As Senior Bowl week winds down, the fully-padded practices are over, leaving Saturday's game as the final chance for players to showcase themselves on national TV.
Several players came into this game without much fanfare, but will leave having raised their stock after impressing throughout the week. Miami had a pair of players do so, the biggest of which being tight end Clive Walford.
After a so-so college career entering 2014, Walford grabbed a team-high 44 receptions for 676 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior this past season. In a weak TE class, Walford is actually viewed as one of the two or three best TE prospects, and he solidified that status with a great week of practice.
Walford was constantly getting open this week, whether it was deep down the field, in the intermediate routes, or simply using his 6-4, 255-pound frame to box out his defender in the end zone for the score. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock told NFL.com's Chase Goodbread that Walford "could be the best tight end in the country." It's beginning to look like Walford will go somewhere in the first 50 picks of this year's draft.
The other Miami pass-catcher impressing is Phillip Dorsett. The 5-10, 188-pound ball of fire has been smoking DBs all week, and he claims to have run a 4.21 in the 40-yard dash. He's easily one of, if not the fastest player in this year's draft, but Dorsett has done a great job of getting open running the entire route tree, according to NFL.com.
"Some guys can run fast, but they have to work hard to do it, which limits what they can do out of their breaks," an NFC player personnel director told NFL Media analysts. "Dorsett is more natural with his speed and movement."
NFL Media analysts mentioned names such as Antonio Brown, John Brown and T.Y. Hilton as potential comparisons; all four played high school ball in Miami or Fort Lauderdale.
Georgia inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera also had a solid week of practice. The 6-2, 245-pounder led Georgia in tackles as a senior with 115 stops, but still didn't enter this week with much attention paid to him. He's played both inside and outside linebacker this week, and those in Mobile have been impressed with what they've seen.
Herrera is more of a run-stuffer that needs to be put into the right system for him to succeed in the NFL.
"He did a great job of reading the plays and getting to the spot ahead of the ball carrier. He’ll be a three-down player in the right system, but you don’t want to put him on a 6-3, 6-4 tight end," Draft analyst Tony Pauline said.
Ohio State receiver Devin Smith entered the week regarded as a vertical threat who needed to prove he’s more than a one-trick pony, and he's done a solid job of that to this point. Smith has shown he can be a good route-runner on the short and intermediate levels so far this week, but he needs to show it during Saturday's game if he hopes to rise above the Day 3 grade many have slapped on him.
East Carolina receiver Justin Hardy is one of the most complete receivers in the draft, which comes as no surprise given that he's the FBS' all-time leader in receptions. The 5-10, 190-pounder runs in the 4.4s in the 40-yard dash, and he can beat defenders in a variety of ways, which is what he's done this week.