MOBILE, Ala. -- Players are beginning to separate themselves from the pack - for good and for bad - through the first two days of practice at the Senior Bowl.
SENIOR BOWL RISERS
OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan (North Team): After two days of practice, it's clear Eric Fisher has separated himself as the best prospect in Mobile this week. He hasn't been perfect, but has won more battles than he's lost, displaying the coordination and feet to hold up in space. Although he will get too tall at times, Fisher has shown better base strength than expected to absorb contact and hold his ground to control blockers, flashing a nasty demeanor as well. He has cemented himself as a top 12 pick, and it isn't a stretch to consider him one of this year's top prospects.
TE Vance McDonald, Rice (South Team): With Travis Kelce pulling out of the Senior Bowl due to injury, the distinction of top tight end in Mobile is wide open, but McDonald is making a strong case for the spot. He looks the part with broad shoulders, long arms (34.5 inches) and big hands (10 inches) to extend and pluck the ball out of the air. McDonald also looked aggressive during blocking drills, staying balanced through contact and flashing a finishing attitude. He did have some drops on Tuesday when trying to run before securing the grab, but for the most part, McDonald has been impressive this week and is making a strong case to be a top 100 pick.
WR Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech (South Team): Although this year's senior wide receiver group doesn't have a lock first-round talent, Patton is making a strong case to be considered among the top 32 picks. Thus far at practice, he has looked more impressive than Baylor's Terrance Williams and others with his controlled athleticism to separate and change gears. Patton doesn't have elite size (6-0, 202) or speed, but he plays fast and balanced with the hands to be a reliable go-to target. He likely won't get out of the top 60 selections.
OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma (South Team): There is no question Eric Fisher has been spectacular thus far, but Johnson has also been impressive and isn't far behind Fisher in the tackle rankings. Lining up at both left and right tackle, he has looked very natural in his kick-slide off the snap with a very wide base to cover a lot of ground, not lumbering or struggling to adjust to edge rushers. Johnson has only two years of experience on the offensive line and it shows at times, but his combination of length (35-inch arms), hand strength and movement skills should guarantee him a spot in the top 20 picks, possibly in the top 15.
DE Datone Jones, UCLA (North Team): After an impressive practice Monday, Jones kept the momentum going Tuesday, standing out as one of the best defensive stars on the North squad. He is very strong from head to toe and does a nice job using his powerful arms and hands to rip past blockers. He wasn't overly productive as a pass rusher at UCLA, largely due to the fact that he was moved all over the Bruins' hybrd 3-4 scheme, but he did record 19 tackles for loss as a senior with his impressive blend of burst and power to dispose of blockers at the point of attack. Jones is a name that will start to appear in first round mock drafts moving forward.
SENIOR BOWL FALLERS
C Braxston Cave, Notre Dame (North Team): This year's crop of centers leaves much to be desired, and the group in Mobile hasn't done much to change that opinion. Cave was the anchor of Notre Dame's offensive line this past season, but he has struggled to sustain blocks during practice this week, playing tight and lacking the athleticism to recover. He needs to be more aggressive with his hands and stay balanced in his stance to control defenders and not overextend himself.
CB Will Davis, Utah State (North Team): After a strong senior season, Davis created some buzz as a possible early-round draft choice, but he hasn't lived up to those expectations through two practices. He has struggled on an island in man coverage, playing undisciplined and often getting turned around by receivers. Davis has the athleticism and ability to potentially start at the next level, but he needs to do a better job staying balanced to anticipate routes and gain accurate position.
SENIOR BOWL NOTES
*Syracuse offensive tackle Justin Pugh is an intriguing prospect, but thus far through two practices it has become more evident that his best position is probably inside at guard. He has the mobility and body control to protect the edge, but he has suspect core strength and struggles to properly use his hands to control rushers at the point of attack. Pugh also lacks the length (31.5-inch arms) and growth potential to convince NFL teams he can stay at left tackle.
*Colorado tight end Nick Kasa has stood out on the North team. A former defensive end, he didn't make the move to offense until late last season, entering the 2012 campaign with just one career catch. Kasa plays a bit tight and bulky, but he is an intriguing athlete and has really impressed as a blocker this week. He obviously needs some more seasoning, but the tools are there for Kasa to be an interesting developmental draft choice early on the third day.
*The South team has been mixing and matching its offensive linemen through the first two practices with players like Lane Johnson and Oday Aboushi seeing reps on both the left and right sides. Florida tackle Xavier Nixon has also moved around the offensive line this week, seeing extensive time at left tackle, where he lined up mostly in Gainesville, but also taking reps inside at left guard on Tuesday. He flashed the hand strength to deliver a jolt off the snap and hold his ground, but his best attribute is his feet and athleticism, which makes him a better fit on the outside.
*Oregon offensive lineman Kyle Long was absent from the South practice on Tuesday due to dehydration, according to his twitter account. He needed an IV for over an hour and had a tough time keeping food or liquids down, however, is expected to be back on the practice field on Wednesday.
Dane Brugler is an Analyst for www.NFLDraftScout.com, powered by The Sports Xchange network.