NEWS AND NEAR NEWS

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Small-school guys star at Senior Bowl weigh-in … Overall, the results from Tuesday morning’s measurement session at the Senior Bowl in Mobile weren’t particularly impressive. And the exclamation point on the whole business may be that the two guys who had NFL personnel people talking were players from small schools. Read more

Senior Bowl posts weigh-in numbers … Good job Senior Bowl! For the first time, the good folks that run the Senior have actually published the height/weight and other related data from this morning’s measurement session. Here are the numbers for the North team and the South team.

Senior Bowl underway in Mobile … Its that time of year again as the Senior Bowl in officially underway in Mobile. As we speak, the players are being measured and weighed. Courtesy of Draftwire.com here are the running heights and weights of the players in Mobile. Hopefully we’ll get and analyze the other data that gets collected at these events such as the hand size and arm length later in the day when it becomes available. After this morning’s weigh-in both teams will have practices in shells. The NFL Network will have coverage of today’s practices beginning at 2 PM ET. Note the NFL Network will also be covering Wednesday and Thursday’s full practice sessions but beginning at 1 PM ET.

Shrine game report: offensive line … Not surprisingly, in a game that ended in a 10-3 score with the only TD coming in the 4th quarter, the offensive lines at the East-West Shrine game in St. Petersburg were hardly blowing people off the line of scrimmage. The OTs, in particular, really struggled at times, and while the interior blockers held up a little better it may more a reflection that there wasn’t a whole lot of quickness among the DTs on the other side of the ball. Here’s a quick review of the offensive linemen who stood out and who didn’t at last week’s East-West Shrine game.

Shrine game report: defensive line … Good thing that NFL teams put a whole lot more stock in all-star game practices that they do in the actual game, because Saturday’s East-West Shrine game in St. Petersburg was kind of a dismal event that ended in a 10-3 win for the West. It was also ‘dismal’ in the sense that there were very few individual performances that screamed out to NFL personnel people ‘draft me’. However, there a couple of defensive linemen that stood as reported in our report on the defensive linemen at the East-West Shrine game.

Good thing that NFL teams put a whole lot more stock in all-star game practices that they do in the actual game, because Saturday’s East-West Shrine game in St. Petersburg was kind of a dismal event that ended in a 10-3 win for the West. It was also ‘dismal’ in the sense that there were very few individual performances that screamed out to NFL personnel people ‘draft me’.

The one guy, at least along the lines, who did really have a good game on Saturday was Louisville DT DeAngelo Brown who was arguably the most disruptive defensive lineman during the Shrine game as he was in the West backfield much of the afternoon. Built like a fire hydrant at under 6-0.5 and 312 pounds, Brown also showed a quick first step off the snap and with his low center of gravity was able to get into gaps and maintain leverage heading up field. Brown also did an excellent job holding the point even when double-teamed. At the same time, though, Brown was not able to get a lot of penetration when he went into a straight bull-rush mode when attacking the pocket. Fellow DTs Ralph Green of Indiana and Colorado’s Josh Tupou also did a very good job holding the point of attack stuffing the run, but seldom got much off the line of scrimmage rushing the passer. Meanwhile, Florida DT Joey Ivie did have a sack, but otherwise kind of got pushed around; same for Matt Godin of Michigan.

A couple of DEs in Deatrich Wise of Arkansas and Florida Atlantic’s Trey Hendrickson also had pretty good games on Saturday. They are both guys with good length and relatively long, quick initial steps; they also both showed top-end motors, decent agility and some power rush moves. However, after breaking down the game tape, one came away with the impression that most of the plays that each made came when they were either unblocked, blocked by a TE or OG, or working against one of the slower OTs and that they really didn’t get much penetration working against the better tackles. Indeed, neither guy looked to have that next-gear acceleration and/or the ability to plant and change direction on the move. Wise also struggled at times to hold the point of attack defending the run and didn’t always find the ball, while Hendrickson had a tendency to overrun plays as he was almost always busting upfield. Bottom line is that both Wise and Hendrickson looked like they have the potential to be useful rotational ends at the next level, but neither gave the impression that they have the elite athleticism necessary to be an impactful starting DE in the pros.

There was a similar story for Bryan Cox of Florida, who isn’t all that quick, but works harder than just about everybody else on the field; he also showed good instincts and the strength and agility to get up the field, as well as hold the point of attack defensing the run, although the lack of next-gear foot speed is likely to cost him on draft day. Meanwhile, Karter Schult of FCS Northern Iowa and Wise’s Arkansas bookend teammate Jeremiah Ledbetter also flashed some upfield quickness at times, but neither was as consistently in the backfield as one might like to see in a setting like the Shrine game.

The one DE at the Shrine game who looked like he had elite next-level explosion was Darius English of South Carolina, one of the guys we were really looking forward to watching on Saturday. However, while he did show some speed in St. Pete, English didn’t appear to be have the ability to dip his shoulder and shorten the route to QB; he also never showed the ability to plant and change direction. As a result, English didn’t do much more than take the great circle route on too many plays. English also just didn’t explode very often; indeed, there were way too many plays on which English didn’t do much more than simply stand-up, put his hands on the blocker in front of him and look for the ball.

Pack to pick 29th; Pitt 30th … As a result of losses in today’s conference championship games, Green Bay will have the 29th pick overall in the opening round of the 2017 draft selection order, while Pittsburgh will have the 30th pick. Meanwhile, the final two selections, the 31st and 32nd will go Atlanta and New England, the Super Bowl finalists.

Colts fire G.M. … Indianapolis has fired general manager Ryan Grigson. Grigson had been in the job for five years and was under contract for three more years as is head coach Chuck Pagano. The move immediately set off speculation that former Colts’ HOF QB Peyton Manning could be the Colts’ target going forward, although Manning denied any interest.

Final underclassmen list released … The NFL released the list of underclassmen eligible for the 2017 earlier this evening with a total of 103 juniors and redshirt sophs who have been granted entry to this year’s draft. This final tally includes 8 players who have eligibility remaining, but have already graduated. This year’s tally of 103 early entrants is actually slightly less than last year’s record of 107 underclassmen who entered the 2016 draft. Underclassmen who had applied to the NFL without making a formal announcement included Towson junior RB Darius Victor, WRs Keevan Lucas of Tulsa and North Park’s Devin Childress, DE Khari Waithe-Alexander of Southern Illinois, Garden City CC redshirt sophomore DT Jeremy Faulk, and safeties Titus Howard of Slippery Rock and Aaron Peak of Butler CC. Of that group, only Tulsa’s Lucas is considered to be more than fringe prospects. Here is the full list of underclassmen eligible for the upcoming draft.

Pigskin picks Shrine all-star team … Today is an off-day for the East-West Shrine squads so our Pigskin Paul Guillemette, who has been on the ground all week in St. Petersburg, took the opportunity to pick his all-star team from the Shrine practices. And a little more from Pigskin on the Shrine week as he guests on Cheeseheadtv.com, a Packers’ fansite.

Top edge rusher facing shoulder surgery … According to an unconfirmed report, UCLA OLB Takkarist McKinley, one of the hottest prospects in the 2017 draft field, is considering shoulder surgery to repair a torn right labrum that has bothered him the past couple of seasons. However, if McKinley is to have the surgery it likely won’t be until after the combine in the latter part of February, although McKinley did reportedly withdraw from next week’s Senior Bowl because of the injury. McKinley, a one-time running back who claims he’ll run in the 4,4 range at the combine, is considered to be the top edge rushing OLB in this year’s draft as a top 20-25 prospect overall. However, if the shoulder checks out and McKinley indeed blows up the combine, he is one of several players with the athletic skills to move into the top 10. Stay tuned.

 

Underclassman withdrawal window closes with no takers … Juniors and redshirt sophomores who applied to the NFL for inclusion in the 2017 draft before last Monday’s deadline had until late yesterday afternoon to withdraw their applications if they had not signed with an agent or received any improper benefits. As of this morning it does not appear any of the 95 or so underclassmen who had applied to enter the draft had a change of heart. With the withdrawal window closing, expect the NFL to release the final list of underclassmen in the 2017 draft class within the next day or so.

GBN Big Board retweaked … This is an interesting time in the draft process. With the college football season done and the underclassmen now on board for the 2017 draft, draft boards around the league are slowly starting to take shape and there are some changes from the consensus board of even just a few weeks ago. One of the things we are also hearing is that teams just aren’t all that impressed with the quality of the crop at the very top of their boards. Indeed, one gets the sense that there is more than one team out there that doesn’t feel that there is anyone on the board this year really worth a top 5 pick. At the same time, there doesn’t seem to be much debate that Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett isn’t the top prospect this year, although there are some questions about his motor. Meanwhile Alabama DE Jonathan Allen isn’t that far behind, but after that, though, it appears to be a whole lot murkier. Right now the consensus, such as it appears to be that a couple of redshirt sophomores – DE Solomon Thomas of Stanford and Ohio State FS Malik Hooker – along with LSU junior FS Jamal Adams would likely round out the top 5 if the draft were held today. At the same time, it also appears pretty clear that several players who had been thought to be top 5-10 prospects – have indeed seen their stock dip including Michigan SS/OLB Jabrill Peppers and Alabama redshirt soph CB Marlon Humphry, along with possibly even Washington junior WR John Ross. For now, the GBN Big Board has been updated to reflect some of these recent developments, although obviously there is still a ton of sorting out to be done between now and April 27th.  Stay tuned.

Defections hit Senior Bowl final roster … The Senior Bowl announced their final rosters for next week’s game in Mobile late yesterday and unfortunately three of the higher ranked players who NFL people really wanted to see have apparently dropped out of the game. WRs Corey Davis of Western Michigan and Oklahoma’s DeDe Westbrook and UCLA edge-rusher Takkarist McKinley had reportedly accepted their invitations earlier this year, but were not on the final list yesterday. Davis, a potential top 15-20 pick this coming April, in fact, was likely going to be the highest rated player in Mobile next week, while McKinley was a rising star who also figures to be an opening round pick this spring. For his part, Westbrook is also a guy who has seen his stock rise of late, although he is still carries a second round grade.

Day Three Shrine report … The players at this year’s East-West Shrine all-star game went through their second day of of full pad practices yesterday in St. Petersburg and our Pigskin Paul Guillemette files this report on who made their case today and maybe who still needs some work. Today is more of a walk-through practice for the players as they gear up for Staurday’s actual game.

Top QB prospect for 2018 has shoulder surgery … Washington has confirmed that star redshirt sophomore QB Jake Browning, one of the leading prospects at the position for the 2018 draft, has had surgery on his throwing shoulder. The exact nature of the injury has not been disclosed, but the recovery time is expected to be about six weeks. Browning originally injured the shoulder during the Huskies’ game with Arizona State in mid-November, but he played through it including the Pac-12 conference championship game and the Huskies’ loss to Alabama in the CFP playoffs.

Clemson QB Watson passes on Senior Bowl invite … Clemson QB DeShaun Watson has confirmed that he will not participate in next week’s Senior Bowl in Mobile. While he is a junior, Watson would have been eligible for the Senior Bowl because he is a 4th year player who has already graduated. Watson cited the grind of the long college season as the reason he is passing on the opportunity to play in Mobile where he likely would have worked with the coaching staff from Cleveland which has the #1 pick in the 2017 draft. Following his outstanding play in the Tigers’ national championship win over heavily favored Alabama and its vaunted defense, Watson is again getting top 5 consideration for the upcoming draft, although there are lingering questions about his arm strength and pocket presence. Stay tuned!

Shrine weigh-in report … For some reason, and unlike next week’s Senior Bowl, Monday’s weigh-in session at the East-West Shrine game currently underway in St. Petersburg is not open to the media. Of course, the numbers always eventually leak out – here courtesy of the Sporting News is this year’s data – but there really doesn’t seem to be any reason for the secrecy. While in the end players don’t play the game in shorts, most NFL teams have basic parameters in terms of an athlete’s size and other physical characteristics that that they work into their final draft grades, both positively and negatively. Here is a rundown of some of the players who stood out at the Monday’s weigh-in session as well as some who didn’t.

Irish RB enters draft … There has been no official announcement per se, but word out of Notre Dame is that junior RB Tarean Folston has applied to the NFL for entry to the 2017 draft. The 5-9, 215-pound Folston is coming of a disappointing injury when he battled injuries and finished with less than 400 rushing yards; he was also facing a future in South Bend where his touches likely weren’t going to increase in any appreciable way. There had been some expectation that Folston might transfer to a lower level program, but in the end it appears he is going to give the pros a shot sooner rather than later. Folston is projected to be a late-round pick this coming April.

Day two Shrine report … They hit the field for the first of two days of full pad practices at the East-West Shrine game in St. Petersburg and our Pigskin Paul Guillemette files this report on who made their case today and maybe who still needs some work..

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