Players the Panthers Interviewed at the Senior Bowl (per WalterFootball)
1. Tyus Bowser, OLB, Houston
The workout warrior was one of the "winners" during the weigh-in at the Senior Bowl, posting an impressive 6-foot-3, 244-pound frame with 33-inch arms. Draft analyst Lance Zierlein tweeted "After speaking with evaluators at the Senior Bowl, I feel confident in saying that UH OLB Tyus Bowser will go no later than the 3rd round."
Meanwhile, Josh Norris (RotoWorld) wrote "Of the EDGE to linebacker types, it is clear Reddick and Houston’s Tyus Bowser offer far more pass rushing upside than Ryan Anderson. Reddick and Bowser are explosive and possess bend, Anderson does not."
I wrote about Bowser in my Bowl Week Risers/Sliders (part one)
Against San Diego State, Bowser finished with seven tackles, with 1.5 TFL, including 1 sack. That is a pretty good stat line, but his lone sack came in the opening moments of the game, and he was largely invisible after that.
For the season, he had 47 tackles, with 12 TFL, including 8.5 sacks. He also added nine QB hurries and broke up three passes.
That's pretty good production, considering Bowser missed five games with an orbital (eye socket) fracture. The bone was broken in an altercation with a teammate.
Explosive off the perimeter, Bowser is arguably the Cougars' best NFL draft prospect and should translate to a 3-4 outside linebacker role in the NFL. Best at bending the edge and can also work in space as a linebacker. Bowser’s explosiveness and change of direction skills should get him drafted.
2. Isaac Rochell, DT/DE, Notre Dame
In 2015, Rochell finished fifth on the team with 63 tackles with 7.5 tackles for loss. Over the summer, NFL.com's Lance Zierlein wrote
"Rochell doesn't quite have the height that 3-4 defenses covet for their 5-technique position, but he has the type of power at the point of attack that should be appealing to teams running that front. Rochell plays with a good pad level, which helps him win the leverage battle at the point of attack and he's proven to be a tough out against the double-team block. What could limit his draft stock is his inability to consistently get after the quarterback. Rochell has just 3.5 sacks over the last two years.
My pre-season thoughts
Plays DE in the Irish 3-4. The 6-3, 290-pounder is like an extra defensive tackle up front and great against the run, but not very dynamic vs the pass. Build suggests an undersized 3-tech DT in a 4-3.
As a senior, Rochell finished with 56 tackles, including seven for loss with one sack. Notre Dame has a terrible defense in 2016, and Rochell appeared to be more part of the problem than part of the solution. He entered the Senior Bowl as a likely be a 5-7th round prospect, and did not do enough to change anyone's mind.
3. Zach Banner, OT, USC
Here are my pre-season notes
Banner looks good getting off the bus, with excellent height, weight, and wing span. However, he looks more like a "old school RT-only" prospect, as opposed to the new age RT that most NFL teams are looking for. Banner doesn’t always move his feet, and is susceptible to speed rushers off the edge. He struggles to redirect and can be beat inside. A waist bender, who plays with high pads. Boom or bust candidate. While most analysts are higher on Banner, I see a less risky Seantrel Henderson, who should come off the board in the middle of the second-round.
The son of former NFL-er Lincoln Kennedy, Banner has kicked around the idea of declaring for the draft each of the past two seasons, but problems keeping his weight below 380.
His flaws were quickly exposed in USC's opening day loss to Alabama. Against the Tide, Banner surrendered a sack (vs Ryan Anderson), a QB hit, and four pressures.
Daniel Jeremiah said on The NFL Network "Banner is a like an aircraft carrier...he can get going in one direction, just don't ask him to go one way then redirect" (or something to that effect).
DraftAnalyst's Tony Pauline summarized Banner's week at the Senior Bowl
Banner struggled for most of the week and though he showed flashes, he lacked balance, technique and really didn’t play to his size. All of his bad habits were exposed during the Senior Bowl and as a result, his draft stock will drop.
4. Jamari Staples, WR, Louisville
Personally, I liked his teammate, WR James Quick a little better. Staples was never the main go-to-guy for the Cards’ offense, but he did average over 17 yards per reception. In 2016, he caught only 36 passes for 615 yards with just a pair of TDs. In the four games I saw (FSU, Clemson, Houston, and LSU) he combined to catch just six passes.
Louisville was an offensive juggernaut in 2016, but the Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson would have had even better numbers if not for the countless mistakes by the talent around him. Between the OLine's false starts and drops by the receiving crew, it was hard to say which unit was worse.
Staples wasn't really separating himself from the other talented receivers at the Senior Bowl, then things took a turn for the worse during Thursday’s practice, as he reportedly had to leave practice because of a concussion.
5. Ben Gedeon, LB, Michigan
There is A LOT to watch when evaluating Michigan, from Taco Charlton and Jabrill Peppers, to CB Jourdan Lewis, DE Chris Wormley, and even DT Ryan Glasgow and CB Channing Stribling. Make no mistake, this defense was LOADED, and every one of the starters was a senior other than Peppers.
I did not pay much attention to Gedeon, nor did I feel his play was worth diverting my eyes from the names I listed above.
6. Tarell Basham, DE, Ohio
Another guy I knew nothing about was Basham, but as the reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year, the 6-foot-3 5/8, 259-pound Basham entered the week already well known in the scouting community according to draft analyst Tony Pauline, who wrote:
"Scouts were eager to see how well he'd fare against the top competition in Mobile. The answer has been as emphatic as it has been impressive, as Basham has been virtually unblockable, winning with his initial quickness, bend, strong hands and a variety of pass rush moves, including a wicked spin."
7. Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy
Standing at 6-6 3/8 and 293 pounds, Garcia certainly looks the part, at least until his arm length measured just 32 7/8-inches. A mark that is considered barely "passable" by most NFL teams. Garcia says his favorite offensive tackle is Cleveland's Joe Thomas, himself a feisty T-Rex.
CSR's sister site BigBlueView wrote an excellent report, here.
Rotoworld's Josh Norris listed Garcia #1 of his top 25 players to watch in the Senior Bowl in his preview.
The riser of the week will be Troy T Antonio Garcia. Mark it down. There are so few prospects with his combination of athleticism in pass protection and tenacity in the running game. Add on his height, length and tape against Clemson, and you get a really intriguing prospect. Who knows, maybe his week doesn't live up to my expectations, but I would be surprised if the South edge rushers give him issues in practice. He might leave as the top ranked offensive tackle, or this whole section could blow up in my face.
Tony Pauline also shared this:
"I spoke with Carolina Panthers offensive line coach Ray Brown last night and he was very complimentary of Troy offensive tackle Antonio Garcia.Brown said Garcia’s hand use -- specifically the way he properly places his hands into opponents and extends to keep defenders away -- is a trait not often found in college linemen, who usually prefer to lean on opponents."
This is a guy receiving a lot of buzz, with some draft analysts feeling he could work his way into the first round discussion. Even in a weak offensive tackle class, that seems unlikely. Garcia seems like a good project for a team that likes to go into the draft having already filled their needs in free agency. Garcia sounds like the kind of mid-tier offensive lineman that Gettleman has preferred in the past.
Here is some draft trivia - Troy hasn’t had a player drafted since 2012, but is a program that has sent DeMarcus Ware, Osi Umenyiora and Leodis McKelvin to the NFL.
8. Gabe Marks, WR, Washington State
Marks was one of my Week Seven Sliders
My pre-season thoughts
Marks finished with 104 catches for 1192 yards, with a PAC-12 leading 15 touchdown receptions, including catching five for 67 yards in WSU's bowl game vs Miami. Four star recruit. Red-shirt senior.
At 6'0/188, Marks appears to be an ordinary athlete who has put up extraordinary stats in Mike Leach's Air Raid offense.
Update (Week Seven Sliders)
Against UCLA, Marks managed six catches for just 36 yards. This continues a downward trend, as he has now been held under 60 yards receiving in four consecutive contests, and has 40 catches for 337 yards in his six games this season.
Marks is a production guy, but not a traits guy. When people ask "what's his trump card", or "how does he win", it is difficult to come up with an answer. He is small, with small hands. I dropped him from my big board earlier in the month.
Also, two local products created a lot of buzz. East Carolina WR Zay Jones and UNC Charlotte DT Larry Ogunjobi.
Scouts do not often rave over the build of 300-pound-plus defensive linemen but Ogunjobi is perfectly suited for run-stuffing duties with his squatty 6-foot-2 1/2, 304-pound frame, which includes a fire hydrant-like lower half. As his frame suggests, Ogunjobi has held up well against the scrimmage in the running game, but he also has shown an explosive burst to penetrate, wreaking havoc at times during Thursday's North practice. A year ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers found a starter in former South Carolina State and Senior Bowl Javon Hargrave. Ogunjobi -- a two-time All-Conference USA pick who left as the 49ers' all-time leader in tackles (217), tackles for loss (TFL) (49), sacks (13) and QB hurries (33) -- could be on the verge of a similar rise. - Rob Rang
Jones in 2016 became the all-time NCAA receptions leader (399). I wrote about Jones in my Week 13 Risers
Jones first caught my eye in 2014, when Justin Hardy and Cam Worthy were seniors. Fast forward to 2016, with Jones now in his final season having already caught 241 passes, including 98 in 2015.
The 6-1, 195-pound Jones looks like a future slot receiver in the NFL, but older brother, Cayleb Jones went undrafted out of Arizona. Son of former Pirate and NFL LB Robert Jones.
Jones earned a well-deserved Senior Bowl invitation, having caught 158 passes for 1,746 yards and eight touchdowns in 2016. However, ECU failed to make a bowl game. During his career, he caught 399 passes, breaking the FBS career record held by former ECU wideout Justin Hardy.
Most analysts feel Jones will leave the week a winner, but once again I will allow Pauline to speak:
Jones was extremely impressive during all three practices in Mobile. While he isn’t the fastest receiver, he showed an ability to run the entire route tree and win at all levels of the defense. A sharp route-runner who is efficient with his movements, Jones used strong hands and good technique to win out in contested situations and really helped himself with his Senior Bowl performance.
I always felt Jones was a tick better than Hardy (4th round, 2015), but he may be a few ticks better. He probably gets picked somewhere around 60-75.
You can track the Senior Bowl weigh-in here.
Read more from Pauline here.