The 2011 Senior Bowl starts today with weigh-ins etc. Most of the coverage will be live on NFL Network during the week with the game on Saturday. The Senior Bowl is a great inside look into draft prospects and is a great evaluation tool even for the casual observer. One of the reasons I like the Senior Bowl is because of the location in Mobile, Alabama quarterbacks often have to deal with windy conditions, so it's a very good barometer on quarterback arm strength. There are five players I'm really going to have my eye on this week for practices however. Click the jump to find out who they are.
Christian Ponder, QB, FSU
Despite a disappointing injury riddled senior season, I'm still very high on Christian Ponder. If his shoulder and elbow check out alright and he showcases the kind of arm strength I remember him having his junior year, Ponder has a chance to really climb draft boards. While Ponder's arm isn't fantastic, it's plenty strong for the NFL level when he was healthy. Ponder is a smart kid and his teammates always rally around him. He's tough and makes plays with his feet when he has to. How he performs in Mobile will be a strong indicator on his recovery tour.
Ricky Stanzi, QB, Iowa
I'm an Iowa fan, so I could be a little biased but I really like Stanzi as an NFL prospect. He doesn't have a single attribute that stands out, but the kid is a gamer. I hate to be cliche, but since he took over for Jake Christiansen his sophomore season, Stanzi has had a knack for rallying his team late and winning ball games. Stanzi has a strong enough arm and an ideal release and throwing motion. He scans the field well and utilizes his check downs when the routes down the field aren't there. He doesn't mind to and often goes deep down the field for the big play. His decision making improved as he gained experience, upping his touchdowns and severely limiting his turnovers in his senior season. How Stanzi stacks up to the other quarterbacks in Mobile will be very interesting.
Greg Jones, LB, Michigan State
Since I'm an Iowa fan I see a lot of Big 10 football so I am very familiar with Michigan States' Greg Jones. Jones is a powerful inside linebacker that's a violent tackler. In Mobile we will be able to see his coverage skills in action, as the offensive and defensive schemes are very limited. Coverage is a big question mark for Jones and could be the difference in him being a first rounder or not.
Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon
I've noticed a lot of the BCC community has warmed up to Casey Matthews, the brother of Green Bay Packer Clay Matthews. While Casey isn't his brother, he's an active linebacker who makes plays all over the football field. Casey is a good blitzer and adequate in coverage. He played in a funky defensive scheme in Oregon, almost a 3-3-5, so it will be nice to see him flow to the football with four down linemen in front of him.
Nate Irving, LB, NC State
I'm sure many of you have seen me throw Nate Irving's name around before, and I'll admit I have a bit of a mancrush on him. Irving has great speed and is a sideline to sideline linebacker who can play any linebacker position. He's kind of a hit or miss tackler, who often goes for the knockout blow but he was very productive for the Wolfpack. He had a lot of injuries at NC State, including a car accident in 2008 that left many wondering if he'd ever play football again. Irving has a chance to really help his stock this week.