Senior Bowl 2009: Recapping the week's biggest winners in practice
Boston College DT B.J. Raji was the unquestionable winner
Penn State WR Derek Williams vastly improved his draft stock
After slow start, USC LB Rey Maualuga eventually found his form
MOBILE, Ala. -- The scouts and general managers have all left Mobile as practices have come to an end. All that's left to do is play the game, which kicks off Saturday at 6 p.m. Here's a list of the players who came out of the practices as the biggest winners and those who disappointed.
B.J. Raji/DT/Boston College: Raji walks away from Senior Bowl practices as the unquestionable big winner. He was unblockable each and every day. Raji manhandled opponents in one-on-one drills then collapsed the pocket in scrimmage when he faced double team blocks. Coming into the week Raji was considered a mid-to-late first-round pick but he enters the game now ranked as a top 15 selection.
Derek Williams/WR/Penn State: Williams was always thought of as a great athlete who showed flashes of excellence at receiver. He pulled all the pieces together this week and was just plain brilliant. His athletic skills translated into football dominance on just about every snap. He solidified himself as the draft's top senior receiver moving towards the combine and now grades out as a late first-round pick.
Larry English/DE-OLB/Northern Illinois: English was the best pass rusher on the field this week. He beat offensive tackles off the edge and made several higher rated prospects look like amateurs. His speed and ability to make plays up the field is enticing and has solidified English as a late first-round selection.
Alphonso Smith/CB/Wake Forest: Smith came to Mobile as a fringe first-round pick but enters the game knowing he has solidified himself as a top 20 selection. Smith took on all receivers, including those bigger or faster, and shut them down. He displayed great ball skills and made a living defending or intercepting passes all week.
Alex Magee/DT/Purdue: He was a late arrival to the Senior Bowl yet made his presence felt the moment he stepped onto the field Tuesday. Magee made life miserable for those who tried to block him. He showed great athleticism on every snap. Magee was considered a late second-round choice before the week began, yet it's not out of the question he could slide into the final few choices of round one after his performance in Mobile.
Evander Hood/DT/Missouri: Hood could've been an easy guy to miss with all the available talent on the defensive line, yet he made his mark and stood out when the opportunity arose. Hood played with a non-stop motor, working hard until the whistle blew. He was another whose quickness and explosion gave blockers fits. Hood now grades as a solid early second rounder, about 20 spots better than where he stood a week ago.
Juaquin Iglesias/WR/Oklahoma: Iglesias positively answered the question about his ability to play in a disciplined pro-style offense versus the wide open spread system at Oklahoma, which made him so productive. He displayed consistent hands all week and now ranks below only Derrick Williams on the list of senior receivers available this April.
Louis Delmas/S/Western Michigan: Delmas displayed an array of skills from day one. He was effective in pass coverage, very tough against the run and showed a lot of leadership in the secondary. He has positioned himself as one of the top three safeties in the draft.
Trevor Canfield/OG/Cincinnati: The Bearcat All American dominated opponents each and every day. He's strong like a bull and as mean as they come. Canfield went up against the best defensive linemen offered by the Senior Bowl this year and held his own. He is now positioned to be one of the top three guards selected, somewhere in the middle of round two.
Rashad Jennings/RB/Liberty: The small school product took full advantage of the opportunity to showcase his talents. He displayed speed and power carrying the ball, strength and tenacity as a blocker and sure hands catching passes. Jennings' performance makes him the top senior running back in April's draft.
Mike Thomas/WR/Arizona: Thomas stood out every day this week and significantly improved his draft stock. He played bigger than his measured size of 5-8, 187-pounds, and faster than his perceived 40 time of 4.55 seconds. Thomas battled larger opponents to come away with the difficult grab but also regularly made the ordinary reception. He's elevated himself into the second round of the draft and could move into the middle part of the frame with good workouts at next month's combine.
Nic Harris/OLB/Oklahoma: Harris was seamless in his transition to outside linebacker after spending most of the past four years at safety. He was athletic and forceful all week, defeating blocks to make plays up the field or denying the corners to ball carriers. Harris has room for improvement at the position but the arrow is definitely pointing up.
Noteworthy Performers: John Phillips/TE/Virginia, Tyronne Green/OG/Auburn, Jason Watkins/OT/Florida, David Veikune/DE/Hawaii, Peria Jerry/DT/Mississippi, Coye Francies/CB/San Jose State, Chip Vaughn/S/Wake Forest, Rashad Johnson/S/Alabama.
William Moore/S/Missouri: Moore came to Mobile stamped as the draft's top safety and carried a first round grade. After a bad week he leaves hoping to be selected before the second round ends. Moore struggled in pass coverage and was constantly getting beat by receivers. Scouts in attendance feel Moore's poor ball skills limit the types of systems he will be effective in at the next level. As a result, his draft stock has taken a hit.
Pat White/QB/West Virginia: Scouts who thought White could play in the NFL must now rethink that opinion. White's a talented athlete who shows minimal consistency and accuracy throwing the ball from the pocket. He is now likely to spend time working out with the receivers at the combine in February.
Victor Harris/CB/Virginia Tech: Harris struggled from the word go, giving up receptions short and deep every day. He rarely made plays on the ball and was constantly late arriving to the action. The week in Mobile cost Harris at least a round of draft stock, pushing him into the fourth frame.
Herman Johnson/OG/LSU: Johnson got a rise from scouts on Monday morning after measuring 6-feet, 7.5 inches and 382 pounds. It turned out to be one of the few times all week he would impress onlookers. Johnson rumbled around the field from the first day of practice and was constantly exploited by smaller and quicker defenders. He struggled at his college position of guard and at right tackle.
Andy Levitre/OL/Oregon State: Levitre could not capitalize on a terrific senior season. He was beaten by speed opponents and driven off the line by powerful defenders. A possible top 75 choice coming into the Senior Bowl, Levitre has fallen into the late part of round four.
After a very slow start to the week, Rey Maualuga finished in a furious manner and looked every bit the part of being an impact defensive player by Wednesday. He was flying around the field, running over blockers and blowing up plays. What was the difference? Maualuga was one of just two players in the Senior Bowl who had not yet signed with an agent, the other being Cal center Alex Mack. Maualuga came into the week ill prepared physically and mentally and was unaware of how the entire Senior Bowl process worked. Word got out Tuesday night that the USC linebacker had finally signed with a representative. Once things settled down for him off the field, his play started to heat up between the sidelines.
NFL Truth & Rumors