on top of blockers right away before they have time to get into their sets, and he shows good instincts and change-of-direction skills when he gets in the backfield.
Where he gets into trouble is when he’s asked to sit back and anchor down (things asked of traditional 4-3 D-tackles and 3-4 D-ends), which was evident Tuesday during two-on-one drills. And there were times when Tennessee State guard Kadeem Edwards got in front of him in one-on-one drills, and made Donald look ordinary (similar to what happened to him against a bigger Miami offensive line this season). He lacks ideal size at 6-0, 288 pounds with 31¾-inch arms, which is really right on the edge of acceptable size at the position. If he were 2 inches taller and 15 pounds bigger, we’d be talking about him as a top-15 pick. But his ability to get off the ball with initial pop and explosiveness makes him an ideal fit as a 3-technique, as that scheme is designed to do everything it can to allow that position to stay on the move.
Other standouts from Tuesday’s practices:
DT Deandre Coleman, California: Coleman isn’t a big-name D-lineman like Ford or Arizona State’s Will Sutton, but he has played really well both days here. He looked very strong against the double-team on Tuesday, using his hands effectively and playing really hard. He plowed through Oklahoma’s Gabe Ikard during one session.
WR Ryan Grant, Tulane: Grant has stood out on both days, cleanly catching the ball away from his frame and looking smooth getting in and out of his breaks. He’s very quick and has done a good job of separating from coverage. He’s lean and needs to get stronger, but has a big enough frame to do so.
OG Kadeem Edwards, Tennessee State: Edwards has done a great job of using his hands and playing with balance, and he completely stoned Donald during one of the sessions. He’s a small-school guy who has performed well against bigger-name competition.
OL Brandon Thomas, Clemson, and Jack Mewhort, Ohio State: Neither of these guys is overly pretty, but they are effective. Mewhort looks like a fit at right tackle, while Thomas might be more of a guard, but both are potential starters. Mewhort could be a good value on Day 2, and Thomas would be a good value in the middle rounds.
RB Jerick McKinnon, Georgia Southern: McKinnon is trying to make the transition from small-school college quarterback (he rushed for 125 yards on nine carries, including the game-winning TD, in Georgia Southern’s upset win over Florida this season) to NFL running back, so he still has some things to figure out in terms of showing better vision and patience, and improving his technique in pass protection. But he has noticeable juice and acceleration. He looks like the quickest running back here, and has great burst out of his cuts.