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2020 NFL Draft

What Hue Jackson, Browns scouts wanted to see from Senior Bowl QBs

No one escapes the eyes of scouts at an event like the Senior Bowl -- not even the kickers and punters -- but the extra attention toward one particular position is certainly understandable.

The eight quarterbacks at last week's practices and game drew all sorts of scrutiny as they conducted their business at what one Browns scout described as "ground zero." They came from all different parts of the country, all different sizes of schools and all different styles of offense and left with a fresh evaluation from all 32 NFL teams after playing on an even playing field.

Though the scouts and general managers have had their eyes on the prospects for years, the event serves as the first formal introduction between the players and their potential future employers. It sets the tone leading into February's NFL Scouting Combine, a much bigger, more formal event that includes conceivably every player that is projected to be selected in the 2016 NFL Draft.

"When you're watching college tape on a guy, there's a little bit of gray area because he's been in his system versus this other system, West Coast, spread, whatever you want to call it," said Chisom Opara, a member of Cleveland's player personnel department since 2004. "But whenever you get to the Senior Bowl, it's their first time to get them in an NFL playbook and everyone's kind of reading from the same book so you're comparing apples to apples a little bit more with what they're asked to do."

The star of Senior Bowl week, Carson Wentz, came all the way from North Dakota State, a Football Championship Series (formerly known as Division I-AA) power that has won five consecutive national championships. He was surrounded not only by top-level talent on offense, but also on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

Wentz brushed off the notion he'd struggle against elevated competition and was selected by a panel of scouts as the event's top quarterback. In Saturday's game, which falls a day after most scouts depart Mobile, he completed 6-of-10 passes for 50 yards.

Wentz shared the field with seven other quarterbacks, most of whom are projected as Day 3 selections: Kevin Hogan (Stanford), Brandon Allen (Arkansas), Jacob Coker (Alabama), Dak Prescott (Mississippi State), Jacoby Brissett (North Carolina State), Jeff Driskel (Louisiana Tech) and Cody Kessler (USC).

For Browns coach Hue Jackson, who watched practices for both the North and South squads from Tuesday-Thursday, a strong first impression was important, and that spanned the player's activities on and off the field.

"I want to see if the guy's talent is really what it is," Jackson said. "Does the guy have the arm talent? Is he a leader? Is he the guy everyone looks to out there? Can he handle the information from an NFL coach because sometimes it's a little different. And is he able to take the things given to him and be able to do a good job as far as competing and as far as executing what they're asking him to do?"

Opara said there's an understandable learning curve for quarterbacks at an event such as this, especially when the offensive system differs significantly from the one the player ran in college. The extent of the week, though, allows for progress to be made, and the ones who make the most noticeable strides come away with more positive evaluations.

There's also so much more a scout, coach or general manager can see when they're watching a practice, and it goes beyond the passes they throw.

"There's some guys who kind of exude leadership and a positive demeanor," Opara said. "Guys seem to gravitate toward some of these guys. A big part of it, too, is getting together with them at night for the formal interviews and getting a little more one-on-one attention and seeing how they pick things up and how they're wired."

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