Here’s a capsule look at my eight favorite players during the Senior Bowl Week practices, with an eye toward ‘NFL viability’ with each prospect.
1. Linebacker Reggie Ragland, Alabama: Only time will tell if Ragland can handle the transition to outside linebacker at the pro level. But one thing’s for certain: Nobody at the Senior Bowl closes on a ballcarrier like Ragland, whether he’s dutifully serving the middle-linebacker spot or getting the offensive line’s full attention as a rush end. Bottom line: Ragland’s a heat-seeking missile when chasing the ball.
2. Wide receiver Jay Lee, Baylor: Corey Coleman (74 catches, 1,363 yards, 20 TDs in 2015) will justifiably garner a lot of pre-draft kudos among the receiving prospects this spring. But the pipeline of high-end receiving talent from Baylor doesn’t end there. Want a good Jay Lee comparison? He sheds defensive backs at the line of scrimmage like a young Anquan Boldin. He also has the speed and athleticism to dominate the same corners 20 yards downfield — a la Boldin (1,009 catches, 13,195 receiving yards, 74 TDs), a possible Hall of Famer. This kid’s a real find.
3. Cornerback Cyrus Jones, Alabama: Jones (seven career interceptions with the Crimson Tide) prefers defending big wideouts over slot receivers … meaning he also has no tangible fears of being placed on The Island for long stretches. Jones’ capacity for returning kicks (and finding the end zone) also boosts his NFL marketability.
4. Defensive end Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky: The former Ohio State prep All-American has lightning-fast feet and a stop/start burst that’s second to none here in Mobile. At 6-foot-3, 261 pounds, Spence has the size and physical tools to develop into a highly productive rush end at the next level.
5. Offensive lineman Christian Westerman, Arizona State: I’m calling for a ‘recount’ on Westerman’s dimensions (6-foot-4, 300 pounds). This kid blocks out the sun during media sessions … when merely sitting in a chair. He also moves with an athletic grace that’s rarely seen among offensive guards.
6. Cornerback Jalen Mills, LSU: It’s hard to recall a time this week — citing the one-on-one drills or 11-on-11 live scrimmaging — when Mills wasn’t stuck to the opposing receiver. In fact, I noted at least three times when Mills undercut the opposition to get to the ball first. Good athlete, great instincts.
7. Linebacker Josh Forrest, Kentucky: On the practice field, Forrest (4.5 sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss, 203 combined tackles for 2014-15) cuts the figure of someone bigger than 6-foot-2. But don’t let the tall, lean body fool you: Forrest gets great leverage on backfield blockers during pass-protection drills — the byproduct of having quick feet, powerful legs and sublime anticipatory instincts upon contact.
8. Running back Kenyan Drake, Alabama: Drake struggled a bit this week during pass-protection drills, but his upside as a dual-threat tailback (rushing/receiving) far outweighs any blocking concerns. (Presuming he gets elite-level coaching in the NFL.)
Drake’s best highlight? Catching a short pass out of the flat on Tuesday … and then sprinting nearly 40 yards down the left sideline before getting hit for the first time. In the right pro system, Drake (29 catches in 2015, 22 career TDs) has the down-the-road potential for 1,000 total yards and 50 receptions.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.