The Senior Bowl is now complete, after a week of practices some players NFL Draft stock rose and others fell. For a lot of NFL teams, the most important part of the Senior Bowl is getting a chance to sit down and meet with the players. This affords the teams an opportunity to talk with the players and learn a little more about their background and have them answer specific questions.
Throughout the week each player will only have a few opportunities to impress scouts. Some players will be asked to play a different position than they traditionally are accustomed to, such as a defensive end asked to play outside linebacker. With each challenge, scouts are not looking if a player was successful but if he can learn from his initial mistakes or if he possesses the athleticism to play in a different role.
It is important to remember that players are really given just three, one and half hour practices to showcase their skill sets. All great players make their mistakes in practice, they learn and get better each day. Young players asked to try new techniques will struggle, the great ones will show over time they can master and continue to grow as a player.
Below are six players who struggled throughout the Senior Bowl. These are players who lack the production or efficiency metrics to suggest they are worthy of a day one selection in the upcoming NFL Draft. These players' weaknesses were evident from their pass blocking to their pass coverage abilities.
We still have a lot of time before the NFL Draft. With the NFL Combine coming up in about a month, followed by Pro Days and team interviews, a lot still can happen to alter a players draft positions with each of the 32 NFL teams.
For now, here are the six most underwhelming performances (plus a bonus one) from this year's Senior Bowl.
Carson Wentz (QB, North Dakota State):
The popular sentiment throughout the week was that Wentz had a great week of practice. There is no denying the fact that Wentz had by far the strongest arm amongst all the quarterbacks in Mobile. Scouts love his size and his ability to move outside the pocket and make all the deep downfield throws.
After watching Wentz all week, I think he failed in a few key areas. First was on his touch passes, such as the back shoulder fade in the end zone. Wentz consistently threw to the front shoulder or overthrew his target. The ability to put enough arc on the pass to lob it over a defensive hand and into the receiver's hand without it sailing out of bounds is a difficult throw.
Wentz can deliver the ball on a rope, but lacking the ability to consistently put the ball in the correct spot will hinder his development as a passer. He only had seven starts last season due to an injury to his wrist.
He is similar to a Blake Bortles or a Jake Locker, a young quarterback who has a strong arm but lacks the consistency and touch on his throws right now in his career to be a starter in the NFL.
Wentz will continue to climb up the mock drafts and there will be a lot of chatter about him being a top five pick. He needs to improve his game a lot before he is ready to become an opening game starter in the NFL.
Shawn Oakman (DE, Baylor):
Few players in college football were as well-known as Shawn Oakman was last season. He is of almost mythical stature, measuring in at the Senior Bowl at 6'7” and 269 pounds. One scout commented that Oakman is built like a reverse pyramid, meaning his upper body is wide and chiseled while his legs are skinny and undefined.
He was a lost prospect at times throughout the week; in pass rush drills he would get dominated while rarely dominating his opponent. He might look the part, but he didn't play the part of an elite pass rusher.
Oakman had a difficult time preventing the offensive tackles from getting their hands inside of him. He doesn't get low enough to win the leverage game and was pushed around on a number of drills during the week.
He finished with just 4.5 sacks this past season to go along with zero pass breakups. A player of his stature should be able to fill the throwing lanes and knock down a couple of passes. With an unmemorable performance during the Senior Bowl, Oakman's draft stock will continue to slide.
Kenyan Drake (RB, Alabama):
The soft-spoken running back from Alabama was viewed as one of the best receiving backs at this year's Senior Bowl. A lot of talk on Drake was centered on the fact that he looked capable of playing a third down tailback type role. He appeared capable of being a quality pass protector with a good pair of pass catching hands, or so most scouts thought coming into the week.
Drake struggled mightily in pass protection drills, getting completely run over by linebackers a couple of times. At 6'1” and 202 pounds, he looked capable of taking on blockers and delivering a crushing blow, but he looked more like a speed bump on a number of occasions.
As a receiver, Drake had 29 receptions last season. During Senior Bowl week, he had a number of dropped passes. He had a total of three drops last season according to Pro Football Focus.
While Drake possesses the agility and speed to quickly get upfield, he didn't show that consistent ability throughout the week to impress onlookers.
For a tailback whose role might be that of a third down back in the NFL, Drake has a long ways to go to convince an NFL front office that he is capable of taking on the responsibility. He will need to impress scouts at the NFL Combine or else his draft stock will continue to fall.
Spencer Drango (OT, Baylor):
Another Baylor Bear with a difficult week of practice was Spencer Drago. He struggled at the left tackle position when matched up against top rushers like Noah Spence. Drango had difficulty going against speed rushers down in Mobile, consistently getting beat around the edge and failing to get a hand on a guy.
If teams are willing to give Drango a shot at right tackle, it might take him some time to get used to playing over on the right side. He was a four year left tackle at Baylor and playing a new position will take some adjusting.
Some scouts believe Drango could slide inside and play guard. It's still a new position and projecting him inside might take some time. Getting beat on a daily basis by both Dadi Nicolas (DE, Virginia Tech) and Noah Spence really exposed Drango's flaws as a pass blocker.
Right now Drango projects most likely as a guard and looks to be, at best, a third round selection. Most of the NFL scouts I talked to were impressed with Drango's mobility and athleticism and suggested that he would excel in a zone blocking scheme.
Jihad Ward (DE, Illinois):
With just three sacks in 2015, Jihad Ward wasn't on my radar going down to the Senior Bowl as a must-watch prospect. He had an impressive first day of practice, notching a couple of wins in individual drills and impressing a number of scouts.
At 6'6” and 295 pounds, he can play either inside at the defensive tackle in sub packages or play a traditional 4-3 defensive end spot. In addition to his versatility and measurables, Ward possesses the long arms scouts like to see from a prototypical pass rushing defensive end.
As the week went on, it quickly became evident that Ward's shining star was being burnt out by halfway through the second day. He was quickly manhandled in pass protection and failed to show any type of technique in pass rush drills.
While he has the measurables, Ward is by no means an accomplished pass rusher. He is a major project type player who will need a couple of years of development before he can become a situational pass rusher in the NFL.
If NFL teams are wise, they might want to hold off on selecting Ward in the draft until the last half of day three.
Matt Ioannidis (DT, Temple):
Temple had a fantastic season this year, finishing with a top-20 defense in the nation. One of the leaders on that defense was Matt Ioannidis, a disruptive defensive tackle who was a three year starter for the Owls.
Ioannidis had a difficult time when matched up against some of the better interior offensive linemen at the Senior Bowl. When matched up against a Joshua Garnett (OG, Stanford) or Nick Martin (OG, Notre Dame), Ioannidis had a difficult time getting into the backfield. He doesn't possess the strength to power rush his man back into the pocket.
In watching the practice tape, Ioannidis could only get around his blocker by crossing over into other gaps, he won't have this luxury when he is playing on Sundays in the NFL.
At 6'4” and 292 pounds, Ioannidis will need to improve his strength if he is going to see regular playing time in the NFL. Teams will run right at him if he can't hold his blocks against bigger, more physical interior offensive linemen.
Eric Striker (OLB, Oklahoma):
One of the smaller linebackers in this draft class, Striker measured in at 5'11” and 228 pounds at the Senior Bowl. He is a player who uses his speed and quickness to get around his blockers rather than stack and shed or physically overpower his blockers.
He finished last season with seven sacks and for his career he posted 22.5 sacks and 45 TFL in over 40 games. Going to the NFL, he will see some action as a situational pass rusher early in his career. With limited experience dropping into coverage, he will need to improve this part of his game to see any consistent playing time in the NFL.
During the Senior Bowl week, Striker had difficulty picking up his man when dropping into coverage and was routinely left chasing his man down the field. It will be a long learning curve before he is ready to see any significant playing time at the outside linebacker position.
In pass rushing drills, offensive linemen were able to neutralize him once they were able to get their hands on him. He lacks the strength and power to shed his blockers. Striker is mostly likely suited to rush the pass from a wide-9 position on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle. This position would help him utilize his speed and quickness to attack opposing quarterbacks along with the space to get around offensive tackles.
Striker will most likely be a day three selection, but he could bring some value in special team early in his career.