2016 Senior Bowl: Monday Rumor Mill
This is Charlie Campbell's Monday 2016 Senior Bowl Rumor Mill. Charlie is reporting live from Mobile, Ala., and he'll describe what he sees at practice and whom certain prospects talk to all week.
If you want to see other 2016 Senior Bowl Reports, click the link.
Follow me @walterfootball for updates, and stay tuned all week for tons of 2016 Senior Bowl coverage.
By Charlie Campbell - @draftcampbell
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 the rumor mill on Day 1.
One area scout of a team picking in the top 10 that doesn't need a quarterback was gushing over North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz. The team has given him a first-round grade and thinks that Wentz is the real deal. They say that Wentz has a good arm, size and athleticism, and they love him off the field. They like his pocket presence, field vision, experience under center, making play calls in the huddle, and potential to grow in the NFL. The scout said that he will fill out his frame in a NFL strength and conditioning program. That area scout said the big challenge for Wentz will be the drastic change in the speed of the game coming from North Dakota State's opponents compared to the NFL. This week at the Senior Bowl could vault Wentz high in the first round.
How high? Extremely high. In speaking with sources at the Browns, Wentz is definitely in play with Cleveland. He's viewed as a first-rounder despite a small sample size of starts in college. Sources say the Browns really like Wentz. There are some who believe that Wentz is the best quarterback prospect and they say the only reason why Wentz isn't the consensus No. 1 quarterback is the helmet he wears (i.e. coming from a small school). Assuming the Browns move on from Johnny Manziel and draft a quarterback, it sounds like they are focused on Wentz or Cal quarterback Jared Goff. Both are rated ahead of Memphis' Paxton Lynch, and Wentz could be the early lean.
Sources from one team picking high in the first round that is in the market for defensive back with their top selection said that Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple is behind Florida's Vernon Hargreaves and Florida State's Jalen Ramsey. Those evaluators say that Apple has a lot of talent with size and speed, but happens to be very raw. They say he is very "handsy" with receivers downfield and is always grabbing at them while they run their routes. They feel that until Apple is developed and coached up, he is going to get flagged a lot. It is understandable that Apple is a work in progress considering he is only a redshirt sophomore. Now, all that being said, other teams could disagree, as we've documented that there are some wide ranges in the draft grade of Ramsey.
Sources with multiple teams told WalterFootball.com that Florida's Keanu Neal could be in the running to be the first safety selected, if you count Florida State's Jalen Ramsey as a cornerback. Neal has impressed teams with his combination of size and speed. A team picking high in the second round that could consider a safety said that there is the possibility that Neal could go in the late first. They believe he is going to be a Combine standout who could become a hot prospect. Teams also really like Neal off the field.
Team sources say that it is wide open to figure out who is the top safety prospect. West Virginia's Karl Joseph is really liked by teams, but he's coming off a season-ending injury. Thus, Neal could be the first true safety drafted.
Sources with multiple teams have been extremely critical of Penn State head coach James Franklin and his handling of quarterback Christian Hackeneberg. Just to be clear, none of these sources are with the Houston Texans. They say that Franklin was a terrible coach for Hackenberg. These sources have known Franklin for years and feel he is responsible for a lot of the problems with Hackenberg. Franklin tore down Hackenberg and hurt his confidence. They say that Franklin is a rah-rah type of coach who showed a lot of favoritism toward the players he brought to Penn State over the players he inherited from Bill O'Brien and Joe Paterno. On top of Franklin's poor handling, Hackenberg was sacked 103 times in his 38 collegiate games with the vast majority of those sacks coming in the two seasons with Franklin. The offensive line was pathetic, but teams feel that Franklin set up Hackenberg for some failure because he tried to fit a square peg into a round hole from a scheme perspective. They feel a good coach would have adapted their scheme to Hackenberg and the other pro-style players O'Brien cultivated. They say that Franklin never embraced Hackenbarg as his guy to lead the program.
The sources from these teams already have franchise quarterbacks and were just calling it like they see it. They believe that Hackenberg could get selected on Day 2. Some around the believe still think that Hackenberg could go late in the first round because there are so many teams that are utterly desperate to land a franchise quarterback.
One quarterback who made a huge mistake in not taking part in the Senior Bowl was Michigan State's Connor Cook. Teams have really soured on Cook, on the field and off of it. At the East-West Shrine, I caught up with Michigan State linebacker Darien Harris and asked him about Cook not being voted a team captain.
"He was a captain whether he had the title or not," said Harris. "He was a leader on the team. I love him like a brother as does the rest of the team and the coaching staff. We wouldn't have been as successful as we were without Connor Cook under center."
I also asked Harris if there was any truth to the talk that Cook was a bad teammate and disliked in the locker room.
"Not at all. I don't buy any of that. I feel like as he is my brother and he is family to me, I feel like it is my obligation to try and kill some of that noise. Hopefully I've been able to do that by getting people to understand that inside that locker room we loved him. He was the best quarterback in the country. No doubt about it."
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2016 Senior Bowl: Friday's Rumor Mill
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2016 Senior Bowl: Thursday's Rumor Mill
2016 Senior Bowl: Reggie Ragland Interview
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2016 Senior Bowl Wednesday's South Practice Report
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2016 Senior Bowl: Wednesday's Rumor Mill
2016 Senior Bowl: Carson Wentz Interview
2016 Senior Bowl: Noah Spence Interview
2016 Senior Bowl Tuesday's Practice Report
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2016 Senior Bowl: Tuesday's Rumor Mill
2016 Senior Bowl Weigh-In: Quarterbacks
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2016 Senior Bowl Weigh-In: Tight Ends
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2016 Senior Bowl Weigh-In: Defensive Linemen
2016 Senior Bowl Weigh-In: Linebackers
2016 Senior Bowl Weigh-In: Defensive Backs
2016 Senior Bowl: Monday's Rumor Mill
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