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Reese’s Senior Bowl Preview: QB’s in first three rounds

There is a consensus that a young quarterback will need to be groomed

Miami v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Reese’s Senior Bowl is the premier college football All-Star game played annually in Mobile, Alabama. It began in 1951 as a way to highlight key players who had just graduated. The game is always slotted in the weekend between the AFC/NFC Championship Games and the Super Bowl.

This year’s game is February 5 with a kickoff at 2:30pm EST broadcast on NFL Network. Wednesday and Thursday practices will be televised on ESPN2 or ESPNU with streaming on Fubo TV and Sling. Daily recaps will be available on NFL Network in the evening.

One of the elements of this game is that the game’s coaches are full NFL coaching staffs. This year it is the New York Jets and Detroit Lions. The players get some tutelage on the professional game while the chosen staffs get up close and personal with these athletes. Many a player was taken in the NFL draft by the team whose coaches headed up one of these squads.

NFL greats who have played in this game in the past are Dan Marino, Cooper Kupp, Bo Jackson, Doak Walker, Ozzie Newsome, Walter Payton, Deebo Samuel, Joe Namath, Derrick Thomas, Justin Herbert, Franco Harris, Mean Joe Greene, Von Miller, Josh Allen, Michael Strahan, Thurman Thomas, Brett Favre, Ray Nitschke, Art Monk, Russell Wilson, Sam Huff, Steve Largent, Chase Claypool and Curtis Martin, to name a few.

Another aspect in this game is the player invitee list. The Reese’s Senior Bowl just doesn’t throw darts at a board of which athletes to invite. They have a season-long process and aim high on their invitations. Every year, half of the first-round and half of the second-round played at the Reese’s Senior Bowl.

The value for players who are seeking to up their draft status is the fact that these athletes are going up against some of the best at their position. They are tested in every practice during the week. So if a certain defensive lineman was to shine, everyone in attendance realizes that he is beating some of the best offensive linemen in the country.

Many an NFL draft prospect saw his stock rise - or falter - after spending a week at the Reese’s Senior Bowl. QB Joe Flacco was projected as a low second-round pick in the 2008 contest where he lit up practice sessions and was named the game’s MVP. The Baltimore Ravens drafted him with the 18th pick in the first-round instead. LB Von Miller was projected into the late teens when he played in this All-Star classic, then saw his name called as the second overall pick in the 2011 draft after a tremendous week.

LINK: SENIOR BOWL.COM

Every NFL head coach and their team’s scouts are in attendance during the week. Often you will see a GM or even an owner at a Reese’s Senior Bowl practice. It is basically an NFL convention. Many assistant coaches are interviewed for an elevation position and hired between the morning and afternoon practices during Reese’s Senior Bowl week.

With this in mind, let’s examine some positions of needs for the Browns. Is the franchise dead set on Baker Mayfield? Would they be inclined to draft a young quarterback? This All-Star game invites six quarterbacks every year. If the Browns are so inclined to take one, there is a QB available from the Reese’s Senior Bowl in the first three rounds of this year’s draft.


Miami v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Round 1: Kenny Pickett (6’-2”, 225 pounds) - Pittsburgh

The advantage Pickett brings is that he was a three-year starter in the tough ACC. Excellent at working progressions and is a tough kid. Very good poise in the pocket with an accurate throw. Generally makes good decisions and has excellent command in the huddle. A leader. Does not get rattled under pressure and has shown improvement every year. Has a tendency to sail the ball on occasion but is equipped with a consistent release. Not the best deep ball but very good arm strength. Has average mobility but will run if called upon. As far as Pickett’s overall mechanics, there aren’t any obvious concerns - he is pretty polished. Week 1 starter if needed. 2021 First Team All-American, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner and Senior CLASS Award (2021), 2021 First Team All-ACC plus was named ACC Offensive Player of the Year last season.


Wake Forest v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Round 2: Sam Howell (6’-1”, 220 pounds) – North Carolina

Gifted athlete who threw for over 17,000 yards in high school and became a four-year starter with the Tarheels. Extremely accurate throws which is where he excels. He is also a very good runner either on scrambles or planned running plays which gives him more appeal into the pro ranks. However, his overall physical traits are just average at best. Has earned third and second team All-ACC honors and was the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2019. In his sophomore campaign he tossed for 550 yards and six touchdowns against Wake Forest. A leader. Howell has a tendency to hold onto the ball when in the Red Zone when he should get rid of it and live another down. Very tough competitiveness with a quick release which is attributed to his baseball background. Lacks pocket awareness which is where he would need to toss the ball out of bounds when pressured. Really superb mobile quarterback and has good delivery while on the run. Will need a bit of grooming but Howell would be ready to start sooner than later.


Nevada v Kansas State Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

Round 3: Carson Strong (6’-4”, 215 pounds) - Nevada

Fourth-year junior who absolutely thrives in the passing attack. Traditional pocket passer with excellent arm strength. Quick decision maker and a leader. Ball placement is usually good, but does overthrow on occasion. Played in a strictly air attack at Nevada so he is used to being in shotgun for almost every snap. Very quick release. Strong is not a good runner and will only run when flushed. He has been judicious to a fault with the football. Needs to improve his progressions a bit but has very good accuracy. Pressure in the pocket does not phase him and once released, the football speed balls from his hand. Has excellent touch as well. Strong would have to learn how to take snaps from under center for a more traditional run scheme, but in the pocket there isn’t a better quarterback. Was Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 2020 and 2021, plus was named First Team All-Mountain West the same two seasons.

Poll

Are you in favor of drafting a young QB?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Yes: Round 1
    (64 votes)
  • 41%
    Yes: Rounds 2-3
    (255 votes)
  • 24%
    Yes: Rounds 4-6
    (151 votes)
  • 23%
    No: we already have a young QB
    (143 votes)
613 votes total Vote Now