There is tons of Senior Bowl practice week coverage floating around the internet but, here are some of my thoughts on the game that was played down in Mobile. You’ve all likely heard the phrase “Gamers”, referring to players who just aren’t at their best until the lights are bright, people are in the stands and the scoreboard is recorded forever. These are the players I’d like to identify that stood out to me on Saturday’s stage.
1. Andrew Brown, iDL, Virginia:
He displayed an elite get off during the senior bowl game, consistently being the first off the ball. He also showed solid functional strength, active hands, a quality bull rush utilizing his 35-inch arms (longest of any player at this year’s Senior Bowl), and routinely created pressure on passing plays from the 3-tech position. Also, in this game, Brown lined up as a 3-4 DE when they switched to this formation, which is where he played mostly at Virginia. He is at his best when allowed to freelance from the 3-tech and attack into the backfield which was benefited in pairing with Poona Ford (true 1-tech). The pairing was mutually beneficial, displaying their best roles at the next level. He will need to improve his run support to be a 3 down player in the NFL but, is certainly going to be worth an early to mid day 3 flier from a team in need of a versatile, attacking iDL.
2. Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State:
Penny is one of my favorite prospects coming into this year’s draft and I believe he will have a rookie season similar to last years Senior Bowl RB standout, Kareem Hunt. As long as he is given the opportunity to run early and often, he will be able to take over games with his versatility to run inside, outside, power, gap or zone schemes. Penny is quoted as saying that he likes running the last 10 carries more than the first 10 carries, a trait you certainly like to see in a player who I project to be a workhorse at the next level. In addition to his versatility on the ground, he showed receiving skills on his long TD reception from Kurt Benkert in addition to having enough speed to outpace DBs. His struggles are still as a pass protector and questions on this topic were not answered during this game which is likely to drop his stock just low enough that someone gets a steal in the third round.
3. Tanner Carew, LS, Oregon:
Not often do we discuss long snapper talent at this point in the process, but he popped on tape making multiple tackles and consistently being one of the first to the ball on punts. Compounded with solid snaps, he looks to be a likely priority UDFA.
4. DJ Chark, WR, LSU:
In spite of a subpar week of practice, Chark proved the ineptitude the LSU play calling/throwing over the course of his time there, receiving co-offensive MVP and displayed deep threat ability with more than 150 yards through the air. His hands were sure, he was good off of the line and able to routinely beat press in addition to expected run block qualities coming from an SEC run-based team and speed. I still have questions about what he will do in the open field to cause missed tackles (exampled by his drag early in the third where he appeared hesitant to make a move and was tackled by a historically poor tackler) and his ability to create separation consistently but, overall he showed out. He played his way into day 2 with the added bonus of probably the best celebration skills on the field.
5. Marquis Haynes, EDGE, Ole Miss:
While many were focused on Kemoko Turay’s incredible bend or Marcus Davenport’s incredible… media coverage(?), Marquis Haynes was the EDGE prospect who caught my attention most. Haynes is an interesting prospect who seems to be one of the most “toolsy” guys in the draft. He has great speed to come off the edge and beat tackles by going around them in addition to being able to bull rush through them. This versatility will water a DL coach’s mouth. If he can be taught to rush with a plan (similar to Shaqueem Griffin’s current technique), then he will be a force off of the edge as a steal in the mid rounds. He also seems to have tight hips so, I look forward to seeing his performance at the combine.
Bonus. Alex Cappa, OL, Humboldt State:
There were a few lower division guys who had a lot to prove this week and I believe Cappa did the most to improve his draft stock. He showed the same nastiness and grit that I saw on his Humboldt State tape and proved he was physical enough to succeed at this level. My concern is that he was beaten on three pure speed rushes, once not even landing a punch. This causes me to believe that he is likely to move inside at the next level. It benefits him that the coaching staff identified this in practice and started him at guard during the game. Here he appeared right at home and was able to be an effective people mover in the run game and a wall in pass pro.