I’ve been able to watch a large portion of the Wednesday and Thursday practise sessions on ESPNU, plus some of Tuesday’s broadcast. However — and here’s the disclaimer — I have not had an opportunity to study every player in full. Most of my attention was focused on the offensive linemen.
The Senior Bowl will post complete practise footage at some point next week and this will include all reps. A year ago, my perspective on several players changed after watching these videos. I may well revise some of these thoughts down the line but these were my initial impressions…
Alex Leatherwood (T, Alabama)
I was a little bit underwhelmed by Leatherwood. I thought we’d see more attitude and intensity. He was angry and aggressive at Rivals in High School, drew plenty of cheers for the way he performed and looked like the definitive BAMF. Here, he looked a lot more reserved and somewhat played within himself during the 1v1 reps.
He said he was only coming to Mobile to play left tackle but unfortunately, he looked like he might be better kicking inside to guard. His feet were sluggish at times. He lost a speed/power rep to Williams Bradley-King. He was jolted into the backfield with a chest punch and while he recovered after initially losing balance, he lost the rep.
By Thursday he’d rounded into sharper form but he was beaten on his last 1v1 opportunity against a speed rush and there lies the issue. He has the size and the frame to be a good NFL lineman. Yet he’s limited athletically and his foot-speed and agility could mean his future is at guard. I came away questioning whether he deserves to be a first round pick.
Deonte Brown (G, Alabama)
Brown came into the week as one of the more overrated players in the draft. When he weighed in at 364lbs, people saw that as a positive. Twitter was buzzing. There should’ve been the opposite reaction.
He’s simply too big. This was a lumbering performance from Brown. His footwork was non-existent. Whenever he’s attacked from an angle instead of square-on he struggles. Even Marvin Wilson easily beat him on a B gap pressure. I was surprised how he struggled to anchor for his size at times.
By Wednesday and Thursday you could tell he was starting to question himself. His body language was abysmal. After reps he would lollop around, head down. The coaches were trying to get him going again but he knew it wasn’t going well and he was getting frustrated. His effort started to suffer.
He can’t move properly at this size and he needs to shift some weight. He currently weighs 30lbs more than DJ Fluker did at his combine. Brown only has 32 3/8 inch arms and that’s problematic too. He has all the worst characteristics of Fluker and none of the redeeming features such as insane length. Frankly, there are too many superior options at guard to covet Brown in this draft.
Marlon Tuipulotu (DT, USC)
He looked really good on day one. Tuipulotu flashed quickness and an effective swim move. He had good hand placement on a rep against Deonte Brown and drove him deep into the backfield.
As the week went on though, he became more of a mixed bag. On day two there were times where he was easily blocked and couldn’t disengage. He was pushing the pocket but caught in a tangle and didn’t have a free arm. His lack of arm length creates issues because he can’t press and stay clean. He had rough reps against ECU’s D’Ante Smith and Grambling State’s David Moore. When you get into his frame he can’t disconnect.
Trey Smith (G, Tennessee)
In terms of pure aesthetics, Smith looks like a first round pick. If you wanted to draw a picture of an ideal NFL guard, he would be it. Stood next to the other linemen during reps he stuck out like a sore thumb. This is what teams are looking for when it comes to physical appearance. However, this was a much more mixed week than I think the broadcasters were suggesting.
On day two he got beat on a counter by an undersized edge rusher who took a rep inside. Wyatt Hubert is 6-2, 265, with 30 inch arms and a 77 wingspan. Smith did well initially to engage but the defender threw him off balance using his left arm, then switched inside.
This is concerning. He should be overwhelming guys like that, not being tossed aside. He did overwhelm Hubert on the second rep but the damage was done. The thought was already placed in my mind — ‘if this is what happens against a short-armed edge, what happens against Aaron Donald?’
Smith also lost fairly easily to Carlos Basham on another rep, lunging and reaching for Basham’s frame. He easily swam away and burst into the backfield. Smith looked like a man without a plan. He just went after his opponent who was two moves ahead on the board.
He did well against Chauncey Golston and Cam Sample, overwhelming both. But against the bigger, athletic guys he struggled. In a two minute drill session on day three he got beat again because his hands were nowhere. No punch. No engagement. He’s flailing his arms and he’s just so easy to swim against. At times it wasn’t good at all but on the TV, Louis Riddick declared he’d ‘pitched a shutout’.
You can get into his pads too and drive him back. On other occasions though, he looked like the best guard in Mobile. The athleticism is clearly there and he can move his feet well. When he connects and lands with his hands, he finishes. He blocked to the ground and played to the whistle on numerous occasions.
He has the frame and teams are going to be extremely tempted to get him in and sort out the problems. He has the upside. I’m just not sure I’d want to be the one taking the chance unless he drops to the middle rounds — especially with his history of health problems.
Ben Cleveland (G, Georgia)
He missed practise on Wednesday and Thursday with an injury unfortunately. On day one he showed his feet and hands work together. His footwork and athleticism are better than some people make out. He’s incredibly strong. He’s enormous but carrying minimal bad weight. There’s a lot to work with here. If you want someone to go into battle with, Cleveland is that type of guy. We didn’t get a chance to see it here but against Auburn, I saw their defensive linemen ready to surrender. They were giving up against him. Too strong. Too powerful. I want some of that.
Aaron Banks (G, Notre Dame)
This wasn’t the week I necessarily expected from Banks. The most impressive thing he did was reach up to the second level in 11v11 drills on Wednesday and Thursday. He had some superb blocks working up to the linebackers. With his size, it’s not easy to operate in space like that. That’s a big positive and speaks to his upside.
However, I thought we’d see a bit more dominance square up. He gave up a pressure against Levi Onwuzurike on day one. Onwuzurike crossed his face and Banks lurched in a weak attempt at a block. He had trouble shifting his weight back to the right having set. It’s something to consider because although he anchors well — at that size you’ll give up pressures without better footwork and the ability to transfer your weight quickly.
Creed Humphrey (C, Oklahoma)
Initially he looked like a class act. His knee bend and control was impressive. He has strong hands that are connected to his feet. Yet as time went on some concerns emerged.
He needs to get his hands in the right spot off the snap. Too often he places his hands to the outside of the frame then fights to reposition inside.
Humphrey lost a rep to an Ohio State pass rusher by not landing with his hands initially, allowing the defender to keep his frame clean and wriggle through to the quarterback. It’s hard to win when your hand placement isn’t good.
He also had a terrible rep against Ta’Quon Graham where he basically just reached out his right arm to try and engage but there was no strength to the punch. He just extended his arm. Graham swiped it away and swam into the backfield.
He easily dealt with Patrick Jones two reps later — but who didn’t handle Patrick Jones? Humphrey’s short arms might knock him out of contention for Seattle and he needs to work out a better way to connect with his hands. Even so, he does a lot well and he’ll be a really solid top-50 pick.
Spencer Brown (T, Northern Iowa)
Unfortunately his footwork was all wrong. He points his outside leg and leaves open the inside counter. He needs a lot of work there. He also has a massive, 6-8 frame and it creates a huge target to punch and knock him off balance. Brown has athletic potential but he’s a major project on this evidence.
D’Ante Smith (T, East Carolina)
I thought he showed a ton of potential. He handled the big names (Basham, Roche). His footwork is light, he uses his length (35 1/4 inch arms, 85 inch wingspan) to extend to keep his frame clean but he retains balance and doesn’t overextend. He smothered Roche on a bull rush and recovered well when he didn’t win initially.
He was fun to watch and he displayed a physical edge. He’s 6-5 and 294lbs so clearly he could benefit from adding weight. Smith could be a nice developmental tackle or guard option. He didn’t practise on day three due to injury.
Quinn Meinerz (C, UWW)
Arguably the star of Mobile this year. He’s 6-3 and 320lbs with an 82 inch wingspan and 33 inch arms. He has 10 2/8 inch hands. He’s immensely strong and powerful. This was a ‘wow’ performance that could elevate him into the second round. Yes — he’s an option for the Seahawks.
For starters, those measurables are exactly what they look for. We also know they want explosive traits on the O-line. Well, this suggests to me that he would’ve delivered a really good vertical at the combine:
Heavy skill 🚀 pic.twitter.com/lFt2p5t8hh
— Quinn Meinerz (@QMeinerz) October 3, 2020
Meinerz really got after opponents. His technique at times was non-existent but he was still finding a way to win. He absolutely destroyed a couple of defenders, one of which was Levi Onwuzurike, in the running portion of an 11v11 drill.
When he’s jolted off balance he seems to straighten his back, bench press and recover. He contorts his body and just shows so much power and control. He lined up at guard and beasted Patrick Jones (again, who didn’t?) — dumping him right on his arse.
He has great feet with an easy slide, he connects and finishes. It wasn’t a perfect display and he lost a couple of reps to Onwuzurike, who used an effective swim/rip. Meinerz was left hanging on a bit. On another rep Onwuzurike threw him off after engaging contact. Still, this was against one of the top D-liners in the draft class.
Overall Meinerz combines a compact frame with power and good feet. He could slot in at center or guard but just look at his body. He was born to be a center. We know the Seahawks put a lot of faith in the Senior Bowl. A lot of their draft picks are players who performed well in Mobile. Meinerz is one to watch. He’s similar to Ali Marpet who was also a small-school guy who dominated at the Senior Bowl. He had great length, athleticism and he was explosive. Marpet was the #61 pick in 2015. It’s very possible Meinerz could be the guy at #56 (if he lasts that long).
David Moore (G, David Moore)
He showed good hand placement and is very strong. He made it difficult for defenders to disengage and brought some genuine intensity to the drills. He had a good week and there’s a lot of potential here. He only has 32 5/8 inch arms though.
Patrick Jones (DE, Pittsburgh)
Having talked him up all year, this was a total shocker. Jones was painfully disappointing. He had no pop, no quickness. He struggled in 1v1’s every day. He just offered nothing. It was one of the most underwhelming Senior Bowl performances I can recall.
At times, it was embarrassing to be brutally honest. He was on the turf constantly. He never showed any quickness to find the edge and win with speed. Whenever he engaged the tackle he’d usually be dumped on his backside. There was no strength in his hands and his lack of length (32 inch arms) showed up with opponents regularly getting into his frame. He offered no effective counter.
I had him in round one but I’m left wondering if he’s even a top-75 prospect based on this evidence.
Marvin Wilson (DT, Florida State)
He was so inconsistent. He’s very busy when he engages but takes an age to counter or disengage. He had a hilarious moment where he clubbed one of the coaches acting as the QB in 1v1’s and cracked him straight in the balls. The coach went down.
His conditioning concerns linger. He looked absolutely shot in his final rep of 1v1’s against David Moore.
If this was an opportunity to repair his plummeting stock I don’t think he took it. Much like Alex Leatherwood, he didn’t flash the same intensity and sheer quality that he showed at Rivals as a younger player.
D’Wayne Eskridge (WR, Western Michigan)
He was getting in and out of his breaks easily. He’s fluid, sudden and physical. Eskridge has a thick yet diminutive frame. He extends his hands and reaches out to pluck the football. You can’t give him a free release. Several corners couldn’t cover him and he beat Ambry Thomas. I thought he looked like the receiver with the most upside in Mobile and I think he’s a top-45 lock.
Kadarius Toney (WR, Florida)
He knows how to create subtle separation in tight coverage and he was able to win easily in some reps too. Yet he lacked concentration when catching and had three drops on Wednesday. He gets a lot of hype in the media and he’s a good player. I’m just not sure he’s quite the can’t-miss prospect some are making out.
Nico Collins (WR, Michigan)
Just a natural receiver. He has great body control. He can high point on fades and box out in the red zone. He finds ways to make the catch when covered and consistently wins contested catches. Collins also has good hands and he runs silky routes. He just lacks a second gear and isn’t that fast. That could be a problem at the next level.
Mac Jones (QB, Alabama)
Fantastic performance that will have teams thoroughly reassured. He looked at home on the field — in total command and very relaxed. He passed with accuracy and touch across the middle. Everything looked crisp. Some issues were also present too. He can’t drive the ball into tight windows in the red zone and he lacks the arm strength to threaten deep. That said, he could easily have a Matt Hasselbeck type career in the right system.
Kellen Mond (QB, Texas A&M)
Unlike Jones, Mond had no trouble in the red zone or driving the ball downfield. He had great sharpness to his throws. They were direct and to the target quickly. He has the big arm and he flicks his wrist to generate velocity with a quick release. His red zone work was excellent. He led a superb two-minute drill for a touchdown and two-point conversion on Thursday. As a second or third round pick to draft and develop, he’s a great option for a team with an ageing QB.
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