The Senior Bowl is considered the premier postseason all-star game for seniors in college to come out and compete in an attempt to improve their NFL draft stock. The athletes go through a week of practice, and a barrage of interviews and meetings with NFL franchises. Alabama had four players participate in the 2013 game: Nico Johnson, Michael Williams, Robert Lester and Carson Tinker. The reviews from the week are mixed.
Michael Williams assuredly improved his draft stock after the Senior Bowl. He was known as an elite blocker, but questions abounded about his hands and his ability to get separation from linebackers and safeties. After a strong week of practice, Williams had a twenty-yard touchdown in the game itself that showcased every aspect that was under scrutiny from the NFL. Williams will never be Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski, but teams that run the ball heavily such as the Texans, Vikings or Buccaneers will be interested in the former Tide tight end going forward.
Carson Tinker’s long snapper position will almost certainly preclude him from being drafted, and if he is, he will go in the last two rounds. That said, he had a good week down in Mobile. He didn’t have a botched snap throughout the week, and being able to assure teams that he can do the job will get him looks throughout the league after the undrafted free agent pool is set following the draft in April.
Nico Johnson came into the week already known as an elite run defender, but he had to try and answer questions about his abilities in pass coverage. Those questions remain after the Senior Bowl. He was unable to consistently cover tight ends and slot receivers during practice. If Johnson cannot improve his coverage skills, he will be labeled a “two-down LB,” a player only useful primarily on first and second down. Two-down LBs don’t generally go before the middle of the draft.
If Nico Johnson had a disappointing week, Robert Lester’s has to be considered disastrous. Lester had trouble in coverage throughout the week, and his troubles continued in the game when he gave up a long pass to Mike Glennon. He should still earn an invite to the Combine, and the years spent being tutored by Nick Saban will serve him well in interviews and any chalk talk sessions he is in, but the on-field coverage deficiency is a major red flag for NFL franchises.