If you're looking for draft value, the Senior Bowl is often a place to find it. By its name alone, you know exactly what it is, and what it isn't. The Senior Bowl isn't a collection of the most obscenely explosive talents in football -- those players almost always leave school as soon as they are able. But it is an assemblage of players who have refined their skills in four years of college competition, who are as fully developed as a college prospect can be.
The electric underclassmen will have their time to shine in the NFL Combine, a month from now, and their names will surely float up draft boards. This week belongs to the savvy veteran, the well-honed tools, the patient and man-strong.
If you have a young team like the Rams that is ready to compete, it may make sense to stock up on players that are near-professional caliber in their development, particularly in the value rounds (3-5). Here are three that caught my attention that will be worth paying attention to this week.
WR Terrance Williams, Baylor
6'1 7/8" 201 lbs
It's unfair to call Terrance Williams a one-trick pony. But in any given film reel you see of him, you see two bread-and-butter routes: getting vertical and beating his man, and threatening vertically only to break off his route and come back to the ball. He rarely travels between the numbers, but is a perfect stretch-the-field weapon with a nice final gear and plenty of height.
He was mocked to the Rams in one first round mock, but is widely considered to be a day 2 player. There is this, however:
#Falcons scout went straight to Baylor WR Terrence Williams as well— Shane P. Hallam (@ShanePHallam) January 21, 2013
It's fair to say that after drafting and developing the most lethal 1-2 WR combination in the game, anyone the Falcons are interested in interests me as well.
RB Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
5'10" 201 lbs
No, I'm not ready to give up on the Steven Jackson era. But that said, it would be wise to keep an eye on these running backs. Eddie Lacy draws a lot of attention, but I am quietly intrigued by what Johnathan Franklin does with the ball in his hand.
It's said of Adrian Peterson's running style that he runs as though defenders aren't there. In other words, he never slows down while making his cuts, regardless of what traffic is around him. While Franklin isn't nearly as strong, I see him running with the same quality. He is adept at using his blockers and bursting through small spaces rather than waiting for something huge to open up, and he is unfazed by attempted arm tackles.
And as befits a senior, he can pass-protect as well.
OT Kyle Long, Oregon
6'6 1/8", 304 lbs, 79" wingspan
Chris Long's younger brother took a slightly different path to the NFL. Both are sons of former Raider Howie Long, a hall of famer from one of the great bad-boy teams of all time. But whereas it seemed like it took a few years in the pros for Chris' inner Raider to surface, it has taken longer for Kyle to rein in that bad-boy streak. Most famously, he started his career in baseball with FSU, but got kicked off the team. While football is a fit for his temperament, he has an athlete's body that could compete almost anywhere.
The younger Long's projections are all over the place, as he is still pretty raw. Though he is technically a senior, he petitioned the NCAA for an additional year of eligibility and lost. "he's not a classic offensive lineman," says his position coach at Oregon, who tehn goes on to praise his speed, his smarts, and his heavy hands. How will he perform in a showcase like this, once the Senior Bowl coaches get their hands on him?