The Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama is in full swing but looks dramatically different this year with the pandemic. In year’s past, writers were huddled together with NFL head coaches, scouts and an occasional GM. But now, things are grouped into sections which does not allow the up-close access as in the past.
The game will broadcast Saturday with kickoff at 2:30pm (EST) on NFL Network.
And the overall numbers of onlookers seem a bit down. Usually, players are doing their best to impress approximately 700 scouts, coaches and full media.
There are huge names in this year’s game. Three QB’s grace each roster with maybe half recognizable. Which isn’t a bad thing. Years ago, nobody knew who Russell Wilson, Carson Wentz or Josh Allen was. This year’s game features Mac Jones from National Champion Alabama, Feleipe Franks of Arkansas, Wake Forest’s Jamie Newman, Kellen Mond from Texas A&M, Texas signalcaller Sam Ehlinger, Ian Book of Notre Dame and Florida’s Kyle Trask.
And there are other huge names such as Alabama’s WR Devonte Smith and RB Najee Harris, WR Amari Rodgers from Clemson, Michigan WR Nico Collins, RB Trey Sermon of Ohio State and Florida WR Kadarius Toney. Smith is projected as a Top-10 pick in this year’s NFL draft.
Several players were impressive and some not so much. The rosters are being coached by the complete coaching staffs of the Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers.
For whatever reason, Devonte Smith did not participate in the weigh-in process which has players parade in front of coaches, media and scouts in nothing but their boxers. They are weighed accurately and then measured for height. A lot of colleges will fudge on these two numbers for their game programs, but almost naked and barefooted does not lie. He did, however, participate in the other measurements such as hand (9 3/8”), arm (31 ½”) and wingspan (78 1/2”). In person, Smith really looks light, but can play lights out.
Clemson’s Cornell Powell looked good in most routes and routinely beat several DB’s such as Oklahoma’s Tre Brown and Tyree Gillespie from Missouri. Powell’s moves are “smooth” and so far, he just gets open on most routes. Shi Smith of South Carolina had the best catch of the day when he leaped and snared an errant pass from QB Jamie Newman. Smith dove with every fiber of his being to catch the ball. This week should help his draft status if he keeps making plays like that.
Another impressive pass catcher is Josh Palmer of Tennessee. Very strong route-running who acts like he knows he is going to get the ball especially when the coverage is tight. This guy will cause problems for many a defensive back. He is definitely a sleeper in this year’s draft.
Austin Watkins, Jr. from UAB is not a name that just rolls off your tongue. He looks explosive coming out of routes, is speedy and is a bit deceptive on his routes. The UAB offense relied more on the running game, so it will be interesting to see if Watkins can keep this up or become dominated by week’s end.
Florida’s Kadarius Toney is a special player. Frank Darby of Arizona State showed several off-ball catches. Pay attention to Western Michigan’s D’Wayne Eskridge who showed excellent separation skills.
Alabama C Landon Dickerson is absolutely huge for a center. He weighed out at 326 with a height of 6’6” and 32 1/2” arms with an 81” wingspan. Not that the Browns are looking for a new center, but the man is impressive.
Dickerson’s college teammate Alex Leatherwood looked very good in the rushing drills between offensive linemen and their defensive counterparts. He regularly fended off Tulanes’ Cameron Sample or Ta’Quon Graham of Texas.
The Browns will need to get a backup offensive tackle at some point this off-season as Kendall Lamm is a free agent. Jack Anderson of Texas Tech should be available with one of the two third-round picks Cleveland own this year. He is quick for a man his size with a 40 time of 5.06. Anderson appears lean for his 6’4”, 315 frame and has good hand placement. Showed good recovery skills on the few times he was beaten off the edge.
OT Carson Green (6’6”, 315 pounds) of Texas A&M would also be a good fit for a young backup tackle. In the drills against the defensive ends, he usually had the good first step and has a long reach. That first third-round selection would fit him nicely. Cleveland had some issues with getting good play during game situations as guys like Nick Harris had a good game followed by a sub-par game. Green played some guard early on so versatility is a plus.
UAB linebacker Jordan Smith (6’6”) had a good nose for where the ball is headed, and the speed to get there. Only 220 pounds, but his best quality is speed. Showed pass rushing skills. Will need to show he has another stage of progression to his game at the next level.
North Carolina’s Chazz Surratt is every bit as advertised. He recognizes gap responsibility quickly or the need to drop back to cover the tight end. He plays very physical.
If the Browns are looking for large numbers at linebacker, look no further than Florida State’s Janarius Robinson. It wasn’t his 6’5” height nor his 266 pounds that impressed, but his measurables were off the chart. He had 11-inch hands and 35 3/8” arms. But the most impressive was his 87-inch wingspan. The tape measure just kept going and going.
South Alabama’s Riley Cole was the dominant player in every 1-on-1 drills, especially with blocking tight ends. He has a great first burst despite his meaty 242 pound frame. Most likely an inside guy.
On the surface you wouldn’t think that Miami DE Quincy Roche could man up against the beefier offensive tackles, but he had little trouble getting leverage and making the edge. Roche is just 243 pounds but can really move. Rashad Weaver of Pittsburgh was a member of an excellent pass rushing group in college and showed drive and determination. He is best known for pass rushing, but the big question this week will be how is his run stopping skills.
So far the best defensive lineman has been DT Levi Onwuzurike of Washington. This is a very strong individual (6’3”, 290 pounds) and is a bit faster into gaps than expected. He showed good body quickness. Will see if he has the motor to sustain being a three-down guy or not, but for now, these guards and centers don’t have an answer for him. He was winning handily in the 1-on-1’s.
EDGE Carlos Basham, Jr. of Wake Forest is a beast. He may begin his NFL career as a situational contributor, but will work quickly into the starting rotation. He quickly separated himself from his blocker and has a variety of moves. His physical makeup is outstanding and showed he can be very difficult to move. Will see if that remains consistent throughout the week.
Was also impressed with EDGE Elerson Smith of Northern Iowa. He measured out at 6’7” but is a very lean 245 pounds. At first glance you assume he is a tight end, but he comes off the edge with some speed. He seems to have the physical tools, but that weight may be an issue and will certainly need to add meat onto that long torso. Great lateral work and just jumps off the snap. Swim move appears to be his best method. Will need more bend off the edge also as he plays more upright.
Safety Hamsah Nasirildeen of Florida State is very long (6’4”) and rangy. Had an ACL injury in his junior season, but you cannot tell that on the practice field as he had numerous stop and starts with change of direction. Explosive bursts and showed some nice lateral agility. His size makes sense to use him in coverage of the tight end more.
Washington CB Elijah Molden moves very well and can really hug receivers. He showed good instincts and seems to be a really solid player. One thing that stood out was that he is not the fastest which is probably why he stays so close to his man. His short area quickness did stand out. Will probably be taken at the end of the first-round.
Illinois State’s Christian Uphoff is a larger-framed safety (6’2”, 195 pounds) and had some issues responding to balls thrown to the other side. Had no issues tackling or being involved around the ball and can play sideline-to-sideline. Seems to play a physical game. Would help out on special teams Day 1 and fight for a starting job. He was also used in the return game.
Impressed with CB Benjamin St-Juste of Minnesota who has some size (6’2”, 200 pounds) and plays fairly aggressive. And Thomas Graham of Oregon was very good in coverage in the 1-on-1’s.