The Senior Bowl is the prestige all-star game in the pre-draft process – it’s the game looked at most closely by scouts and coaches and for us mere mortals in the draftnik community, is a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the NFL’s future stars.
Obviously, we’re not getting that close (still just a short 9000 mile round-trip) but here we’ll look at some of the guys who could really see their stock rise with a solid showing down in Mobile.
Markus Wheaton (WR) – Oregon State
Being a wideout on a team without an established signal caller is not good news for your draft stock. Yet Wheaton has had an excellent senior year in Corvallis and is probably the most complete receiver attending the Senior Bowl. Having Mike Glennon and Ryan Nassib throw bombs in his direction will be a welcome change for Wheaton who could is currently flirting around the top-50 players in the draft.
Wheaton is a dynamic playmaker whose skill-set is not too dissimilar from Tavon Austin, only on a frame more suited to the rigours of the NFL is expected to post one of the quickest 40 times at the Combine. Having already clocked an unofficial 4.34, he has the speed to be a genuine deep threat although needs to improve his competitiveness in jump ball situations.
Wheaton also flashes Wes Welker-esque qualities. He has a habit of finding space and catching tough balls in tricky situations. His 91 receptions this year was bettered only by Marqise Lee’s 117 and if anything, his percentage football is even better than his explosiveness.
Wheaton has also shown exceptional maturity, leadership and intelligence and compared to some of his fellow Wide Receiver class. Wheaton has worked extensively with charities and is considered to be a real motivator in the locker room.
After interviews with scouts and coaches, he’s likely to be even more highly sought after. A good Senior Bowl outing against the likes of Kenny Vaccaro and Robert Lester should help to seal his place in the top 50.
JC Tretter (Guard) – Cornell
I don’t think there’s a person out there that thinks the 2013 Offensive draft class is a great one. That said, the interior offensive linemen coming out in the spring are as good, if not better than the past few years. Tretter is touted by many as having the potential to be highest Ivy Leaguer to be drafted since the Giants took Zac DeOssie in the 4th round of the 2007 draft.
The Senior Bowl presents a fantastic opportunity for Tretter to test himself against a superior calibre of opponent. As part of Team North, he’s had the chance to practice against the likes of Kawaan Short and Jordan Hill, who are highly thought of defensive linemen.
A converted high school Tight End and Basketball player, Tretter has the quick feet for a man of more than 300lbs and may potentially have a future at Right Tackle. He sometimes lacks the explosion to dominate but his pace and deceptive agility makes him a useful downfield blocker when he gets into the second level. He may still be a risky prospect for some, but others will love his dedication to his position (adding 70lbs since joining Cornell).
Unfortunately for Tretter, he will miss the Senior Bowl game with a broken nose, but his week in practices led to 31 of the 32 NFL teams speaking to him during the week.
Khaseem Greene (LB) – Rutgers
Regular followers on Twitter will know that I always have a man-crush or two in the Draft. Last year it was Luke Kuechly, Jordan White and Rhett Ellison, the year before it was JJ Watt, Lance Kendricks and Tyler Sash. This year, I’m pleased to induct Khaseem Greene as the first of my 2013 man-crushes. He is spectacular.
Unless your name is Teddy Bridgewater, playing 21st Century Big East football was never going to land you a place in the spotlight, especially when your team is under new management, yet Khaseem Greene has had his fair share of headlines playing for the Scarlet Knights.
Greene has had a senior year to remember producing 125 tackles, 5.5 sacks and a pair of interceptions. His performance against Ryan Nassib’s Syracuse was exemplary and was one of very few players who coped with the Orange’s deadly offense. Using his skills as a converted safety, Greene looked solid in coverage and had no fear in rushing the passer. It was the game that elevated Greene into first round contention, and rightly so.
Greene is an ideal 4-3 OLB and apart from a slight height deficiency (rumours are circulating that he may come in under six foot), he will match up well with the new breed of fast, strong Tight Ends. His back-peddle is fluid but it’s his guile and ferocity when blitzing I’d like to see him shed blockers with a more ease but his dedication in the gym will help him to add some necessary mass to his rather slender 240lbs.
As Greene works through the pre-draft process and works his way up draft boards, his size will become the major concern. The Senior Bowl is Greene’s first big opportunity to show coaches (who in general, are more interested in size than scouts) that he has the ability to play bigger. It’s also his last competitive action and he’s been blessed with a rather weak group of Offensive Tackles. This is his chance to shine.