By Matthew Postins
The Senior Bowl was the culmination of a full week of activities designed to give college seniors the chance to improve their draft stock in front of all 32 teams, including the Dallas Cowboys. So who excelled and who improved their stock? RattleandHumSports.com watched the game and kept up with Senior Bowl news all week. Here are the players who seemed to help themselves the most. Are they good fits for the Cowboys? We explore that as well.
QB E.J. Manuel, Florida State: Remember about a decade ago when Jerry Jones, out of the blue, drafted Georgia quarterback Quincy Carter? I wonder if Jones would be intrigued with another mobile quarterback who is considered a mid-round prospect? Manuel had probably the best Senior Bowl week of any of the quarterbacks. During the game Manuel showed good touch on his throws and, perhaps just as importantly, put his receivers in good position to catch the football. He also ran in a score. Jones watched Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III eat his lunch on Thanksgiving Day. If Jones believes a quarterback like RGIII is the wave of the future, he could take a flier on Manuel. The good news is Jones won’t need a quarterback like Manuel to be the man right away, thanks to the presence of Tony Romo.
RB Jonathan Franklin, UCLA: Let’s say Felix Jones departs in free agency. Let’s say the Cowboys aren’t completely sold on Phillip Tanner or Lance Dunbar. Franklin might make a nice selection in the third or fourth round. He’s not big, just 5-foot-10, 201 pounds. But he has the burst the Cowboys need as a counterpoint to DeMarco Murray. Reports had scouts impressed with his burst and vision and he was the game’s second-leading rusher, gaining 41 yards on just five carries, including a 20-yard touchdown run.
WR Connor Vernon, Duke: A pure possession receiver who is the ACC’s all-time leader in receptions and yards. He caught four passes in the game on Saturday and showed he knows how to find the soft spot in zone coverage. Vernon is a fifth-round pick right now and he may be a bit undervalued thanks to the fact that he played at Duke.
OL Eric Fisher, Central Michigan: Fisher drew comparisons to current San Francisco tackle Joe Staley during the telecast and he drew great reviews all week. Fisher’s name was attached to the Cowboys in a mock draft earlier this month. Bad news for Dallas is he won’t come at a bargain. He’ll be a first-round pick at 6-foot-7, 305 pounds. NFLDraftScout.com considers him the No. 2 tackle in the draft right now. If Dallas loves him and believes he could make a different at right tackle, it might take a bold move by Jones to get him. But Fisher looks like he could start from Day 1.
DL Ezekiel Ansah, BYU: They call him Ziggy. In all-star games you typically play half the snaps. Considering that, Ansah had a ridiculous game – 7 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a pass-breakup. He’s drawing comparisons to Jason Pierre-Paul. Going into the week he was a borderline first-round pick. The reason is most scouts consider him raw. But at 6-foot-5, 278 pounds, he could make a great bookend for DeMarcus Ware in the new Cover 2 defense Monte Kiffin will install this offseason.
DT Kawaan Short, Purdue: I saw this guy at the Heart of Dallas Bowl and I believe he has the goods to be a three-technique in the Cover 2, even at 6-foot-3, 308 pounds. The three-technique must crash the backfield and Short did that in abundance in West Lafayette. He had 48 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks for his career. He was the most outstanding player for the North team. If you subscribe to the theory that the Cowboys will go for an offensive lineman in the first round, Short would be a perfect selection in the second round – if he falls that far. By the way, Warren Sapp, who played the three in Tampa Bay when Kiffin was there, was 6-foot-2, 300 pounds.
LB Sio Moore, Connecticut: At 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, he’s a shade big for the Cover 2. But, then again, so are current Cowboys linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter. Moore, to me, projects as a productive strongside linebacker in the Cover 2 and that’s the position the Cowboys must target at linebacker. Moore, projected as a fourth-round pick before Senior Bowl week, led the North with six tackles, including a sack and two tackles for loss. He pursues the ball well and wraps up.
CB Robert Alford, Southeastern Louisiana: Alford had a nice week and at 5-foot-10, 186 pounds, he’s right in the wheelhouse of a Cover 2 corner. So why take a corner when the Cowboys have Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne in house? When Kiffin was in Tampa Bay, they had a habit of turning corners into safeties. Alford has the ability to pick off passes and the ability to hit well. He’s a third-round pick right now. He picked off a pass and had a 95-yard kickoff return, so he has special teams value, too.
Mike Mayock’s “Made Money” Team: During the broadcast, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock pointed out these five guys as the guys who “made money” during Senior Bowl week, as in they did the most to help themselves when it came to the draft.
Along with Fisher, Mayock pointed out Louisiana Tech wide receiver Quinton Patton (projected second round pick), Kentucky guard Larry Warford (projected second- or third-round pick), Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson (projected first-round pick) and Cal center Brian Schwenke (projected fourth-round pick).
Rang’s Top Risers: Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com picked these five players as the top risers during Senior Bowl week, based on his conversations with scouts:
Texas wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (projected fourth-round pick), Harvard fullback Kyle Juszczyk (projected seventh-round pick), San Jose State tackle David Quessenberry (projected third- or fourth-round pick), William and Mary cornerback B.W. Webb (projected fifth-round pick) and Missouri Southern defensive tackle Brandon Williams (projected third- or fourth-round pick).