The third day of workouts at the Senior Bowl are viewed as the most important practices of the week. Players are finally comfortable with their teammates and the playbook, leading to better performance on the field. In addition, the players have a better feel for their competitors, resulting in heated battles in 1-on-1 and team drills.
Here's a look at a few of the prospects who stood out to me Wednesday.
» Nebraska CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste: The Seahawks' journey to Super Bowl XLVIII behind the suffocating play of the "Legion of Boom" has helped Nebraska Jean-Baptiste emerge as one of the top cornerback prospects in the 2014 class. The 6-3, 220-pound standout fits the mold of the long, rangy athletes manning the corner for Pete Carroll's squad; other teams view Jean-Baptiste in that light after watching him dominate Big Ten competition with his superior size and athleticism.
Although he has spent only two years at cornerback -- Jean-Baptiste was originally recruited as a wide receiver -- he has quickly become an exceptional press corner despite his inexperience. At the Senior Bowl, Jean-Baptiste has impressed scouts with his physicality and movement skills. He has routinely knocked receivers around early in routes, displaying sound footwork and technique executing jam and shadow techniques. Additionally, Jean-Baptiste has shown good awareness and ball skills tracking balls on vertical routes.
With most press corner unable to produce interceptions instead of break ups, Jean-Baptiste's imposing size and solid skills will make him one of the fastest risers up the charts as draft day nears.
» Wisconsin LB Chris Borland: Scouts are quickly falling in love with Borland after watching him shine in workouts this week. The 2013 Big Ten Defensive Player or the Year has been all over the field making plays as the MLB for the North squad, showing exceptional instincts and awareness diagnosing plays on the fly. In addition, Borland has been solid in coverage in individual and team drills. He shows better than anticipated short area quickness latching on to running backs in man coverage. In zone drops, Borland does a good job of sorting through route concepts to make quick breaks on throws in his area.
Although Borland hasn't been able to consistently get his hands on the ball, he has made a few "bang-bang" hits on throws in his zone. I know there are plenty of scouts skeptical of Borland's potential because of his substandard physical dimensions (5-11, 246) and questionable speed, but I've also had a handful of evaluators compare the Badgers' star to former Pro Bowl LB Zach Thomas. Quite a lofty comparison, for sure, but Borland's supporters believe he is a "football player" with the skills to be a standout performer in the right scheme.
» Iowa TE C.J. Fiedorowicz: Teams looking for a traditional tight end should pay close attention to Iowa's C.J. Fiedorowicz. The 6-7, 265-pound standout is a big-bodied pass catcher capable of wreaking havoc between the hashes. In individual and team drills, Fiedorowicz has consistently gotten open against athletic linebacker by effectively utilizing his size and strength to win at the top of routes. Additionally, he has shown exceptional balance and body control for his size by quickly getting in and out of his breaks. Factor in his superb instincts, awareness and technical skills, Fiedorowicz has been nearly impossible to guard in the middle of the field.
As a blocker, Fiedorowicz has shown good strength and power moving defenders off the ball. He has maintained contact throughout the down and flashed a little nastiness finishing the drill.
Given the need for a traditional, three-down tight end to anchor a power-oriented offensive attack, Fiedorowicz has shown NFL officials that he is up to the job.
» Tulane WR Ryan Grant: Grant has been one of the pleasant surprises in Senior Bowl workouts this week. He has been the most consistent playmaker on the South team, displaying outstanding hands and polished route-running skills. Grant has repeatedly gotten open in 1-on-1 and team drills against a talented set of defensive backs.
Looking closely at Grant's skills, I see a precise route runner with impeccable timing and rhythm. He has a tremendous feel for using various stems and weaves to create separation at the top of routes. In addition, Grant varies his tempo to lull defenders to sleep on vertical routes. This is one of the hardest techniques for young receivers to master, but the Tulane star has already shown an uncanny knack for pace. Throw in his strong hands and superb ball skills, and there is a lot to like about Grant as a possible No.2 or No.3 receiver at the next level.
Recent Senior Bowl MVPsDoes being named Senior Bowl MVP lead to success in the NFL? You be the judge as we take a look back at the most recent Senior Bowl MVPs.
» Stanford OLB Trent Murphy: Murphy has failed to stand out in drills this week despite entering the Senior Bowl regarded as one of the top defenders in college football. Despite measuring 6-6, 261 pounds, Murphy looks thin and frail battling offensive tackles on the edges. Consequently, he has struggled winning in 1-on-1 pass rush drills and made a minimal impact as a rusher in team drills.
Against the run, Murphy's lack of girth has shown up in battles with big bodies on the perimeter. Murphy has struggled holding the point on runs to his direction, and his inability to set the edge has been startling for a player with his sterling reputation.
Of course, Murphy is making a switch to defensive end, which is a big transition for a player who is comfortable playing as a 3-4 OLB, but his disappointing performance and lack of blue chip qualities makes it hard to endorse him as a possible top pick.
» South cornerbacks: The injury bug has ravaged the South squad at the cornerback position. Oklahoma's Aaron Colvin suffered a torn ACL in drills yesterday, ending a solid week of work for the senior. Wednesday, Florida's Jaylen Watkins and Utah's Keith McGill failed to finish the workout because of injury issues.
While neither injury appeared to be serious, the fact that both players departed in the middle of workouts left the squad with only three healthy cornerbacks in the rotation, excluding Georgia Tech S/CB Jemea Thomas. The extra repetitions gave Georgia Southern's Lavelle Westbrooks, Auburn's Chris Davis and Liberty's Walt Aikens extra opportunities to strut their stuff, but it kept scouts from taking a closer look at Watkins and McGill in team drills. Questions abound on each of their skills in man and zone coverage, and the minor nicks will make it harder for scouts to accurately project their skills at the next level.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.