Five players to watch from North

QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson

-The ability for a quarterback to be mobile and remain accurate is very important in many NFL offenses nowadays. Tajh Boyd is a smaller passer, but boasts a very strong arm, with the ability to run effective play-action and distribute well. Pegged by some – myself included – as being a nice fit for a west coast style offense, the Clemson pivot possesses an innate comfort in throwing on the run and has proven to be a threat to take off when he gets mobile. Although he’s only 6’1″ at most, Boyd compensates well and benefits from his release point. In practice, I’m looking to see what sort of rhythm he can find with his foreign targets and how consistent he can be at setting his feet + stepping into throws; a sticking point with Boyd, and a pair of issues that most mobile passers can fall victim to. In the game, I’m eager to evaluate his capability of making multiple reads, the avoidance of locking onto targets, and trusting his arm too much – which tape tells me he is susceptible of doing occasionally. Boyd is the North roster’s most balanced and distinguishable quarterback, so it’s important to me that he plays like it throughout the festivities in Mobile.

OT Seantrel Henderson, Miami (FL)

-They say talent is given every opportunity possible to flourish, and the rule certainly applies to this Miami (FL) product. Henderson, a St. Paul, Minnesota native, was once described by recruiting savant Tom Lemming as “a cross between Jonathan Ogden and Orlando Pace” – praise nobody on earth can ever hope to live up to at the tackle position. However, the raw talent is undeniably there, and 6’7″/6’8″ near-350 lbs. athletes at the position simply don’t grow on trees. If he can continue working to keep his head level off-field, there’s no reason to believe a team, or teams, will not feel they can shape him into a strong player on it. Quick feet, very comfortable in movement when pulling or moving to the next level, stays physical, and potentially lights out when he gets his arms extended on a defender. Although he’s not gotten as much game experience as you’d prefer by this point, his experience in a three-point stance should benefit him, and how comfortable he looks in that aspect should show at the Senior Bowl. Becoming a better knee bender will be imperative to his future and if Henderson isn’t able to show he can avoid getting beat to the outside by speed in Mobile, he may find himself pegged as a right tackle-only by consensus, if he hasn’t already. It’s a little unfair to constantly give so much attention to players who put together only average-at-best production in college, but with a talent base like this, it’s tough not to remain intrigued.

DE Kareem Martin, North Carolina

-Few came into their own like Kareem Martin did in 2013. The large lineman amassed 82 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles (all personal career-highs) this past season. One primary benefit of Martin’s Senior Bowl trip, for evaluators, is the opportunity to try and identify a clear-cut role for him at the next level. At an unofficial 6’6″ 265 lbs., with room to grow, some could feel he is be best suited to a 5-tech role in a 3-4 base, while others may view him as not being strong enough, and his movement better utilized in a 4-3 front. A tall edge player with good length and a sturdy base, the North Carolina product plays with finesse and maneuvers his way around blockers well despite a larger frame. Martin doesn’t absorb an abundance of unnecessary contact and has been as durable as he is versatile. The All-ACC first-team selection could prove valuable as an interior rusher on third-downs in the NFL, adding to his value. He is very ball-aware, positionally responsible, and uses his athleticism in order to be apart of scrums on a down-by-down basis, leading to a high volume of tackles. Martin also properly uses his length to affect passing lanes and break up throws art the line of scrimmage. Depending on how well he is able to perform in Mobile, I believe we could be looking at a potential riser in the pre-draft run up. The combination of size, movement skills, length, pass rushing aptitude, and overall athleticism is very intriguing.

DT Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota

-In terms of raw, unadulterated talent, you’re looking at one of the draft’s crown jewels. A converted tight end and high school basketball player, the very-athletic Ra’Shede Hageman ticks every box in the physical skill department. The 6’6″ 311 lbs. interior lineman has flashed moments of utter disruption as a pass rusher, but has proven unable to consistently bring his game together while at Minnesota. Expected to be a combine warrior with similar projected stats to that of J.J. Watt in 2011, it is important that the Golden Gopher star can continue displaying a penchant for winning in one-on-one battles at the Senior Bowl. He’s exhibited the ‘plus’ movement skills and fluidity to be an effective pursuit player from sideline-to-sideline in run defense, which adds a unique element to his game. Tape doesn’t live up to the hype that his dimensions and supremely gifted stature generate, but there is a high quality piece of clay to be worked with in regards to Hageman’s game. Generally regarded as a boom-or-bust prospect; there isn’t much room in between. The question is, can he show enough on-field promise, in addition to his specimen-like physical ability, to warrant the early consideration he will no doubt receive in early May. Any and all signs of that will be what evaluators are on the lookout for during the Senior Bowl.

ILB Chris Borland, Wisconsin

-Everyone loves an underdog, and Chris Borland certainly fits the bill as one of the 2014 NFL Draft’s more underappreciated players, in my opinion. Not often will you see a linebacker who is listed at 5’11” or less go on to great things in today’s NFL, but much like his ex-teammate Russel Wilson, Borland’s all around game compensates nicely for his lack of size. A consistent tackling machine with phenomenal instincts and a particular knack for playing effectively in the box, the 2013 Big Ten Player of the Year has put together an impressively productive college career in Madison. Energetic defender, he is quick in short areas, regularly moving with fluidity + pesky, effective blitzer with good penetration skills – these characteristics should be on display in many movement and one-on-one drills. While he runs + tracks well, his lack of matchup size hurts his projectability as a pass defender at the next level, so that will undoubtedly be an area to keep an eye on with regards to the Senior Bowl. Borland’s tackling form, despite a seemingly unparalleled accumulation of tackles, can fail him at times, and I’d like to see a bit more growth in that aspect as he moves to the next level. At the very least, he should prove to be a very capable special teamer early on – he’s spent plenty of time in that phase of the game.

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