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2014 Senior Bowl preview

1/20/2014
Logan Thomas has prototypical size for a QB, but can he come up big at the Senior Bowl? Ed Wolfstein/USA TODAY Sports

2014 Senior Bowl rosters

MOBILE, Ala. -- Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel – the top three quarterback prospects in the 2014 class -- are all underclassmen, so they're not eligible to play in the Senior Bowl. However, six of the top nine senior quarterbacks will be in Mobile for this week's Senior Bowl. Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray were invited but knee injuries will prevent them from playing. AJ McCarron is the only highly rated senior to decline an invitation.

Here's a quick look at the positives, negatives and missions to accomplish for each of the six Senior Bowl quarterbacks:

Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois; QB rank: 6th; Team: South

POSITIVES: Good anticipation. Above-average touch and tempo. Elevated play in big games. Fast eyes and decisive. Good short-to-intermediate accuracy. Quick release and above-average arm strength when he transfers weight properly. Keeps eyes married to feet, so he keeps himself ready to pull the trigger at any moment. Strong work ethic. Humble. Very good football intelligence and football character. Lost only two games as a senior: at Northern Illinois (49-39) and in FCS quarterfinals to Towson (where he completed 76 percent for 321 yards with 2 TDs and no INTs). Also beat bowl-bound San Diego State by 21 points

NEGATIVES: Level of competition. Smaller than ideal hand span (9 1/8 at East West Shrine). Needs to be more consistent with deep accuracy. Will take unnecessary chances.

WHAT CAN HE ACCOMPLISH THIS WEEK? Erase any concerns regarding level of competition.

Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech; QB rank: 7th; Team: North

POSITIVES: Prototypical build (6-foot-5 5/8, 256 pounds). Strong and durable. Mobile for size. Strong in pocket, tough to bring down. Ball explodes off hand. Can drive ball vertically with ease. Tough. Hard worker.

NEGATIVES: Sloppy footwork. Erratic arm. Forces too many throws. Must take better care of football. Inconsistent eye discipline. Late on too many throws.

WHAT CAN HE ACCOMPLISH THIS WEEK? All six quarterbacks will have new pro-style schemes to operate, they should have good pass protection, and there will be plenty of playmakers to use. Thomas needs to thrive with a level playing field.

Stephen Morris, Miami (Fla.); QB rank: 9th; Team: North

POSITIVES: Quick release. NFL arm. Can squeeze ball into tight windows down the field. Can drive ball vertically. When healthy, shows escapability in pocket and above-average mobility. Resilient. Mentally and physically tough. Can throw accurately on the run to both sides. Hard worker.

NEGATIVES: Lean frame. Durability issues. Inconsistent accuracy. Doesn't always sense backside pressure. Takes too many chances downfield. Too many turnovers.

WHAT CAN HE ACCOMPLISH THIS WEEK? Fully healthy and with even playing field, Morris needs to show more consistency with footwork and ball placement as a passer.

Derek Carr, Fresno State; QB rank: 10th; Team: South

POSITIVES: High-level football intelligence. Strong command of offense. Had freedom at the line of scrimmage. Decisive. Good arm strength. Can make all the throws necessary in NFL. Quick, compact delivery. Fast eyes.

NEGATIVES: Consistently fails to transfer weight from back to front. Marginal footwork. Below average accuracy. Has a strong arm, but not strong enough (like Brett Favre or Matthew Stafford) to overcome throwing off back foot as frequently as he does. Does not show consistent willingness to stare down gun barrel and deliver a strike.

WHAT CAN HE ACCOMPLISH THIS WEEK? Show that he's taking strides toward fixing mechanical issues in his delivery.

Tajh Boyd, Clemson; QB rank: 11th; Team: North

POSITIVES: Fearless in face of pressure. Above-average arm strength. Shows ability to change arm slot and throw accurately when necessary. Senses backside pressure better than most. Is quick and consistently buys time with feet. Can be effective runner when he tucks and takes off. Great competitive temperament. Excellent game experience (32-8 as a starter)

NEGATIVES: Lacks height (6-0 3/4). Does not consistently see whole field from inside pocket. Rarely gets to third option in progressions. Misses too many open receivers. Inconsistent ball placement, especially from inside pocket. Too quick to tuck and run.

WHAT CAN HE ACCOMPLISH THIS WEEK? Show improvement throughout the week with pro-style progressions and anticipation as a pocket passer.

David Fales, San Jose State; QB rank: 13th; Team: South

POSITIVES: Strong mental makeup. Good decision-maker. Above-average short-to-intermediate accuracy. Quick delivery. Outstanding toughness and poise in pocket. Great competitor. Well liked and respected by coaches and teammates. Quickly developed into unquestioned leader at San Jose State after transferring from Monterey Peninsula College (2010-11). Reportedly was hardest worker on team. Gym rat type with first-in, last-out work ethic.

NEGATIVES: Inconsistent ball placement. Adequate zip on intermediate throws when he transfers weight, but struggles to drive the ball vertically with good velocity. Deep ball frequently gets suspended in air. Below average anticipation as a passer. Shorter than ideal.

WHAT CAN HE ACCOMPLISH THIS WEEK? Coming from a system that features high percentage of shorter throws, Fales needs to show he's capable of efficiently throwing the ball down the field. Because he lacks ideal arm strength, it will require excellent anticipation, timing and mechanics to accomplish that goal.

FIVE WITH MOST TO PROVE

Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State

Sutton added weight from his junior to senior season and there were reports that Sutton was up to around 320 pounds at one point in the fall. This affected his overall quickness. He was not as disruptive and his production dropped as a result. Scouts will have the microscope on Sutton this week starting at weigh-ins Monday.

It will be interesting to see not only Sutton's weight but also his height and arm length. Sutton would do well to shed some pounds and regain some of the quickness that made him so dynamic in 2012.

Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami

Henderson possesses a massive frame and ideal length. He also displays raw power and above-average agility. However, inconsistency with technique and awareness has plagued the right tackle throughout his career causing him to be used in a rotational role this fall.

Scouts will be watching for Henderson's footwork and angles in the run game as well as awareness in pass protection. It will be big for Henderson to show well this week to help offset some character concerns scouts have expressed if he has hopes of landing in the Day 2 range.

Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford

Murphy has a prototypical frame (6-5 3/8, 255) and has been a productive leader on the Cardinal defense that has been one of the best in the country the past few years. However, there are some concerns about Murphy's lack of quickness and overall athleticism. Scouts will take a long look at him in space and during one-on-one drills where Murphy will need to prove he wasn't just a product of a defense that played well as a whole.

Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia

Moses made the switch from right to left tackle this year and appeared more comfortable on tape. He has always been an above-average athlete but has made strides this year in terms footwork, strength and overall awareness. Moses possesses ideal size and length and if he can turn in a strong week he has a chance to start gaining some momentum that could land him in the bottom half of the first round.

Michael Sam, DE, Missouri

Sam was near the top of country for sacks this year. However, a vast majority of his production came in just three games against average competition. While Sam possesses an above-average first step, he lacks flexibility as a pass-rusher and doesn't have ideal size and strength setting the edge against the run. Scouts will keep close tabs on Sam during one-on-ones and especially in 9-on-7 drills, where Sam must prove he can be more than a pass-rushing specialist at the next level.

FIVE UNDER THE RADAR

Shamar Stephen, DT, Connecticut

Stephen didn't garner much attention playing for 3-9 Connecticut and he comes into this week overshadowed by talented North defensive tackles who include Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman, Pitt's Aaron Donald and Penn State's Daquan Jones. As talented as this group is, don't be surprised to see Stephen hold his own.

Listed at 6-5 and 313 pounds, Stephen has the lower-body strength to occupy multiple blockers without giving ground and the upper-body strength to control blockers one-on-one. He's also an above-average athlete for a player with his size and though his best fit is at nose tackle, he's capable of playing 3-4 defensive end.

Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas

It's hard to believe that an SEC defensive end who has recorded a total of 18 sacks over the past two years isn't getting much buzz. Yet that's the case with Smith, who played for an Arkansas team that won a total of seven games during that span and had to compete with the likes of South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney and Missouri's Kony Ealy for recognition in his own conference. Smith has the first-step quickness, lateral agility and motor to get after the passer, plus the size and upper-body strength to set the edge against the run.

Antonio Andrews, RB, Western Kentucky

Listed at 6-0 and 219 pounds, Andrews is a powerful runner with the balance and lower-body strength to regularly pick up yards after contact. He doesn't have to leave the field on third down either. He's caught 78 passes over the past two years, he can produce after the catch and he can help out in pass protection. In addition, he has experience returning kickoffs and punts.

The level of competition he faced on a weekly basis is an obvious concern but he played well against Kentucky and Tennessee this year. The bigger issue is ball security. It's important that he not put the ball on the ground this week.

Jonathan Brown, OLB, Illinois

Brown is another prospect who played for a bad team and he didn't have a great junior season thanks in part to a shoulder injury that forced him to miss three games and most of a fourth. He is a downhill run-stopper whose aggressiveness can lead to him getting caught out of position but also makes him a threat to knife into the backfield.

Listed at 6-1 and 230 pounds, he can be effective when he lines up between the tackles because he has above-average balance and upper-body strength. Finally, there's a lot to like about the awareness he shows in coverage and his closing speed rushing the passer.

Gator Hoskins, TE, Marshall

Listed at 6-2 and 244 pounds, Hoskins is an F-tight end prospect who projects as an adequate positional blocker at best and can improve as a route runner. Like Andrews, there are concerns about the level of competition inflating his production, but he's a matchup problem with big-play potential.

His size gives defensive backs problems and he has shown the ability to make contested catches on the outside. Plus he has the quickness to separate from linebackers and toughness to make plays over the middle. He's fast enough to work the seam and he's an effective open-field runner after the catch, which isn't a surprising considering he rushed for 1,177 yards and 22 touchdowns in high school.