Senior Bowl: Report Card Grades for Game’s Most-Talked-About Players

Craig Loston, Robert Herron

Saturday afternoon saw the latest installment of the Senior Bowl, a showcase of some of the best college seniors from throughout the country.

The goal of the players in the game was to get noticed by NFL scouts in order to improve their draft stock. By virtue of being in the game, they already got to work closely with an NFL coaching staff, as the South team was coached by the staff of Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley, while the North team was led by the Atlanta Falcons’ Mike Smith and his coaching staff.

The South came out on top, 20-10, but it’s not the score that’s important in this game as much as the performances by the players.

Here’s a look at how some of the most talked about players of the practices leading up to the game this week fared in their Senior Bowl performances.

Derek Carr–Quarterback, Fresno State (South)

Of all the quarterbacks who played on Saturday, Carr looked like he was the one most likely to go in the first round, and the most ready for the NFL.

Behind a strong offensive line that seemed to click well when working together like they had an entire summer of training camp to practice instead of just a week (and an offensive line that was better than any line his brother David had to work with while he was with the Houston Texans), Carr’s first drive was masterful as he made some great decisions.

The best of these decisions was a check down pass to tight end Crockett Gilmore from Colorado State that would become a 17-yard touchdown pass.

For the afternoon, Carr was 7-of-12 for 45 yards and a touchdown while not getting a single sack. He might have played it safe throughout the game, but he showed that he can be efficient and effective, which could benefit a team like the Minnesota Vikings or Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Grade: B+

Jimmy Garoppolo–Quarterback, Eastern Illinois (South)

Jimmy Garoppolo, who was the MVP of the East-West Shrine Game last week, had a fairly mediocre outing. The good news is he made some good, albeit safe throws and overall his decision-making was on point.

He’s someone for a team to develop, a team like the New Orleans Saints, Denver Broncos or Green Bay Packers.

Grade: B

Stephen Morris–Quarterback, Miami (Fla.) (North)

I have seen Stephen Morris play for the last four years, and watching his Senior Bowl performance was like watching any of his other games while at The U. Yes, he showed great arm strength, and had some throws and decisions that made me believe that he could cut it in the NFL. However, he also had two interceptions, and both of them were interceptions I’ve seen before from him.

It was the most Stephen Morris-y of Stephen Morris performances, as he actually led the North team in passing yards with 89 while completing 10-of-18 passes. Some team will take him late in the draft, and he might show said team enough promise that he actually will get a regular season start in the NFL.

Then he will break their heart in the end, just as he did to Hurricanes fans during his career at The U.

Grade: C-

Logan Thomas–Quarterback, Virginia Tech (North)

Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas had some questions surrounding him going into the Senior Bowl, but at times during practice this week showed some flash.

However for a kid as athletic as Thomas is, how did he get sacked five times?

This really looks bad to me because the other six quarterbacks that participated in the game were only sacked once–combined–in the entire game.

Now in fairness to Thomas, the North offensive line was far from great, and he did complete four out of his five passes for 17 yards.

I still wasn’t too encouraged by Thomas, who might want to consider trying another position in order to crack into the NFL.

Grade: C-

Tajh Boyd–Quarterback, Clemson (North)

The ACC won’t likely be known as a quarterback’s conference, and their three quarterbacks during this game all showed off their warts.

Boyd was the worst of the three, as he was a train wreck from the beginning. The throws he made were questionable, but they did look good in comparison to his decision-making.

I can’t see how Boyd gets drafted, especially not after that performance.

Grade: F

Charles Sims–Running Back, West Virginia (North)

I heard a lot about Charles Sims all week, and was impressed by how well he played during his college career at Houston and West Virginia.

I expected Sims to get at least seven-to-eight carries on the afternoon and at least three passes thrown his way. Alas, Sims would only get three attempts for eight yards, with nine of those yards coming off of one run early in the first quarter. Sims didn’t record a single reception.

Some of this is on the North’s offensive line, as they had problems with the South’s aggressive defensive front, but the word on Sims was that he could turn something into nothing, something that he failed to do on his other two runs.

I was fairly let down by Sims, especially after his great week of practice raised my expectations.

Grade: D

Billy Turner–Offensive Tackle, North Dakota State (South)

Every year at the Senior Bowl that comes from FCS and impresses scouts and the media, and this year’s player appeared to be Billy Turner.

How well did he do? From what I saw he looked like he belonged in the NFL at right tackle, where he played for most of the game.

As someone who covers the Dolphins, I implore new general manager Dennis Hickey to take Turner in round two.

Grade: A

Cyril Richardson–Guard, Baylor (North)

How much does Baylor’s fast paced offense prepare players for the NFL?

It didn’t appear to prepare Cyril Richardson too much, at least not this week. During practices he seemed to get manhandled by North teammate Aaron Donald, and then when the actual game started, Richardson had a fairly mediocre game. I wouldn’t consider him horrible, but he probably didn’t help himself too much.

Grade: C

Jordan Matthews–Wide Receiver, Vanderbilt (South)

Jordan Matthews might not just be the best receiver at the Senior Bowl this season.

He might be the best receiver in the draft.

On top of how well he did during the practices leading up to the game, Matthews made an impression with his two catches for 38 yards.

One of those catches went for 33 yards.

I’d love to see what Matthews can do at the next level, where he will be a pain for cornerbacks to cover.

Grade: A

Dee Ford–Defensive End, Auburn (South)

Pass rushers come at a premium, which is why some times they tend to be drafted higher than they should be. Dee Ford didn’t look like a pass rusher that will be picked lower than he should be, and this week showed that he would be a nice consolation prize to any team looking for a pass rusher that misses out on Jadaveon Clowney.

Ford finished the game with two sacks, and those weren’t just regular old sacks, those were dominating big boy sacks on Logan Thomas, whose size suggests a guy who isn’t easy to bring down (but did get sacked three other times on Saturday). Those sacks led to Ford winning the game’s MVP award.

Grade: A+

James White–Running Back, Wisconsin (North) 

In the mold of other Wisconsin running backs, James White was a power back who showed that off on Saturday.

White’s stats were fairly impressive, as he finished with a game-high 62 yards on 11 attempts and the North’s only touchdown of the game. For this he was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player, which was well deserved.

Grade: A+

David Fales–Quarterback, San Jose State (South)

David Fales was the leading passer in the game, going 6-of-7 for 104 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The one interception can be attributed to the pressure caused by defensive tackle Aaron Donald, but other than that, Fales was flawless in his performance, and should have plenty of teams interested in his services after the game.

Grade: A-

Aaron Donald–Defensive Tackle, Pittsburgh (North)

You won’t see Aaron Donald’s name on the stat sheet for this year’s Senior Bowl, but credit good offensive line play by the South team, and not the lack of effort on Donald’s part.

Donald was active for most of the game despite finishing without any sacks or tackles. On one occasion he got into San Jose State quarterback David Fales, forcing an interception by Nevin Lawson of Utah State.

Plays like that are what will make Donald an effective and potentially game-changing player at the next level, and a team that needs help in the interior defensive line would get a steal in Donald in round two.

Grade: B