2018 Senior Bowl Preview
Known as the premiere scouting event, the Senior Bowl is the unofficial kickoff to Draft Season. Each year the top Senior Prospects make their way to Mobile Alabama to practice with NFL coaches and in front of all 32 teams scouting departments. While last year’s game featured first round picks Haason Reddick, OJ Howard, Evan Engram and Tre’Davious White along with Kareem Hunt and Cooper Kupp, the 2018 group looks to be even more impressive. Our 2018 Senior Bowl Preview takes a look at 15 players you should keep an eye on throughout the week while also providing some other names to keep a tab on.
Baker Mayfield QB Oklahoma
After a dazzling performance all season long there may not be a quarterback in this class that has risen as fast as Mayfield (#4 QB). Despite likely measuring in under 6’0 Mayfield has a strong arm and can show good timing and accuracy. However, Mayfield can struggle with inconsistent accuracy and with decision making. He is a potential top five draft pick and the Broncos requested that Mayfield be moved to the North Team so they can get a better look at him throughout the week. This is a big week for Mayfield as he could prove to NFL evaluators that he has the tools to warrant the Drew Brees and Russell Wilson comparisons he’s been getting online.
Josh Allen QB Wyoming
The most polarizing prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft is Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen (#5 QB) who has been projected to go as the number one overall pick my national draft analysts while some believe he’s undraftable. Coming to the Senior Bowl was a wis decision in my opinion as Allen will get the opportunity to shine in a practice setting with quality receivers to throw to. Allen must prove that he can improve his footwork and make better decisions. Like Mayfield, Allen will also be coached by the Broncos who may use the Senior Bowl to decide between Allen, Mayfield or a veteran quarterback.
Kemoko Turay OLB Rutgers
— Brian Johannes (@Draft_Brian) October 22, 2017
Turay bounced back from a couple of injury riddled seasons to have a solid year with 3 sacks. Turay flashed as a freshman with 7.5 sacks and with his size and agility projected to be the next good pass rushing prospect. This past season Turay was used more as an edge run defender and was rarely used to go all out towards the quarterback. Going against some of the highly ranked offensive tackles in this class Turay will get a chance to showcase his potential in one on one pass rushing drills. This could be huge for Turay in determining if he’s a day two pick or a late day three selection.
Harrison Phillips DT Stanford
After a strong 2017 season that saw him get seven sacks for the second straight year to go along with 17 tackles for loss Phillips (#10 DL) has generated some late first round buzz by plenty of national draft analysts. Phillips is a stout run defender who played the nose tackle in the Cardinal 3-4 and could use this week to show whether or not he can be more than just a run defender. If he’s able to the first round talk will be solidified, but if he shows to just be an elite run defender he’s looking at more of the second round territory.
Brian O’Neill OT Pittsburgh
While there is plenty of talent in the 2018 tackle class, there really isn’t a prospect that has established themselves as the top guy. O’Neill (#3 OT) moves well showing the ability to get quick depth in his drops while having the ability to move laterally. Combine that with his length and O’Neill has the tools to be a coveted offensive tackle. The big concern with him is strength as he lacks power in the run game while also struggling to anchor in at times or effectively guide defenders in pass protection. If O’Neill is able to hold up in one on one pass rushing drills and show good functional strength, he could see himself become a first round prospect.
Duke Dawson CB Florida
While the Senior Bowl seems to be loaded at running back, offensive tackle and quarterback, the secondary is the weak point of this game. Duke Dawson (#8 CB) is the clear top corner in this game and has an opportunity to really shine against what is also considered to be an underwhelming receiving group. Dawson is a quick twitch athlete who can change direction with quickness to stay with receivers in and out of breaks. At 5’10 he doesn’t have the best size and that will be tested in practice against Michael Gallup and in the game against the likes of DJ Chark and Marcell Ateman. If Dawson can showcase his man coverage skills and the ability to play the ball against bigger receivers than he could find moving up the cornerback board and get some first round consideration.
Others to Keep an Eye On: Jaylen Samuels RB North Carolina State, Kalen Ballage RB Arizona State, Akrum Wadley RB Iowa, Justin Jones DT North Carolina State, Wyatt Teller G Virginia Tech, Nick DeLuca LB North Dakota State, Mason Cole C Michigan, Scott Quessenberry C UCLA, Will Hernandez OG UTEP, Sean Welsh OG Iowa, Troy Fumagalli TE Wisconsin, Michael Gallup WR Colorado State
Kurt Benkert QB Virginia
While Allen and Mayfield will get most of the attention let’s not overlook Kurt Benkert (#6 QB) who could easily be that mid round sleeper that surprises us all. Benkert made his presence known with a strong performance against Miami, but this was the same guy who went to Boise and balled out against the Broncos. Benkert can show good accuracy and velocity on short to intermediate routes while also having touch on deep passes. Benkert may not have the high ceiling of other prospects he does have a high floor. The Senior Bowl could be a chance for Benkert to establish himself further and be that next third round prospect that teams look to as their developmental quarterback or top tier backup of the future.
Rashaad Penny RB San Diego State
Despite rushing for over 1,000 yards as Donnell Pumphrey’s backup there wasn’t many that knew who Penny (#9 RB) was but that all changed as he dominated 2017 with 2,248 yards and 23 touchdowns. The Senior Bowl week isn’t the most conducive for running backs as there is no tackling but that doesn’t mean this is a lost cause for him. Penny will get a chance to work on pass protection and showcase his hands in pass catching drills. Penny showed good hands at San Diego State, but didn’t get many opportunities. But Penny’s best chance to shine will be the actual Game on Saturday and he’ll have to prove he can hang with increased competition.
James Washington WR Oklahoma State
Washington (#10 WR) was one of college football’s best downfield threats with his deep speed and elite ball tracking ability. The big knock for Washington is he didn’t run many routes other than deep posts and go’s. In Mobile Washington will get the chance to work change of direction routes where he has to sink his hips and go in and out of breaks. If Washington can show the ability to get in and out of breaks with quickness his stock could shoot back up. However, he he struggles the concerns about him only having deep speed could turn him into a situational complementary type receiver.
Uchenna Nwosu OLB USC
— Brian Johannes (@Draft_Brian) September 29, 2017
With teammate Porter Gustin getting most of the attention this past summer Nwosu was looked at as more of a compliment. Instead it was Nwosu who busted out for 9.5 sacks this season. Nwosu played mainly on the edge and used strength and tenacity to get past tackles and disrupt the backfield. Nwosu will get plenty of reps both as a pass rusher but also as an off the ball linebacker to help increase his versatility and appeal to NFL teams. On tape Nwosu looks stiff and didn’t change directions quickly but will need to show that he can do more if he wants to be more than just a mid-round prospect.
Dallas Goedert TE South Dakota State
— Brian Johannes (@Draft_Brian) June 25, 2017
One of the best parts of the Senior Bowl is the Group of 5 or FCS prospects a chance compete against an increased level of competition. South Dakota State enjoyed a deep run into the FCS playoffs and Goedert (#3 TE) was a big reason why. The athletic tight end dominated the FCS level providing a big mismatch against each team. Goedert has the speed to stetch the seam while also the leaping ability to go up and win contested catches. In Mobile he will get a chance to show his blocking ability while also going against much more athletic linebackers and safeties. The top tight end prospect is up for grabs and it’s Goedert that is the only one that has this opportunity to make a mark.
Marcus Davenport DE Texas San Antonio
— Brian Johannes (@Draft_Brian) December 31, 2017
No prospect has flown up the draft boards as much as Davenport (#6 Edge) who went from relatively unknown to being mocked in the top 15 all within a couple of months. Davenport is listed at 6’7 255lbs, so it will be interesting to see his official measurements as it wouldn’t be surprised if he is listed at 6’5. Regardless of his actual height Davenport dominated Conference USA showing both power to run through offensive lineman and the burst and acceleration to chase down quarterbacks and finish with 8.5 sacks. The South doesn’t have the best tackles which should allow Davenport the chance to continue his dominance, but seeing him go against O’Neill and Okorafor during the game should be must watch.
Shaquem Griffin OLB Central Florida
There may not be as good of a story than that of Shaquem Griffin who had to have his hand amputated at age 4 because of a birth defect. That didn’t stop Griffin from developing into one of the better defensive players in all of college football. Griffen played an outside linebacker in the Knights 3-4 defense playing a variety of different roles. He’s shown the ability to rush the quarterback, stop the run and drop into coverage. Griffin has the knack for making plays forcing three fumbles this year. The Senior Bowl week will be yet another chance for Griffin to showcase his skills and will definitely win NFL teams over with his high character.
Marquis Haynes OLB Mississippi
One of the biggest losers in the whole Ole Miss scandal that saw the Rebels lose head coach Hugh Freeze and take a step back was Marquis Haynes (#4 Edge). Haynes fell off the radar despite producing at least 7 sacks for the fourth straight year. Haynes doesn’t have elite size but is a true speed ball off the edge. Because he’s 6’3 230lbs he will also get some looks as an off ball linebacker in drills. Haynes could be looking to follow the same steps as Haason Reddick who was an undersized college linebacker who thrived at the Senior Bowl and showed that he can be a true defensive chess piece.
Isaiah Wynn OG Georgia
Georgia’s run to the National Title Game allowed Wynn to really showcase his abilities on a National scale and didn’t give up a single pressure to Alabama during the game. He has the skill set to play tackle in the league but coming in at 6’2 280lbs he doesn’t have the size that most teams want out of the position. Wynn made 12 starts at guard in college, so he’s not unfamiliar with the position but will get a chance to work out at both guard and possible center during the week of practices. Being only 280lbs could be a concern too so how he does in run blocking and interior pass blocking drills against bigger defensive tackles will be something to keep an eye on.
Others to Keep an Eye On: DJ Chark WR LSU, Da’Shawn Hand DE Alabama, Marcell Ateman WR Oklahoma State, Levi Wallace CB Alabama, Joseph Noteboom OT TCU, Adam Breneman TE UMass, Andrew Brown DT Virginia