Senior Bowl preview
Saturday's Senior Bowl game is the culmination of a week of NFL prospects working hard and showing what they can do at the next level. With this year's circumstances, this week was really the only chance all of these prospects will get to meet with team executives and coaches in person before April's draft. Because of that, there is more early-round talent in this game than usual, adding more potential for players to excel.
The Miami Dolphins' coaching staff is coaching the National team in this year's game., while the Carolina Panthers' coaching staff is coaching the American team.
With Kyle Trask dropping out, third place Heisman finalist Mac Jones headlines the quarterback group. Other QB participants of note are Texas's Sam Ehlinger, Notre Dame's Ian Book and Wake Forest/Georgia's Jamie Newman. Ehlinger is likely a late round selection, but will try to show he's worthy of being picked earlier. Book has leadership traits that many teams will like and is Notre Dame's all-time winningest quarterback. He's a gifted runner as well but will need to show more passing ability this week. Jamie Newman is the wildcard. I think he has first round potential, but he needs to show improved decision making to complete the equation. In 19 games at Wake Forest, Newman threw for nearly 4000 yards with 35 touchdowns, yet also threw 16 interceptions. He also exemplified dual-threat capabilities, running for over 800 yards and 10 touchdowns. Newman was set to get a big test that could've boosted his draft stock after transferring to Georgia, but he opted out of the season due to COVID-19. He has generated some buzz this week and will need to continue to show improvements in the mental aspects of the game.
Najee Harris is clearly the top running back who has participated this week and may be the first one drafted, but don't overlook other guys at the position. Oklahoma running back Rhammondre Stephenson has had a great week. At 5'11" 227 lbs, he's shown great athleticism and versatility. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, has surprising speed and vision, and has been the best blocker at his position this week--which is something of increased importance at the pro level. Mississippi State's Kylin Hill and UNC's Michael Carter are the best receiving backs in this group, while Missouri's Larry Rountree could turn into a late round steal. Michigan's Chris Evans has also had a good week, as has Louisiana's Elijah Mitchell.
Wide receiver is an extremely deep position in this year's game. There are plenty of playmakers of each type of receiver. Need a speedy guy to break the game open? Look at Florida's Kadarius Toney, Western Michigan's Dwayne Eskridge, or UCLA's Demetric Felton. Looking for reliable slot guy? Oklahoma State's Tylan Wallace, South Carolina's Shi Smith, and South Dakota State's Cade Johnson are all good options. Wallace, specifically has been high on my list for years. Need a big guy to stretch the field and come through in the red zone? Michigan's Nico Collins, Arizona State's Frank Darby, and Wake Forest's Sage Surratt have you covered there. There are even more who I have not mention that could be good values late in the draft.
The tight end position is full of guys who i think were underused in college. Duke's Noah Grey probably had the most productive career, and SMU's Kylen Granson had a good senior season. Georgia's Trey McKitty has all the measurables you could want at the position but was not a big enough part of the offenses he has played for. The most interesting to me is Virginia's Tony Poljan. Poljan started his career as a quarterback at Central Michigan before switching to tight end prior to the 2019 season. While he is very raw and new to the position, he has the size at 6'7" and the athleticism as a former dual-threat QB to become an intriguing option for teams at the next level.
The offensive line is another deep group this year in Mobile. On the National team, Notre Dame's Rob Hainsey, North Dakota State's Dillon Radunz, Cincinnati's James Hudson, Oklahoma's Creed Humphrey and Adrian Ealy, and Northern Iowa's Spencer Brown should all be drafted within the first three rounds. Wisconsin-Whitewater's Quinn Meinerz has also had a great week and shown the ability to compete with the top players at higher competition levels. He's even planning to play the game with a broken hand. On the American team, Tennessee's Trey Smith and Alabama's Deonte Brown and Alex Leatherwood all have a chance of being drafted in the first round, while Georgia's Ben Cleveland, Iowa's Alaric Jackson, Kentucky's Drake Jackson, and Texas Tech's Jack Anderson are Day 2 prospects.
The defensive line doesn't appear as deep as recent years, but it's still a good group. Wake Forest's Carlos Basham is the headliner with great size and ability and may be a first round pick after a dominant performance this week. Pittsburgh's Patrick Jones and Rashad Weaver are also outstanding defensive end options, as is Notre Dame's Daelin Hayes a little bit later in the draft. Small school prospects Elerson Smith and Tarron Jackson have also had good weeks in one-on-one pass rushing drills. Houston's Payton Turner has also made some noise. USC's Marlon Tuipulotu and Washington's Levi Onwuzurike may be the best defensive tackles. For hybrid, pass-rushing JACK linebackers, Miami's Quincy Roche had the best week of practice, while Baylor's William Bradley-King and Penn State's Shaka Toney are also names to watch.
There are a few linebackers to watch here. LSU's Jabril Cox has shown great change of direction and coverage skills this week. Northwestern's Paddy Fisher is a great run defender and has looked more athletic than expected. You should be able to easily notice Virginia's Charles Snowden. In addition to being a talented player, his 6'7" frame will stick out. Houston's Grant Stuard is a high-motor guy who can play both linebacker and safety and will likely have a future on special teams. North Carolina's Chazz Surratt has become the prototypical profile of an NFL linebacker after starting his career as a quarterback. Ohio State has three linebackers playing in this game, and I'm also looking forward to seeing West Virginia's Tony Fields.
Minnesota's Benjamin St. Juste stood out at Thursday's practice. He's huge for a corner at 6'2", 200lbs and had a great rep against the speedy Demetric Felton to break up a pass- showing great movement for his size. Oregon's Thomas Graham has had a good week as a nickel corner, while Oklahoma State's Rodarius Williams will try to have a good showing after being injured earlier in the week. Georgia's Mark Webb and DJ Daniel and UCF's Aaron Robinson are among the other FBS corners to watch. Also, keep an eye on FCS standouts Robert Rochell (Central Arkansas) and Bryan Mills (North Carolina Central).
UCF's Richie Grant and Pitt's Damar Hamlin are the best safeties in Mobile. LSU's Jacoby Stevens is also an impressive player. and Missouri has two underappreciated safeties in Joshuah Bledsoe and Tyree Gillespie. Florida State's Hamsah Nasirildeen has tremendous size for the position at 6'4" 220 and will be on many teams; radars if he isn't already. Virginia Tech's Divine Deablo is in a similar mold.
Yes, I'm going to point out a kicker here. Miami's Jose Borregales is a fantastic kicker and does not lack the confidence. ESPN's Todd McShay said during practice on Thursday that Borregales told him he is "100% confident under 60 and over 60 is 50/50." Watching him kick, you can see why. The ball BOOMS off his foot.