Risers and sliders from Senior Bowl
Cincinnati RB Isaiah Pead was named MVP thanks to two electrifying punt returns
Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins proved to scouts he's ready to run an NFL offense
Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson threw a TD pass but showed little pocket presence
The scouts and coaches left Mobile, Ala., on Thursday. The fans and campers headed home Saturday night after the North dominated the South 23-13 in the 2012 Senior Bowl. Several of the prospects we mentioned during the practices stood out during the contest, while a few who were quiet during the week also had nice performances. Here are the risers and sliders from the annual showcase for senior NFL prospects.
Isaiah Pead/RB/Cincinnati: At the start of Wednesday's practice it was mentioned how good Pead looked returning punts during special teams drills. Pead translated those skills from the practice field onto the game field and was named MVP of the Senior Bowl. Pead returned two punts for 60 and 38 yards, for an average of 49 yards. Pead looked like a veteran bringing the punts back, as he did a terrific job setting up his returns on both occasions. On offense he also had several nice runs, bursting through the open lanes and making defenders miss in the open field. Pead's solid week of practice coupled with the special teams skill showed during the game undoubtedly boosted his draft stock.
Kirk Cousins/QB/Michigan State: Cousins completed 5 of 11 passes for 115 yards, yet the stats tell a fraction of the story. Cousins made all the NFL throws from the pocket, displaying great speed on the ball while also putting touch on passes when required. His timing and accuracy was right on the mark as Cousins always gave his targets a good opportunity to make the reception. When he did miss on throws more times than not it was due to receiver error. It was important for Cousins to have a good game, as scouts questioned his judgment under center. At the Senior Bowl, decision-making was right on the money.
Mike Adams/T/Ohio State: During the week the consensus of scouts was the South squad had the best defensive ends of either roster. Adams was able to shut them down all game. On several occasions he stopped pass-rushing terrors Courtney Upshaw and Melvin Ingram dead in their tracks. Upshaw eventually sacked the passer, though the fault was not placed on Adams shoulders. His ability to stop quick, explosive pass-rushers in the game will give scouts even more to think about when they decide where in Round 1 one the talented tackle should be selected.
Alameda Ta'amu/DT/Washington: If scouts were hoping to be wowed by Ta'amu, all they need to due is watch the Senior Bowl game film. The big defensive tackle was dominant every time he lined up and was a constant nuisance for opponents. He collapsed the pocket on several occasions, overpowering opponents to make plays behind the line of scrimmage or force the action. His quarterback pressure at the end of the first half ended what looked to be a potential scoring drive for the South. In the second half the South was forced to double team Ta'amu in the attempt to slow him down.
Quinton Coples/DL/North Carolina: Coples flashed brilliance during the game, looking like a man among boys at times. His athleticism is incredible, as Coples beat opponents with quickness, speed and power. On several occasions he had Kelechi Osemele flailing in an attempt to slow him down. When he could not get to the quarterback, Coples got his long arms up to swat away passes. When he's on his game Coples is a difference-maker up front. The problem for scouts is determining how often Coples is willing to play at his highest level.
Mitchell Schwartz/T/California: Schwartz was the only offensive tackle to consistently shut down Coples during the game. He used great fundamentals and football smarts to keep the dominant defensive lineman at bay whenever they faced off. That's something scouts will take into consideration when they give Schwartz a final draft grade.
Vinny Curry/DE/Marshall: Curry continues to impress scouts with his ability to get penetration across the line of scrimmage. He was constantly in the backfield and his quarterback pressures in the first quarter caused a lot of problems for the South. On one occasion Curry bull rushed the much larger Zebrie Sanders into the pocket which resulted in a loss of yardage. Curry has significantly improved his draft stock this week and a good combine workout could secure him a spot in the late part of Round 1.
Doug Martin/RB/Boise State: Martin had several nice runs during the game, but its the little things he did well that made him stand out. In the first quarter Martin did a terrific job picking up pass protection assignments and knocked Melvin Ingram from the action on one occasion. Later in the half his downfield block allowed Arizona State receiver Gerrell Robinson to waltz into the end zone. Even before the game scouts stamped Martin as an early second-round choice.
Nigel Bradham/OLB/Florida State: Bradham was fast and athletic all game long, running down opponents from all directions of the field. He was terrific in pursuit and Bradham made several outstanding plays in open space. Bradham showed skill in pass defense and was on top of his game covering tight ends and running backs.
Russell Wilson/QB/Wisconsin: Wilson was terrific when he lined up in the shotgun and was able to move outside the pocket and throw on the move. When he was asked to play in an NFL style offense it was a completely different story. From the pocket Wilson sprayed his passes around the field and missed an easy scoring opportunity early in the game when his throw was wide of the mark. He showed little in the way of pocket presence or the ability to sense the rush. Wilson is a tremendous athlete, but he needs a lot of work before he'll be an NFL-ready passer.
Donnie Fletcher/CB/Boston College: Fletcher was picked on most of the night and was constantly chasing receivers around the field. Opponents were getting behind Fletcher and he was giving up easy passes in underneath coverage. He also missed a big tackle on a screen pass which resulted in a long gain for the south.
Zebrie Sanders/T/Florida State: Sanders' tough week of practice continued through the game. He was constantly off balance, rarely moved opponents off the ball run blocking and was pushed back into the pocket on several occasions. Sanders also displayed poor footwork in pass protection and little ability to slide out and protect the edge.
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