I just finished my first two practice sessions at the Senior Bowl watching the North squad work in pads. Senior Bowl executive Phil Savage has done a tremendous job of putting talent on the field, and here's a look at my first impressions.
The best offensive lineman on the North squad is left tackle Eric Fisher from Central Michigan. He has traits similar to Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns. He makes pass blocking look effortless and can handle power with a tremendous ability to lock out and neutralize a rusher.
Speed rushers are frustrated with Fisher's ability to walk a defender right past the pocket, and he rarely gives up the inside. Only once in two practices did I see a defensive end get the best of him with a change of direction rush, and it happened in the Tuesday morning practice when Datone Jones of UCLA set him up with a speed look and crossed his face.
It didn't happen again in the practice.
As a run blocker, Fisher has the power to run behind, the finesse at the second level to sustain against linebackers and is a superb scoop blocker. Twice I witnessed him block down inside against a defensive tackle lined up on the guard, and not only did he reach him but he got in front of him and walled him off against the run.
This guy is a sure-fire first-round selection.
Another offensive lineman who made a positive impression was Syracuse's Justin Pugh, who has great flexibility and athleticism to play either guard or tackle.
David Quessenberry from San Jose State may be down the list for some draft gurus, but he's helping himself a lot in two practices. He has a solid punch, can already hold like a pro and he likes to finish.
The North defensive line also has some interesting players. Jones has the speed to line up as a right defensive end and the size to go inside (6-foot-4, 280 pounds). He's very athletic and active with his hands.
Alex Okafor (Texas) impressed me with his get-off and combination moves to get to the quarterback.
Margus Hunt is an interesting prospect from SMU. Hunt, from Estonia, didn't start playing football until 2009, and here he is in the Senior Bowl. He blocked 17 kicks in college and after he weighed in I saw why. He is a legitimate 6-8 and has a wingspan of 82½ inches.
To block that many kicks, he needs a good get-off from his stance, and he demonstrated that at these practices. He is raw in his techniques, but he has the feet and competitiveness to overcome his deficiencies. As one NFL defensive coach said to me after the morning practice, "We could be looking at the next "Mad Stork," AKA Ted Hendricks.
From the inside defensive linemen group I was impressed with the bulk, quickness and athletic ability of Sylvester Williams of North Carolina. He measured at 6-2½, 313 pounds and could play in any scheme. His issues Tuesday morning were more about key and diagnose. He regularly beats the blocker, but he missed tackles for a loss by not reading his keys to the ball.