Reporting Grant Paulsen
Arkansas WR Joe Adams
The SEC special teams player-of-the-year in 2011, Adams turned heads as a wide receiver in Saturday’s Senior Bowl game. A bit undersized at 5-foot-10 and 174 pounds, Adams lost a fumble on his first reception of the game. But after that opening-drive gaffe, he was tremendous, catching 8 balls for 133 yards. He showed dynamic route-running ability and plus speed, which he’ll need to get open in the NFL being under six-foot tall. The thing I liked most about Adams was his elusiveness. He had a little “make-you-miss” to his game. He got yards after the catch by breaking tackles and getting around defenders, something the Redskins’ wide receiving group lacked this season and is ravenous to add in 2012.
North Carolina DL Quinton Coples
Coples already looks like an NFL All-Pro, standing 6-foot-5 and weighing a sculpted 281 pounds. The UNC product has a little Julius Peppers to him, using his long arms and powerful frame to move offensive tackles out of his way all week in Mobile, Ala. The only question about Coples is how good will he want to be? He tallied 7.5 sacks with the Tarheels last season, one scout telling me that he “took plays off and didn’t work as hard as he has in the past.” But those issues didn’t follow him to the Senior Bowl. He showed well in practices all week and had a couple of dominant drives during the game. I like Coples as a 4-3 defensive end and could see him being drafted just outside of the top-10 this spring.
Cincinnati RB Isaiah Pead
Pead had a few nice moments during the five practices that led up to Saturday’s Senior Bowl game but it was his performance on game day that landed him on this list. A well-built, 5-foot-9 and 193-pound, ball-carrier, Pead ended up taking home the MVP honors of this weekend’s game. He rushed eight times for 31 yards, but did the majority of his damage as a return man, compiling 98 yards on two punt returns. Pead didn’t rely solely on his speed to amass yards in the return game, instead using good vision and patience to set his blockers up well. What’s most impressive about the return-teams standout is that Pead just started playing specials last year. He added some value with his showing at the Senior Bowl.
Alabama LB Courtney Upshaw
One of the most prolific college defenders in the nation over the past two seasons, several people who get paid to evaluate talent told me that they thought Upshaw was the best player at this year’s Senior Bowl. A sure-bet to be a first round pick, the Alabama linebacker is 6-foot-1, 273-pound versatile player who can rush the passer and stuff the run. The first hing you notice about Upshaw is how strong he is, one of the coaches who saw him extensively this week saying “he’s already a grown man.” In his career at Alabama, Upshaw totaled 141 tackles, 36.5 tackles for loss, 17.5 sacks and forced six fumbles. He can play in any scheme, but I expect a 3-4 team to call his name on draft day.
Arizona State WR Gerell Robinson
Robinson is on this list after having a banner week and becoming something of a man-crush of mine. He has the prototype wide receiver build, 6-foot-3 and 223-pounds, and he couples his size with speed to present matchup problems down-field. In his final season at Arizona State, Robinson caught 77 balls for 1,397 yards and seven touchdowns, all career highs. His 1397 receiving yards were the second highest total in school history. During Senior Bowl week, Robinson consistently got open in the 15-25 yard area of the field, running sharp routes while excelling at using his big body to shield the football from defenders. His 41-yard touchdown catch in Saturday’s game culminated a week of strong play. More importantly the reception allowed him to showcase the ability to make a play after the catch, something the Redskins are desperate for.