Former Blue Devils wide receiver Conner Vernon is in Mobile, Ala. this weekend to compete in the 64th annual Senior Bowl, which will be played Saturday at 4 p.m. at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on the campus of the University of South Alabama. The ACC’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards has been been one of the hot topics of conversation during Senior Bowl practices. Here is just some of what writers around the country have been saying about him:
The Raleigh News & Observer’s Laura Keeley weighed in on Vernon’s official height and weight measurements, revealing that the senior’s measurement in the Duke media guide was a little bit generous.
— Laura Keeley (@laurakeeley) January 21, 2013
CBSSports.com’s Andrew Mason, who covers the Denver Broncos, mentioned Vernon’s connection to current Bronco signal-caller and future hall-of-famer Peyton Manning.
Name to remember: Duke WR Conner Vernon (6-0.2, 193 at the weigh in). Played for longtime Manning mentor David Cutcliffe. Potential slot WR.
— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) January 21, 2013
Mason later added in his notes from Monday’s Senior Bowl practice that Vernon did not appear completely up to form.
His cuts weren’t as sharp as they could be, and at one point he was castigated by Lions wide receivers coach Tim Lappano for tipping off his changes of direction. “I don’t want to see turn signals!” barked Lappano.
Alex Dunlap, featured columnist for Bleacher Report, ranked Vernon the 16th-best player at this year’s Senior Bowl.
Conner Vernon says his best route is the dig, and he’s right. The dig is the opposite of an out route and breaks at a 90-degree angle to the inside. Vernon gets upfield with a great burst and seems comfortable fighting off the press before breaking inside on the dagger.
When he does, he goes into his cut with a deliberate initial upfield move that gets the cornerback’s hips turned incorrectly to the outside before breaking in. He has a suddenness in his change-of-direction that is an attribute most scouts believe is unteachable.
Vernon played outside at Duke, but scouts generally believe he projects best as a slot WR in the NFL. Vernon has an advanced understanding of concepts that will impress NFL teams.
CBSSports.com’s Dave Richard was less impressed, however. When asked to analyze three players whose draft stocks were trending up and three whose stocks were trending down at this year’s Senior Bowl, Richard listed Vernon as the third player trending down, but did not have much negative to say about the former Blue Devil wideout.
It was a close call between Vernon and Kansas State’s Chris Harper for the third spot, which frankly shouldn’t mean something negative. Both players were good, not great. In the case of Vernon, his best catch Wednesday was out of bounds, and on another play he dropped a pass from Tyler Wilson. He doesn’t have much speed or quickness to him, just a set of decent hands (drops aside) on a good-sized body. Harper just seems to have a little more potential.
A number of NFL draft bloggers have given Vernon positive reviews throughout the week. Here’s nepatriotsdraft.com’s Mike Loyko, who blogs about the New England Patriots, on the second day of Senior Bowl practice.
I thought Duke’s Conner Vernon showed well today. He looked quick, ran well and seperated from coverage pretty well. After seeing him live and in person I think he can be a very good slot receiver. Vernon told me his favorite route to run is the dig route and he did a lot of that today. In change of direction drills he was one of the receivers who stood out to me.
John Congemi, who writes for The Finsiders, a Miami Dolphins blog, likened Vernon to former Dolphin receiver Wes Welker, a comparison that ESPN College Football Analyst and NFL Draft Expert Mel Kiper, Jr. made when The Chronicle spoke with him last December.
He has every trait that Wes Welker possesses and didn’t drop any pass that came his way this week.
Andrew Garda, who covers the NFC North for Bleacher Report and writes for cheeseheadtv.com, a Green Bay Packers blog, gave Vernon some positive reviews following the first day of Senior Bowl practice.
The last receiver to note was Duke’s Conner Vernon.
Yes, Duke has a player in the Senior Bowl and he is worth noting.
During individual position drills, Vernon didn’t look sharp. He didn’t look bad, he just didn’t look as good as [Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan] Swope.
Then the defensive backs stepped in and Vernon woke up. Vernon made some incredible grabs, ran outstanding routes and just flat out muscled the ball away from the defenders on a consistent basis.
Of the receivers, he was the most surprising to me and the guy who got me most excited on offense.
Vernon was impressive in yesterday’s final Senior Bowl catches, making what FOX Sports Football Recruiting Analyst John Garcia, Jr. said was that catch of the day.
Jared Tokarz of whosnextfootball.com was also impressed by Vernon’s route-running ability, adding that the receiver should be on many NFL team’s draft radars.
Vernon also opened up with the Austin Chronicle’s and syndicated ESPN Radio host Alex Dunlap about some of his off-the-field hobbies.
The Duke WR Connor Vernon-great change of direction, burst outta cuts. Told me he wrote a screenplay this yr- ‘like Superbad, but in Miami’
— Alex Dunlap (@AlexDunlapNFL) January 22, 2013