In just two days I will have my feet, ears, but most importantly my eyes on the ground in Mobile, Alabama for the 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl. This will be my first year in attendance covering the Senior Bowl and in my honest opinion it’s the best one yet.
The north and south team rosters were released on Friday, you can view them here:
Both rosters this year are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. Today, I want to break down some of my favorite players who will be practicing and playing at the Senior Bowl next week. Unfortunately, some really good players dropped out at the last minute. While that is normal, you hate to see that much talent take themselves out of an important game. This list of guys who took themselves out of the Senior Bowl this week due to injury or other reasons is listed below.
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) January 19, 2018
While it’s unfortunate these guys won’t be present in Mobile, there is still tons of talent that will be participating. Let’s talk about some of the guys I am most intrigued by!
This group of quarterbacks is one of the stronger groups Mobile has had in some time. Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Mike White, Kyle Lauletta, and Kurt Benkert are all draft-able QB’s with extremely intriguing traits. We all know Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen are first-round talents with plenty of tools that scream franchise quarterback. Western Kentucky’s Mike White and University of Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta are two guys who aren’t receiving the love they should be. Both White and Lauletta played in pro-style offenses at their respected schools, they both have experience in playing under center, in the shotgun, and even in the pistol formation.
White spent two seasons at Western Kentucky after transferring from the University of South Florida after his Sophomore campaign. In those two seasons combined, White threw for 8,540 yards, 63 touchdowns with just 15 interceptions, and a combined quarterback rating of 161.1.
Lauletta, while playing at a smaller school in U of R, was extremely productive against other FCS competition. While the former Richmond quarterback’s numbers weren’t quite as impressive as White’s he did extremely well in the offense they were running leading the Spiders to three consecutive winning seasons.
This running back class isn’t overly impressive, but there are a few guys who I’m excited about. Iowa’s Akrum Wadley and San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny are the two top dogs who will be in Mobile. Both guys are completely different backs but share similar strengths and weaknesses.
Akrum Wadley is a quick twitch speed guy who is extremely elusive in the open field and can do damage as a receiver out of the backfield as well. Wadley is practically impossible to bring down one-on-one and breaks more tackles than you’d think for a 5-foot-11, 191 lbs back. Wadley struggled plenty in pass protection and had a big fumbling issue that will leave teams with a lot of questions about his ball security.
San Diego State’s RB Rashaad Penny is an extremely powerful back who does his damage between the tackles but has the speed and explosiveness to make the big run along the outside as well. Penny as a true runner is a top five back in this class, but also has a lot of questions regarding his ability to pick up blitzes and catching the ball out of the backfield. If Penny can answer those questions next week at the Senior Bowl, we may be looking at a top-five running back when it’s all said an done.
The Senior Bowl will only have two fullbacks on display after moving North Carolina State’s Jaylen Samuels to the running back group. San Diego State’s Nick Bawden and Oklahoma’s Dimitri Flowers are the two guys who will look to build their draft stock with a good week in Mobile.
Bawden is more of a traditional fullback who was primarily a lead blocker for SDSU RB Rashaad Penny. Bawden is an extremely physical fullback who has no problem putting his hat on multiple bodies when lead blocking. Flowers, on the other hand, does more as a runner and a receiver than Bawden, but isn’t quite as good as a lead blocker. Both guys will have plenty of opportunities to put their skill-sets on display in practices and the game.
This WR group is one of my favorites, even with Anthony Miller dropping out due to injury. The Oklahoma State duo of James Washington and Marcell Ateman hold a lot of the star power, but Colorado State’s Michael Gallup, along with the new additions of Penn State’s DeSeason Hamilton, Kansas State’s Byron Pringle, and Central Florida’s Tre’Quan Smith are some underrated guys who I think will make themselves a lot of money this week. Outside of these guys, I’m excited to see Iowa State’s Allen Lazard, LSU’s D.J. Chark, and New Mexico State’s Jaleel Scott who posses elite size at the position.
Another really deep position that will be on display all week in Mobile is the tight ends. Six of my top ten guys will be present this week in Alabama. South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert has officially taken over as my TE1 and I can’t wait to see how he performs against a little bit tougher competition.
Along with Goedert, Central Michigan’s Tyler Conklin, Penn State’s Mike Gesicki, and UMASS’ Adam Breneman are also extremely talented who will likely hear their names called on day two of draft weekend in April. Along with these guys listed above, Wisconsin’s Troy Fumagalli and Indiana’s Ian Thomas are two guys I’m also interested and seeing next week. Fumagalli is more of a complete TE who has experience in blocking and catching the ball downfield. Thomas on the other hand will need to prove his ability to block but should have no problem as a receiver and winning one-on-one matchups.
The Senior OT class is on par or not quite as talented as the 2017 draft class. This group may not have as much top-heavy talent, but the depth is something that deserves attention. Humboldt State’s Alex Cappa absolutely dominated Division II competition and has a chance this week to prove himself against stiffer competition.
Stony Brook’s Timon Parris and Oregon’s Tyrell Crosby are two other guys I think will leave Mobile with a lot of buzz surrounding their name’s. Crosby is a mean guy who plays with an amazing amount of strength and is plenty athletic for 320 lbs. Same goes for Timon Parris who also sits at 320 lbs, and is extremely athletic for his size.
Interior Offensive Line
This interior offensive line group is one of the best Mobile has ever seen. UTEP’s Will Hernandez, Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn, and Virginia Tech’s Wyatt Teller are the three known guys who will lead the guards as far as talent goes in Mobile. The guy I’m most interested to see is Appalachian State’s Colby Gossett. In the little film I’ve watched, Gossett was really good, I’m interested to see how the former Appalachian State Mountaineer handles himself against college football’s best senior interior defensive lineman.
As far as the centers go, four of the guys who will be attending the Senior Bowl, are in my top seven centers. UCLA’s Scott Quessenberry, Alabama’s Bradley Bozeman, and Michigan’s Mason Cole are all very talented players who were extremely successful in their college careers and look to have big weeks in front of all the NFL scouts.
The DL group took a big hit when Michigan’s Maurice Hurst and Florida State’s Derrick Nnadi decided to drop out of the game earlier this week. However, even with Hurst and Nnadi dropping out, the group still has top talent in Stanford’s Harrison Phillips, and the N.C. State duo of B.J. Hill and Justin Jones.
Phil Savage did do a really good job of filling Maurice Hurst and Derrick Nnadi’s absence with the addition of Texas’ Poona Ford who is a very similar player to Nnadi. An underrated guy who could make himself some money this week is Fort Hays State’s Nathan Shepherd who had tons of success at the Division II level. Shepherd fits all the size requirements to be a successful three-technique in the NFL. We will see if he’s athletic and explosiveness enough to win as a pass rusher on the interior.
Along with DT, the edge group took a hit when Boston College’s Harold Landry decided not to play in next week’s bowl game. The whispers going around are that Landry still isn’t 100% healthy and doesn’t want to risk any further injury. Another drop that hurt the position was Wake Forest’s Duke Ejiofor. Disappointing as Ejiofor had a really had a good opportunity to make some noise and build up his resume.
There still is talent at the position though. UTSA’s Marcus Davenport is a first round talent that has elite size and elite traits. Davenport is still learning how to rush the passer, but his size and athleticism will land him somewhere in the first round. Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is also very intriguing. Initially, the Senior Bowl has Okoronkwo listed as an inside linebacker but moved him to the defensive end group shortly after. Alabama’s Da’Shawn Hand also had a successful career at Alabama and will look to provide some good answers to some of his off the field questions.
Like the last two positions I mentioned above, the linebacker position took a big hit when Alabama’s Rashaan Evans took himself out of the Senior Bowl. An underrated drop out was South Carolina’s Skai Moore who had an opportunity to help his stock with a good week in Mobile.
None of the linebackers in Mobile are guys I see going in the first round, but I do like Virginia’s Micah Kiser as a two-down middle linebacker in his rookie year until he can develop some coverage skills.
Another guy I’m extremely excited to see in Mobile is UCF’s Shaquem Griffin. Griffin is an undersized outside linebacker who has great instincts and excellent sideline to sideline speed that allows him to cover the entire field. Griffin will have plenty of questions about his disability that he has dealt with since he was four years old. If you are unfamiliar, the UCF LB does not have a left hand after he was born with a defect and had it amputated. While that is an unfortunate thing to happen to Shaquem, he showed in his two seasons at UCF that he has adapted to the disability and has had no problems making plays.
The two big names who will be at Mobile next week are Alabama’s Levi Wallace and Florida’s Duke Dawson. Outside of those two guys, the group is filled with smaller school guys, but those two are extremely talented. Weber State’s Taron Johnson, Southern’s Danny Johnson, Jacksonville State’s Siran Neal, and Georgia State’s Chandon Sullivan are all players I am big fans of.
Taron Johnson had some of the most dominant film I’ve studied in 2018 at the FCS level. Chandon Sullivan is also a name you need to get familiar with because he will be talked about a lot more after next week. Both Johnson and Sullivan are extremely sticky in coverage and have great ball skills for small school guys.
While there is no true centerfield type of safety in Mobile next week, there are some of the best box guys in this draft class. Penn State’s Marcus Allen is a guy I’m a huge fan of. The box safety/strong safety isn’t a position that holds a ton of value in today’s NFL, but if you get a good one they are an important piece of a successful defense. Allen is a hard-hitting safety that leaves receivers with fear in their hearts when coming across the middle of the field.
Some other guys I’m excited to see next week are Texas A&M’s Armani Watts, West Virginia’s Kyzir White, and South Alabama’s Jeremy Reaves. While Watts fits in as a traditional box safety role, both White and Reaves have the range to play free safety, so I’m hoping to see them both showcase that skill-set in practices and the game next weekend.
Even after all the players taking themselves out of the 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl, this years game will be filled with talent. I have more than ten players in my top 60 who will be in attendance in Mobile this week to showcase their skills in front of all 32 teams. There will be plenty of players who will upgrade their draft stock next week and plenty of guys who may hurt their stock, but all that is certain is I have plenty of work to do next week, it’s something I’ve been looking forward to for some time.
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