The first major hurdle of the NFL draft process is over for four now-former Alabama players.
Arie Kouandjio, Blake Sims, Austin Shepherd and Jalston Fowler all played in the Senior Bowl on Saturday, an event that has become more about the workouts and interviews with NFL teams leading up to it than the game itself.
So how did this quartet fare in the eyes of onlookers? Where does each player’s draft stock stand at this point in the process?
Let’s take a look.
OL Arie Kouandjio: Stock up
Whether it’s his younger brother or a stud freshman, Kouandjio played his Alabama career largely in the shadow of some other shiny left tackle.
At the Senior Bowl, he was able to show what he could do by himself, and the reviews were overwhelmingly positive.
.@AlabamaFTBL’s Arie Kouandjio seemed to be the South team’s offensive lineman that held up best in 1v1 drills today.
— Joe Fann (@Joe_Fann) January 22, 2015
“I love the way he uses his length to extend and meet rushers to take on the block and dispose of them,” NFLDraftScout’s Dane Brugler told Marq Burnett of The Anniston Star. “He’s the type of guy that’s going to take your lunch money and not feel bad about it. He’s a mauler up front. I like the way he extends, but keeps his base square to deliver contact at all times. He just looks for someone to hit.”
Mike Mayock says he sees Arie Kouandjio as a starting guard in the NFL. Projects him as a second or third round pick.
— Jonathan Biles (@Jonathan_Biles) January 24, 2015
The real test for Kouandjio will come off the field, where medical tests will show just where he stands after having knee surgery during the 2011 season. Those medical evaluations are what hurt his brother, Cyrus, who ultimately slipped to a second-round pick.
Arie, though, left the Senior Bowl on a positive note, impressing with his on-field work.
Brynn Anderson/Associated Press
QB Blake Sims: Stock down
If you asked 50 different people who were at the Senior Bowl what they thought about Sims’ performance, you’d probably get 50 different responses.
Some were impressed with his competitiveness and escapability, while others saw very flawed mechanics. Generally, though, the reviews weren’t positive.
Blake Sims loves to burp the baby in the pocket. Double pumps before throwing. Free safety will feast.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 21, 2015
“I can’t see where anyone would draft him as a quarterback,” NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said, per AL.com’s Tommy Hicks. “I don’t know that he has a distinguishing trait that says move him to running back and we can get something out of him there.”
Sims completed just four of his 11 pass attempts for 50 yards. One of those incompletions was a deep shot to Sammie Coates, who couldn’t get both feet down in the end zone.
Sims’ technique left a lot to be desired, while his mobility was a positive.
And…the general inaccuracy we saw from Blake Sims, as well. At his best on improvisational plays. More accurate on the move than in pocket
— Rob Rang (@RobRang) January 24, 2015
To be fair to Sims, it’s difficult to develop timing and consistency with brand-new players that fast, so quarterbacks can struggle in Mobile. But Sims has a long way to go before a team takes a chance on him to be a starting NFL quarterback.
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OL Austin Shepherd: No change
While Shepherd didn’t show off anything too crazy in terms of size or ability, there was one positive to take out of his Senior Bowl experience: versatility.
Along with right tackle, where he started for two years at Alabama, Shepherd got looks at both guard positions, where he may find a landing spot in the NFL.
Austin Shepherd appears to be taking first-team reps at right guard for the South team.
— Charlie Potter (@Charlie_Potter) January 20, 2015
“All of (the scouts) want to see versatility,” Shepherd said, per Burnett. “You bring more value to a team when you can play all five positions and not just, say right tackle. I have 27 games (of experience) at right tackle so I’m trying to put three practices and a game together at right guard and left guard.”
Brugler told Burnett that Shepherd (6’4″, 324 lbs) is more suited to play guard in the NFL based on his physical build. His shorter arms (32.75″) would be a detriment out at tackle.
“Not an explosive guy, but at the same time he gets the most out of his abilities and he leaves it all on the field,” Brugler said. “He’s a guy I didn’t expect much from, but he’s played well this week. He’ll get stamped with a draftable grade, but we’ll have to see how he works out at the combine to firm up where teams feel comfortable drafting him.”
Shepherd isn’t going to be a can’t-miss prospect at the next level. But a move to guard looks to be what’s best for his long-term prospects.
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FB Jalston Fowler: Stock up
Alabama fans know what Fowler can do. They’ve seen him block, catch and carry the ball with success at Alabama. During the Senior Bowl, Fowler’s skills were exposed to the rest of the world.
Had Jalston Fowler ranked as a borderline top 100 guy coming in here. He’s going to be a swiss-army knife in the NFL. Useful player.
— Mike Loyko (@NEPD_Loyko) January 21, 2015
He was technically listed as a running back but played fullback for much of the actual game. His do-it-all skill set was impressive to those in attendance.
Senior Bowl director Phil Savage thinks that versatility will translate to a high draft selection for a fullback.
“Jalston’s a general manager’s dream because he saves you a roster spot,” Savage said, according to Aaron Suttles of TideSports.com. “I think he could go as high as the third round, I really do, which is a little bit unusual. Most of these top fullbacks go somewhere in that fourth-round neighborhood, but I think he’s going to be that valuable.”
Name I’ve heard a good bit when talking to scouts this week — #Alabama RB Jalston Fowler. Much more than a fullback.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) January 22, 2015
Fowler should be able to carve out a nice, long NFL career if he can do a lot of things really well for an NFL team.
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Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.