Monday, January 29, 2007

Senioritis | by Pat

One of the more important NFL Draft prep weeks ended Saturday with the playing of the Senior Bowl down in Mobile, Alabama. The North defeated the South 27-0 in the game, but the outcome of the game is largely irrelevant when compared to the week long practice sessions in front of over 700 scouts that can help to make or break a college senior's draft hopes.

The Irish originally had five prospects in the game, but Brady Quinn sat out the week with a knee injury and Jeff Samardzija ended his football career when he signed a long term contract with the Chicago Cubs. Quinn still showed up to meet with various team reps, but didn't participate in any drills or practices. That left Ryan Harris, Rhema McKnight, and Victor Abiamiri as the lone ND players in the game.

The interesting thing about Senior Bowl week is that it just goes to show you that NFL draft scouting is very similar to the type of scouting that goes on with the recruiting websites. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and different sites will give you different takes on a player and his performance. Coming away with a clear consensus on how the Irish players fared is tough to do, although there seem to be a few common takes on the Irish trio.

Ryan Harris had perhaps the worst week of the Notre Dame players and his draft stock has likely dropped as a result. Technique-wise he impressed the scouts in attendance, but he struggled in the one-on-one drills with the speed rushers. One named mentioned as giving him trouble was Purdue's Anthony Spencer, and that makes sense as Spencer gave Harris fits during the regular season as well. Here's some video of the North team practice here where the NFL Network analysts discuss Harris' performance. NFL scouts surely do their homework before the Senior Bowl and already have a pretty good handle on what players can and can't do, but this week certainly won't help Harris and the former left tackle might find himself playing right tackle or even guard in the NFL. How he performs at the Combine in February might determine if he's a first day or second day draft pick.

McKnight struggled a bit early in the practice sessions with some drops on relatively easy passes before making it for it later with some great catches on the final practice day. Comments routinely mention his lack of top speed, but compliment him on his effort and willingness to fight for the ball. How McKnight runs at the combine will probably determine if he lands in the 3rd round or falls to the second day of the draft.

Victor Abiamiri had a strong week that didn't really help or hurt him too much. Physically he was mentioned as one of the most impressive athletes at the event and there certainly are NFL teams that draft based on "measurables". I have to think Victor had some fun in the one-on-one drills after facing nothing but a steady stream of double teams all regular season. There is still plenty of time left before the draft, but Abiamiri is looking like someone will grab him up in the 2nd round. I think it's safe to say that he'll be the highest drafted Irish player after Brady Quinn, but probably won't crack the first round.

There are some decent summaries of the week on and, but most of the interesting items on both sites are restricted to subscribers. NFLDraftCountdown has some free info, but keep in mind that it's just one amateur draftnik's opinion. If you want to make up your own mind, you can watch the game and video of the open practices here. It's a bit silly to realize you're watching a practice of a meaningless post-season bowl, but at the same time it's an interesting insider look for fans that don't really know what exactly goes on at a stereotypical collegiate/NFL football practice.