Senior Bowl Standouts From A Pats Perspective

The Reese’s Senior Bowl happened in Mobile, Alabama on Saturday. Yes, Reese’s: because nothing says “elite college football” like a couple of guilt-inducing peanut butter cups in a non-biodegradable wrapper.

The South team beat the North team, 20-10, on a day where offenses looked out of synch due to strong D and apparent lack of practice.

Below, some notable players in whom the Patriots might take an interest.

Can New England A-Ford Not To Take Him? Those who watched the Broncos beat the Patriots in the AFC Championship tilt noticed that QB Peyton Manning not only had enough time to read the defense, he had the time to read James Joyce’s Ulysses, take an adult ed class on it, and grow to appreciate it. Enter Auburn pass-rusher Dee Ford, who got noticed Saturday with two sacks and a tipped pass for the South team.

Ford, selected game MVP on Saturday, proved a nightmare to block with his quickness and strength. Though undersized at 6-foot-2, 242 pounds, his ability to change an offense’s plan could prove too much to pass up. Ford had 10.5 sacks this past season for Auburn. If he’s still available for the Patriots – even within reach of a trade – Coach Belichick has got to consider taking a shot with him.

… and yes I said yes I will Yes.

Route Won, Norwood: Alabama receiver Kevin Norwood (6-2, 195) may not have the best straight-line speed, but he showed an overall knowledge of angles in his routes to beat defenders and gained many of his yards after the catch. Norwood – who led Alabama with seven TDs – displayed great hands during the game (four receptions, 53 yards). He scored on a 24-yard pass and was named the Most Outstanding Player for the South.

Norwood is considered a mid-round pick (though this game may have improved his stock) who could add depth. From a Pats perspective, the coach can get a thorough scouting report from old friend/fellow football curmudgeon Nick Saban at Alabama on the receiver’s potential fit in Foxboro.

Doing It The White Way: Running back James White (5-9, 205) of Wisconsin made an impact over the weekend. On a day of dominant defense, White dished out straight arms like beer brats at a tailgate, managing 61 yards rushing on 11 carries and scoring the North’s only TD on a one-yard run in the fourth quarter. At Wisconsin, White averaged 6.5 yards per carry on his way to 1,444 yards for the season.

While New England has Shane Vereen as a pass-catching back, White could work as a viable backup. He had 39 receptions for 300 yards and three touchdowns in 2013.

He Who Fales, Succeeds: San Jose State QB David Fales (6-2, 220) completed six of seven passes with one TD pass in the game (to Norwood, as a matter of fact, while scrambling to his right). Despite a late interception, Fales showed that he belonged with good feet and a solid pocket presence. (What a silly phrase, by the way. “Pocket presence” used to be something I required when purchasing sweatpants.) He passed for over 4,000 yards in each of the past two years for the Spartans, setting 25 school records along the way.

With current backup QB Ryan Mallett becoming a potential trade commodity, the Patriots could look to someone like Fales to learn the ropes.

A Good Reid: Why not an Ivy League guy? Princeton defensive tackle Caraun Reid (6-2, 301) had two sacks on consecutive plays Saturday, using his quickness to get past highly touted offensive linemen Cyril Richardson of Baylor and Seantrel Henderson of Miami.

Reid earned All-Ivy honors with 5.5 sacks against league competition. Though his (relatively) small stature resembles that of the Patriots’ current crop of young D-linemen, Reid could still provide depth for the price of a low pick on Day Three.

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Wicked Bright: Auburn cornerback and returner Chris Davis (5-10, 200) had a solid game with close coverage on his receivers, including an interception. Davis had 15 pass break-ups this past season. Oh, he also averaged 18.7 yards per punt return, and in case you didn’t notice, he returned one kick in particular that was a pretty big deal.

New England needs playmakers; Davis has made his share. As a mid-round pick who could deepen the defensive backfield, this would provide a low-risk opportunity in Foxboro.

The Gillmore Guy: Colorado State tight end Crockett Gillmore had an eye-opener of a day, with five receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown. Gillmore demonstrated soft hands leaping for a 23-yard pass from Fales in the second quarter. For the season, Gillmore (6-6, 255) had 43 catches for 533 yards for the Rams, earning All-Mountain West Conference First-Team honors.

The Patriots could use another big, pass-catching tight end not named Gronk, and for a mid-round pick, Gillmore could contribute.

See Ya Later? Though he only caught one pass for nine yards, Marshall tight end/fullback Gator Hoskins has the size (6-1, 244) and ability to intrigue. Hoskins lined up on the outside and caught a quick slant in front of a South cornerback (Qua Cox of Jackson State). This past season, Hoskins led all tight ends nationally with 13 TDs. He had 44 catches and averaged 16.3 yards per reception.

With a certain Tight End Who Shan’t Be Named no longer with the team, New England could benefit from a smaller, quicker pass-catcher in a similar mold. Plus, Hoskins has committed no alleged felonies that we know of, so … that’s a positive.

Me Say Day, Me Say Deone: Strong safety Deone Bucannon out of Washington State (6-1, 216) lived up to his position’s name, filling in with power on the run and creating a tough presence in the defensive backfield. This past season, Bucannon notched a Pac-12 best 109 tackles, as well as five interceptions and three forced fumbles. Also has a 78-inch wingspan that would make some condors jealous.

New England has plenty of bodies at safety, but not a lot of sure tacklers. After this past summer’s failed experiment with veteran Adrian Wilson, the Pats could consider bulking up their secondary with a Day Two selection.

Nothing Could Be Finer: During the game, Coastal Carolina’s Lorenzo Taliaferro (6-2, 231) didn’t score, but he did have six runs for 24 yards (including two negative runs late) and staunch pass-blocking to keep the South QBs safe in the pocket. Taliaferro led the Chanticleers with 1,478 rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns in 2013. He also had 23 receptions and two receiving TDs.

Taliaferro, who should remain available on Day Three of the draft, possesses strong overall skills to go with his size. He’d provide depth at a strong position in Foxboro.

Full disclosure: The Chanticleer was the name of the fancy French restaurant where I lasted one month as a waiter. Tough crowd. I do not hold it against Coastal Carolina.

Holy Morgan: Mountainous offensive tackle Morgan Moses of Virginia – all 6-6, 325 pounds of him – locked down the left tackle spot to help the South offense to get their 20-0 first half lead. For the Cavaliers, Moses played both tackle positions and right guard, wrapping up his career at left tackle with All-ACC Second-team honors from the coaches.

New England may not wish to spend a first-rounder on Moses, but considering right tackle Sebastian Vollmer’s recent injury and Moses’ versatility, the titanic tackle must reside on their radar.

He’s A Brick, House: Vanderbilt’s Wesley Johnson (6-5, 295) started 51 consecutive games for the Commodores. His quickness and consistency stood out at both guard and center for the South team, as they did in his career, culminating in his conference coaches voting him to the All-SEC First team. Johnson started every game at left tackle in 2013, also playing center and guard previously in his career. He projects as an NFL guard.

Versatility, experience, and stability: the opposite qualities of me on my first date (ba-da-BOOM!). Johnson, a mid-round pick, would give immediate depth to New England’s offensive line and could quickly step in as an interior OL.

Daniel My Brother, You Are Bigger Than Me HOLY CRAP: At 6-7, 350 pounds, nose guard/subway train Daniel McCullers attracts attention in the middle of the line. McCullers tipped a pass on Saturday but didn’t stand out much otherwise, which might not be the worst thing for a nose guard. Had 33 tackles, including 12.5 tackles for loss in 2013. McCullers needs to work on leverage, but even Coach Belichick can’t teach size.

Considering how a Vince-Wilfork-less defense got pushed around last year, McCullers could provide some necessary bulk in exchange for a Day Two selection.

Any standouts at the Senior Bowl from your perspective? Please let us know that and your favorite candy (Reese’s included) below.

Chris Warner can be emailed at [email protected] or tweeted at @cwarn89