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2019 Senior Bowl: Here are the four most compelling storylines to keep an eye on

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  • 2019 Senior Bowl: Here are the four most compelling storylines to keep an eye on

    2019 Senior Bowl: Here are the four most compelling storylines to keep an eye on
    The focus in Mobile will be on the quarterbacks and a handful of defensive prospects
    By Chris Trapasso
    Jan 21, 2019 • 4 min read

    Still coming down from those ridiculous NFC and AFC championship games? Yeah, me too.

    As you're probably fully aware, essentially outside of Fourth of July week, there's always something happening on the NFL calendar, and Senior Bowl week is upon us.

    The annual all-star exhibition is an important event at the beginning of the pre-draft process relative to it consisting of three practices per team and a singular game on Saturday.

    These are the storylines to follow from Mobile, Alabama this week.

    Can any QBs generate serious buzz to catch the top underclassmen passers?
    We're not yet to February, and talk of Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins is ubiquitous. It's like the group of senior quarterbacks are invisible.

    Drew Lock, Ryan Finley, and Will Grier, your opportunity to change that awaits in Mobile. Compared to one-year starters Murray and Haskins, the seniors are grizzled veterans who enjoyed thoroughly productive careers.

    Oh, by the way, Lock's currently my QB1. His accuracy, decision-making, and pocket presence improved in his final year in Columbia, and he has the best arm of any quarterback in this class. Finley sat atop my signal-caller rankings for a large portion of the season, but antsy movements when pressure mounted along with a limited arm led to a late-season plummet. His film is, however, loaded with high-quality, pinpoint accurate tosses.

    Grier doesn't have traditional NFL size -- which is increasingly mattering less -- and a weak arm. He's coming from an Air Raid system -- which is increasingly becoming more of a luxury than a deterrent -- that greatly boosted his statistical output. At times, Grier can be amazingly patient in the pocket and methodically progress through his reads. In other instances, he panics, runs into pressure, and makes bad decisions his arm can't neutralize.

    A lot of those strengths and weaknesses apply to Duke's Daniel Jones ... but he's 6-5 and has more arm talent than Grier.

    With a strong effort in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar receivers, one -- if not more -- of these quarterbacks should be talked about in the same first-round conversation as Murray and Haskins.

    Will Nasir Adderley, Andy Isabella, and Sutton Smith prove they belong?
    Adderley and Isabella are two small-school prospects heading into Senior Bowl week with a serious amount of buzz.

    With good reason.

    Adderley's explosive, springy athleticism pops on film, whether it be on a play where he ranges from center field to break up a downfield pass or when he flies across the field to stop a runner in his tracks on an outside run play.

    He snagged nine picks over the past two seasons at Delaware and will have, essentially, his first chance to show he can play with top, NFL-caliber talent in Mobile. The on-field opportunity for Adderley provided by the Senior Bowl is what makes the event awesome.

    Speaking of that unique opportunity, Isabella, UMass' hyper-productive receiver, should scorch defensive backs in Mobile. Seriously. Despite being a white, sub-6-foot receiver, I think, for the most part, he's already shed the "Wes Welker/Julian Edelman" label. His 219-yard effort to end the season against Georgia in Athens prooobably helped there. So, in a way, he's already shown he belongs.

    Isabella needs to sustain (or build) momentum at the Senior Bowl against some of the best draft-eligible defensive backs ... not only on underneath passes out of the slot but downfield, where his blazing speed is very evident.

    Despite playing in the MAC, a conference with many alumni currently playing at a high level in the NFL, Smith needs to generate his own buzz this week.

    Potentially generously listed at 6-1 and 237 pounds, Smith tallied 29 sacks and a flat-out ridiculous 56.5 tackles for loss in the past two seasons for Northern Illinois but has a major uphill climb to earn the respect of scouts as GMs as anything more than a prospect worth a Day Three flier. He has a varied arsenal of pass-rushing moves and bends the edge with tremendous speed.

    Working over Senior Bowl offensive tackles would go a long way toward an ascension during the pre-draft process.

    Can Jaylon Ferguson perform well enough to lock himself into Round 1?
    Ferguson is probably already in the first-round conversation on many teams' boards. At 6-5 and 265 pounds with 45 sacks and 67.5 tackles for loss in his legendary four-year career at Louisiana Tech, his production is basically off the charts.

    How refined is he with his hands on the edge? And can he routinely bend it? Those are two characteristics of the league's most dominant pass-rushers.

    Ferguson won't be able to fully erase my concerns in those two areas in Mobile, but if he plays to his collegiate production during the week of practices, when he'll get a ton of one-on-one reps, and shows out in the game, he'll be trending toward a Marcus Davenport reputation.

    If neither development occurs, Ferguson could be on the fast track to landing in the second round after a productive collegiate career like Browns defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah.

    How far can Khalen Saunders move up boards?
    Football Twitter was introduced to Saunders on Jan. 16 by ESPN's Adam Schefter:

    Adam Schefter

    Time of year when small school guys get to show they can compete on the big stage. This is 320-pound, Western Illinois DT Khalen Saunders (@khalenNOTkaylen), who is heading to the Senior Bowl next week. Backflips at his size....

    11:12 AM - Jan 16, 2019
    2,154 people are talking about this
    The Western Illinois star racked up 25 tackles for loss and 14 sacks in 2017 and 2018 combined. At 6-2 and 310 pounds he has legitimate NFL defensive tackle size ... and let me tell you, his film is loaded with explosive, high-motor plays as well as, more importantly, seemingly countless reps with heavy-handed block-destroying, pass-rushing moves.

    He basically did whatever he wanted at the small-school level.

    With a strong display of his powerful and polished skill-set in Mobile, Saunders will become a name known in more and more households. If he does just that, it won't be crazy to view him as a second-round prospect in what is the most loaded defensive line class in a very long time.

Related Topics


  • Nick
    Dane Brugler’s Top 10 Senior Bowl storylines
    by Nick
    Dane Brugler’s Top 10 Senior Bowl storylines: Drew Lock vs. Daniel Jones the main attraction
    By Dane Brugler Jan 21, 2019 19

    For​ one week every January,​ the​ NFL​ invades Mobile, Ala.,​ for the annual​ Reese’s Senior​ Bowl. The​ all-star exhibition fields​ the top​​ senior college prospects for an audition in front of hundreds of NFL scouts, coaches and evaluators.

    The Senior Bowl game is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 26, at 2:30 p.m. ET at Ladd-Peebles Stadium and will be aired on NFL Network. However, it is the daily practices throughout the week that truly matter for the NFL evaluators in attendance.

    The North Team will be coached by the Oakland Raiders and the South team will be coached by the San Francisco 49ers.

    Below are 10 storylines to track during Senior Bowl week.

    10. Washington State’s Andre Dillard is the top offensive lineman in Mobile — does he live up to that high billing?
    Evaluating Washington State offensive linemen can be a difficult task with the wide splits and the quick-strike design of the offense. Nonetheless, left tackle Andre Dillard is one of the most impressive blockers I have studied on tape this fall, projecting as the top senior offensive lineman on my draft board.

    With his light feet, body flexibility and core power, Dillard is rarely beat around the corner, maintaining his balance in his movements. His lack of length is a concern, but he uses quick reflexes and a violent swipe to eliminate the reach of rushers. Dillard’s ability to process and play under control will be vital traits during practice drills.

    A strong week in Mobile could help Dillard go from a possible first-round pick to a probable first-round pick. But it won’t be easy going up against the quarterback assassins on the South squad like Old Dominion’s Oshane Ximines, who also is looking to prove why he belongs in the top-32 discussion.

    9. Premium pass rush talent ready to steal the show
    Regardless of the names on the back of the jerseys, the quarterbacks are always the main attraction at all-star games. However, the quarterback hunters off the edge like Ximines will attempt to change that this week during Senior Bowl practices.

    The NCAA’s all-time sack leader, Louisiana Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson, surpassed Terrell Suggs’ record with 45 career sacks and is looking to make it back-to-back years with a first-round Conference USA pass rusher (Marcus Davenport). It is easy to spot Ferguson on film because he is routinely the first defensive lineman out of his stance, using his quickness, motor and length to get blockers off schedule. If those traits show during practices, he will cement top-40 status in the eyes of some scouts.

    Although he is a better run defender than pass rusher right now, Boston College’s Zach Allen has the violent hands and contact balance to win off the edge. He projects as more of a base...
    -01-22-2019, 06:05 AM
  • Nick
    Senior Bowl 2019: Defenders who can enter first-round conversation if they impress
    by Nick
    Senior Bowl 2019: Defensive prospects who can enter NFL Draft first-round conversation if they impress
    Three edge-rushers and two defensive backs can move into the first-round discussion if they impress in Mobile
    By Chris Trapasso
    Jan 16, 2019 • 3 min read

    While just a week of practices that precede an exhibition all-star game, every year an assortment of draft prospects see their stocks fluctuate based on what happens on the field at the Senior Bowl.

    The annual showcase takes place in Mobile, Alabama and boasts an impressive list of early-pick alumni, including Baker Mayfield, Carson Wentz, Von Miller, and Aaron Donald.

    This article examines the defensive prospects who start the pre-draft process in the Day Two conversation yet can jump start an ascension into Round 1 with strong showings at the Senior Bowl.

    Kris Boyd, CB, Texas
    Boyd had 15 pass breakups in 2017... and followed that up with 15 more pass breakups as a senior on a feisty, relatively stingy Texas defense. At 6-foot-0 and 195 pounds, Boyd has good, not great size to play on the outside in the NFL, but he's a twitchy plant-and-drive player who's very aggressive when the ball's arriving to its intended target, as evidenced by his high pass-breakup numbers.

    The Senior Bowl will be vital for Boyd as he tries to move into the first-round tier at the position. He's not a man or zone specialist necessarily, but his sticky coverage skills and the speed at which he closes on the football will be tested in Mobile. If he thrives in coverage, knocks away some passes, and shows the same tenacity stopping the run as he did in Austin, he could be on the fast track to Round 1 status.

    Jaylon Ferguson, EDGE, Louisiana Tech
    Ferguson's production speaks for itself. He had 67.5 tackles for loss and 45 sacks in his four seasons at Louisiana Tech and has NFL defensive end size at 6-5 and 262 pounds. But his counter moves are more impressive than his initial moves off the snap, meaning it can take him extra time to get to the quarterback. Also, he's not a bendy edge-rusher despite being a good, relatively explosive athlete.

    If Ferguson can piece together a solid week in Mobile, and does it by winning his reps quickly, landing in Round 1 will not be out of the question whatsoever.

    Juan Thornhill, S, Virginia
    Thornhill made the switch to full-time safety in 2018, and it paid off. He went from 63 tackles to 98. His interception total increased from four to six, and he still defended seven passes after knocking 12 to the ground in 2017. At 6-0 and 212 pounds, Thornhill has legitimate NFL safety size and is a fluid mover too who isn't timid about flying downhill in run support. However, despite his excellent range (that comes from his acceleration and sustained speed), Thornhill has a tendency to make out-of-control tackling attempts that,...
    -01-22-2019, 03:24 PM
  • Nick
    2019 Senior Bowl Winners & Losers
    by Nick
    2019 Senior Bowl week winners and losers: Sweat, Samuel, Lock improve stock; Grier among those to struggle
    While it was a big week for some players, others failed to take advantage of a prime opportunity to impress
    By Ryan Wilson
    CBS Sports Writer 1m ago • 8 min read

    MOBILE, Ala. -- The practices are over, the general managers, scouts and coaches have left, and all that remains is Saturday's Senior Bowl game. And while the players here still have much to prove when the ball kicks off at 2:30 p.m. ET, the scouting departments of all 32 teams will pour over the hours of practice footage in the coming weeks as they formulate their draft boards.

    With that in mind, here are some of the players that did the most to help themselves this week.

    Players who improved their stock

    Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State

    It sounds like a broken record at this point in the proceedings but Sweat has been lights out from start to finish. He came into the week with gaudy college numbers -- he logged 22.5 sacks and 30 tackles for loss his last two seasons -- but the big question mark about Sweat's game was if he had the flexibility to consistently beat offensive tackles around the edge.

    Well, he answered that question and plenty of others in Mobile.

    We've had Sweat as a late first-round pick in our mock drafts dating back to October but if the next few months play out like Senior Bowl week, he'll be a top-15 selection. He's been that good.

    Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina

    We loved Samuel in 2017 when he got off to a red-hot start but a broken leg ended that season. He flashed some of that talent in 2018, when he played in 12 games but had just 62 receptions for 882 yards. Good numbers, for sure, but just not great. He can line up outside, in the slot, in the backfield, he can run the jet sweep, return kicks -- anything a coach could dream up. Samuel can run every route and he does it aggressively, but scouts have expressed concerns about his deep speed.

    Samuel, for his part, isn't worried. "Today I was smoking," he told us after Tuesday's practice, regarding his ability to blow past defensive backs in one-on-one drills. And he wasn't joking. According to the Senior Bowl, he was one of the fastest players on the field that day, hitting 21.1 mph. As it stands, Samuel is a second-round pick, but if he continues to tear up the predraft circuit -- the combine, pro days and private workouts remain -- he could work his way into the first round.

    Drew Lock, QB, Missouri

    Lock may have had the smallest hands among all the quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl but it certainly didn't affect his ability to spin it better than anyone else here. The Tigers standout got off to a slow start to his senior season, going 0-3 at one point with one touchdown and five interceptions. But over the following...
    -01-25-2019, 03:16 PM
  • Nick
    Rang: Ten bold NFL draft predictions for the 2019 Senior Bowl
    by Nick
    Ten bold NFL draft predictions for the 2019 Senior Bowl
    By Rob Rang
    1 day

    With perspective from scouting since 2001, Rang predicts small school stars, weigh-in winners and game's top draft picks

    With the football-loving world still buzzing with Sunday’s compelling (and controversial) NFL conference championship games, the attention will shift this week away from the excitement in Foxboro and Los Angeles and heartbreak in New Orleans and Kansas City to the sleepy gulf town of Mobile, Ala. for the annual Senior Bowl, the most prestigious amateur all-star game in modern sports and a mecca for scouts, media and top-rated prospects for the 2019 draft.

    Like the draft, itself, coverage of the Senior Bowl has changed greatly since my first trip there, back in 2001 – when future All-Pros LaDainian Tomlinson, Chad Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Steve Hutchinson and Kris Jenkins provided those paying attention a glimpse into the future.

    The perspective of having attended senior all-star games like that one for nearly 20 years is precisely what separates my own analysis (and that from, as a whole) from the competition.

    As such, here in descending order is my 10 Bold Predictions of what will take place over the next few days at the Senior Bowl and how it will impact the 2019 NFL draft.

    10. Duke QB Daniel Jones takes a big steps towards becoming the draft’s top QB

    Former NFL general manager Scot McCloughan told our listeners on the Instinctive Scouting Podcast that he believes Jones will answer all questions about his arm strength this week in Mobile, just as the quarterback he helped the Cleveland Browns decide on – Baker Mayfield – did last year. Jones currently ranks second on’s (and my own) board to Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins and just ahead of Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, neither of whom are participating this week.

    9. Weigh-in winners will include Wyoming’s Carl Granderson, Washington’s Kaleb McGary

    While the heavily-attended practices on Tuesday and Wednesday are the most critical element to boosting one’s stock at the Senior Bowl – even more than the game, itself – the weigh-ins provide prospects a wonderful chance at making a first impression. Many of the scouts and coaches attending the game will have not seen these players live before and measuring in well can create a buzz. Scouts out west know the twitchy long-limbed Granderson and prototypically built right tackle McGary well – and so will everyone else.

    8. Defensive line talent dominates from the get-go

    Stop me if you’ve heard this before but this year’s defensive line class is truly a remarkable collection of talent and that extends to the Senior Bowl. Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat and Boston College’s Zach Allen are legitimate first round prospects with Granderson, Iowa’s Anthony Nelson,...
    -01-22-2019, 03:25 PM
  • Nick
    2019 Senior Bowl: Offensive prospects who'll have great value later in 2019 NFL Draft
    by Nick
    2019 Senior Bowl: Offensive prospects who'll have great value later in 2019 NFL Draft
    These offensive prospects likely won't go early in the draft but will have great value when they're picked
    By Chris Trapasso
    Jan 17, 2019 • 3 min read

    The 2019 NFL Draft will feature a defensive-heavy class of prospects, and many of the top offensive players are underclassmen.

    That means this year's Senior Bowl isn't oozing with first-round picks on the offensive side of the ball. So what? How about zeroing in on some prospects who'll ultimately come with outstanding value later in the draft? Those are always fun to identify.

    Keelan Doss, WR, UC Davis
    After emerging as a budding star in 2016 with 10 receiving scores, Doss put back-to-back 110-plus catch seasons on his collegiate resume, and he topped 1,300 yards in each of the last two years.

    At 6-foot-3 and around 210 pounds, he has an athletic frame that allows him to explode off the line, quickly gain then sustain speed downfield, contort his body to make receptions on inaccurate passes, and morph into a tall running back after the ball is in his hands.

    It'll be interesting to monitor how much difficulty Doss' combination of length and athleticism gives the Senior Bowl cornerbacks next week.

    Ryquell Armstead, RB, Temple
    Armstead plays with a lot of controlled power. What I mean by that is he doesn't simply look for contact and lower his head every time he carries the football. When defenders get to him, they bounce off because he runs so hard. Armstead is a north-south back with light feet capable of delivering a quick spin move or efficient jump cut at the second level to make linebackers miss.

    He's quicker than fast but sneaks through crevasses in the line between the tackles. Armstead won't hit many 50-yard home runs, but he's a blue-collar runner with deceptive athleticism who can be a quality No. 2 ball-carrier in the NFL because of his vision, wherewithal, and twitchiness.

    Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State
    Dillard needs to get stronger. There's no doubt about that. But he probably got more pass-protection reps than any other left tackle in the country over the past three seasons playing at Washington State, and his amazing athletic gifts allow him to stay under control and extraordinarily balanced essentially every time he's asked to block on a pass play.

    He'll likely be tested the most against bull rushes, but if Dillard shows improved anchoring skills in Mobile, the Washington State star will prove his worth as a high-quality value pick in the 2019 class.

    Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington
    All Gaskin did in his four-year career with the Huskies was piece together four-straight 1,200-plus yard seasons with 57 rushing scores at a hefty 5.6 yards per pop.

    He may not hit the 200-pound threshold,...
    -01-22-2019, 03:22 PM