10 standouts from Day 2 of the Senior Bowl
Several prospects put together impressive performances during Day 2 of Senior Bowl practices here in Mobile, Ala. Let’s take a look at the top 10:
1. Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State
He has already created a good amount of buzz here in Mobile, and at Wednesday’s practice. He did a great job of creating separation during one-on-one drills — the only plays during which he wasn’t open, he was being held — and looked very quick when running routes.
Miller is going to be an interesting prospect for us to evaluate, because he posted only a slightly above-average grade, but did so on a relatively low number of targets (38, of which he caught 26). He stood out for his elusiveness, however, forcing 16 missed tackles on 68 touches as a runner and receiver this season — which is an excellent rate. He also only dropped one pass all season long, alleviating any concerns some might have about the converted QB’s hands.
2. Sheldon Day, DT, Notre Dame
Our top-graded defensive tackle for the 2015 season had a great practice on Wednesday, penetrating into the backfield and ruining plays for the offense on more than one occasion. That certainly fits with what we saw from him this season, when he was disruptive as a run defender and even better as a pass-rusher. He recorded 46 total pressures, including four sacks — good for the second-best pass-rush productivity at his position in the country.
3. Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech
He really stood out as a pass-catcher during Wednesday’s practice, consistently getting open in one-on-one and team drills. His route-running appears to be very advanced for a running back.
Dixon’s explosiveness, both as a receiver and as a runner, was on display all season long. He ranked fifth among draft-eligible running backs in breakaway percentage (49 percent of his yards came off of breakaway runs), first in yards per pass route run, and first in elusive rating, which measures how difficult a runner is to tackle. Even more encouraging for NFL teams thinking of him as a running back with third-down capabilities: He had just two drops in 2015, and allowed just five pressures on 142 pass-blocking snaps — the 13th-best rate in the nation.
4. Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma
Shepard was arguably the best player in either practice Wednesday, and he appears to be the best wide receiver prospect in Mobile this week. His quickness in and out of breaks was very impressive, and he runs every route at full speed, which really puts defenders on their heels. There was one route during which he beat his defender three times: First, with his release off the line, then with his cut back to the football, then by shaking the defender after the catch and breaking free upfield.
He won on outside routes Wednesday, which is important because he ran 71 percent of his routes out of the slot last season. Our data shows that despite the limited reps he can also be an effective deep threat, as he hauled in all 10 of the catchable deep passes thrown his way last year, including four touchdowns.
5. Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
He is one of the prospects receiving the most attention here in Mobile this week, and some good and bad elements to his game were on display during Wednesday’s practice. On back-to-back plays, he connected with Miller on a comeback route with an impressive throw, then made a late throw to the sideline that should have been intercepted. He’s someone we need to continue to evaluate as we grade his games against FCS competition.
6. Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky
Spence might be the most explosive edge rusher in Mobile this week. He has some off-field questions he is going to have to answer related to his departure from Ohio State, and strength-of-competition questions to answer from having played at an FCS school, but he’s did well to ease some of those concerns with his play on Wednesday. He consistently exploded off the ball, giving opposing tackles no chance of keeping him from getting around the edge.
We have two games of grades for Spence versus FBS competition: Week 2 versus NC State, during which he graded positively but only played about half his team’s snaps, and Week 5 versus Kentucky, during which he earned an excellent grade while producing seven total quarterback pressures, including one sack. That combined with his play against top competition in Mobile could result in him climbing draft boards.
7. Kenyan Drake, RB, Alabama
What stood out most with Drake on Wednesday was his straight-line speed, which was on display on one deep pass during which he blew past his defender and made the catch downfield. He doesn’t project as an every-down back in the NFL, but looks like he could be a weapon in the passing game.
During the season he ranked second only to Dixon among draft-eligible running backs in yards per pass route run, and earned the third-best receiving grade in his class. Those two numbers plus his 37 forced missed tackles this season (as both a receiver and a runner) are indications that he could be an effective pass-catching back at the next level.
8. Cyrus Jones, CB, Alabama
Jones had a good day of practice, showing good physicality in coverage with his ability to jam guys and also use the sideline to his advantage to eliminate the quarterbacks’ passing windows. He isn’t a huge corner, measuring in at just under 5-foot-10, so his ability to hold up physically will be important.
He ranked as PFF’s No. 12 cornerback in coverage among draft-eligible players last season, and as PFF’s No. 7 corner in run defense.
9. Aaron Green, RB, TCU
Green has put together two strong days of practice so far, with his shiftiness as a runner really standing out on Wednesday. He didn’t have a great season in our grading overall, but still managed to earn the 25th-best rushing grade among draft-eligible RBs. His 41 forced missed tackles and 11 touchdowns are both very impressive numbers.
10. Matt Ioannidis, DT, Temple
Like Day, Ioannidis was very disruptive from the defensive tackle position on Wednesday, getting into the backfield against the run and the pass. He ranked ninth in overall grades among defensive tackles this season, and fourth in pass-rush grades. It’s important that he show well this week against top competition, because his only negative pass-rush grade on the season came against the best offensive line he faced: Notre Dame.