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Senior Bowl Winners and Losers: Names to Watch in NFL Draft

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NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

Every off-season the Senior Bowl presents the first opportunity to get a good look at some of the biggest prospects heading into the NFL Draft. While this year’s Senior Bowl was particularly useful for the purposes of driving up the value of QB prospects, it is unlikely the Colts will be targeting anyone at that position in the draft. However, the more hype and perceived value that builds before the draft could increase the haul Indianapolis could pull if they find a partner to trade out of the third overall pick.

There were numerous players at positions of potential need who may have made an impact on talent evaluators as teams get closer to putting together their draft boards leading into the NFL Combine.

WINNERS

Marcus Davenport - EDGE UTSA

Perhaps no task is more important for Chris Ballard and the Colts than to find legitimate pass rush options in the upcoming draft. One of the top edge defenders heading into the Senior Bowl was Marcus Devenport who will enter the draft after his collegiate career at the University of Texas San Antonio. After playing against an inferior level of competition at UTSA, Davenport needed to take advantage of his opportunity against other players who are projected to make their way onto NFL rosters.

It is fair to say that Davenport finished the week with mixed results. He wasn’t overly impressive during the early stages of practice and seemed to clearly have a learning curve against higher levels of competition. What is encouraging is that he showed improvement throughout the week and put it all together in Mobile with a half sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

At 6’7” tall and 255 lbs, he is an imposing prospect with the flexibility to line up with his hand in the dirt or in a two-point stance. After the Senior Bowl, he may have solidified himself as one of the top two or three pass rush prospects in the draft.

Marquis Haynes - EDGE Ole Miss

Haynes is a player who might have entered Senior Bowl week a little under the radar. At 6’3” and 233 pounds, he is a speed rusher off of the edge who will be better suited as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 or as a hybrid player used in the wide-9 on the defensive line. His game is currently limited to speed rushing in space so he can get the better of slower offensive linemen.

In the video above he shows speed and bend around the edge to abuse Pitt tackle Brian O’Neill for a strip sack. He still might be somewhat one-dimensional but his strong showing at the Senior Bowl, paired with a potentially strong showing at the Combine, could solidify his status as a day 2 prospect.

Rashaad Penny - RB SDSU

Throughout much of the week, Penny was relatively quiet. He entered the week as easily the biggest name at running back after leading the nation in rushing yards at San Diego State. Despite a slow start, he performed when the lights came on in the game.

He finished the game with 137 total yards of offense, including 64 rushing yards on 9 carries for over 7 yards per carry and a 73-yard receiving touchdown. The downside for Penny is that his not particularly fast in a short-split. He is a one-cut runner who has good long speed. If he has a strong Combine, it should push him higher on draft boards.

Kalen Ballage - RB/WR/? Arizona State

Ballage is an intriguing prospect who did a lot of different things for Arizona State. He was utilized as a wildcat-style quarterback at times and was projected as a player who might not have a position. He used the Senior Bowl game to show that he is a load to handle out of the backfield as a runner and has surprisingly soft hands for a player his size as a receiver — and even more surprising suddenness as a route runner as a receiver.

SIZE/RUSHING

He tallied 57 rushing yards on 10 carries for nearly 6 yards per carry. At 6’2” and over 220 lbs., that is an impressive performance.

ROUTE RUNNING

SPEED

He is being widely discussed as a player who has far more potential as a pro prospect than he did in college. It will be interesting to see where he ends up and his Combine could help him skyrocket.

Darius Leonard - LB SC State

No linebacker did more to increase the value of his stock during Senior Bowl week than Darius Leonard. He is a 6’3”, 235 lbs rangy inside linebacker prospect with speed to cover to the sidelines. He showed enough natural ability and nastiness during the Senior Bowl to have a nice foundation and has enough space to grow in his body to be fine-tuned for the NFL game.

He led all tacklers in the Senior Bowl with 14 tackles and earned Most Valuable Player honors on defense. for the South. He has been compared to Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith — just the type of linebacker the Colts have been sorely lacking.

Mike McCray - LB Michigan

Another linebacker who showed a lot of potential and the range to defend the pass from the inside was Mike McCray. At 6’1”, 241 lbs. he tallied 5 tackles and two pass deflections in the Senior Bowl, including the following play. He was a defensive captain for the game after a strong week of practice.

James Washington - WR Oklahoma State

The 5’11”, 210-pound receiver from Oklahoma State entered Senior Bowl week with questions about his ability to gain separation again press coverage and battle through contact in his routes. He did everything he could hope to do this week to silence those concerns.

He also had the fastest top timed top speed during Senior Bowl practices. Unfortunately, all of his good work during practice did not translate to the game as he was held without a catch on only two targets.

DJ Chark - WR LSU

Heading into the 2014 NFL Draft, there was an impressive receiver for LSU named Odell Beckham Jr. who looked good on tape and performed well leading up to the draft but who otherwise didn’t have an incredible college career. LSU ran the ball a lot, had a fantastic defense, and did not have a strong quarterback for much of Beckham’s tenure in Louisiana.

While trying to project any player as the next great receiver is extremely difficult, it isn’t difficult to understand why DJ Chark is starting to get the same kind of hype after a strong performance during Senior Bowl week as Odell Bekcham Jr. did heading into the 2014 Draft.

Chark measured in at 6’2”, 196 lbs. and found ways to abuse the North defense for 5 receptions, 160 yards, and a touchdown. He was named the Co-MVP for the South.

Alex Cappa - OL Humboldt State

Matt Danely has already broken down film on Alex Cappa and explained that he is a small school candidate who has been creating very positive buzz throughout Senior Bowl practices. He measured in at 6’5”, 299 lbs and moved inside to guard for the Senior Bowl after getting quite a bit of practice at tackle throughout the week.

The good news is that he did well after moving inside and continued to show the kind of nasty streak he will need to be effective in the NFL.

LOSERS:

Brian O’Neill - T Pitt

At 6’6” and 298 lbs, O’Neill entered the week as a potential first-round tackle prospect. After struggling against speed rushers during the week, he gave up a sack on the first drive on the game. This will certainly hurt his stock moving forward and require that he do what he can to repair the damage the week caused.

DaeSean Hamilton - WR Penn State

DaeSean Hamilton spent much of the Senior Bowl practice week impressing scouts and making a name for himself. He was looking like one of the biggest surprises. While a receiver with as much notoriety as James Washington can afford to show off his skills and not produce much during the game, Hamilton needed to translate practice to the game to legitimize what scouts were seeing on the practice field.

The 6’0”, 202-pound receiver caught only one pass for 5 yards. While the week overall might have been positive for his prospects, failing to produce during the game was a missed opportunity.

Will Hernandez - G UTEP

Senior Bowl week isn’t fair for everyone. Some players enter the week without high expectations and get attention for doing way more than anyone would have projected. Others enter the week with very high expectations and must fulfill what is expected or give scouts reasons to criticize and second-guess their game.

After what was considered a strong week of practice for one of the top guard prospects in the upcoming draft, Hernandez showed some susceptibility to inside moves during the game.

What he can do is maul as a run blocker. At 6’2” and 340 lbs, when Hernandez gets his paws on a defender and drives him downfield, holes open up in a big way.