Senior Bowl practices represent a minor piece of the overall evaluation process

Posted Jan 25, 2012

Players like Boise State QB Kellen Moore are making plenty of headlines this week

MOBILE, AL – The winningest starting quarterback in the history of college football exited Tuesday’s Senior Bowl practice knowing he could have performed better.

Moore had missed a few open receivers in his second practice guiding the North squad. He underthrew a few more targets and fired a couple passes off the hands of defensive backs.

The media sharks taking notes sensed blood and went for the kill almost immediately through social media. Reports of Moore’s less-than-impressive practice went public with harsh criticism from Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

“Though it’s still early, Kellen Moore does not look good. He shows no ability to put speed on his passes and his throws have consistently been behind receivers,” Tweeted draft guru Tony Pauline.

“Kellen Moore looks out of place against this level of competition. Moore's deep passes sailed all morning, and some of his throws on out-routes arrived at the receiver's knees. Worst of all, Moore looks stiff and awkward when dropping and setting,” added Mike Tanier of Football Outsiders.

Of course, Moore wasn’t completely inept either.

He floated a few deep passes to receivers running in stride down the sideline and looked off linebackers to connect on first down strikes across the middle. Moore also showed patience and understanding with pass progressions operating a newly-installed playbook.

In fact, the same day Pauline and so many others jumped on Moore’s poor throws, ESPN saw the good in Moore and touted his performance as the best of the three North quarterbacks in Mobile

 Big Ten standouts Kirk Cousins of Michigan State and Russell Wilson of Wisconsin join Moore as quarterbacks of the North squad.

“Boise State's Kellen Moore (5-foot-11¾, 191 pounds) was the best of the bunch, despite his lack of ideal arm strength causing the ball to flutter at times in windy conditions. Moore was clearly comfortable with the offense and what he wanted to do, manipulating coverages with his eyes, working through his progressions and getting the ball out on time. And despite his somewhat weaker arm, Moore was more willing than his counterparts to attack the intermediate zones and beyond,” Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl wrote in ESPN’s NFL Draft Blog.

So which is it? Is Moore completely out of his league at the NFL level, or is the quarterback that went 50-3 for Boise State worth a flier on draft day?

With both criticism and praise being thrown his way, Moore is taking the Senior Bowl process in stride.

“I think the bottom line is to show you can execute a game plan and prove that you can move a team downfield,” Moore said. “I think it’s been shown that if you move the team down the field and if you’re scoring touchdowns, they don’t care how you do it. If you’re winning, they’re going to give you an opportunity.”

Moore’s numbers are undeniable. His overall body of work is rivaled by few players in the history of college football.

His 142 career touchdown passes rank second all-time to Houston’s Case Keenum and Moore’s 14,667 career passing yards represent the fourth-highest total in NCAA history. His career 168.97 efficiency rating is third all-time behind first-round draft picks Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow.

This is where the Senior Bowl makes its mark. In addition to seeing a player’s practice habits and physical attributes, coaches and personnel men go beyond the years of tape they’ve already broken down on a prospect.

 It’s the one-on-one time that brings a different form of evaluation.

“This was a week last year where Ricky Stanzi had a tough week and a lot of people were very critical of Ricky,” Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli recalled. “Ricky’s season had ended and he had done some work with (Tom Martinez). He was in the process of changing his mechanics and it wasn’t the best week for him.

“But spending time with Ricky, when you could actually follow-up and get to know him more, that time spent is really helpful down here.”

This week, Moore was asked by one NFL scout if he’d rather meet Shakespeare or Columbus? Moore went with Columbus.

“I guess because he was an explorer,” Moore chuckled. “There are a lot of steps that go into this process and it’s a lot of fun. Some of the psychology questions can be pretty unique. You’re not sure if you’re right or wrong and maybe there isn’t a right answer.”

Senior Bowl practices create a hotbed for media over-reaction and it only gets worse at the NFL Combine in February. On the flip side, fans crave any and all information they can get their hands on and NFL Draft ratings continue to climb.

It’s a great system to create interest, but unorthodox players like Moore tend to get boxed-in at the first sign of struggle following collegiate success. He’s much shorter than the prototypical NFL quarterback and doesn’t have an arm that wows.

Tebow is another obvious example.

Moore represents just one of the many players who’ll receive conflicting reports leading up to Draft Day. Whether or not he has what it takes to make in the NFL, no one truly knows. But he’ll get a chance to prove himself somewhere.

And it likely won’t be the result of one Senior Bowl practice.

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