Players moving up draft charts after week's practices
Posted: Friday January 27, 2006 11:48AM; Updated: Friday January 27, 2006 11:48AM
By Tony Pauline, Special to SI.com
As the world prepares for next week's Super Bowl more than 1,000 NFL scouts, coaches, general managers and members of the media descended upon Mobile, Ala. They joined 100 of the nation's top senior prospects for the 2006 version of Senior Bowl week.
Possibly the most important pre-draft scouting event of the year, the Senior Bowl gives scouts and coaches their only opportunity to watch the most talented football players in America practice in full-pads.
There have been some dramatic shifts in draft status over the years, from Phillip Rivers ascending up the boards in 2004, to Matt Jones moving from a late-round pick at quarterback to first-round selection at receiver last year.
So with the game ready to kick off on Saturday, who were the stars of practice this week?
Many scouts focused on Vanderbilt quarterback JayCutler. The SEC's leading passer has turned into an icon of sorts. Draft prognosticators moved the former Commodorse passer from a second-round pick last November to a top-10 choice just prior this arrival in Mobile. Many in the scouting community disagree with these early predictions and wanted to see Cutler respond during Senior Bowl week.
So what was the verdict?
Cutler's physical skills and live arm were impressive, as was his decision-making. But he lacked the precise pass placement of a top-tier pick. As result, many scouts project Cutler as a mid-first round choice.
Celebrated running back DeAngelo Williams of Memphis scared some by measuring in at 5-feet-8 1/2 inches tall on Monday. He then quelled many of those fears by putting together an exceptional week of practice. Williams has solidified himself as a top-15 choice.
Building on a terrific senior season, Oregon receiver Demetrius Williams was brilliant all week. Looking graceful on the field, Williams caught everything thrown his way and now has an opportunity to become a first round pick.
Several offensive linemen had banner weeks.
Ohio State center Nick Mangold was rock solid and stoned all defenders who tried to get by him. D'Brickashaw Ferguson of Virginia was another who shut out the opposition and looked stellar in pass protection. Ferguson has solidified himself as one of the draft's top-five players. Pittsburgh guard CharlesSpencer also turned in a top performance and enhanced his draft ranking.
Defensively, Tennessee's Parys Haralson tipped the scales at 6-foot-1, 250 pounds, but played much bigger all week. Terrorizing opposing tackles, Haralson sped past blockers in pass-protection drills. Even when placed at defensive tackle, Haralson physically defeated players who weighed 70 pounds more than him. In the end, the former Volunteer established himself as a second-round pick.
At linebacker, Chad Greenway was his usual steady self. The All-America from Iowa stood out as the most consistent player at his position this week. Solid in both run defense and pass coverage, Greenway properly positioned himself to make plays, impressing scouts.
Cornerback Tye Hill of Clemson had as good a week as anyone in Mobile. Presenting himself as a shutdown corner, Hill was unbeatable. His ability to mirror receivers 40 yards down field then defend the pass or intercept the throw was eye-catching. A late first-round pick coming into the week, Hill has moved himself into the top half of round one.
Finally punter John Torp made himself some money at the Senior Bowl. The Colorado product displayed a big leg all week, kicking moonshots which landed some 60 yards from their starting point. Torp will likely be the first punter selected somewhere in the third round.