As the preeminent senior all-star game, the annual Senior Bowl is always entertaining and informative. The 2013 edition could be even more so considering a highly competitive quarterback class and a host of unheralded prospects with the opportunity to stake their claim against the big boys in front of hundreds of NFL talent evaluators.
What to watch
The big storyline this week in Mobile will be the battle between the six quarterbacks. Having attended this all-star game since 2001, this is the most competitive quarterback group I've seen. Arkansas' Tyler Wilson
is the best combination of size, arm talent, toughness and experience and is NFLDraftScout.com's No. 3 rated passer
, overall. Oklahoma's Landry Jones
and North Carolina State's Mike Glennon
are strong-armed, pure pocket passers who fit the prototype of first-round passers of the past. They'll be trying to show better-than-anticipated athleticism and poise to prove they fit in equally well in today's frenzied NFL.
The "other" three could be the more interesting evaluations this week.
Florida State's EJ Manuel
has an intriguing combination of mobility and arm talent. While he's struggled in Tallahassee, at times, with progressing through his reads before taking off, the 6-4, 240 pound runs like a deer -- an attribute that NFL teams might be appreciating more today than any other year in the past, considering the success of other fleet-footed quarterbacks in 2012.
Syracuse's Ryan Nassib
and Miami of Ohio's Zac Dysert
haven't generated the same buzz nation-wide as their new teammates but both have shown enough mobility, as well as the arm talent and toughness scouts expect from the position. Each has played well when facing upper-echelon talent over their respective careers.
While the quarterbacks will no doubt get the attention, this year's offensive tackle and safety classes actually boast the highest-rated prospects. Central Michigan's Eric Fisher
and Oklahoma's Lane Johnson
have been fixtures of Dane Brugler's and my mock drafts
for the past several months. This position was fortified with the first juniors in Senior Bowl history with Alabama's DJ Fluker
and Syracuse's Justin Pugh
. Fluker has since announced he will not play.
The safety crops the past few years have been lacking, so talent evaluators are excited to see these players prove they are as talented as their hype. Southern Cal's T.J. McDonald
and Alabama's Robert Lester
have received a lot of attention over their illustrious careers, but Georgia's Bacarri Rambo
and Fresno State's Phillip Thomas
have proven to be more reliable open-field tacklers, intimidating hitters over the middle and certainly better ball-hawks. Each quietly is generating some first-round buzz with scouts.
In reality every prospect attending the Senior Bowl has the opportunity to boost his draft stock this week with an impressive performance. A few of the players, however, could significantly alter their stock, perhaps moving from the middle rounds right into the top-32 conversation. Think I'm exaggerating? Ask former Boise State defensive end Shea McClellin
, whose impressive week in Mobile helped push the Chicago Bears
to select him in the first round last April.
The top "breakout" candidates for this year's game appear to be:
Robert Alford, CB, Southeastern Louisiana
: Scouts been buzzing about Alford, a 6-0, 185-pound corner who moves better than his size would indicate. The Senior Bowl has historically unearthed a number of "diamonds in the rough" in the defensive backfield, so Alford has a strong precedent to follow.
Ziggy Ansah, DE, BYU
: The Ghana native has flashed a terrific skill set in Provo, earning comparisons to former South Florida standout Jason Pierre-Paul. The level of competition, of course, will make a big jump in Mobile, especially considering this year's class of pass protectors.
Nick Kasa, TE, Colorado
: The 2012 season was one to forget for Colorado fans, but this Buffalo was a relative bright spot. He caught "only" 20 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns as a senior, hardly eye-popping stats, but the former defensive lineman has made consistent strides since making the position change, and he possesses great upside.
Each team will practice at Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile throughout the week, with the game scheduled for Saturday.
Monday's practices are split because of the weigh-in, which unofficially kicks off the proceedings.