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Tuesday, March 8

Prospects rise quickly at Senior Bowl

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The Senior Bowl and the days leading up to it comprise the single most critical week for the senior NFL prospects. In fact, I have always referred to the week in Mobile, Ala., as combine workout No. 1.

Although the players will not be timed in the 40, they will be measured and weighed. With owners, GMs, player personnel directors, scouts, head coaches and assistant coaches lining the sidelines, the players go through structured and intense practices with one-on-one drills against top players with NFL coaching. They are heavily scrutinized and under enormous pressure.

The Senior Bowl players are trying to battle for positions against each other. For example, this season Fresno State's David Carr is battling Oregon's Joey Harrington to be the No. 1 quarterback taken in April. Although Harrington will miss the Senior Bowl because of a knee injury he suffered in the East-West Shrine Game, it will be important for Carr to impress everyone and move ahead of Harrington. Other quarterbacks jockeying for position are Illinois' Kurt Kittner, Tulane's Patrick Ramsay and LSU's Rohan Davey. The Senior Bowl week will determine their fate.

If players have a great week and game at the Senior Bowl, they may decide not to work out at the NFL combine because they have built up enough momentum to wait instead until they have their individual workout.

Following are eight players from the past who helped themselves during Senior Bowl week (players listed alphabetically):

Fernando Bryant, CB, Alabama -- 1999
His performance at the Senior Bowl was critical, and he ended up being the first-round pick of Jacksonville at No. 26 overall.

Kevin Dyson, WR, Utah -- 1998
He ended up a first-round pick to Tennessee at No. 16. That was five spots ahead of Randy Moss, who went to Minnesota. The Senior Bowl had a lot to do with it. Dyson was able to get open against top-notch corners.

Trung Canidate, RB, Arizona -- 2000
Canidate demonstrated his explosive, game-breaking ability and emerged as the final pick of the first round to the St. Louis Rams.

Jon Jansen, OT, Michigan -- 1999
He had a great week of practice. I had him rated as the 15th-best player in the draft that year and projected him to be a first-round pick. But he ended up going in the second round to the Washington Redskins. Jansen was one of the steals of the last 10 years of the draft. He is an example of a player who had a great week of practice but slid through the cracks.

Donovan McNabb, QB, Syracuse -- 1999
At Syracuse, he was a quarterback who ran the option, among other things. But at the Senior Bowl, he showed he could be a very good drop-back, NFL-style quarterback. He convinced the Eagles, who took him with the No. 2 overall pick.

John Mobley, LB, Kutztown -- 1996
He solidified his position at the Senior Bowl, where he showed his skills. Although Mobley went to small school (which also produced Andre Reed), he ended up going in the first round to the Denver Broncos with the 15th pick overall.

Tyrone Poole, CB, Fort Valley State -- 1995
He went in the first round to Carolina in 1995 as the 22nd pick. During Senior Bowl practice, he blanketed receivers and enhanced his draft rating. He was actually the first cornerback taken, ahead of Ty Law. And Law is a bigger corner (at 5-foot-11, compared to Poole at 5-foot-8) who played at a major school (Michigan) and is having a Pro Bowl career. Poole went ahead of him because of the Senior Bowl.

Brian Urlacher, LB, New Mexico -- 2000
Urlacher, who was the No. 9 overall pick for Chicago, helped his draft status with his versatility. He showed he could play outside linebacker and middle linebacker and had tremendous physical ability, speed and athleticism to go with a hard-nosed approach.

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