MOBILE, ALA -- With the NFL evolving into a predominantly passing league, cornerbacks are in high demand and have become one of the premier positions at the next level. With that said, the senior class boasts some intriuging talent at the cornerback position and several of those rising talents can be found on the South squad at the Senior Bowl.
North Alabama (and former Florida Gator) cornerback Janoris Jenkins has put to rest any debate as to who is the most talented senior cornerback in this year's group with his performance in practice this week. He is a fluid athlete with very light feet and swivel hips to turn and run downfield, but also shows the closing burst and physical nature to attack what's in front of him. At practice on Wednesday, Jenkins showed impeccable timing and explosion to plant, drive and blow up the play, knocking the ball and North Carolina receiver Dwight Jones to the ground in one of the drills.
At times his lack of size and length will show in man coverage (only 5-93/4" tall), but he has a natural feel for the position that NFL teams covet. Now obviously there are several off-field questions regarding Jenkins as a prospect, which will ultimately affect his draft stock. However based on pure talent and football ability, Jenkins is a top-10 prospect and should be the top senior cornerback off the board.
Georgia's Brandon Boykin also stood out at Wednesday's practice, flashing his elite-level quickness and athleticism. However, what was most encouraging to see was his aggressiveness at the line of scrimmage, getting physical with receivers off the snap and working hard to make them as uncomfortable as possible. Boykin was a bit grabby at times and needs to stay disciplined or he'll attract penalties at the next level, but it was a positive sign that scouts wanted to see with the former Bulldog speedster.
Small school cornerback Ryan Steed out of Furman has shown he belongs here this week, competing at a high level in every drill. His inexperience will show at times as he still needs to develop his instincts and read/react ability, but he has shown the smooth athleticism to play the position in the NFL. Steed looked natural in his transition, turning and running with receivers downfield with smooth flexibility. He needs some work before he's ready to cover pro receivers, but he has looked promising this week
And perhaps the biggest riser among senior cornerbacks is Dwight Bentley out of Louisiana-Lafayette. He has a lean, wiry build at 5-10 and 176 pounds, but has hasn't backed down at all, staying physical and competing with bigger, stronger receivers. Bentley is obviously most comfortable playing in off-coverage where he can rely on his athleticism, but that hasn't stopped him from putting his hands on receivers just enough keep them from separating. After an inconsistent senior campaign, Bentley needed a strong week here and he has exceeded expectations so far.
OTHER PROSPECT NOTES:
WR Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M: Senior Bowl practices this week have been an extension of Fuller's 2011 season and unfortunately that's not a good thing. He looks the part with a tall, strong build and surprising quickness and athleticism (looks like a basketball player on the field), but his hands and concentration continue to let him down. Fuller will make a nice catch, but follow it up with two poor drops. In the NFL, it doesn't matter how big or fast you are at receiver if you can't complete the reception.
TE Brad Smelley, Alabama: Every year, 'Bama seems to be well-represented at the Senior Bowl, due to their talented program, but also because of the proximity to Mobile. Some Alabama players deserve to participate in this game, while others arguably may not, but Smelley has shown he belongs here. Through three days of practice, it could be argued that no pass-catcher has been more consistent than the Tide H-back who has shown vacuum-hands all week. He isn't explosive in any way, but he plays hard and fast at all times and has earned a draftable grade.
OT Levi Brown, Troy: An under-the-radar player, Brown has had a tough time so far this week, but has shown steady progression after being moved inside to guard at practice. He looks natural in his movements with very good foot quickness and lateral agility, but he is unpolished with his hand placement and overall technique. After playing left tackle at Troy, Brown will need to strengthen his base and lower body in order to anchor as an interior blocker.
OT Jeff Allen, Illinois: Another collegiate left tackle who was moved inside to guard, Allen looked much more comfortable in tight quarters. He doesn't extend his arms or use his hands as effectively as he should, often allowing rushers into his body, but he holds his own at the point of attack. His weight also looks a bit sloppy, especially in his midsection, which is disappointing from a college left tackle. With Allen, it doesn't always look pretty, but he seems to get the job done.
LB Lavonte David, Nebraska: One of the more impressive players so far this week has been Lavonte David, the tackling machine from Lincoln. However where he has been most impressive is his drops, showing fluid hips and above average footwork for a linebacker when asked to turn and run. David isn't the most physically imposing at 6-0 1/2" and 225 pounds, but he is a sure-tackler with the first step quickness and natural instincts needed for the position. For David, it's not a question about "ability", but rather a question of "where does he fit?"
RB Terrance Ganaway, Baylor: At 5-11 and 241 pounds, Ganaway has the bruising size and natural power to work well between the tackles. But if he hopes to see playing time at the next level, he must improve his blocking. Ganaway has struggled in practice this week in pass protection drills, showing poor habits and inexperience. He routinely drops his helmet and leaves his feet, allowing pass rushers to brush by him and get to the pocket.
The preceding report was written by NFLDraftScout.com analyst Dane Brugler. He can be followed on Twitter @dpbrugler