MOBILE, Ala. — Let's catch up on the Senior Bowl…
1 By Wednesday night, many of the NFL scouts and coaches will be gone from Mobile, headed back to their respective cities after three days of watching Senior Bowl practices. They watched a solid group of prospects perform in NFL-type practices with NFL coaching, which makes the Senior Bowl so much more valuable from an actual football standpoint than the NFL Combine. It seems the strength of this group is on the defensive line, running backs (North team) and wide receivers (South team). Plus, there a handful of standout linebackers and defensive backs, like Florida's Janoris Jenkins, UNC's Zach Brown, Texas' Keenan Robinson, Georgia's Brandon Boykin, Furman's Ryan Steed and Louisiana-Lafayette's Dwight Bentley. The Bengals need top-level help in the secondary. Are guys worthy of their two first-round picks here in Mobile? We'll eventually find out.
2 The standout quarterbacks have been Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State and Russell Wilson of Wisconsin. Wilson is only 5-10, but he's shown that he sees the entire field, can make just about every throw and is worthy of a longer look. It's easy to dismiss smaller guys, but Wilson had a great season while playing behind an NFL-type offensive line and has been impressive on and off the field in Mobile. Weeden has been the class of the group with his prototype size (6-3, 219), strong arm and accuracy. He's 28, yes, but if he can play, that matters little ... and Weeden sure looks like he can play. Andy Dalton went to the Bengals at the top of the second round last year, No. 35 overall. My opinion is there's no way Weeden is still available past No. 40 this year. He might not make it to the second round at all. The Browns should plan accordingly.
3 The North running backs have been very impressive. That group includes two familiar names — Ohio State's Daniel "Boom" Herron and Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead. They're probably a half-step behind Boise State's Doug Martin and Washington's Chris Polk. Martin and Polk are compact, explosive runners who know that being low to the ground is an asset. Both have helped their stock this week, but it seems Martin has improved a little more. Polk catches your eye, and Martin has had a couple "wow" moments. Alabama running back Trent Richardson is going to get an elite grade from almost every team. He has elite talent. But in today's NFL, it's far from a lock that he'll go in the top six picks, because so many teams are pass-happy and the shelf life of running backs is so short. That so many other backs seem ready to contribute at the NFL level makes passing on Richardson an easier decision and makes his standing one of the intriguing stories of this draft.
4 In 97 percent of cases, this is the first time teams actually get to speak with draft prospects. A handful of small-school prospects make up the other three percent, but BCS programs (and most D-I programs) do not grant scouts personal access to players during the season for myriad reasons. That's why this catch-up time is so valuable. It's also why — just one example — when I tweeted that I saw Ohio State tackle Mike Adams interviewing with three Cleveland staffers Tuesday night, it doesn't mean the Browns are planning to draft him. It's just that they need to talk to him, need to get his contact information, need to get a feel for his personality and need to ask him questions — some basic, some difficult — that will help them paint the picture of the player and the person before they finalize their draft board. Adams will probably talk to all 32 teams at some point in Mobile this week. The ones he doesn't talk to will almost assuredly schedule him for a formal 15-minute interview at the NFL Combine next month. All 32 NFL draft boards will be different, but the main differences will be in the bottom third of players each team deems worthy. All 32 will scout the top 100-150 players, and all 32 consider every bit of information valuable.
5 I interviewed Browns coach Pat Shurmur Tuesday. Because he wouldn't talk about the team's offensive coordinator search or its most glaring need, we talked a lot about the postseason and offseason evaluation process. When asked if the evaluation had shown that the Browns have enough good players already on the roster to make a leap next year, he said "I think we have a tremendous team." In fairness, he previously said "it's fair to say we can get better in every area," but then he said the Browns have a tremendous team.
A tremendous team. He really said that.
More from the Senior Bowl later.
Zac Jackson appears courtesy of FoxSportsOhio.com