MOBILE, Ala. -- Scouts were anxious to find out whether relocation from Seattle to Mobile, Ala., and the Senior Bowl would improve Jake Locker's effectiveness.
If Monday's practice was any indication, the change of scenery didn't change the quarterback.
As scouts who have studied him closely anticipated, Locker's performance left something to be desired. Outside of the pocket, Locker shows good accuracy and velocity. He possesses the strong arm to rifle the deep out and the touch to loft deep balls down the sideline for long gains. Among his highlights: A rollout to his right, throwing to Marshall tight end Lee Smith for a long gain; and a beautifully thrown touchdown pass down the right sideline to Maryland running back Da'Rel Scott.
|Colin Kaepernick shows off impressive arm strength in practice. (US Presswire)|
However, it didn't take Nevada's Colin Kaepernick long to make an impression on scouts. There are concerns about Kaepernick's transition from Chris Ault's Pistol offense to a pro-style system, but the Nevada passer clearly has spent the time off working on his dropback from center. Kaepernick was the North team's most impressive passer Monday, threading the needle on most occasions and demonstrating spectacular arm strength.
On more than one occasion, Kaepernick read the defense, realized that if he wanted to complete the pass to his primary target he'd have to drive the ball with extra velocity -- and did so. There aren't many quarterbacks in the 2011 draft with the ability to fit passes into the tight windows Kaepernick did. He also showed better-than-expected touch, fitting passes over the linebacker and under the safeties down the seam. Kaepernick's athleticism was noticeable. On one occasion, Kaepernick kept the ball on an option, eluded a defender in the hole and dashed into the secondary, surprising defenders with his rare acceleration for such a big (6-5, 225) quarterback.
Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi doesn't possess Locker's athletic upside or Kaepernick's arm strength. His instincts and consistency make him one of the better "second tier" quarterbacks in this class. Stanzi, wearing a bright yellow helmet Monday, chose to pepper the defense with underneath passes too often for scouts' liking, but that can hardly be considered a surprise considering the ball-control offense he ran at Iowa.
Quarterbacks will get most of the attention, but San Diego State wide receiver Vincent Brown was the star among skill-position players.
Brown's chiseled 5-11, 184-pound frame impressed scouts at Monday morning's weigh-in and he successfully built upon the first impression with several dazzling plays in the afternoon practice.
Brown has good initial burst off the snap and the speed to pull away from defenders in the open field. He was especially dynamic early in the practice, showing good body control to contort in space and excellent hands to snatch passes out of the air, keep his feet and generate extra yardage.
Boise State wide receiver Titus Young made a few splashy plays, including scoring two long touchdowns. Young's speed got him open on both plays, but he had to react to poorly thrown passes. His ability to locate the football, adjust around oncoming defenders and make the leaping catch impressed scouts.
Young's slight build (5-11, 174) won't impress scouts, nor will his concentration lapses on Monday. Young dropped an early pass, was caught offside and was so angry at himself for letting a ball slip through his hands late in Monday's practice that he didn't give any chase to Virginia Tech cornerback Rashad Carmichael, who intercepted the pass and ran down the sideline for an uncontested touchdown. Inconsistent passing didn't allow many of the other receivers to make the type of dramatic plays that can change the educated opinion of scouts who studied the prospects before and during the 2010 season, but Nebraska's Niles Paul made impressions in another way -- destroying cornerbacks as a run blocker. The 6-1, 225-pound Paul was bigger and stronger than the cornerbacks he faced. He was able to lock on and keep defenders away from the ballcarrier throughout early drills and during late scrimmage sessions.
Grading any prospect after only one day in this environment is clearly inadvisable. Fair or unfair, impressions were made Monday. It is up to the players to make them positive the rest of the week.
• The Cincinnati Bengals' coaching staff shifted their offensive line in Monday's initial practice, giving scouts an opportunity to see the versatility of the North team's prospects. Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi, a career left tackle with the Badgers, saw action inside at left guard and linemate John Moffitt slid inside to center. Boston College offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo, who has earned All-ACC honors the past three seasons at left tackle, saw a lot of time on the right side Monday.
• Utah State cornerback Brandon Marsh was unable to practice Monday due to a pulled hamstring. He told NFLDraftScout.com the injury was expected to keep him sidelined for a week or two, a disappointing turn of events for the former running back whose stellar play this season earned him a surprising invitation to this game.
• It isn't uncommon to see the families of prospects travel to Mobile to root on their favorite player. Last year, for example, there was a sizeable contingent of Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson's friends and family who watched him successfully turn a strong week of practice at the Senior Bowl into a first-round selection by the New York Jets. This year, Kaepernick's group stands out. While more reserved than Wilson's group was last year -- and there isn't a bus with Kaepernick's likeness on it to my knowledge -- it was hard not to notice the foursome wearing Nevada hats and sweatshirts embroidered with "Kap" on them.
Rob Rang is a Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange. Email him at RRang@nfldraftscout.com and follow him on Twitter @RobRang.