The Senior Bowl is one of the biggest pre-draft events outside of the NFL Scouting Combine. 100+ prospects from around the country will gather in Mobile, Alabama next week to practice and play for an army of scouts and evaluators from all 32 teams.
While some of the top draft prospects are underclassmen or pass on the game, there is no shortage of top talent for fans watch. Two years ago saw Dak Prescott impress the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff all week and eventually be drafted by them. Last year, Kareem Hunt took home the North’s Outstanding Player award and hasn’t slowed down since.
This year is just as loaded, if not even more so than in years past. Namely, due to two of the top quarterback prospects accepting invitations. We’ll get to them in a second.
@AdamMalnati16 & I got great insight from @JeffreyEssary about the #SeniorBowl on the latest @MileHighReport Radio Podcast. Jeff discussed the prospects he's most excited to watch when he's there, & we preview the conference championship games. https://t.co/MktpOTEVyx— Ian St. Clair (@IanStClair) January 18, 2018
In less than 48 hours I’ll be jumping on a plane to Mobile, Alabama to be on the ground all week for Mile High Report, bringing you daily updates and recaps from the practices. But before that, I joined Adam Malnati and Ian St. Clair on the MHR Radio Podcast to talk about all things Senior Bowl.
While I’ll be attentive to all the prospects, here are the top ten guys I’ll have my eyes on the most while there.
UPDATE: A few of the players on my watch list have since been taken off the Senior Bowl roster as they release the final rosters on the afternoon of January 18, 2018.
UPDATE: Senior Bowl rosters will be released this afternoon. A few recent scratches and names who will NOT be on those rosters:— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 18, 2018
WR Anthony Miller
DT Maurice Hurst
LB Rashaan Evans
CB Anthony Averett
QB Mason Rudolph
Baker Mayfield - Quarterback
This one goes without saying. Denver has reportedly expressed interest in Mayfield and requested that he be on the North team they will be coaching. Baker Mayfield will be the first Heisman winner since Tim Tebow to attend the Senior Bowl, and you can bet there will be as much, if not more, buzz surrounding him.
Rightly so, in my opinion. Mayfield had one of the most prolific careers a college quarterback can have, and I believe his skills absolutely translate to the next level.
Baker Mayfield at Oklahoma vs Career FBS Records— Blinkin Riley (@blinkinriley) January 11, 2018
Mayfield - 10.62
FBS Record - 9.90
Mayfield - 11.86
FBS Record - 10.63
Mayfield - 189.39
FBS Record - 175.62
Total Yards per Play:
Mayfield - 8.95
FBS Record - 8.70
He improved every year as a passer, and was much more patient and nuanced in the pocket than he gets credit for.
Much has, and will continue to be written about Mayfield so I won’t belabor any points, except to say that I’m not near as worried about the “spread quarterback” label that a lot of folks have been throwing around.
First, we’ve seen some of the most successful offenses incorporating spread principles to make their quarterbacks comfortable, and I believe it’s the next wave of innovation for NFL offenses.
Second, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has experience incorporating spread concepts into the offense and was very successful at weaving in RPOs for Derek Carr in Oakland. He’s the perfect fit for a guy like Mayfield, and I’m not so sure it’s the drawback it once was, especially given the fact that Mayfield isn’t just throwing bubble screens all day and actually makes NFL reads and goes through progressions in Lincoln Riley’s offense.
Lastly, Elway recently talked about what it takes for quarterbacks to succeed in the NFL, and it sounded like a Baker Mayfield promotional piece.
“What gets you here is your swagger and your confidence as quarterback. You have a chance to play in the NFL and that’s what gets you here and you can’t be afraid of it.”
“It’s 50 percent the physical side of it and 50 percent mental side. The heart and finding out what they have inside, that’s the difficult part. Not only at the quarterback position, it’s about every position because it comes down to what’s inside, what’s in that heart, how bad they want it and how great they want to be. If they want to be great football players, they have a chance to be great.”
- John Elway
Josh Allen - QB
This will be a fun guy to see in person and watch his mechanics. I’m not sold on him as an NFL quarterback just yet based on what I’ve seen from him. He definitely has all the tools, but that’s all he has currently. His accuracy was erratic and poor, and he makes as many poor decisions as he does “wow” throws.
In his final season, Josh Allen scrambled on 1 out of every 10 dropbacks, and took a sack on 1 out of every 13 dropbacks.
He’s no doubt an intriguing and talented prospect, but I would pass if I’m Denver and just keep developing Paxton Lynch if they were tempted to go this route.
The Senior Bowl will be a great place for Allen to show what he’s got, and if he’s coachable, because you’re drafting a project with him.
Here is the Josh Allen GIF thread I made earlier this afternoon. Just a ridiculous talented quarterback.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) January 11, 2018
Part 2 of this GIF thread is going to come soon. https://t.co/JtM1mekXKT
Shaquem Griffin - LB
This is one of my favorite prospects of this draft and a great story to boot. Shaquem Griffin is a 6’1” 220lbs ball of explosive plays waiting to happen at the linebacker position.
At the age of 4 he underwent an amputation on his left hand, and hasn’t let that stop him from playing football at a high level. He particularly excels in coverage.
According to Pro Football Focus, he was one of their top graded coverage linebackers in 2016, and has logged 16 passes defensed, 3 interceptions, 33.5 tackles for loss, and 18.5 sacks in his three years starting for UCF.
I like him as a bit of a dime LB role for Denver and would like to see them explore adding a LB/S type player this year in the draft.
Griffin will make his living at the next level as a downhill thumper. Nice break on the ball with a clear lane into the backfield and he makes the 1-on-1 stop. pic.twitter.com/n3QImqda4T— Jonathan Valencia (@JonValencia_WiB) January 15, 2018
Maurice Hurst - DL
Hurst is one of the top defensive line prospects overall, not just at the Senior Bowl. I’m looking forward to see him shine in the 1-on-1 drills during practice.
Maurice Hurst might be an alien pic.twitter.com/J6kloWD74N— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) January 7, 2018
As an undersized defensive tackle (6’2” 282lbs) there may be concerns of his fit at the next level, but if guys like Grady Jarrett and Aaron Donald are any indication, size matters not if the guy is as explosive and talented as Hurst.
Generating interior pressure is something Denver could definitely use some help in, and Hurst is one of the best in this class at it.
Marcus Davenport - DL
There’s a lot of edge talent in this class and Davenport is one of the more intriguing guys of the group. At 6’7” 265lbs he definitely has the measurables to be a premier edge rusher and moves extremely well for his size. I think he will have a strong showing in Mobile and the Combine that will push him further up draft boards.
He’s still very raw in his technique, but he’s a guy I would love for someone like Bill Kollar and/or Von Miller to get a hold of and mold into a game wrecker.
Chukwuma Okorafor - OT
This is a guy I really like for Denver in the top of the 2nd round.
He’s ranked from some as a top 3 OT prospect, and at 6’6” 330lbs he definitely has the size you look for in a top tackle.
He can be dominant in the run game at times, and looks to have the tools to develop in pass protection. I popped on some of his tape against TJ Watt in 2016, and he struggled to contain Watt’s speed on the edge., but to me it’s as much of a technique issue as an athleticism one.
The thing I’ll be looking for from Okorafor in Mobile, and as I dig more into his tape is how much experience does he have with a vertical pass set. So far all I have seen is jump sets or 45 degree sets, which is fine if that’s what he was coached to do, but at some point you have to be able to vertical set in the passing game to make it as a tackle in the NFL.
We all know how badly Denver needs tackle talent, and if they are able to go into 2018 with two young, talented tackle prospects to groom in Bolles and Okorafor, they’re in a much better place than they have been lately.
Chukwuma Okorafor LT from Western Kentucky is going to move up draft boards tremendously after senior bowl. He’s an absolute stud. Such a powerful run blocker pic.twitter.com/EasGgh17oM— Daniel Parlegreco (@DTPDraftScout) December 20, 2017
Will Hernandez - OG
The Will Hernandez talk starting heating up around Denver circles when the Broncos hired UTEP’s head coach, Sean Kugler. Hernandez is a very solid guard prospect who I’ll be eager to see in the trenches drills, as many folks praise his pass blocking abilities as much as his run blocking.
The 6’3” 330lb two-time 2nd-team All-American would be a great addition to solidify Denver’s offensive line and compete with Connor McGovern for the open guard slot if Denver doesn’t go tackle in the second round.
Many have Hernandez ranked as the second best guard behind Quentin Nelson, and he has a chance to improve his stock even more with a strong showing this coming week.
Pro Football Focus also rated Hernandez as one of the “nation’s most elite guards” heading in to the 2017 season and was their highest graded guard in 2016.
Led by UTEP's Will Hernandez, these offensive guards had no trouble keeping pressure off their quarterback. pic.twitter.com/gL67xUcAIz— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) December 16, 2017
Skai Moore - LB/S
Moore is an interesting option for a LB/S hybrid role at 6’2” 218lbs. Draft Analyst, Jon Ledyard wrote in 2016 that Moore was a “great fit for modern NFL defenses” citing his ability in coverage. Skai also led the Gamecocks in tackles for four straight years, finishing 2017 with 93.
He’ll be another speedy coverage linebacker to keep an eye on as a potential mid-round prospect.
Kameron Kelly - CB
I’m almost positive Denver will draft a cornerback in this class, so I’ll have my eyes on the whole position group while in Mobile, but Kameron Kelly in particular is an intriguing prospect.
At 6’2” 200lbs, he’s a former safety who turned cornerback in his senior year at SDSU. I like his size and versatility he potentially brings to the back end. While I have yet to have a chance to dig into his tape, I’m interested to see how he performs in the 1-on-1 drills at the Senior Bowl.
Will a DB compete / tackle ? Top of screen- flat footed read on bubble- trusts eyes and goes ! Just checking boxes- I see you, kameron Kelly of SDSU.... pic.twitter.com/fJM4s16Eq1— Mike Mayock (@MikeMayock) December 27, 2017
Superb addition. Kameron Kelly played CB this year for SDSU and was great all year long. Versatile player who is my #5 overall safety right now. Could add a lot of versatility to a secondary at the next level. https://t.co/biUpvBAHoQ— Joshua Gleason (@JGleas) December 18, 2017
Anthony Miller - WR
Anthony Miller burst onto the scene as one of Paxton Lynch’s favorite targets during his time at Memphis.
Miller has continued to dominate ever since check out these stat lines from his last two years:
2016 - 95 receptions, 1434 yards, 14 TDs.
2017 - 96 receptions, 1462 yards, 18 TDs.
In addition to his production, he shows surprisingly good jump ball ability for his size (5’11” 190lbs), precise route running, and great speed both before and after the catch.
Anthony Miller is Jamison Crowder reincarnated. Dude catches everything and is an impressive route runner. pic.twitter.com/dopk7f46hZ— Cameron Parker (@CameronParkerPO) January 11, 2018
Denver needs wide receiver talent, and Miller could be a great addition both from the slot or on the outside.
So those are my top prospects to watch! Follow me on Twitter @JeffreyEssary for live updates from the Senior Bowl, and let me know who you want me to pay special attention to.