2014 Senior Bowl: Random Notes from the North Squad


Through the first three and arguably the most important days of the evaluation process, there have been more than a few “winners” and “losers” at the Senior Bowl here in Mobile. The quarterback position is always going to be the headline grabber and for that reason the South team has generated far more buzz than the North team. There are however plenty of players on the North squad that will factor heavily into NFL teams plans on draft weekend. Here are a few observations from days 1-3 of practice for the North squad:

– The quarterbacks for the North were not good, at some points very bad. They all have NFL arm strength and ideal athleticism for the position, but with each of them have shown an inconsistency with decision making and accuracy which has held them back. Outside of the immense potential of Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas, none of the North teams quarterback’s really raised their draft stock this week and in Clemson signal caller Tajh Boyd’s case, it was lowered. I have a hard time seeing any of the three drafted before the 3rd day.

West Virginia running back Charles Sims had a really solid week, and while there isn’t one particular facet of his game that will blow you away, he does everything well. He has a strong build with a thick base, good feet, and a natural feel for running lanes and finding seams. Sims is a fringe 3rd round pick who should not go any lower than the 4th round.

– Really strong week for the North Team wide outs. Shaq Evans of UCLA had a very strong week and certainly helped raise his draft stock. Jared Abbrederis was dinged by measuring two inches shorter than his listed height, but still showed why he was so effective at Wisconsin with good hands and precise route running. Oregon’s Josh Huff also impressed this week, he’s a versatile player who becomes a weapon when the ball is in his hands. Given the ridiculous amount of receiving talent available in the 2014 class, it is going to be a challenge pegging where players will ultimately wind up.

Wake Forest wide receiver Mike Campanaro looks awfully similar to Wes Welker when he was prospect at Texas Tech. He has a short and compact build with steady hands, deceptive speed and quickness, and plays with surprising power. The Saints, Broncos, and Eagles showed considerable interest throughout the week. Campanaro’s arrow is pointing up.

– The two best lineman on the North were Notre Dame offensive tackle Zach Martin and Colorado State center Weston Richburg. Neither player will overwhelm anyone physically, but both players are clean prospects who play with excellent technique. There is some debate within the draft community as to whether Martin ultimately projects outside at tackle or inside at guard, but regardless of position he should hear his name called sometime between picks 20-50. Richburg is steadily rising up draft boards and may end up pushing Arkansas Razorback Travis Swanson and FSU’s Bryan Stork for 2014’s top pivot.

– At 6’0, 288 lbs. Aaron Donald of Pittsburgh is undersized for an NFL defensive tackle, but he certainly doesn’t play like it. After talking to a few of the North teams offensive lineman, it was clear that Donald was one of the toughest blocks in mobile. Donald flashed quickness, deceptive power, and fantastic use of leverage all week long.

Minnesota defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman is an intimidating physical specimen. He’s a 6’6, 318 lber. who can bend as well as any big man I can remember and hold the point of attack like a defensive tackle. He is the most physically talented player in mobile and has the potential to truly dominate the game. Hageman has little chance of getting out of the top 20.

Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland turned heads all week, flying around the field and locating the football. Borland was never asked to cover much for the Badgers but was surprisingly comfortable in zone coverage and flashed his athleticism in man to man drills. The Ravens and Colts were two of the teams showing interest in Borland.

UCLA’s Jordan Zumwalt was one of the most physical players in mobile all week. In fact, Missouri edge rusher Michael Sam singled out Zumwalt for his physicality in a conversation with WTFP and named him the player that stuck out most in practice. A long and lean athlete, Zumwalt got after it in one on one drills and stood out all week.

Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste was the most impressive cornerback on the North squad. Jean-Baptiste is an emerging prospect who follows the recent trend of long and physical corners. At 6’2 215 lbs., Jean-Baptiste showed better than anticipated hips and fluidity in coverage. After a strong Senior Bowl week, a solid combine performance could push him into the draft’s second day. The Saints and the Chargers showed plenty of interest in the Nebraska product.

Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward made plays and flashed impressive speed all week. He is not short on confidence nor talent and despite coming from a smaller program, Ward showed he belonged and caught the eye of NFL brass. The Chargers, Broncos, and Eagles all spent time with Ward.

Check back Friday morning for my South team notes..

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