DRAFT TALK: Senior Bowl Wrap Up

Special To Jets
January 25th, 2009
After a 35-18 win by the white team on Saturday, wraps up Senior Bowl week with all of the latest draft buzz around the Jets and entire NFL.

North Carolina receiver Brooks Foster saw his knee swell up on Wednesday and did not play the rest of the week. Sources have told us it is nothing serious.

Cincinnati cornerback Mike Mickens came to Mobile with a partially torn meniscus and tried to tough it out but the injury was causing too much pain and rather risk additional damage Mickens packed it in.

We spoke at length with the Cincinnati Bengals coaching staff, in charge of the North squad. They told us point blank that none of the linebackers from the North were any good. The feeling is the players they coached were nothing more than mid round choices.

For example they told us Virginia OLB Clint Sintim has marginal instincts and skills in coverage while Cal LB Zach Follett is strictly a downhill defender. They said the South's linebackers are decidedly better.

There's no doubting that Boston College DT BJ Raji was the most dominant player on the field this week and his draft stock has soared. Is there anything that could slow the momentum of his rise up boards? Yes.

On Thursday we were alerted there are a few issues in Raji's past which will definitely throw up red-flags; let's call them character and off-the-field issues for now. These were brought to scouts attention in the pre-season and were listed on scouting reports handed out by the leagues scouting services. As we get further into the process more will come out on the situation. How serious an issue this may be will depend on how truthful Raji is when asked about it.

Scouts from the New York Giants are still furious about the teamís loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round of the playoffs. They openly expressed their belief the team did not have a good game plan entering the contest and missed to many opportunities.

They also openly admit the team sorely missed Plaxico Burress.

While many speak about the offensive skill Burress brings the scouts on hand told us the dynamic changes for opponents just by having the big receiver on the field. The consensus among Giants insiders is the team will likely select a linebacker at the end of round one and if the draft were held today that player would be Southern Cal LB Brian Cushing.

The Mangini saga in Cleveland just gets stranger.

Coaches on hand in Mobile who have not spoken with the new head coach since he was hired two weeks ago seem to be bitter they were not given a direct answer as to whether or not the team will retain them next season. Remember- besides being a way to scout the top senior talent available in April's NFL draft the Senior Bowl itself offers out of work coaches a way to find employment. Should Mangini not retain some of the coaches we spoke with it could be a public relations nightmare considering they were sent to Mobile to scout players for the Browns and not given an opportunity to find jobs elsewhere.

Sources feel it is going to be a rough go of it for both Mangini and the media over the next few seasons in Cleveland.

We spoke with scouts to get an update on two small school prospects Yemi Babalola and Lee Robinson.

Babalola is the former Texas A&M star offensive lineman who transferred to Texas Southern after being arrested and charged with aggravated robbery and possession of less than two ounces of marijuana. He will stand trial next month.

Sources here have told us he is presently training in Houston for the draft. Babalola weighed upwards of 340-pounds when he took the field for TSU last season and is presently down to 320lbs. He won't be drafted but hopes to be given a camp tryout.

There were many good things being said about Lee Robinson. The Alcorn State star was drawing rave reviews from scouts who love his hustle and ability in pursuit. A number on hand were surprised he did not receive a combine invitation. There's a real chance Robinson could move into the middle rounds with good pre-draft workouts.

While there were a number of free agent deals discussed at the Senior Bowl, overall all the process got off to a slow start. With so many coaching and organizational changes a number of general managers and decision makers were not on had in Mobile to talk with agents who were pedaling their players.

Keep an eye on SMU punter Thomas Morstead during the game. He's been very impressive in practice and the special teams coach from the Bengals who runs the punters and kickers workout at the combine says he has the chance to be a very good NFL player.

Scouts were horrified by the quarterback play at this year's Senior Bowl.

Long timers stated they never attended a Senior Bowl where not a single quarterback was not at least 6-feet, 3-inches tall. On Thursday long snapper Jake Ingram of Hawaii was throwing spirals cross field prompting a number of scouts requesting loudly that he be given a chance underneath center!

Tony Pauline is the NFL Draft analyst at His year round work on the NFL draft can be found at

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