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Senior Bowl

7 final observations from Senior Bowl week

MOBILE, Alabama -- As we wrap up our week of Senior Bowl coverage, here's a final set of observations from a busy, busy time in the Port City.

  1. East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones found a way to make multiple highlights inside the end zone Saturday without actually scoring a touchdown -- and then he actually scored a touchdown. Early in the first quarter, he made an acrobatic, toe-tapping catch that would have counted in college, but was just a centimeter or so off from being an NFL touchdown. In the second quarter, he caught what appeared to be a long touchdown pass only to have it rescinded because of a holding penalty. He finally found pay dirt when he caught a short slant with less than 2 minutes to play. Either way, it was a great week for Jones, who posted a whopping 158 receptions during his senior season. He combined for 256 receptions, 2,845 yards and 13 touchdowns in his final two seasons, and he did a nice job proving he was more than just a stat-stuffer at this week's practices. Projected as a third- or fourth-round pick at the start of the week, Jones may see an elevation of those rankings as the pre-draft process rolls forward.
  1. Ohio University grads and fans of Mid-American Conference football knew all about Tarell Basham before this week of Senior Bowl practices. He introduced himself to a broader audience this week and played the part of an impactful, pass-rushing defensive end. The MAC Defensive Player of the Year finished the season tied for 11th in the nation with 12 sacks. His pressure on a first quarter pass rush had a lot to do with Josh Dobbs' early interception. draft analyst Dane Brugler wrote Basham may have put himself in top 50 territory after this week.
  1. If the Browns opt to address the center position in the first half of this year's draft, odds are they'll be taking one who participated in this week's practices and game. From all indications, LSU's Ethan Pocic, who is considered one of the best at the position entering the draft, had a very good week of practice. Pocic has atypical height (6-foot-7) for the position but also has the ability to play multiple positions along the offensive line. He played every snap Saturday and switched between guard and center. Tyler Orlosky, a Cleveland native who played at St. Edward's High, started for the North team and measures out as a more prototypical center. The two other centers at the Senior Bowl, Kentucky's Jon Toth and Baylor's Kyle Fuller, are also ranked in the top five at the position by Ohio State's Pat Elflein was the only projected top-five center not in Mobile.
  1. No one had a bigger spotlight on himself throughout the week than Alabama tight end O.J. Howard and he somehow found a way to deliver at every opportunity. The projected first-round pick capped a solid week with a productive first half Saturday. He caught four passes for 39 yards from Dobbs and watched the rest of the game from the sidelines. He impressed from start to finish and leaves Mobile with no regrets for participating.
  1. The spotlight, meanwhile, wasn't all that bright on the quarterbacks this week. None who participated are expected to be early-round picks but that doesn't mean they should be completely written off. Dak Prescott didn't receive all that much attention at last year's game and look at what he accomplished as a rookie in Dallas. The same goes for Jimmy Garoppolo, who went from a late addition to the 2014 Senior Bowl to a second-round selection. With that in mind, Cal's Davis Webb, Pittsburgh's Nate Peterman and Dobbs appeared to have good weeks. Webb was the best of the three Saturday, leading scoring drives on three consecutive possessions and garnering the game's most outstanding player award. Jackson and Co. got to work closely with Webb and Dobbs on and off the practice field. Whoever drafts these players likely will cite what they saw this week in Mobile as a big reason why.
  1. Two Jackson quotes of note from earlier in the week when it pertains to quarterbacks, whether it be one you draft in the first round or fifth round.

On what trait a QB has to have no matter where he's drafted: "I still think at the end of the day, the guy needs to be able to process football and arm talent. I think that's really important, especially in our division, and everything in my mind goes through our division because we play in a lot of different elements and we think we have one of the better divisions in football. You can't stand in there in the snow and the elements and throw the ball, and it's tough if you can't process information because the defenses are so good — Pittsburgh and Baltimore and Cincinnati — it's hard to play. Those are things that are non-negotiable for me."

On the importance of leadership from the QB position: "I would hope the guys that we have on our team have that trait. And I think you can see that. I mean, there's a lot of different ways, normally those guys are team captains they are team leaders ... I think a guy has to earn the right to become a leader of your football team by how he works, how he prepares, the time he puts in. All those things are important as you look for the quarterback as you continue to move forward and grind through it all to try and find the right guy. But you've got to have a feel for what it looks like, you've got to know what that's been someplace else and I think the experience of doing that is where people can find these guys that are able to do it."

  1. The Browns headed back to Berea on Saturday night and have about a month at home until they ship out together to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine. There's a lot to digest from the week that was and a lot to accomplish in the weeks to come. One benchmark date of note in between the two tentpole events is Feb. 15, when teams are allowed to place the franchise/transition tag on one of its upcoming free agents. The Browns haven't used the tag since 2012, when they placed it on kicker Phil Dawson for a second consecutive season.
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