The 2012 Senior Bowl was played yesterday in Mobile, AL with the North defeating the South 23-13. The MVP of the game was University of Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead, who finished the game with 31 yards rushing and a punt return average of 49 yards. The game itself was a showcase of the best Senior talent college football has to offer, and included star quarterbacks such as Wisconsin's Russel Wilson and Boise State's Kellen Moore along with North Carolina defensive lineman Quinton Coples. Heading into the 2012 NFL Draft, the Senior Bowl is a vital scouting tool for many NFL teams and a crucial opportunity for many prospects to improve their draft stock.
Quinton Coples: The North Carolina defensive lineman was the clear and unanimous winner of the Senior Bowl. Coples, who was already projected as a top ten pick in Todd McShay's latest mock draft, solidified his draft stock. Tony Pauline of Sports Illustrated said the following of Coples performance:
Coples flashed brilliance during the game, looking like a man among boys at times. His athleticism is incredible, as Coples beat opponents with quickness, speed and power...When he's on his game Coples is a difference-maker up front.
Joe Adams: The receiver out of Arkansas, most known for his incredible TD return this past season against Tennessee, had a big day catching 8 passes for 133 yards. Adams, previously projected by most as a 4th round pick, may have significantly improved his draft stock as a strong kick return game has recently proved invaluable (see Patrick Peterson; Devin Hester).
Other winners include...
North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins
CIncinnati RB Isaiah Pead (MVP)
Alabama DL Courtney Upshaw
Russell Wilson: The star quarterback from Wisconsin had a rough showing, most likely depreciating his draft stock. He lacked poise and accuracy when faced with playing in an NFL style offense, and while he did throw for a TD, he also had two fumbles and an interception. On the topic, Tony Pauline said the following:
From the pocket Wilson sprayed his passes around the field and missed an easy scoring opportunity early in the game when his throw was wide of the mark. He showed little in the way of pocket presence or the ability to sense the rush. Wilson is a tremendous athlete, but he needs a lot of work before he'll be an NFL-ready passer.
Boise State QB Kellen Moore
Texas A&M WR Jeff Fuller
But how does all this affect the Cincinnati Bengals? Going into the 2012 NFL Draft, the primary needs are corner back, safety, guard, and running back. Let's analyze those positions.
This position is arguably the most vital draft need and must be addressed with one of Cincinnati's two 1st round picks. North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins played at a high level and surely improved his already high draft stock. Matt Bowen of National Football Post believes Jenkins is already playing at a pro level. The only thing working against Jenkins at this point is his troubled history. He was dismissed from the University of Florida in 2011 three days after his 2nd drug arrest in three months. He also was arrested in 2009. Jenkins is a pro talent and undoubtedly a 1st round draft pick, however the question remains of just how high in the 1st round. If somehow he manages to slip to 17, expect the Bengals to pick him unless they too are worried about character issues. Or they could decide to go with Alonzo Dennard. Matt Bowen, who wrote specifically about the defensive back play at the Senior Bowl, was most impressed with the Nebraska cornerback's physicality. He wrote:
I was impressed with Dennard because he was the most physical CB on the field this week...he had WRs looking to hide during "stalk block" drills. Dennard can hit.
Recent mock drafts have had the Bengals using a 1st round pick on Georgia lineman Cordy Glenn, and from all reports his play solidified his spot in the 1st round. Mike Detillie of Houma Today described Glenn as "the best player on the field". He went on to say:
He showed tremendous foot speed and agility and his hand-placement skills and his ability to adjust to quick movement was the most impressive feature of Senior Bowl practices. He practically stoned every speed pass rusher that lined up against him and he moved himself up from being a late first-round choice to the middle part of the opening round.
The Bengals go on the clock at No. 17 and at No. 21, so a selection of Cordy Glenn should not come as a surprise.
Another possible 1st round pick, Wisconsin OG Kevin Zeitler, was said by Dan Pompei of National Football Post to have had a "less encouraging" performance. Scouts raved about the performance of Ohio State OT Mike Adams and said Illinois' OT Jeff Allen really improved his stock, however not much else has been made of the guard play.
Harrison Smith from Notre Dame was said by Pompei to have played well and overall have a "pretty good week". He's projected as a late round pick, so a selection of Smith would serve to provide DB depth and not an immediate solution to the safety position.
The biggest splash of the Senior Bowl was made by the MVP, Cincinnati RB Isaiah Pead. About Pead's performance, Tony Pauline said the following:
Pead looked like a veteran bringing the punts back, as he did a terrific job setting up his returns on both occasions. On offense he also had several nice runs, bursting through the open lanes and making defenders miss in the open field. Pead's solid week of practice coupled with the special teams skill showed during the game undoubtedly boosted his draft stock.
Prior to the game, Pead was widely projected as a middle round pick, but that position may significantly rise following this MVP performance. In my opinion, a draft pick of Alabama's RB Trent Richardson would be a disappointment, as first-round running back selections have a history of failure, and other positions need (CB, S, G) are hopefully addressed first. Pead may be a popular choice among fans, being from the University of Cincinnati, but also may prove as a valuable Special Teams player as he is an exceptional punt returner.
The other running backs who impressed scouts were 5-foot-8 Chris Rainey, but the Bengals already have Andrew Hawkins and they need a back that can run between the tackles, so don't expect him to be considered on draft day.