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Monday, January 24, 2011
An eye on the Senior Bowl

By ESPNBoston.com

One of things we’ll be keeping an eye on this week from a Patriots perspective will be the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., where the top seniors from the college ranks will be gathering to try to prove themselves in front of NFL scouts.

In the words of ESPN draft expert Todd McShay, “Senior Bowl week gives players a chance to receive NFL coaching and showcase their skills for all 32 NFL teams.” In his Insider piece previewing the week, he picks his players to watch. Here are some of his position- and player-spotlights that should be of interest to area fans:

* Offensive tackle: There is still plenty of wiggle room on top of our board. Colorado's Nate Solder, Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi and Boston College's Anthony Castonzo are the top three senior prospects (the only underclassman in the mix is USC's Tyron Smith, who is No. 11 overall).

* Defensive end: Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan and Miami's Allen Bailey can get after the quarterback. They will be players to watch this week in Mobile.

* Boston College OLB Mark Herzlich: Herzlich's story is well known at this point. He was one of the top outside linebacker prospects in the country when doctors discovered a tumor in his leg and he missed the entire 2009 season. The courage and resiliency he showed in coming back is remarkable. Unfortunately, teams can't afford to draft based on emotion and he hasn't been the same player since he's returned to the field. If he can show the same kind of range and athleticism he showed in 2008 this week, his stock will benefit.

* Texas A&M DE/OLB Von Miller: Miller played a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end role at Texas A&M and he projects best at outside linebacker. He has some experience dropping into zone coverage, but teams will want to see how well he opens his hips and matches up in man coverage drills. Miller should also wow scouts with his first-step quickness, body control and closing speed during one-on-one pass-rushing drills this week.

* Oregon State DT Stephen Paea: We don't question Paea's ability to play the run. At 6-foot-1, he has the low center of gravity to get under offensive linemen and the strength to hold his ground once he establishes position. The key for Paea will be showing he can get to the quarterback this week.

* Defensive tackles: In addition to Paea, keep an eye on Baylor's Phil Taylor and Clemson's Jarvis Jenkins when watching defensive tackles this week.