Senior Bowl: Day 4 impressions

MOBILE, Ala. — News, notes, and observations from day four at the Senior Bowl:

1. Virginia defensive back Chris Cook is a tall, good-looking athlete who did a nice job Thursday staying with receivers during red-zone drills and quickly finding the football. However, he looks unnatural when asked to break down after a completion and simply lacks the type of fluidity needed to hold up in man coverage at the next level. Again, the guy looks more like a free safety prospect to me.

2. Another cornerback who has had an up and down week is Wake Forest cover man Brandon Ghee. When Ghee is able to get his hands on you, he does a nice job being physical and using his length to break up the pass. However, the more space he’s asked to play in the less comfortable looks and has a tendency to stop moving his feet when looking for the ball. Again, there’s a lot to like about the guy from a physical standpoint, but his lack of ideal awareness and inability to stay low and cleanly transition out of his back-pedal makes me think he’s more of a zone-type corner only.

3. One prospect who was really put into a tough spot this week was Youngstown State wide out Donald Jones. Jones is a tall, long-armed athlete who did do a nice job high-pointing the football at times Thursday. However, he’s a really leggy route runner who struggles maintaining his balanced when asked to change directions and doesn’t generate much acceleration out of his breaks. Now, I don’t want to kill the kid too much because he was a late roster addition and was thrown right into the fray, but he has had a really tough time adjusting to the level of competition this week.

4. Cincinnati wideout Mardy Gilyard again had a tough a tough time fighting through defenders during red-zone drills. He showcases good initial shiftiness off the line and is sudden out of his routes, but once a defender can get into his frame, he struggles to work himself free and find the football. The more I watch him, the more I see a slot guy only who simply won’t be able to create for himself on the outside vs. physical NFL cover men.

5. Another prospect who was put into a tough spot this week was San Jose State standout Justin Cole. Cole possesses a nice-sized frame and good power at the point of attack when asked to attack downhill, but he looks too stiff to play in space and projects more as a 3-4 outside linebacker or nickel rusher.

6. I’m willing to bet that if Mississippi State running back Anthony Dixon made a full-time transition to fullback in the NFL, he’d be able to pick it up with relative ease. However, I still see the guy as one of the nation’s top running backs and think he has the type of ability to be that “power back” in an NFL offense. Much like Shonn Greene was overlooked last year on draft day, I think the same could end up happening to Dixon, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see him have the same type of impact.

7. UAB standout Joe Webb hasn’t been real impressive this week in his attempt to make the transition to wide receiver. He’s a tall, well-built athlete, but is a slow starter who gets too leggy as a route runner and struggles generating any kind of burst out of his breaks. I know he’s only been playing wide receiver for a limited amount of time and is expected to be raw as a route runner. However, I just don’t think he has the short-area quickness needed in order to generate separation vs. man coverage in the NFL.

8. Kentucky cornerback Trevard Lindley once again struggled in off-coverage Thursday, failing to recognize routes quickly and drive on the football. He’s a smooth athlete, however, he too often drifts in his back-pedal and has really looked uncomfortable in coverage all week.

9. One corner who has faired a little better than Lindley but has also struggled is South Florida’s Jerome Murphy. Murphy has a tendency to get too high and narrow with his footwork when asked to change directions and seems to simply glide in and out of his breaks instead of sharply driving on the ball. Plus, he really doesn’t look comfortable with his back to the ball and is more athlete than technically sound corner at this stage.

10. Finally, one of my favorite prospects here is Kentucky fullback John Conner, who looks capable of quickly developing into a starting-caliber lead blocker. He’s a good athlete for the position who blocks with leverage and has some real nasty to his game on contact. He isn’t a prospect who will be drafted high or get much recognition come April, but he’s the kind of guy who will play in the NFL for 10 years and always have a niche as a lead blocker.

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