Senior Moment

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Senior Moment
by Warren DeLuca

If the first two years of the team’s existence are any indication, the Texans rely heavily on the scouting opportunities available at the Senior Bowl. Half of the team’s first-day picks participated in the game, as did over a third of the 22 total players that Houston has selected. David Carr, Charles Hill, Jonathan Wells, Jarrod Baxter, Bennie Joppru, Dave Ragone, Seth Wand, Domanick Davis, and Terrance Martin all played in the Senior Bowl before being drafted (or signed as a free agent in Martin’s case) by the Texans.
We caught up with independent scout Matt Gambill of All Pro Scouting Services to get his thoughts on this year’s happenings in Mobile, Alabama.

HPF: The Texans were very visible at the last two Senior Bowls, especially in 2003 when Dom Capers’ staff coached the North squad. How strong a presence did the team have this year?

MG: Both Charley Casserly and Dom Capers kept low profiles this year. Neither was real visible, but they did have a full scouting staff on hand in Mobile. Usually Casserly makes his presence known, but this year with all of the Super Bowl preparations in Houston, maybe he decided to help out in that effort a bit more. He has gained a lot of confidence in his scouting staff the past few years.

HPF: Are there any players that the team seemed particularly interested in?

MG: It’s really hard to gauge what exact players they were looking at, but they did pay a lot of attention to the LB’s and DL’s. I think they are happy with the young skill players they have on offense, especially with the emergence of Domanick Davis at RB. Nice core of young player on the offensive side of the ball with Davis, Carr, Johnson, and Gaffney.

HPF: What was the general feeling among the NFL personnel regarding Eli Manning’s decision not to participate?

MG: Honestly, most of the personnel there didn’t really care that he didn’t play. In fact, it was anticipated he wouldn’t. He had no real reason to go out there and risk a possible freak injury. He has solidified his status as a top 3 pick, so he had nothing to gain.

HPF: Florida State defensive tackle Darnell Dockett certainly seemed to have helped himself with an impressive showing in Mobile. How high do you see him going now?

MG: Well, I thought Darnell was a solid second round pick entering this process and he played outstanding down in Mobile, but he does have a past and that may keep him out of the first round. He currently ranks as the #4 DT on my board overall and the #1 senior DT.

HPF: How did the other D-lineman, particularly Chad Lavalais of LSU, Darrell Campbell of Notre Dame, Dwan Edwards of Oregon State, and Isaac Sopoaga of Hawaii look? Do any of them look like good fits for a 3-4 defense?

MG: All played very well. Lavalais may not have much upside, but he has the heart, the desire, and is exceptionally quick off the ball. He could play NG in the 3-4 very well. Campbell looked excellent in weigh-ins and continued to play well all week. He played DT at Notre Dame, but in a 3-4, he’s a LDE. Dwan Edwards is a very talented player, but his game is not really suited for the 3-4. Sopoaga is a monster. He was 321-pounds and I didn’t see much fat on him at all. Very well-proportioned young man. He was a very impressive player and should be a very solid 2nd rounder. He can play in a 3-4 scheme, but again, not his best fit.

HPF: Of the "tweeners" in the game — Florida’s Bobby McCray, Virginia Tech’s Nathaniel Adibi, Hawaii’s Travis LaBoy, and Purdue’s Shaun Phillips — which appear best suited to making the transition to the 3-4 outside linebacker position?

MG: McCray is the best athlete of them all. He’s an angular player with a frame to add another 20-pounds and stay at DE, and I think his future will be as a RDE. Adibi is another player who I see staying at RDE in the NFL because of his ability to rush the passer off the edge. He is an excellent athlete, but as a 3-4 SAM, he’d have to be quicker with his reads. LaBoy and Phillips are the two who I think can make the move more smoothly. Phillips is built like a LB. He’s an exceptional pass rusher as indicated by his sack total at Purdue, but he he possesses the hand strength, flexibility, quickness, and lateral skills to move to OLB. He played some TE and was able to show what a good athlete he is. He’ll run a high 4.6-low 4.7 in the forty. LaBoy is a physical freak. He’ll run 4.6, have a 38" vertical, 10’5" broad jump, do 25-30 reps, and blow the scouts away with his athleticism. The one thing that worries me and others about Travis is his instincts. It’s hard to see if he has the quick reaction skills that a LB has to make. He has the physical tools, but the question is whether he can process what is happening mentally before it happens. Certainly a strong-side backer in the 3-4.

HPF: How did small-school cornerbacks Joey Thomas of Montana State and Ricardo Colclough of Tusculum College fair against the big boys?

MG: Both were inconsistent in my opinion, but both showed that they belonged. Colclough looked to settle down as the week progressed and he had a big game on Saturday. He’s a very impressive corner with all of the skills and athleticism. Only concern is how quickly he can retain information. Joey Thomas was the best-looking CB physically by far. Very tall, with long arms and has tremendous athleticism. He does come off a little arrogant for a kid coming from Montana State, but I think it’s a front. He’s an excellent talent who COULD sneak his way into round one. Colclough will be a solid 2nd rounder. Keith Smith from McNeese may also have moved into a late first round pick. He had an excellent week and is a big time athlete.

HPF: A couple running backs, Cedric Cobbs of Arkansas and Julius Jones of Notre Dame, appear to have resuscitated careers that started off strong but got sidetracked along the way. Where do you see these two being drafted?

MG: Cobbs is a big, physical, runner with excellent speed to make the big play, but durability is a huge question mark. He has had shoulder problems, ankle problems, and some off-field issues. He’s a BIG TIME player when healthy. I see Cedric as a 3rd rounder now, but he could be a 2nd when April gets here. Julius Jones sat out last year because of academics, but he came back to finish what he started. He’s an excellent kid who possesses a similar running style to that of Domanick Davis. I see Jones in that same area in the draft (4th round).

HPF: Did Florida’s Max Starks show he has the feet to be a left tackle in the NFL, or is he strictly a right tackle?

MG: Starks is a massive player at 6’ 7 1/8”, 359 lbs., but you can FORGET about him playing LT and maybe RT at the next level. He just doesn’t have the feet for it. He does have the heavy anchor you like, but he sets high and comes out high. He needs to work on flexibility and surely needs to get to about 335 lbs. I see him as a RG now.

HPF: What other players created the most buzz?

MG: Darrell Campbell, Greg Jones, Keith Smith, Josh Harris, Thomas Tapeh, Mewelde Moore, Devery Henderson, Ernest Wilford, and Sean Locklear really created the most positive buzz from their play. Jones may have gotten himself back into the top 35-40 picks. Keith Smith could have played his way into being a late first rounder. Darrell Campbell showed he can play DT and LDE so his stock will rise. Josh Harris showed accuracy, arm strength, and the ability to process info quickly and may now be a solid 3rd round pick. Thomas Tapeh is the best FB in the draft because of his ability to block, run in short yardage, and catch out of the backfield. He’s a possible 3rd-4th rounder. Mewelde Moore will be a steal wherever he goes. I have seen him play here in New Orleans his entire career at Tulane and he is big time. He’s still a 4th rounder because of his lack of speed. Devery Henderson showed his speed and much-improved route running. He’s only played WR for two years (he came to LSU as a RB) so his upside is through the roof. I look for Devery to sneak into the late first round. Ernest Wilford was solid all week and showed much improved hands. He was plucking balls, using his body, and showed he can gain after the catch. Solid 2nd or 3rd rounder in Wilford. Sean Locklear is clearly the #3 or #4 OG prospect. He’s a fantastic athlete who can get in space and work. He plays low and has tremendous feet. Surely a 2nd rounder.

HPF: Which players, if any, damaged their stock during the week?

MG: I don’t think you can damage your stock at an all-star game, but I was not impressed with Texas CB Nathan Vasher. He was 5097, 171 and looked like you would break him in half if you wanted to. He’s not the first rounder – and may not even be a second – in April as some people think he is. He better hope his hype carries him the rest of the way. I was not impressed.

Matt Gambill owns and operates in New Orleans. Trained as an NFL scout, Gambill has taken his knowledge of the draft process and created one of the most well-respected scouting services and draft sites available. He caters to both league personnel and fans alike and his site covers both major NFL prospects and the lesser-known small college players. We thank him for answering our questions. Chad Lavalais Chad Lavalais Home

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