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Kaepernick, Locker make different last impressions

by | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

NFL scouts leave Mobile en masse Wednesday night and Thursday morning, making Wednesday's practice impressions incredibly important.

The focus of the morning practice was again the North team quarterbacks: Jake Locker (Washington), Colin Kaepernick (Nevada) and Ricky Stanzi (Iowa).

Jake Locker again struggles with accuracy during Wednesday's practice. (AP)  
Jake Locker again struggles with accuracy during Wednesday's practice. (AP)  
The best passer on the field was Kaepernick, who threw tight spirals to either side of the field, had an exceptional touch throw into the back right corner of the end zone, and looked smooth and fluid running out of the pocket when his primary receiver was covered. When he sets his feet and throws a tight ball, Kaepernick's velocity is more than what's needed to make every NFL throw.

His delivery is still an issue -- he winds up a bit and sometimes stops at the top of the delivery before unleashing. One of his passes to the far side of the field was knocked down by a linebacker dropped into coverage -- partially because of the pause, and partially because Kaepernick didn't read the linebacker. The elongation is not as bad as that shown by Tim Tebow and Byron Leftwich in recent years, but will need to be addressed once in an NFL camp.

Tuesday's practice seemed to be a step forward for Locker, who needed to make a solid impression all week to become more than a fantastic athlete with potential. Wednesday he struggled again to connect consistently with receivers while standing in the pocket, coming up short on multiple throws to the wide side of the field. It is clear the Pac-10 star passer is aiming or pressing, trying to be perfect on every throw instead of allowing his athleticism and arm strength to shine through.

If Locker cannot exhibit NFL-caliber accuracy on seam or out routes when playing against air in one-on-one drills, or even against a half-effort pass rush in team scrimmages, it is hard to project him doing it during his NFL career.

Stanzi's practice was very similar to Locker's. He came up short on multiple passes when his receiver was in perfect position to receive the throw and sailed the ball on seam passes. He is able to stand tall and deliver a tight ball from the pocket, which will entice teams who like his 6-foot-4, 221-pound frame and starting experience.


 California defensive end Cameron Jordan consistently looks strong as a pass rusher, swimming over the top of guards and ripping them to the side to attack the quarterback. If allowed to hit passers in the pocket during team drills, Jordan might have had 10 sacks this week.

 Oklahoma State RB Kendall Hunter impressed Wednesday with a burst out of traffic on run drills, good hands out of the backfield, and by standing up to defenders in pass protection drills.

 Indiana tackle James Brewer fought through foot injuries in college. He moved his 6-foot-6, 323-pound frame well Wednesday lining up at right tackle or guard. Most of the talk has been about top-50 picks Anthony Castonzo and Gabe Carimi, but Brewer's long arms and upside give him a chance to be selected in the top 100 if he checks out medically at the Combine.

 Boise State receiver Titus Young again looked like the best pass-catcher on the North roster, running crisp, smooth routes and snagging every pass thrown in his direction. Though not as sudden and explosive as DeSean Jackson, Young's a close enough replica to earn top-75 consideration.

 Toledo center Kevin Kowalski lacks the athleticism to stay with the talented defensive line prospects on the North team, including bullish Stanford nose tackle Sione Fua. He is durable and tough, but he's shown poor quickness and only average strength.

 Iowa defensive tackle Christian Ballard is the North squad's version of South team standout Allen Bailey (Miami, Fla.), an exceptional athlete who looks great in one-on-one drills by using a quick first step to blow by lineman -- but whose game film screams third-round pick. Both will put up great numbers at the combine, but just don't make enough plays between the lines.

 Oklahoma RB Demarco Murray runs like he is 6 feet tall but puts his head down in traffic, which limits his ability to see cutback lanes. He did show the hands everyone knows he has as a receiver, but again failed to wow with explosive after-the-catch ability.

 Linebackers Mason Foster (Washington) and Lawrence Wilson (Connecticut) display instincts and agility to avoid blockers on stretch plays evident in Wednesday's practice, which only confirmed what teams had seen from the ultra-productive duo on film.

 Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich is one of the best stories of the draft, making a great comeback from bone cancer, but he did not look fluid in coverage Wednesday. He was stood up by running backs in pass protection drills, an area you'd think the 6-foot-4, 250-pound linebacker should dominate.

 Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan dropped into coverage as a linebacker on a couple of plays in Wednesday's practice. He didn't make any plays and looked a bit raw, but flashed enough athleticism to have 3-4 teams like the Jets talk with him after practice.

Chad Reuter is a Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange. Follow him on Twitter at @ChadReuter.


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