NFL Draft: Senior Bowl Preview - Sleepers and Stars to Watch this Week
This season has been anything but normal and the offseason is following the same journey so far. It was recently announced the NFL Combine will essentially be cancelled, leaving many prospects without that final opportunity to impress scouts. That's where the Senior Bowl comes in. If you're not familiar, the Senior Bowl hosts a week long event annually for college all stars to showcase their skills in one-on-one drills and interact with NFL scouts and coaches. The week ends with a game played between the two teams. Without the combine, this year's Senior Bowl is more important than ever and filled with more talent than we've seen in previous years. Here are a few players to keep an eye on this week at each position:
Mac Jones - Alabama
Jones is the best QB in the Senior Bowl by far, especially since it was announced Kyle Trask will miss the game with an undisclosed injury. Jones finished third this season in Heisman voting in his first full season starting for Alabama. It'll be interesting to see how he performs in a different offensive scheme, since he was surrounded by an immense amount of talent in that Alabama offense. Jones is seen as a player that could potentially work his way into the first round discussion if he puts together an impressive performance this week.
Jamie Newman - Wake Forest/Georgia
Newman transferred from Wake Forest to Georgia this season, but then ultimately opted out before the season started. Newman had some buzz as a player that could rise into the first round with a strong season, but his opt out left everyone wondering what could've been. Newman has a strong arm and mobility many scouts will love. He's going to slide a little since he didn't play this season, but he's an intriguing developmental prospect. He's looked impressive early on in practice. We also can't forget his promising 2019 season. He was PFF's highest graded quarterback on passes 20+ yards down the field, behind just Joe Burrow.
Kellen Mond - Texas A&M
Mond has one of the strongest arms in this draft class and is a bit of a sleeper prospect. He has three full seasons as a starter in the SEC and sneaky mobility. His mechanics need work and he struggles at times with his consistency, but he's a solid quarterback to try to develop in the later rounds.
Khalil Herbert - Virginia Tech
Herbert is one of the most overlooked running backs in this class. He transferred from Kansas to Virginia Tech this season and the move payed off well, putting up 1,183 rushing yards and 8 TDs. Herbert averaged 4.74 yards after contact per attempt, tied for the most in college football among running backs with at least 100 carries. Herbert is seen as more of a day three pick, but a strong showing this week could raise his stock if he stands out amongst a strong running back group in Mobile.
Rhamondre Stevenson - Oklahoma
Stevenson stood out already this week with his measurements. Oklahoma had Stevenson listed at 246 lbs, but he weighed in at just 227 lbs in Mobile. It'll be interesting to see how it effects his stock, since he's seen more as a power back and plays with a bit more strength. Stevenson fits the mold of a player that'll probably go in the third or fourth round and surprise a lot. Even with him weighing a bit lighter than anticipated, he's a force at the position that barrels over defenders. His return transformed the Oklahoma running attack and he looks to be a future steal for someone as a potential workhorse.
Demetrick Felton - UCLA
Felton started his career at UCLA as a WR, but made the transition to running back during the 2019 season. However, Felton has been lining up as a WR quite a bit so far during position drills this week. His versatility should help his stock a ton. His skillset and size (measured in at 5'8" 189 lbs) compare closely to Charger's running back Austin Ekeler. Felton rushed for 668 yards on 132 attempts this season.
D'Wayne Eskridge - Western Michigan
Eskridge has been one of the most impressive players on the first day of Senior Bowl practices. He's a player that's rising quickly and a name to know for sure. He was literally playing cornerback last season and made the switch back to wide receiver this season. He posted over 100 receiving yards in 5 of his 6 games this season with 8 TDs, averaging 23.1 yards per reception and 14.4 yards after the catch. He has great speed and route running skills and could rise from a potential late round flier to a possible day two pick. Todd McShay has even floated the idea he could potentially rise all the way to the first round.
Sage Surratt - Wake Forest
Surratt opted out of this season and comes with a few question marks. He's extremely gifted when it comes to being physical and winning contested catches, but he's had issues creating separation at the college level. Surratt has impressed so far in Mobile, though. It'll be interesting to see if he's improved his ability to create separation during his season off.
Kadarius Toney - Florida
Toney is one of the most dynamic receivers in this draft class. His stock has already risen a lot - once seen as a day three player, now likely to go near the end of the first round. Toney finished the season strong with over 100 receiving yards and a TD in three of his last four games. He's a player that's a threat to take the ball to the house anytime he touches the ball and a fantastic offensive weapon.
Shi Smith - South Carolina
Smith has been one of the most impressive players in practice through the first two days. He's really excelled creating separation so far against a talented group of corners. The South Carolina offense struggled a bit this season, so Smith's 57 receptions for 633 yards may not seem that impressive, but the team only played 9 games and had less than 2,000 passing yards. He also has experience playing as a gunner on special teams, which ups his value quite a bit.
Hunter Long - Boston College
Long will most likely be the fourth tight end off the board come April. He had 57 receptions (most in college football among tight ends) for 685 yards (2nd among TEs) this past season. His wingspan and arm size were both the highest amongst tight ends at the Senior Bowl, too. He's really an all around balanced tight end that can block well and is a big, reliable target. He gets lost in the shuffle a bit with the amount of attention the big three tight ends in front of him get (Kyle Pitts, Pat Freiermuth, and Brevin Jordan).
Kenny Yeboah - Ole Miss
Yeboah had a breakout season this year after he transferred to Ole Miss from Temple. He recorded 27 receptions for 524 yards and 6 TDs. Yeboah really made a name for himself with his breakout game early in the season against Alabama (7 receptions, 181 yards, 2 TDs). He's a good option in the middle rounds of the draft for a team in need of a tight end that can generate yards after the catch. He averaged 9 yards after the catch, third best among tight ends.
Spencer Brown - Northern Iowa
Brown is an absolute monster size wise - 6'8", 314 lbs. He impressed with his size so far at the Senior Bowl, but has struggled a bit in one on one drills. It's to be expected a bit, since there has to be a little bit of rust without playing this season. There may be more concerns though if it continues throughout the week, as some may start to worry it's the jump in competition that's a bit too much for him. Brown's stock had been trending upwards, but a poor week could quickly halt that.
Dillon Radunz - North Dakota State
Radunz may not have the size of fellow FCS offensive lineman Spencer Brown, but he's a bit more polished when it comes to technique. Radunz has been one of the more impressive players on day one in Mobile. A solid week may land him in the first round if he continues to show he can compete with some of the best players in college football.
James Hudson II - Cincinnati
Hudson is viewed as a raw player, but didn't allow a sack all season for Cincinnati. He only has one year of experience as a full starter at left tackle, but is an intriguing name to keep an eye on in the later rounds.
Quinn Meinerz - Wisconsin-Whitewater
Meinerz is a small school player that's looked absolutely dominant throughout the first two days of practice. Patrick Jones had 9 sacks this season and 8.5 last season and Meinerz held up very well against him in practice. Definitely an underrated player to keep an eye on with some potential to rise. He played mostly guard in college and has been taking reps at center this week, too.
Levi Onwuzurike - Washington
Onwuzurike really stood out to scouts on the first day of practice. The interior defensive line class is pretty weak this season and there's a chance Onwuzurike could rise top the top of the position rankings here with a strong week in Mobile. He's pretty athletic for an interior defensive lineman and generated 31 pressures and 4 sacks last season.
Marvin Wilson - Florida State
Before the season started, Wilson was viewed as a potential top ten pick. His stock has fallen since then, but he's still a solid player. He looked explosive in one on one drills on day one and has a chance to raise his stock this week.
Hamilcar Rashed Jr - Oregon St
Rashed had a break out year in 2019 with 35 pressures and 15 sacks, but has played through injuries most of this season and his performance on the field has suffered because of it. This week will be a good opportunity to raise his stock back to the level it once was. Rashed was most likely a day two pick heading into this season. He looked solid in one on one drills against Spencer Brown.
Tarron Jackson - Coastal Carolina
Jackson has been one of the most productive pass rushers in college football over the last two seasons. He just flies a bit under the radar since he plays for a smaller school. Jackson generated 59 pressures and 9 sacks this season. The Senior Bowl will give Jackson a chance to show he can play against stronger competition and isn't just a product of playing in a weaker conference. He's viewed as a late round pick by most currently, but has the potential to rise.
Carlos Basham - Wake Forest
Basham was an absolute monster last season with 60 pressures and 11 sacks. He has the size, too, at 6'5" 285 lbs. Basham took on a lot more double teams this year after such a strong season last year. He's looked great in one on one drills so far and I think he has a real chance to climb back into the first round discussion with a strong week in Mobile. He's been bullying offensive linemen throughout the first two days of one-on-one drills.
Jabril Cox - LSU
Cox transferred to LSU this year after playing his whole career at North Dakota State. He's struggled a bit this season, but that's to be expected a little bit when you make the jump from playing in the FCS to playing in the SEC. Cox has been the most impressive linebacker in one on one drills thus far and has the chance to rise quite a bit.
Chazz Surratt - North Carolina
Surratt is an intriguing player. He's a former quarterback that converted to playing linebacker, so he's still growing a bit at the position. He's shown good ability as a blitzer, but still needs to improve in coverage and stopping the run. He's also a bit older than the average prospect (24 years old his rookie season) and his arm measurement of 30" will definitely hurt his stock a bit. There are no current starting linebackers in the NFL with arms as short as Surratt. There's a chance his stock starts to slide a bit.
DJ Daniel - Georgia
DJ Daniel is a name I expect to rise a bit this week. His 81" wingspan was the best among corners measured in Mobile. He's a disruptive, physical corner at the line of scrimmage that has flown a bit under the radar with strong depth in the secondary at Georgia. Ja'Marr Chase had just three catches for 41 yards in the conference championship game last season when facing Daniel and the Georgia defense.
Ifeatu Melifonwu - Syracuse
Melifonwu's size will certainly intrigue teams. He measured in at 6'2" 213 lbs and you just don't really see his mixture of size and athleticism at the corner position. He had 7 pass break ups, 2 TDs, and an INT this season. I could see a team falling in love with his size and potential over this week at the Senior Bowl.
Richie Grant - UCF
Grant is a player on the rise and likely to be one of the first five safeties off the board in April. He looked good in coverage on the first day of one on one drills. He has great speed at the free safety position and could see himself rising into the second round. Dane Brugler of The Athletic labelled Grant as one of his favorite players to watch throughout this draft process.
Hamsah Nasirildeen - Florida State
Nasrildeen is off to a rough start in Mobile. He's shown difficulties when asked to drop back in coverage and some are questioning whether he may need to add a little bit of weight and make the switch to playing linebacker. He's good in the box defending the run, though. Nasirildeen suffered a leg injury late in the 2019 season and only played two games in his return this season, so there still may be a bit of rust coming off. He's shown improvement on day two of practice. He's certainly someone to keep an eye on due to his familiarity lining up all over the field. When healthy, he has a chance to become a special player.