With all the general managers, coaches and scouts in attendance for the Senior Bowl, there is a lot of chatter going around. Here are some of the highlights from around the league.
The 2017 NFL Draft and the 2018 NFL Draft have been down years at the offensive tackle position. While the lack of edge-blocking talent has been noticeable, this could be a good year for talent on the interior of the offensive line. Sources at multiple teams believe there could be four interior offensive linemen who get selected in the first two rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft. The first one to come off the board will be Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson. He is among the elite players in the 2018 NFL Draft, and one area scout who covered Nelson described him like this, "He's Zach Martin on steroids." Nelson shouldn't get out of the top 10.
Ohio State guard/center Billy Price has a good buzz about him as well. Team sources say he has gotten higher grades than former first-rounders Laken Tomlinson and Josh Garnett. Price looks like a likely pick in the back half of Round 1 during the 2018 NFL Draft.
UTEP guard Will Hernandez has a lot of positive buzz around him. In speaking to an AFC general manager, they loved what they saw out of Hernandez during the season and was eager to see how he handled the jump in competition in Mobile. Hernandez has played well in practice, showing serious power at the point of attack. Team sources also say that Hernandez has impressed them in the interviews. He could get first-round consideration in the 2018 NFL Draft, but could be more likely to go early in Round 2.
Iowa center James Daniels is in the same boat as Hernandez with the late first-round being possible, and the early second-round being perhaps more likely. Sources say that Daniels doesn't have a great looking body, but they love a lot of his tape. They were raving how defenders are completely beaten once Daniels gets his hands on them.
Another factor aiding these blockers is how the free agent market has exploded with huge contracts being given to guards. Some teams won't be able to meet the veterans' prices and will feel it is better value to get a younger, cheaper, yet very talented option with one these players. All of these blockers should hear their names called in the first two rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft, and all three could end up going as top-50 picks.
Hernandez isn't the only offensive lineman who has impressed evaluators in the team meetings. Other players who have drawn rave reviews from their interviews have been Pittsburgh tackle Brian O'Neill and Nevada center Austin Corbett.
In speaking with sources at a wide variety of teams, they say there hasn't been a single player whp has bombed in the interviews. Typically, there is a player, or two, who hurts himself in the meeting sessions, but that hasn't been the case this year.
During the fall, WalterFootball.com was the first draft site to highlight North Carolina A&T's Brandon Parker as having created a buzz in the scouting community. Parker has continued the positive momentum at the Senior Bowl. In speaking with a general manager, they have been impressed by Parker and has his stock rising. That team entered this week with a fourth-round grade on Parker but they think he could rise into Day 2. Other teams also had Parker projected to the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft with third-round potential. With his height and the frame to add weight, teams feel that Parker could develop into being starter at right tackle.
Some team sources like Oregon offensive tackle Tyrell Crosby as well. However, they have concerns about Crosby's height at 6-foot-4. Teams like their offensive tackles to be an inch or two taller, but Crosby has impressed evaluators with his quick feet. In a draft weak at the offensive tackle, Crosby could end up being a second-day pick.
Even though new Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel has a defensive background, they are optimistic that Vrabel's hiring will help the growth of young franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota. Sources with the Titans say Mariota's regression with turnovers and a lot of his interceptions were related to poor route schemes from the former coaching staff. Said sources felt that receivers were bunched together too often and poor design led to a lot of Mariota's turnovers. Vrabel saw the success of Deshaun Watson last season, and the team is hopeful that Vrabel will bring similar plays to Tennessee for Mariota. That will be part of the discussion as Vrabel works toward hiring his offensive coordinator, which will be an absolutely critical hire for the organization.
Sources with the Titans think it is likely that the organization will move on from veteran running back DeMarco Murray this offseason. They feel it is Derrick Henry's team now and that Henry is ready to be their bell-cow back. Tennessee can save cap space by releasing Murray, and staffers feel that Murray is on the decline. The 2018 NFL Draft is strong and deep at the running back position, so the Titans could get a good value with a backup to Henry in the mid-rounds.
Titans sources say that they fear that defensive end Kevin Dodd was a wasted pick by general manager Jon Robinson. They like Dodd as a player, teammate and worker, but they feel that Dodd is a square peg in a round hole in Tennessee. Dodd is a 4-3 defensive end and is a misfit in the Titans' 3-4 scheme. He has one sack and 12 tackles after 17 games. Unfortunately for Dodd, new head coach Mike Vrabel has a 3-4 background and Tennessee is expected to stick with that defense.
The slim hope for salvaging Dodd is that Vrabel and the Texans moved Jadeveon Clowney around from playing outside linebacker to defensive end a lot over the past two years because of the injuries to J.J. Watt. Clowney even lined up as an inside linebacker or defensive tackle at times. Perhaps Vrabel could resurrect Dodd by using him as an undersized five-technique 3-4 defensive end. Right now, Tennessee staffers fear that Robinson wasted the 33rd pick of the 2016 NFL Draft on Dodd.