Senior Bowl  

 

As Senior Bowl practice winds down, some players stand out

The fourth day of Senior Bowl practice was moved inside on Thursday due to severe weather conditions. Although the walkthrough provided little in the way of evaluation, it gave me plenty of time to reflect on some of my observations from the week:

» North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins is the most talented defensive back on either squad. He has displayed exceptional quickness, movement and instincts in team drills, and was nearly impossible to shake in one-on-ones. His ability to maintain proper positioning on the receiver downfield reflects his discipline in coverage, but Jenkins also shows an intuitive feel for jumping routes in critical situations. His combination of confidence, playmaking and toughness are coveted traits in potential No. 1 corners, and Jenkins certainly earns high marks for holding his own against some of the elite receivers in the country. Although his character rates as a serious concern to decision makers, Jenkins' game-changing skills could lead a team to gamble on his talent early in the draft.

2012 Senior Bowl
The Senior Bowl -- one of the premier pre-draft events -- features the best senior college stars and top NFL draft prospects. NFL Network has coverage of the event, including the game on Jan. 28.

» Complete Senior Bowl coverage
» NFL Network broadcast schedule

» Boise State DE Billy Wynn has first-round talent, but his inconsistent motor could lead to a dramatic drop on draft day. According to an AFC college scouting director, Wynn was not the hardest worker on or off the field and his suspect habits make him one of the draft's biggest question marks. This week, Wynn has flashed big-time rush ability with quickness and power. He is capable of bursting around on speed rushes, but also shows the ability to turn speed into power in a bull rush. Wynn still has time to salvage his high-round status on boards across the league, but he needs to bring the effort and energy to the field this weekend.

» Nevada LB James Michael Johnson has earned rave reviews for his performance on and off the field this week. One NFC general manager said his was one of the most impressive interviews in their meetings, and his natural leadership skills are ideal for his position. On the field, he has been equally impressive, displaying sound instincts and awareness. His ability to quickly diagnose plays enables him to play faster than his counterparts, and he is a big hitter in the hole. If his game performance is anything like his play in practice, Johnson could enjoy a strong rise up the charts.

Photo galleries: Mike Mayock's top draft prospects

» Nebraska CB Alfonzo Dennard left scouts with more questions than answers with his disappointing play this week. Regarded as a potential first-round pick prior to the week, Dennard struggled in coverage. He didn't look comfortable playing man-to-man from depth, and his inexperience with "off" technique leads to questions about his ability in a zone-based system. Scouts are also concerned about Dennard's top-end speed after watching him give up deep balls in press coverage. He was unable to run stride for stride with speedsters, which makes it critical for him to win at the line of scrimmage with his physicality. (Dennard eventually pulled out of Saturday's game with a hip flexor injury.) With less than a month to prepare for the combine, Dennard must tighten up his technique before his big day in front of scouts.

» Arizona WR Juron Criner was a late addition to the North's roster, but he has been one of the better receivers in attendance. He's had a few acrobatic catches this week, and displayed better movement than I saw on tape. While I'm not ready to proclaim Criner a potential lead receiver, I could envision him thriving as a No. 2 guy in a West Coast system that places a premium on receivers with size, speed and running skills.

» The evolution of the pro passing game is forcing scouts to rethink their desired traits in safety prospects. Rather than looking for old-school, strong safety types adept at defending the run, evaluators are seeking rangy playmakers with the ability to cover tight ends in space. The increased emphasis on the pass has several teams considering playing with four cornerback-type athletes in the secondary. This is forcing more teams to seriously consider tall, athletic cornerbacks as potential safeties to defend the new wave of tight ends taking the league by storm.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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