Here are my takeaways from the Senior Bowl week, starting with the players who I think stood out the most. A quick note — this is based on a study of what was available on the NFL Network Broadcast and YouTube. There’s a ton of practise reps I haven’t seen, so keep that in mind. It’s also quite difficult to evaluate linebackers and safeties at the Senior Bowl during practise, because unlike receivers vs cornerbacks and the trench 1v1’s, there’s not a translatable practise that really suits either position.
Quinyon Mitchell (CB, Toledo)
For me he was the clear star of the week. Mitchell displayed a constant X-factor in coverage — staying in the hip-pocket of receivers with natural fluidity and speed. He looked incredibly smooth in transition and his instincts when tracking the ball were top-notch. Mitchell can mix it up and be physical when he needs to be. He also has a confident swagger to his personality that most of the top cornerbacks possess. There’s just something a bit special about him and based on this evidence, don’t be shocked if he ends up going in the top-15.
Jackson Powers-Johnson (C, Oregon)
Angles, the ability to latch onto defenders quickly and be the aggressor and a strong base. JPJ showed all of these key characteristics for a center while also flashing plus athleticism, especially when he needed to recover and reset. He looked like the complete package during practise and if he tests well, will have a chance to go in the first round. He also battled a hamstring injury and only practised the first two days.
Darius Robinson (DE, Missouri)
Robinson looks the part physically with a big, thick frame and he flashed a versatile repertoire when attacking in 1v1’s. Off the edge he was able to win with power consistently, connecting and bull-rushing opponents into the pocket. There was evidence of a quick inside counter off the edge too. When they lined him up inside, he’d switch between power and excellent disengagement and a quick get-off to knife into the backfield. On every rep he was all-out in terms of effort and he looks like a player who can be very effective rushing inside and out. ‘NFL ready’ is a good way to describe him. If he tests well at the combine, he could be a first rounder.
Taliese Fuaga (T, Oregon State)
An absolute beast. I’m not sure why Tyler Guyton (who I like) has been name-checked among standout performers on different platforms and Fuaga isn’t the man getting more attention. He overwhelmed opponents in nearly every 1v1. He showed excellent footwork for a big man, a great ability to drop and set and once he latched on to an edge rusher it was over. He was just too big, too physical and too good. He will be OT1 on my new horizontal board and I don’t think he’ll get out of the top-10.
Luke McCaffrey (WR, Rice)
Watching McCaffrey run routes I kept thinking of Tyler Lockett. They have similar movement skills and quirks to get open and they’re both highly consistent and reliable. McCaffrey, as with Ladd McKonkey from Georgia, just had a knack of getting open and making the catch. While the other receivers had a few ups and downs, these two were very consistent. As second or third receivers, they could both be very productive. Roman Wilson from Michigan also stood out.
Emani Bailey (RB, TCU)
He was the real MVP in the game. Bailey is short but with a nice frame and he just looked so dynamic as a runner and receiver. On several occasions he made the first man miss to make positive gains on the ground. He finished every run and flashed an acceleration that could be really threatening if he breaks into the second level. As a receiver his routes were crisp and he showed good hands. The game went through him for the most part and as a depth piece at running back, he’s a very interesting prospect who could carve out a decent role in the NFL.
Braden Fiske (DT, Florida State)
It’s a shame he has shorter arms and a less than ideal frame because Fiske just picked up where he left off for Florida State. He’s a chaos creator inside and just finds a way to disrupt, whether that’s with power or quickness. He’s adept at knifing through gaps or bull-rushing and he’ll give all-out effort on every down. Whether he can carry on doing it at the next level is a big question but he had a good week.
Justin Eboigbe (DE, Alabama)
As with Fiske, the shorter arms are a bit of an issue but Eboigbe’s frame is otherwise prototypical. I liked him a lot at Alabama but was still surprised to see how athletic he looked in 1v1’s — winning not just with power but with speed. He’s not going to be a game-wrecker at the next level but he showed enough quickness, strength, versatility and range here to be a very useful rotational end who can move around the line.
Keith Randolph (DE, Illinois)
I thought he was surprisingly disruptive this week. He kept finding ways to get into the backfield with a mix of power and quickness. He was a good run defender in college but based on the 1v1 reps he looks like a potential fourth round 5-tech who can do a job at the next level.
Cam Hart (CB, Notre Dame)
Sticky in coverage all week and more polished than a lot of the other defenders, Hart has the size and skill to be a potential third round pick. There was a good moment in the game where he was blown-up by Cody Schrader on a run, so he came roaring back a couple of plays later with a big tackle in the backfield for a TFL on another running play. It’s very easy to imagine him competing for a starting job in the NFL.
Carlton Johnson (CB, Fresno State)
Whenever the receiver/cornerback 1v1’s took place, Johnson kept popping up and making plays. He’s undersized and had a few reps get away from him but overall he had a decent showing and did a better job than most getting a hand in there to break-up a pass, gaining position or recovering when needed.
Other names that impressed: Ben Sinnott (TE, Kansas State), Theo Johnson (TE, Penn State), Jha’Quan Jackson (WR, Tulane), Ray Davis (RB, Kentucky), Roger Rosengarten (T, Washington), Jarvis Brownlee Jr (CB, Louisville)
Thoughts on the quarterbacks
I’ve read and heard a lot about certain quarterbacks performing well in Mobile but the truth is, nobody really shone. I thought it was a mostly underwhelming week. Too many passes from the group were off target in 1v1’s which should be food and drink. We didn’t see any big flashes from Michael Penix Jr with his great arm. The most impressive physical feat was Bo Nix throwing +60 yards downfield on a flea-flicker during the game. It just all felt a bit average.
Spencer Rattler barely played in the game but seemed to win MVP for one decent touchdown throw. Overall I thought he did show some positives and he was just a bit sharper and more decisive than the rest. He didn’t do anything to massively elevate his stock though. He also looked small on the field compared to Penix Jr and Nix. Of the three, Nix fits the ‘prototype’ mould the best.
It’s going to be an unpredictable draft at the position once the top-three go off the board. Penix Jr could easily go in the first round or last into round three. I feel the same way about Rattler. Nix is a day two pick who might convince someone to take him earlier. J.J. McCarthy is a third rounder on my horizontal board but everyone says he’s going in round one. Trying to guess where they all land is going to be tricky and I’d say no real clarity was provided in Mobile.
Players who struggled
Kalen King (CB, Penn State)
All week he just played in first gear. He was consistently beat on routes, showed almost no physicality to disrupt routes, he didn’t seem that interested in playing the ball and he got beat badly at times too. It was a horrible week for an overrated player. I’ve dropped him into day three on the board.
Tez Walker (WR, North Carolina)
He’s a tease. You saw little flashes where he bursts into a break and separates with natural ease. He made difficult catches look easy at times. You saw flashes of natural talent. Then you’d also see him run a lazy route, show horrible catching technique, drop a pass, not track the ball properly. How easy is it going to be to bring all the good things together at the next level?
LaDarius Henderson (T, Michigan)
I was really keen to see him play because he was solid if unspectacular at Michigan. Yet here he struggled, showing very little resistance against speed or power and looking highly uncomfortable. A big disappointment.
Patrick Paul (T, Houston)
Paul is enormous and looks the part but my word his technique is shocking. Consistently he stretched out his arms and exposed his chest in blocking drills, allowing opponents to get into his frame. He did nothing to rectify it all week and it’s clearly a bad habit he’s developed. He’ll need a complete technique re-work at the next level or he’ll be a liability.