As the Packers earned Super Bowl rings Sunday night, the NFL was ringing the opening bell of the 2011 NFL Draft season.
The next two months won't be football as we know it. Players will work out in shorts, but nevertheless player stock will rise and fall with every bit the volatility as those being traded on Wall Street. Leading up the Scouting Combine, which begins Feb. 23 in Indianapolis, it's worthwhile to review the lasting impressions made on the all-star circuit.
NFLDraftScout.com was on hand for each of the primary All-Star games and highlighted the stars and disappointments at every stop.
Taking a collective look back before moving forward to the Combine and Pro Day workouts, we identify which players have impacted their stock -- and those who missed out on a great opportunity.
|Christian Ponder was named MVP of the Senior Bowl. (Getty Images)|
For all of the attention Washington QB Jake Locker and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick garnered the week of Senior Bowl practices, Ponder was quietly the most consistent. He was deservedly named MVP of the game. Proving his health to scouts with his solid performance was critical in Ponder re-emerging as a legitimate top-64 candidate.
Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor
Scouts have been buzzing about Watkins' physical and aggressive play at left tackle for the Bears, but until the Senior Bowl, none of them had actually seen him play guard -- where he projects to be the best fit in the NFL. A stellar week of practice in Mobile might have pushed the 26-year-old into the first round.
Graig Cooper, RB, Miami (Fla.)
There were several standout performances from running backs at all-star games, but none more important to a player's stock than Cooper showing that his surgically repaired right knee is healing. The Miami standout surprised many with his decision to play this season despite tearing the ACL in his knee in December 2009. Not surprisingly, he wasn't the same player in 2010. However, Cooper's burst and acceleration were clearly better at the East-West Shrine Game than he showed in the regular season.
Taylor Potts, QB, Texas Tech
Like Ponder at the Senior Bowl, Potts emerged from the pack of legitimate NFL quarterback prospects at the NFLPA Game, demonstrating the intelligence, accuracy and leadership to warrant a late-round selection.
Kenrick Ellis, DT, Hampton
Potts might have been the best quarterback in San Antonio, but Ellis was clearly the best player. The 6-5, 336-pound former South Carolina star who landed on his feet at Hampton has been a dominant performer throughout his MEAC career and carried that over against the better competition at the NFLPA practices and game.
Pat Devlin, QB, Delaware
Devlin's command of the Blue Hens' offense and short-to-intermediate level accuracy made him a star at Delaware, but these skills did not translate well against better competition at the East-West Shrine Game. Devlin showed only marginal arm strength and completed only two of his seven passes during the game, throwing an interception. He entered the week as a legitimate candidate to follow Jake Locker and Ponder as the third senior quarterback drafted. Devlin's poor showing and strong performances from others could push him into the draft's third day.
Dwayne Harris, WR, East Carolina
Harris might have been voted Conference USA MVP, but at the Senior Bowl, his lack of explosiveness and stone hands turned off scouts.
DeMarcus Love, OG, Arkansas
A first-team All-SEC left tackle for the Razorbacks, Love's lack of agility and balance were exposed throughout Senior Bowl practices and in the game. He'll need to be moved inside to guard at the next level and might not warrant consideration as a top-50 pick.
Pernell McPhee, DE, Mississippi State
I've been higher on McPhee than most, but the All-SEC defender's struggles with leverage and locating the football at the Senior Bowl undoubtedly has his stock slipping. One silver lining for McPhee is that in a class as tightly packed as this year's defensive end group, dropping 4-5 spots at his position might still keep him in the top 100 selections overall.
Dontay Moch, OLB, Nevada
Moch is entering the time when he's expected to dazzle, as the 6-2, 229-pound former defensive end is expected to work out exceptionally well. At the East-West practices, however, Moch didn't change direction well and his lack of strength and recognition as a run defender made him a liability.
Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
In terms of pure talent, Smith deserves a top-20 ranking. Scouts would have liked to have seen him tested at the Senior Bowl, but Smith elected not to participate in the game.
Drake Nevis, DT, LSU
With the exception of Auburn's Nick Fairley -- the presumptive favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the draft -- Nevis was the most dominant defensive lineman in the SEC this season. However, at 6-1, 285 pounds he lacks the bulk to be an every-down contributor and teams are wary of investing first-round picks on rotational players. Nevis suffered a slight foot injury training for the Combine and pulled out of the Senior Bowl late.
Ben Ijalana, OG, Villanova
Despite earning All-American honors at left tackle for the Wildcats, there might not have been a player who lost out more due to his inability to compete at senior all-star games than Ijalana. That Ijalana dominated FCS competition is obvious on tape, but the reality is, he was rarely challenged. A sports hernia prevented Ijalana from participating in the Senior Bowl. He needed that appearance to counter the perception of some in the scouting community that he's a 'tweener who isn't athletic enough to remain outside at offensive tackle or physical enough to compete early in his career at guard.
Mike McNeill, TE, Nebraska
McNeill was able to play at the Senior Bowl, but he wasn't able to convince teams that he was deserving of that roster spot, struggling to make standout plays in front of a huge audience hoping to see a few tight ends strengthen the draft's weakest positional group. McNeill entered the week hoping to parlay a strong performance into a late Combine invitation and was unsuccessful.
Denarius Moore, WR, Tennessee
A glance at the NFLPA Game box score would tell you that Moore enjoyed a strong performance. He caught several passes, including a deep ball and a 28-yard touchdown. He mistimed his leap on a jump ball and let another slip through his fingers. Had he caught those two, Moore could have been a contender for the game's MVP and a spot in the "Stock Up" section. Instead, he quite literally let the opportunity slip through his fingers.
Rob Rang is a Senior Draft Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange. Email Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @RobRang.