MOBILE, Ala. Despite the increased pressure from the Shrine Game, the Senior Bowl is still the top all-star game for NFL Draft prospects. With this year’s edition of the event kicking off on Tuesday, the athlete Draft experts Dane Brugler and Nick Baumgardner vetted their first impressions.
Which recruiting hopefuls made the biggest early impressions, and which ones need to bounce back for the rest of the week?
1. Down Jones’ measurements were predictably ridiculous. The two of you were in the second round of your most recent model, but could he be a huge rookie?
Dan Bruegler: Jones made impressive strides during his first season at Ohio State and not allowed a single bag. He also shut it down on the first day of Senior Bowl practices, using his rare size and width to swallow rushes. He doesn’t have very far-reaching feet, but with a wingspan of 89 1/2 inches, he compensates well and uses his aggressive hands to grab, trap and bury opponents.
Official bowl measurements #TheDraftStartsInMOBILE️ pic.twitter.com/yGR0SZcVkx
– Reese Senior Bowl (Senior Bowl) January 31, 2023
Heading into the week, Jones was the number one prospect I couldn’t wait to see in person, and I’m eager to watch how the contestants adjust to him throughout the week. While it may not be a perfect fit for every chart (some teams even have fourth grades on it), it can be bullish on a few boards. He played with an improvement in patience, balance and strike timing over the past year, and that was evident on Tuesday.
Nick Baumgardner: If it stays the rest of the week, I don’t see how it slides off at all. whether he rose This is kind of difficult.
I didn’t see Jones lose a single rep in the odds on a Tuesday morning. I also never saw him so cleanly beaten during the team’s intervals later in the day. His first game in running practice was against Andre Carter II of Army (who measured just over 6-foot-6) and Jones completely wiped him out with his frame, using a quick combo. Despite being huge, Carter had absolutely no chance.
Jones also demonstrated strong foot speed and agility in running drills, as in the movie In Ohio. He’s fast enough even at 6-8, 375 to rule out some defenders — the key word there is “some.” Which brings us to the second part of this conversation, which is whether the test Jones gets from the defensive line this week will be enough for the scouts to bump into him.
2023 NFL Mock Draft: Bears stay where they are, Raiders make big move for QB
There is stiffness in Jones’ game. It is bulky, which means it will tire easily. Sometimes, it is bent at the waist. Will his length be effective against the NFL’s most explosive cornering ends? That’s still a question for Jones, and it will likely be a question after this week as well. All that said, though, it looked great on Tuesday.
2. It’s always a bit difficult for the midfielders out of the gate (and Malik Cunningham didn’t train due to illness). Did anyone from that group stand out on the first day?
Progler: I’ve learned a lot of lessons in the dozens of years I’ve been on mobile. One of those is the quarterback’s overlooked performance on the first day of practice, and Tuesday served as a reminder of why. All five quarterbacks struggled with new coaching and new receivers. Most of them, especially TCU’s Max Duggan, struggled to be put on throws. Shepherd’s Tyson Pagent struggled to find his rhythm and be on the same page with his receivers.
However, it wasn’t all bad. I thought Bagnett threw the ball well over the middle of the field, and Houston’s Clayton Toon showed off his great positioning. But the raters hope to see progress from this group over the course of the week.
Baumgardner: Like Dane said, the first day tends to be adventurous. Desmond Reader ended up putting in a strong showing last year but could hardly seem to tie his shoes without falling over during opening exercises. that happens.
I thought Duggan settled in and made some solid throws later in the team period (as did Tune), which is where Duggan would have to impress him to make a move. He had a nice throw off the platform, after dodging pressure, for an open goal. Later, he stood in his pocket and dealt a cover strike against the heavy rush. He can make his mark by being a confident pocket QB who doesn’t fumble or save. But he still has a long way to go there.
Also: Be sure to read Dane’s story about Bagent and his father, a world-class arm wrestler. amazing.
3. Anyone else – on either side of the ball – actually hit the ground running on Tuesday? Were there any big surprises?
Baumgardner: Will McDonald IV of Iowa weighed in at 241 pounds this week. On the court, he looked terrifying (to no one’s surprise) right off the edge. He’s too gassy and flicks the ball. When he wins with his punches, he can make men 75 pounds heavier than him look foolish. Is this weight enough, though? Will we see him do any coverage going down or is this something he can add to his game? If that was the case, he might become a monster in a few years. He is an outstanding athlete.
Official bowl measurements #TheDraftStartsInMOBILE️ pic.twitter.com/iGZmw0JXi1
– Reese Senior Bowl (Senior Bowl) January 31, 2023
Maryland OT Jaylen Duncan had a really great day for the USA in a singles game. He was able to pull off an impressive win against Notre Dame’s Isaiah Foskey (who trucked back Michigan OT Ryan Hayes a few reps later) and seemed to hold up well enough at left tackle. McClendon Curtis of Chattanooga had some sweet moments early on. And Michigan quarterback Oulu Oluwatemy was able to win a lot of power on the pass, though he had some problems with pacing. It will be interesting to see if Oluwatimi works at guard all this week. He’s mostly been seen as a position-only lead, but some variety could help his stock.
Cincinnati TE Josh Weale is all about it as a blocker. He had some really impressive moments in individual drills and was intense on every shot. He still has work to do as a passing pro, so scouts will need to see more.
Dane Brugler’s NFL Mock Draft, 2.0: Which team is Bryce Young’s move on?
Progler: Wisconsin’s Keeanu Benton entered the week as the number one clear defensive tackle, and he backed that up. Nose tackle in the Badgers scheme, Benton is a bold defender, but his potential as a pass defender is intriguing. Using both speed and power, he consistently won his single reps and showed why he landed in the second round of my latest mock draft.
Michigan State’s Jaden Reed is one of the fastest players in the Senior Bowl this year and that was evident during Tuesday’s practice. He repeatedly beats verticals and creates a late difference as he tracks down the football. He clocked a GPS time of 20.03 mph during practice—the only player to exceed 20 mph on the national team—and also handled shooting return duties. Heading into the week, Reed was looking to establish himself as a second day prospect and he is off to a great start.
WR Jayden Reed showing off his speed of sight.
He also did a great job returning kicks today. pic.twitter.com/6BaAZvAFpT
– Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) February 1, 2023
Many of their backs looked great. Tulane’s Tejay Spurs had good possession of the ball and was tough cover for the two midfielders. Eric Gray from Oklahoma did a great job getting low on the ground and using rhythm to hit the hole. And Roshone Johnson from Texas did it all well. All three players are examples of the depth of this running class.
4. Whether it’s from the coaching staff or prospects, what are you most eager to see in training Wednesday and Thursday?
Baumgardner: BYU’s Blake Freeland offense can be a frustrating watch at times. He’s a good athlete and very light on his feet at 6-8, 305, but his consistency of play – whether it’s power plays or just a general style of snap to snap – leaves a lot to be desired. If you took all the offensive linemen here and made them run agility drills, Vreeland would impress you. When they line up and play, the hiccups happen. Really, Vreeland could really use a consistent proximity of the week, especially when the connection picks up.
Foskey is the player here who I think has the best chance of changing some minds. As Dane pointed out, he has a Top 50, maybe even a Top 30 if the right defensive coach falls in love with him. He’s one of the scariest players here: 6-5, 266, he can beat the edge with a hand in the dirt or play standing and covered. I think Foskey could mathematically get stuck in the stack as a linebacker, if the coaching staff taught him.
There are Micah Parsons-like traits, but we need to see him show them all the time.
– Notre Dame Football (NDFootball) January 31, 2023
Progler: I’m interested to see Cody Mauch continue working at guard, after being primarily a tackler only in college (and tight end and defensive end in high school). Everything happens faster on the inside, and this reality forced him to unbalance, at times, in the first practice. But his athleticism and instincts also helped him recover during group and individual repetitions. Mauch is the kind of competitor who will stick his nose in the playbook all night to build his guard confidence for the rest of the week.
Speaking of non-FBS prospects, I’d like to see how Princeton’s Andrei Iosivas continues to adapt to the better competition. He did a good job catching the ball, but the full-backs gave him trouble when they faced him and pressed him off the line. His playing and launching power packs are areas where Iosivas needs improvement.
Who could the Saints consider with the first-round pick they added in the Sean Payton trade?
I’m also keen to see more overpassers. It was a relatively quiet day, I thought, from a group that is perhaps the deepest on the Senior Bowl roster. McDonald, Fusky, and a few others have a chance at being a Top 50 pick, and I hope to see more positive flashes as the week goes on.
(Photo: Fasha Hunt/USA Today)