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Scott Wright's 2018 Senior Bowl Game Report

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  • Scott Wright's 2018 Senior Bowl Game Report

    2018 Senior Bowl Game Report

    Some were surprised to see San Diego St. RB Rashaad Penny ahead of bigger names like Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in my first set of rankings for the 2018 NFL Draft. It probably makes more sense to anyone who watched Penny go for 152 all-purpose yards in the 2018 Senior Bowl, including a catch he took 73 yards for a touchdown. For his efforts Penny was named co-Most Outstanding Player for the South team with L.S.U. WR D.J. Chark.

    Up to this point Penny hasn’t received as much attention as he deserves despite rushing for 2,248 yards (7.8 avg.) and 23 touchdowns as a senior. Perhaps it’s because he played on the West Coast and most of his games started so late. Whatever the reason, this performance should bring Penny’s name to the forefront and I expect the hype to continue to build as the draft approaches. Penny needs to improve as a blocker because no coach is going to put him on the field if he’s going to get their quarterback killed, regardless of talent. With that said, Penny is a dynamic playmaker as a runner, pass catcher and return man with the prototypical size (5-11 / 224) to be an every-down workhorse at the next level. Penny is my early pick to be this years Day 2 selection who dramatically outperforms his draft slot, a la Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara.

    After a good week of practices Chark really took it up a notch for the bright lights of gameday, finishing with 5 receptions for 160 yards 1 touchdown. That’s an average of 32 yards per catch! Poor quarterback play hindered Chark during his college career in Baton Rouge and he only caught 40 balls as a senior. Chark made the most of those limited opportunities though, averaging an impressive 21.9 yards per catch. This performance is a strong indication / confirmation that there’s a lot of untapped potential with Chark and he could wind up being a better pro than college player. The buzz should only continue to grow as Chark is expected to run in the 4.4 range in pre-draft workouts at 6-2 5/8 and 196 pounds.

    Nobody entered the 2018 Senior Bowl week with more hype than U.T.S.A. DE Marcus Davenport. Unfortunately his week of practices were relatively underwhelming and many came away disappointed. The physical tools were obviously there, but the results weren’t. That started to change toward the end of the final practice on Thursday and Davenport was able to carry that momentum over to the game. Davenport was outstanding, generating consistent pressure off the edge and racking up 0.5 tackle for a loss, 0.5 sack and returning a fumble for a score.

    Whether or not Davenport will ultimately be the Top 10-15 overall pick that some have projected remains to be seen. One factor working in his favor is the drop-off at defensive end after Bradley Chubb of NC State, who is widely expected to go in the Top 3-5. At this point it would appear Davenport and Sam Hubbard of Ohio St. are jockeying to be the next guy off the board at the position, and we all know how in demand pass rushers always are on Draft Day.

    The low-end of Davenport’s range in the draft is probably Top 50, which equates to a late-first or early-to-mid second rounder. There is a lot working in Davenport’s favor though, including a standout senior campaign, the way he finished strong at the Senior Bowl, the fact that he plays a premium position and of course immense potential. When all of that is taken into consideration, the middle of the first round is now sounding as plausible as ever.

    All of the attention was on Josh Allen of Wyoming and Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma this week, but it was a quarterback out of Richmond, a FCS program, who was named Most Outstanding player of the 2018 Senior Bowl. Everyone, meet, Kyle Lauletta.

    Even die-hard draftniks barely knew who Lauletta was before he got added to the Senior Bowl roster. There were little or no expectations for Lauletta when he arrived in Mobile and he was a relative afterthought compared to the big showdown between Allen and Mayfield. Lauletta has made a name for himself now though and most teams around the league will likely be taking another look at the sleeper signal caller. Lauletta isn’t going to wow anyone with his sheer physical tools, but he has decent size at 6-2 5/8 and 217 pounds and while his arm is fringy it’s adequate. Intangibles might be the most crucial ingredient for a pro quarterback and Lauletta is going to earn high marks in that category. For example, he majored in leadership studies.

    Lauletta won’t be a perfect fit for everyone and you will probably hear the term “system quarterback” mentioned in the coming months. There may be a degree of truth to that, but beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to quarterbacks in the NFL Draft . I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some team bought into Lauletta in Mobile, AL this week.

    It’s important not to get too carried away because Lauletta profiles as a backup in the NFL. However, I do believe he’s going to be selected at some point on Day 3 and you never know what can happen in the right situation. In fact, Eric Edholm of Pro Football Weekly recently detailed Lauletta’s background and broke down why he seems to be a perfect fit for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. They did find one potential successor to Tom Brady at the Senior Bowl in 2014 with Jimmy Garoppolo, another small school standout like Lauletta. Maybe they try again since they’re in need of a new heir-apparent.