Monday, January 30, 2006

Upside, Potential, & Tremendous Upside Potential

I caught the bulk of the Senior Bowl on Saturday, tuning out at the start of the 4th Quarter because of an insatiable itch to get started on Season 3 of my Madden franchise. (For those who are curious, I just moved up to All-Madden after winning the Super Bowl on All-Pro with the San Francisco 49ers. NFL owners take note of this. My resume's available upon request). Anyhow, All-Madden is a whole different world, and I've gotten killed in my first few games. The computer's offense seems to be in permanent comeback mode (they do very little wrong), while you have no margin for error while you're controlling the O. And when Alex Smith is your Quarterback, a margin of error is pretty crucial.

Anyway, back to the Senior Bowl. For the uninitiated, the Senior Bowl is an all-star game for draft eligible seniors, preceded by a week of drills, skills competitions, and simulated game scenarios. All in the name of keeping people like Mel Kiper Jr. employed, and you know, helping NFL scouts gauge the incoming draft class. The game itself is seen as less important than the preceding exhibitions, for reasons unbeknownst to me. But since I couldn't score press credentials and watch the practices all week, the game (or the first 3 quarters of it), is all I can go on to evaluate the players). With that being said, here are some thoughts:

Impressed Me
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Memphis
He only rushed the ball 3 times, but picked up 31 yards and followed the right blockers and found the hole each time. More so than his skill, which is plentiful, his wits and football sense impressed me the most. He looks like a football player, and should have a productive NFL career. So naturally, word out of Mobile this week is that he measured smaller (both height and weight) than anticipated at the Senior Bowl, so he's a candidate to slip down the board. Sometimes I wonder about these scouts. But then I remember that this is a league where Matt Millen is entering his sixth year as a General Manager.

Sinorice Moss, WR, Miami-FL
Another guy who is slotted lower than he should be because of his size. Moss had a great run on a reverse, and made a great touchdown catch on a pass that was overthrown by Brodie Croyle. He'll be a steal for whoever takes him in Round 2.

Dominique Byrd, TE, USC
He's a solid football player, and showed a lot of aptitude in the receiving game. I'm not sure if he'll be an every down player, but he's at worst a pass-catching Tight End who will be a great target in the red zone. Think Marcus Pollard.

The Offensive Lines
The O-Lines for both teams looked really solid, and didn't get beat a whole lot. There's not a whole lot more I can say.

Didn't Impress Me
The Quarterbacks
None of them stood out for me. Even the one who impressed me the most on the field, Charlie Whitehurst, made some bad throws and doesn't look like he has the skills to be a player in the NFL. Brodie Croyle looked okay, but will be a journeyman backup at best. DJ Shockley and Michael Robinson are still better runners than throwers - Shockley could stick in the NFL as a backup after a couple of years in NFL Europe, while if Robinson decided to try and make it as a QB he'll be suiting up for the Hamilton TigerCats by 2008. Darnell Hackney shouldn't even be considered for the draft. That brings us too...

Jay Cutler, QB, Vanderbilt
I was especially keen to see him, given the hype surrounded him. Some, such as Chris Mortensen, prefer him to Leinart and Young. (Note: this is behind the Insider wall). Frankly, if this game is an indication of his skills, I'm not biting. In the first quarter, he wasn't helped by a drop or two from his receivers, but he forced a terrible pass and ended up getting picked, and was otherwise completely unremarkable. I have no reason to think I would have had anything to note about him had I not been aware of who he was beforehand. His practice sessions got favorable reviews, but from what I saw on Saturday I'm not sold on him at all. I'd like to know more about him, especially since he seems like a lock for the top half of the first round so if anyone saw him play at Vandy, your testimony will be greatly appreciated. Please feel free to comment.

The Defense
The rules of the game greatly favor the offense, so it's understandable that no one stood out for me. I seem to remember noticing Tamba Hali of Penn State at some point, and the box score tells me he had 2 sacks, but it was not a standout day for anyone.

Derek Hagan, WR, Arizona State
He looked shaky, continuing his reputation for dropping passes that developed throughout the week. This is surprising, since I have him on my Madden team, and he's steady as can be. Of course, he was imported from the same college dynasty where I have Jeff Smardzjila on my Notre Dame team, and he drops everything I throw at him, so reality and the EA universe don't always match up. In any case, he was seen as the top Senior wideout throughout the season, and isn't really doing much to back that reputation up.

So all in all a semi-enjoyable afternoon of football. This is supposed to be a deep draft class, especially at the top, though since a lot of that talent comes from the Junior class who opted in, it didn't really show today. However, if you're an NFL fan, keep your fingers crossed that come late April, a DeAngelo Williams or Tamba Hali or Sinorice Moss slips to your team.


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