It has been a soggy, sunny, blustery, unpredictable week of practices at Ladd Peebles Stadium. And the Mobile Convention Center ballroom. And possibly in some parking garage somewhere. Friday's schedule consists of light walkthroughs and community activities, so there is nothing left for a scout to do except wrap things up. Here is what we learned this week:
This is a great time to be Matt Flynn. There are no franchise quarterbacks here in Mobile. There may not be an NFL starting quarterback here in Mobile. Nick Foles of Arizona and Kirk Cousins look like sturdy backups, but neither possesses any outstanding quality. Russell Wilson of Wisconsin has the makings of a pepperpot-style backup: He is strong for his size, moves well, seems to see the field well, and has drawn praise from teammates on the North squad for his fiery demeanor. He reminds me of Shaun Hill of the Lions: the kind of backup some coaches like because he is always prepared and can catch a defense off guard with his athleticism. He does not have the size or arm to be a quality starter.
Teams looking for a quarterback who are not in position to draft Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III will soon turn to Flynn, the Packers backup who showed he could be something more with a six-touchdown performance at the end of the year. Taking any of these guys as a starter is just taking a flyer.
The defensive linemen lived up to their billing. Brandon Thompson of Clemson and Quentin Coples of North Carolina were as good as advertised. Melvin Ingram of South Carolina was a little more hot-and-cold, but he is an all-purpose freelancer who wasn't well served by the buttoned-down system the South coaches used. Kheeston Randall (Texas) and Tydreke Powell (North Carolina) also stood out. All of these defenders are versatile and look like they can fit in different schemes. Their competitiveness was also a huge plus: There was a mean streak running up and down the South defensive line. And the offensive line, for that matter.
The little cornerbacks are tough. Alfonso Denard of Nebraska looked great when pressing and tackling before suffering a minor injury. Leonard Johnson of Iowa State was fierce every time he made contact. Both of these players are only 5-foot-10, but both appear to have the Nate Clements skill set: willing in run defense, great at jamming and reroute receivers in a Cover-2 scheme. Coach Leslie Frazier took note of their physicality in Thursday's press conference. "Looking at the tape of yesterday's practice where we worked on stalk blocking, I saw just how aggressive the corners were at being able to hit receivers and shed receivers. You are always looking for guys who have the quickness and speed, but you are also looking for guys who are physical and aren't afraid to hit." Those guys were not hard to find on the North squad.
The obligatory "ups and downs" section of the wrap-up. Chris Rainey (RB, Florida) helped his stock by moving to wide receiver and showing the ability to run a full route tree. Rainey looks like an ideal third-down back and return man. This is a very deep draft at guard, with Kordy Glenn (G, Georgia) proving that he is a mountain of nasty run blocking and Senio Kelemete (G, Washington) demonstrating quickness and technique. Shea McClellin (DL-LB, Boise State) made the transition from defensive end to weakside linebacker incredibly smoothly: He looks like the kind of big, all-purpose linebacker that the Lions and Giants prefer. DeMario Davis (LB, Arkansas State) showed great athleticism at middle linebacker and proved he belongs.
On the downside, Kellen Moore of Boise State looked like an outstanding college quarterback with no business whatsoever in the pros. His passes sail, his athleticism is sub-par, and he frankly looks more like a teenage autograph seeker than a player when he is walking around in sweats. The most awkward moment of Thursday's press conference came when a reporter from Idaho tried to get Brian Quick (WR, Appalachian State, had rough early practices but improved a bit) to say something positive about Moore. The not-too-media-savvy Quick nodded, smiled, thought in vain for something polite to say, and ended up complimenting Russell Wilson.
Of the tight ends, only Brad Smelley of Alabama stood out. He moved from tight end to fullback during the week and handled the change well, and he showed fine hands on deep passes. He projects as a middle-round H-back type. There is no Jermichael Finley hanging around Mobile.
You will have to use your imagination during the game. These players only had two days of full contact practice under clear conditions. Monday's sessions were soggy and sloppy, Thursday's were conducted in a catering hall. There will be rust, miscommunication, poorly timed throws and mental mistakes, and we can't hold a mistake here or there against a player on Saturday: Drew Brees and Patrick Willis would have a hard time looking sharp under these circumstances. When you watch the Senior Bowl, look for technique, athleticism and aggressiveness. Don't expect razor-sharp play.