Monday, January 23, 2012

Crimson Tide in the Senior Bowl: NFL previews

By: @LivingCrimson

Senior Bowl logoThe Senior Bowl is the premier all-star exhibition game for NFL-bound football seniors (in eligibility). Players are selected based on interest from NFL scouts and will be evaluated during drills, practices and the game itself as a precursor to the NFL Combine.

Alabama led the Senior Bowl invites with seven, but only five will participate: Marquis Maze, DeQuan Menzie, Brad Smelley, Courtney Upshaw, and William Vlachos.

All Tide players will be on the South squad. The NFL Network will broadcast coverage of the daily team practices along with a recap January 23-28. The game will be broadcast live on January 28th at 4:00 p.m. ET.

Following are current scouting reports on the Bama players. Grades will be updated after the end of Senior Bowl week. For dozens of more detailed previews, the Walter Football mock draft database is a wealth of information. Draft previews of all Senior Bowl participants at NEPatriotsDraft: Offense and Defense.

All quotes are taken directly from the referenced mock drafts and Senior Bowl coverage previews.

Marquis Maze, WR/RS, 5-10/180/4.49  ESPN player profile and stats

Official Senior Bowl weigh in: 5-7.6/184 Lightning quick receiver that could develop into a contributor at the slot WR position in the NFL. Hurt his hamstring in the National Championship game, but should be healed for the Senior Bowl. A slot receiver/return specialist at the next level, has enough speed and agility to be able to make his mark. With a good draft season, I could see him being taken in the 5th or 6th round. 12/12/11 Maze has totaled 56 receptions for 627 yards and one touchdown this season. He had a massive game against Arkansas with four receptions for 125 yards and a score. In 2011, Maze has averaged over 12 yards per punt return and 28.5 yards on 12 kick returns. His special-teams ability helps his draft stock. He could be a quick, slot receiver in the NFL. 8/19/11 Marquis Maze has been an underrated weapon for the Crimson Tide who has come up with some clutch plays over the past few seasons. Last year, he had 38 receptions for 557 yards and three touchdowns. Maze is a quick, shifty player who could have better numbers if he hadn't played behind other options like Mark Ingram, Julio Jones and Trent Richardson. Maze has been a good punt returner with an average of 12 yards per return. He could transition to being a quality slot receiver and punt returner in the NFL.

DeQuan Menzie, DB, 6-1/198/4.65 – ESPN player profile and stats

Official Senior Bowl weigh in: 5-10.4/195 Another big Alabama corner, Menzie gets a lot of attention from opposing QB’s. He has held up under the scrutiny very well, even though his +4.6 speed puts him in a spot where he has to have nearly perfect technique. Menzie is an underrated CB who isn’t the top flight athlete the other Alabama CB’s are. Whenever I have scouted Menzie, he is in position and competitive. He can play a variety of schemes, but I want to see how he fares matched up with the best WR’s in the country before grading him. Mock Draft 1/18, Round Three, #76 Seattle Seahawks. If the draft plays out like this, Menzie will be the fourth member of the Alabama secondary to be selected in the first three rounds of the draft. The 6-foot, 198-pounder is a quality cover corner who has a nice combination of size and speed. This season, Menzie recorded 41 tackles with four tackles for a loss, 11 passes broken up and one interception. He held up well as teams avoided throwing at Dre Kirkpatrick and generally tested Menzie and the other defensive backs. He has a good skill set and should test well leading up to the draft. It wouldn't be surprising if Menzie generates a buzz and rises up boards. 12/31/11 Menzie has had a strong season which has raised his draft stock. So far in 2011, he has recorded 37 tackles with three tackles for a loss, 11 passes broken up and an interception returned 25 yards for a score. Menzie has had tight coverage all year, even with teams challenging him to avoid throwing at Dre Kirkpatrick. Menzie is an underrated prospect. 8/25/11 DeQuan Menzie is an interesting sleeper prospect for the 2011 season. The junior college transfer made a quick comeback from a torn achilles tendon to play last season. He started seven games and recorded 33 tackles with five tackles for a loss, two sacks and four passes broken up. Menzie could be much improved in 2011, as he is more than a year removed from his surgery. With standout teammates Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron and Robert Lester also in the secondary, Menzie figures to get tested and targeted often this season.

Brad Smelley, TE/HB, 6-3/229/4.75 – ESPN player profile and stats

Official Senior Bowl weigh in: 6-1.7/233 Smelley is a solid blocker that can contribute on play-action and in the red-zone. Should be a Day Three selection in the draft. Good, versatile player who can line up in a variety of positions. Has nice hands, but only had one real breakout season this year for Alabama. He can afford to bulk up, but could lose some speed, only 6-3 236 right now. 7th round prospect/UDFA.

TE Brad Smelley #17

Courtney Upshaw, OLB/DE, 6-2/265/4.76 – ESPN player profile and stats 

Official Senior Bowl weigh in: 6-1.4/273 Upshaw makes plays all over the field for the Crimson Tide from the defensive end and linebacker positions. We see his best fit as a 3-4 ILB in the NFL, a la Lawrence Timmons. Might be the best defensive prospect at the Senior Bowl. Upshaw is an explosive and attacking OLB. He plays with aggressiveness in both the run game and pass game. One of the best pass rushers in the draft. Can really take on blockers and blow them up. Upshaw has the ability to play multiple positions but is best suited for 3-4 OLB as a pass rusher and strong side run defender. Mock Draft 1/18, Round One, #10 Buffalo Bills. This is a reach, but we've seen the Bills do crazy things on Draft Day before. One thing this front office has been infamous for is telegraphing its picks. Chan Gailey repeatedly mentioned acquiring a running back prior to the 2010 NFL Draft, and sure enough, he picked C.J. Spiller despite having Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson on the roster. Gailey has recently harped about not being able to get to the quarterback, and it's easy to understand why. No one on the team finished with more than 5.5 sacks on the year. Courtney Upshaw is currently the top pass-rusher available in the wake of his MVP performance in the…national championship. He'll be the preferred prospect if the Bills want to run a 3-4. (Charlie Campbell): Mock Draft 1/23, Round One, #18 San Diego Chargers. San Diego has to improve its front seven. Even against suspect offensive lines, the team struggled to rush the passer and stop the run in 2011. … Upshaw is in the running as the top 3-4 outside linebacker in the 2012 draft class. The 6-foot-2, 265 pounder has the size to hold up on the edge and also has the athletic ability to rush the passer. The senior finished 2011 having made 52 tackles with 9.5 sacks, 18 tackles for a loss, an interception and two forced fumbles. Against Florida, Upshaw totaled four tackles with three tackles for a loss, one interception and one sack. He returned that interception 45 yards for a touchdown, while his sack knocked the Gators starting quarterback, John Brantley, out of the game. The first time versus LSU, Upshaw gave the Tigers offensive linemen all they could handle. He was consistently pressuring the quarterback and defended the run well. Upshaw had one sack but had a number of near sacks with hits on the quarterback. Against LSU, he totaled six tackles as well as that sack. The second game against the Tigers was more of the same for Upshaw. He collected seven tackles (6 solo), one tackle for a loss, and a sack. In 2010, Upshaw led the Crimson Tide with seven sacks plus contributed 52 tackles, with 14.5 tackles for a loss and four forced fumbles. He definitely is a perfect fit for NFL 3-4 defenses.

William Vlachos, OC, 6-1/294/5.25 – ESPN player profile and stats

Official Senior Bowl weigh in: 6-0.3/306  Undersized center that is dependable. I wouldn’t project Vlachos as a starter in the NFL, but could be a serviceable backup. Looks small on the field at under 6-1 and 290 lbs. Can get overpowered at the line and rarely takes on a one-on-one block. Has good mobility, but will need to bulk up without losing that at the next level. Seventh round pick. (Charlie Campbell): Mock Draft 1/23, Round Three, #93 San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers need a long-term starter at center. … Vlachos (6-1, 294) was a two-year starter for Alabama, and in that time, was a key factor in the Crimson Tide's strong ground game. Vlachos did a good job of blocking for current Saints running back Mark Ingram and current Alabama starter Trent Richardson. This season, Vlachos had good games blocking against Florida, Arkansas and Ole Miss. Against LSU, he had some struggles and that knocked his stock down some. Mark Ingram raved to us about Vlachos. Ingram made a good point that when you include Vlachos' playing time as a freshman, he helped block for three 1,000-yard (one of whom won the Heisman) running backs in Glen Coffee, Ingram and Richardson. Not many centers come into the NFL with that on their resume.

Mark Ingram: "He's been blocking well for us since he got there. Vlachos has blocked for three 1,000-yard rushers. Glenn [Coffee] ran for 1,000. I ran for 1,000 and now Trent is about to run for 1,000. Any time you have blocked for three 1,000-yard rushers that says a lot about him."


More Bama updates on Twitter @LivingCrimson.


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