Yesterday was the start of Senior Bowl week, with many of the top names in April's NFL Draft hitting the practice field, under the watchful eye of many teams' General Managers, Head Coaches, and Scouts. As the players hit the field, they are all aware that this week could make or break their draft stock, costing them millions of dollars, or even the chance to play football at the next level.
Here's a look at some of the top performers from day one of the Senior Bowl practices:
- Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU - "BYU's Ezekiel Ansah forced the quarterbacks to step up into the pocket on multiple occasions, ruining any sense of timing in the passing game. Ansah also knocked down at least one pass and forced [FSU quarterback E.J.] Manuel to significantly adjust his throwing motion on another." - Rob Rang, CBS Sports
- Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon - "Oregon running back Kenjon Barner was one of the standouts on the North offense. The straight-line speed and elusiveness was as good as expected, but Barner also showed good balance running between the tackles. He's someone to keep an eye on when the players put on pads." - Jon Benne, SB Nation
- Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International - "In a talented safety group, Florida International's Jonathan Cyprien stood out on Monday with his aggressive playing style and active demeanor. He practiced at full speed and left it all out on the field, not shying away from getting physical. Whether it was a contact drill or not, Cyprien is going to meet the ballcarrier with a pop, refusing to let up. With Kenny Vaccaro (Texas) and D.J. Swearinger (South Carolina) deciding to skip Mobile, Cyprien has a chance to emerge as one of the top safeties at this year's Senior Bowl." Dane Brugler, CBS Sports [Editor's Note: EVERYONE seemd to like Cyprien today. Nearly ever report from Mobile last night mentioned Cyprien's performance.]
|Related: SB Nation Senior Bowl Coverage|
- Marquise Goodwin, WR, Texas - "Best receiver of the bunch today was surprisingly Marquise Goodwin of Texas. The speedy receiver showed off balance and explosion in all of his routes today, and really got great separation on deep comebacks. We'll see how he does versus press this week, but it's a good start for the speedy, high ceiling receiver." - Eric Galko, Optimum Scouting
- Tavarres King, WR, Georgia - "For one day at least, Georgia wideout Tavarres King played up to his surname, repeatedly making big plays to stand out among a talented group of receivers for the South Team during Monday's initial Senior Bowl practice. King, ranked by NFLDraftScout.com as a fifth-round prospect and given third-day grades from scouts from three different teams I spoke to following practice, demonstrated great lateral agility, acceleration and generally reliable hands. He did allow one pass to slip through his hands -- but that was conveniently snatched up by Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton, who also enjoyed an impressive first day." -Rob Rang, CBS Sports
- Alex Okafor, DE, Texas / Datone Jones, DE, UCLA - "A pair of pass rushers made noise all of Monday's practice on the North squad: Texas defensive end Alex Okafor and UCLA defensive end Datone Jones. Okafor was playing with a full tank and beat blockers with aggressive power and a fiery attitude ripping through the line of scrimmage. Jones was similar with his short-area burst, winning with strength and quickness at the point of attack. Considered second rounders entering the week, both Okafor and Jones made strong cases as to why they should be considered top-32 selections." - Dane Brugler, CBS Sports
Denard Robinson, WR, Michigan - "During the North's practice, there are three different color jerseys: white (offense), blue (defense) and then also yellow (quarterbacks). And Michigan's Denard Robinson, who played quarterback in Ann Arbor but is listed at wide receiver on the Senior Bowl roster, also had a yellow jersey despite not taking any snaps from center. He participated in several wide receiver and special teams exercises but wasn't involved in many contact drills, which is probably due to the arm/hand injury he suffered last fall. Robinson looked natural with the ball in his hands, but he didn't display ideal ball skills, something that will take some time as he adjusts to a different position on offense." - Dane Brugler, CBS Sports
- Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M - "The toughest of the wide receivers, however, was Texas A&M's Ryan Swope, who [Detroit Lions/South Team wide receiver coach Tim] Lappano specifically mentioned as having been the best of the team's blockers on the first day of practice. He followed Lappono's advice of blocking where "wind up, not where they lined up," consistently doing the quiet dirty work that helped the South's running backs chew up big yardage." - Rob Rang, CBS Sports
- Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington - "Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant has been under the radar lately, but he raised some eyebrows Monday with a physical, aggressive performance against Oregon State receiver Markus Wheaton. Another name to watch over the week." - Jon Benne, SB Nation
|Related: Senior Bowl Rosters|
- Marcus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State - "Markus Wheaton of Oregon State flashed a bit what he can do, but also proved to still be a bit of a work in progress. He extended away from his body well today on a variety of throws, and his vertical stretching ability is evident. However, he struggled with efficient steps in his routes and physicality downfield, enough to limit throwing windows and adequate timing routes for his quarterbacks." - Eric Galko, Optimum Scouting
- Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor - "Baylor's Terrance Williams was every bit the playmaker expected. The big-play specialist led the country with 140.92 receiving yards per game and showed similar body control and athleticism as his counterparts. Even better, at 6-2, 201 pounds, he's bigger." -Rob Rang, CBS Sports
- Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut / Dwayne Gratz, CB, Connecticut - "I was [as] impressed today by the two UConn cornerbacks, as I was told I would be by people close to the team. I already was impressed on film by Blidi Wreh-Wilson, and today he showed good balance, tight feet in his drops, and exchanging his hands well. He did get beat on the interior and vertically one time each, but made up for it with a great press and then interception on the same play. The other, and less heralded, cornerback was Dwayne Gratz, who I actually thought was more impressive. He showed the quickest feet in defensive back drills and pressed as well as any other defensive back today. I'm excited to see which UConn cornerback looks better this week. Both could play their way into Top 100 (Wreh-Wilson already there for us)." - Eric Galko, Optimum Scouting
On a random side note, former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu was at the Senior Bowl practice today, meeting with team officials and trying to convince someone that he had changed his ways and would be an asset to a team. He wasn't the only player trying to meet with team officials, however. According to Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post, former Miami Dolphins quarterback Pat White was at the practice, hoping to meet with an executive who would give him a shot at resurrecting his career.
"I know that I can still do it," White told Volin. "I just want to come out here, shake hands, show my face and let coaches know that I'm interested. I just wasn't mentally ready to compete at the level that I needed to be."
We will add more from the Senior Bowl today. The game kicks off Saturday, January 26, at 4:00pm Eastern. It will be televised on NFL Network.