Sometimes the game gets lost after all the hoopla of the Senior Bowl practices. NFL scouts don't even bother going to the game since they can just watch the tape later. The goal of their scouting efforts was to see how these prospects respond to coaching and to NFL style play. Once the game starts, you play to win the game and so the coaches will do stuff that suit the players' strengths (like spread formations) instead of focusing on stuff scouts want to see. There are also several Pro Bowl style rules that keep the teams from doing other stuff that NFL teams do. Anyway, there are still a number of interesting prospects in this game and I wanted to highlight some that made some plays in the actual game.
Giving credit where credit is due: I realize that for the sake of ease when collecting all the quotes I've neglected to mention where they came from. Obviously, ESPN.com's Scouts, Inc is one and I've pimped Draft Countdown before. Others are Walter Football, Draft Daddy, National Football Post and Draftguys.
Brandon Graham, Michigan, DE/OLB, 1st round
Senior Bowl Notes: Made Some big time plays in the game including a sack fumble. Was LaMarr Woodley's understudy once upon a time a Michigan and he's worked to follow in the Super Bowl ring owner's footsteps.
- "Brandon Graham has been one of the real standouts here, using his hands and lateral suddenness to consistently sidestep opposing linemen and accelerate around the edge. He makes everything look easy and is one of the most NFL-ready prospects at this year’s Senior Bowl."
- "Brandon Graham put on a clinic; makes rushing the passer look easy. "
- "Michigan's Brandon Graham had a very nice practice today and this is his environment. At the Combine he won't blow your socks off, but when the pads are on, he stands out. Graham is very physical and has some good short area quickness. He made Utah's Zane Beadles eat dirt on a nasty spin move that had the sidelines crowing."
- "Brandon Graham showed an explosive first step during individual drills"
- "Graham showed an explosive first step on Day 4, exploding out of his stance and staying low. His positioning and technique were impressive and he did a good job closing down cutback lanes and getting down the line in pursuit. Graham also showed discipline when he stayed home on a reverse. His effort was outstanding, as well, and on a day when the players are in shorts and helmets and it's easy to gear down, Graham showed that he is ready to take the next step and become a professional football player."
Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri, ILB/OLB, 1st-2nd round
Senior Bowl Notes: Gave the pregame speach for the North. Had a nice play in coverage against Dexter McCluster.
- "There’s no denying that Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon has some natural leadership qualities and can close on the football sideline to sideline. However, I still worry about his ability to hold up at the line as he too often gets washed out of plays inside. He does a nice job locating the ball quickly and can sidestep opposing linemen in space, but when he’s asked to play in tight quarters, the guy isn’t nearly as effective."
- "Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is making me forget about his average senior season. I've been told he has a very outgoing personality, but on the football field his instincts come to life and he is quick to diagnose and react. A big game in the Senior Bowl could guarantee he comes off the board in the top 50 picks."
- "Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is easily the most fun player to watch in practice today - and all the draftniks rave about his extroverted personality. I was impressed with his range and athleticism today, but he is certainly a vocal player. Right after a nice play by Daryl Washington in 7v7's he yelled, "WHHHHEEWWWW! OH YEAHHH!" Another time "Spoon" chest bumped a teammate and said, "I SEE YOU OUT THERE!" Weatherspoon will be a fan favorite wherever he goes - that's one of the locks of the 2010 NFL Draft."
- "Missouri OLB Sean Weatherspoon is not closing quickly enough in coverage."
Geno Atkins, Georgia, DE/DT, 1st-3rd round
Senior Bowl Notes: Gave the North OL a tough time in the game. Needs to put on weight to play 3-4 DE in the Chargers scheme, but would make an immediate impact in nickel situations as a pass rushing DE/DT.
- "Geno Atkins split double teams and penetrated upfield. His stock continues to rise."
- "Geno Atkins flashed; good hand-play splitting the double team and dominated rushing the passer."
- "He's got a great motor"
- "Atkins disappointed scouts with his play in 2009 but elevated his game on the first day of Senior Bowl practice. Atkins was explosive and unstoppable for most of the afternoon session. He was constantly getting penetration behind the line of scrimmage and regularly beating bigger, stronger opponents."
Taylor Mays, USC, S, 1st round
Senior Bowl Notes: Got a pick at the goal line and had a nice run back. Gave credit for the play to his coach, which tells you something about his coachability. He's a contraversial prospect because he has all the athleticism to be a great safety, but people question how well he covers, makes plays and his potential to do both those things at the next level.
- "I called him the male model this week. He looks good in a pose, but he got beat in pass coverage and after the catch. After this week, Mays not only confirmed some deficiencies with his game, but he gave an even bigger boost to Eric Berry’s stock."
- "Taylor Mays continued to struggle generating any kind of burst when asked to click and close and routinely getting high in his drop and being forced to gather himself in coverage. On top of that, he lacks the type of instincts needed to consistently get good jumps on the ball and always looks to be playing from behind. If I had my choice between Mays and Allen at this stage, my pick would be Allen."
- "Taylor Mays covered a ton of ground getting to the end zone for a pass break-up. Mays is raw in coverage but is improving. Mays has rare athleticism that can't be taught"
- "Taylor Mays is a rare bird: a linebacker who runs like a defensive back. He was not tested by the South QB's."
- "Perfect physical specimen."
- "Physically USC S Taylor Mays is a man amongst boys. It's shocking how much bigger he is compared to the other defensive backs. He truly does look like a linebacker out on the field. Mays drew a reaction from the crowd when he basically ran right through Andre Roberts on a play in the deep middle."
- "Today was just not Taylor Mays' day. He really struggled in press man coverage and obviously lacks some instincts I knew he didn't have. I love his physicality, speed, athleticism and size, but his ability to cover is a legitimate concern."
- "I noticed that Seattle head coach Pete Carroll went up to Taylor Mays and wished him luck as the draft process continues (Yeah - I have a hard time seeing Seattle pass Mays up with that second pick in the first round.)"
- "I'm really feeling for Taylor Mays. Yes, I killed him (have to call it like I see it), but he's really struggling and showing all the weaknesses I thought he had. He's stiff, he doesn't play the ball, and his instincts aren't there. One time, Tebow threw a duck on a skinny post over the middle and Mays was clearly in position to make the pick, but he was too focused on making the big hit. He'll thrive at the Combine, but Michael Johnson did the same, and he went in Round 3. Mays won't go quite that low, but he isn't solidifying a first-round grade this week. I give him a ton of credit for coming out here to try and prove himself - we can't doubt his competitiveness and love of the game."