The fourth day of workouts at the Reese's Senior Bowl represents the final dress rehearsal for both squads. Players are finally comfortable with the playbook and their respective roles within the scheme. Additionally, coaches are increasingly comfortable with their personnel, leading to specific home run plays designed to the put top players in a position to make impact plays. With that in mind, I thought I would single out a few players creating significant buzz with their play this week. Here's what I've been hearing:
» Fresno State QB Derek Carr: There is no doubt that Carr is one of the most talented quarterbacks in college football. He displays A-plus arm talent, while exhibiting outstanding athleticism and movement skills within the pocket. Additionally, Carr plays with the kind of confidence that coaches covet in a gunslinger. This has been the book on Carr for the past two years since he emerged as one of the most productive players in the country.
Yet, some scouts are still undecided on whether Carr can cut the mustard as a franchise quarterback at the next level. Speaking to an NFC East scout familiar with Carr's game, he told me that the senior's shaky performance against USC revealed some of the pocket poise and awareness flaws that some evaluators have found troublesome. In that performance against the Trojans, Carr struggled to make pinpoint throws from a muddied pocket. In addition, he didn't exhibit the poise to work through his progressions to hit his second or third options in the route concept.
To his credit, Carr has been outstanding in workouts throughout the week, displaying the decisiveness, athleticism and arm talent to make big plays at the next level. He has picked apart defenses with tight-rope throws to all areas of the field. If Carr can continue to play at a high level on Saturday, while also exhibiting the confidence and poise to thrive against pressure, he can squelch some of the questions that are slowing his ascension up draft charts.
» Tennessee DT Daniel McCullers: The NFL remains a big man's game in the trenches, which is why scouts are buzzing about McCullers after watching him work this week. The 6-foot-8, 351-pounder has surprised observers with his energy, stamina and conditioning as the monster in the middle.
McCullers has been an immovable object in the heart of the South team defense, exhibiting impressive strength and power taking on double teams at the point of attack. He has also impressed scouts with his ability to run and chase to the perimeter on outside runs. While McCullers is simply a pocket pusher as a pass rusher, the fact that he can own the middle of the line of scrimmage and clog up passing lanes with his length makes him an intriguing candidate as a nose tackle.
Senior Bowl practiceThe future stars of the NFL hit the field in Mobile, Ala. for the 2014 Reese's Senior Bowl.
» Colorado State C Weston Richburg: I know my colleague Daniel Jeremiah is a huge fan of Richburg, but he is not alone in his adulation of the Colorado State standout.
Talking to several scouts this week, I've found plenty of evaluators who view Richburg as the ideal pivot as a pro. Richburg is described as a highly intelligent player with outstanding instincts and awareness. He has a terrific feel for using cut-off angles and body positioning to neutralize defenders at the point of attack. Additionally, Richburg does a great job of minimizing his strength and power deficiencies by effectively using body help from his teammates to reduce available space for defenders.
Watching Richburg excel in team drills this week, I've been impressed with his understanding of the position and his technical savvy. He has a knack for getting the job done, which will undoubtedly make him a favorite of coaches and scouts in pre-draft meetings.
» West Virginia RB Charles Sims: The running back position remains a key component of elite offenses, particularly when feature backs possess the skills to be effective three-down players. That's why scouts are clamoring over the skills of Sims. The 6-0, 213-pound playmaker is a former wide receiver trapped in a running back's body.
Sims is a natural route runner out of the backfield, with terrific hands and ball skills. He routinely shook free from defenders in 1-on-1 and team drills as a receiver out of the backfield, Additionally, Sims displayed outstanding vision, balance and body control running the ball between the tackles on downhill plays. Although he is a bit of a glider with the ball in his hands, Sims' smooth running style and natural receiving skills remind me of Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte. When I pitched that comparison to an AFC executive, he agreed with my assessment and told me that he thinks Sims could be a difference maker in a wide-open offense.
An NFC college scouting director pegged Sims as a DeMarco Murray clone, with the kind of explosiveness to ignite an offense that places a premium on getting the ball to the running back in a variety of ways.
» Saginaw Valley State WR Jeff Janis: If you're looking for a small-school talent to follow in the run up to the draft, I would suggest keeping an eye on Janis. The 6-3, 218-pound pass catcher has quietly emerged as one of the standouts from a talented cast of receivers in attendance.
Janis has worked free from defenders using clever stems and head fakes at the top of routes. He has shown surprising separation quickness out of his breaks, creating enough space for his quarterbacks to squeeze in throws with defenders in close proximity. When I talked to an AFC executive about Janis, he threw out a Jordy Nelson comparison based on the Saginaw Valley State star's frame, athleticism and footwork. The executive went on to tell me that the big-bodied receiver hasn't appeared intimidated by the big stage, which is critical for small-school players making the jump to the NFL.
» Alabama OLB Adrian Hubbard: After watching Hubbard closely this week, I believe he might be a man without a true position at the next level.
Although Hubbard has played outside linebacker in Alabama's 3-4 system, he isn't a dynamic pass rusher nor an explosive athlete in coverage. I've been surprised at his marginal first-step quickness and his lack of nuance with his pass-rush technique. Hubbard doesn't overwhelm blockers with outstanding speed and quickness. In addition, he also lacks the power to forklift opponents despite his exceptional length (6-6, 252 pounds).
An AFC South scout called Hubbard a "jack of all trades, but a master of none." For a player expected to be one of the headliners of the 2014 draft class, Hubbard's performance at the Senior Bowl has produced more questions than answers at this point.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.