2017 Senior Bowl Takeaways
Quarterback play inconsistent
Davis Webb – Cal
Nate Peterman – Pittsburgh
Josh Dobbs – Tennessee
Inconsistent is a step up from the incompetent QB play witnessed at the 2017 Shrine Game. The Top 3 quarterbacks in the Senior Bowl were Davis Webb out of Cal who won offensive player of the game displaying nice touch passes and completely changed the game once coming on the field; Nate Peterman out of Pittsburgh who showed the best pocket presence and footwork and Josh Dobbs out of Tennessee who didn’t stink it up and displayed nice arm talent on certain throws in the game. Despite seeing some positives in these guys it won’t change their draft positions much as all three have fundamental flaws. Webb only looked good from the shotgun throwing to his first read, any other time it was hard to watch. Peterman made some of the worst throws in the game missing wide open receivers in the back of the end zone. Meanwhile, Dobbs was unable to put together any drives and his success came with good game planning from South head coach Hue Jackson. This game further speaks to the notion that this year’s quarterback class offers slim pickings after the “first round guys”.
Versatile running backs will have an immediate role in the NFL
Kareem Hunt – Toledo
Matt Dayes – N.C. State
Donnell Pumphrey – San Diego St.
Jamaal Williams – BYU
One of the best players on the field Saturday was Kareem Hunt, the player I was looking forward to seeing the most coming into the game. Hunt’s college tape was impressive as his versatility, balance, and ability to gain yards after contact held true all game long running for a game high 115 yards on 15 carries. I wouldn’t be surprised if he elevates himself into Day 2 of the draft. Matt Dayes had an early fumble but also showcased his elusiveness breaking some nice runs. Dayes’ versatility as a receiving back can help an NFL team sooner rather than later. Donnell Pumphrey checks in at about 170 pounds which eliminates him from an every down role but his speed and shiftiness can definitely make him a solid return man and passing down back. Last but not least you have Jamaal Williams who is an inside the tackles back who has nice feet in the hole and brings physicality at the end of his carries. There is a place on a NFL roster for all of these guys so pay attention to which teams draft these backs in April.
Lesser known wide receivers moving up the board
Zay Jones – East Carolina
Josh Reynolds – Texas A&M
Cooper Kupp – Eastern Washington
Three receivers moving up draft boards after their performance in Senior Bowl practices are Zay Jones, Josh Reynolds and Cooper Kupp. Jones had the best performance in the game while Kupp didn’t get the opportunity to showcase himself much in the contest due to inaccurate throws when targeted. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if Kupp was selected in the first round as his college tape definitely stood out to me with his masterful route running from the slot, his speed and acceleration once catching passes and his dependable hands. Kupp was the big talk through all the practices so I wouldn’t put too much stock in his 2 catch 14 yard Senior Bowl performance. Meanwhile, Jones showed that his NCAA leading 158 catches this season was no fluke nor product of the East Carolina’s system. Jones could of easily scored 4 touchdowns in this game as Peterman missed him on two wide open layups and an holding penalty negated a beautiful TD catch where he high pointed a ball over a defender. He was the best player on the field as you felt all the passes should go in his direction. Also, can’t forget about Reynolds as he was the main guy for the South team and QB Webb. Reynolds made some nice over the shoulder catches and his size and athleticism should move him up draft boards.
O.J. Howard is the class of the Tight End position
O.J. Howard – Alabama
Some believed that O.J. Howard had nothing to prove after being the most sought after tight end prospect since his freshman season at Alabama. Although he was grossly underused in college, the eye test showed a dynamic athlete with speed that can also affect the game with his premier run blocking. Well, Howard who came into last week’s Senior Bowl as the top tight end in the 2017 draft elevated his draft status to a potential Top 15 pick. He was voted the best player at the practices and also dominated the first quarter of the game eating up yardage across the middle of the field. Howard has Greg Olsen potential as a run blocker with Jimmy Graham’s ability in the passing game. He is the best tight end prospect in recent memory.
Interior offensive lineman > Tackles
Dan Feeney – Indiana
Dion Dawkins – Temple
Tyler Orlosky – West Virginia
Ethan Pocic – LSU
John Toth – Kentucky
The offensive tackles struggled mightily in the game in pass protection causing quarterbacks on both sides of the ball to make mistakes due to constant pressure off the edges. On the other hand the big guys up the middle played well and displayed effectiveness in the run and passing games. Guards Dan Feeney, Dion Dawkins and Ethan Pocic stood out during practices and the game while Centers John Toth and Tyler Orlosky surprised many with their ability to anchor the offensive line. Orlosky did not allow a sack, hit or hurry of North quarterbacks on his 23 pass blocking snaps per Pro Football Focus. Toth was effective in the run game showcasing his athleticism getting to the second level in the South’s zone blocking scheme. This builds further on the narrative that the offensive tackles are a weak position group while the interior offensive linemans can give you great value later in the draft.
South defensive lineman controlled the line of scrimmage
Montravius Adams – Auburn
Dalvin Tomlinson – Alabama
Carlos Watkins – Clemson
The interior defensive lineman for the South team imposed their strength and will in the running game throughout. Auburn’s defensive tackle Montravius Adams was the biggest standout with his stout play against the run while Dalvin Tomlinson and Carlos Watkins flashed their potential. There were some huge runs from opposing running back Kareem Hunt late in the game but the misassignment was due to undisciplined play from the linebackers. Adams and crew made some money for themselves.
Abundance of pass rushers in the 2017 NFL Draft
Derek Rivers – Youngstown State
Jordan Willis – Kansas State
Tanoh Kpassagnon – Villanova
The 2017 NFL draft will be littered with top end pass rushers going early and often in the first round. You know guys like Myles Garrett, Derek Barnett, Solomon Thomas and DeMarcus Walker but the Senior Bowl week also taught us that there is an abundance of talented pass rushers that you will find in day 2 and day 3 of the draft. Guys that stood out were the big Villanova kid Tanoh Kpassagnon who stands 6’7 280 pounds with the ability to bend the edge and get pressure, the small school standout Derek Rivers who made some of the biggest plays in the game rushing from the edge for a sack and chasing down running backs, and Jordan Willis who won The Most Outstanding Defensive Player by creating chaos for opposing QBs all game long finishing with 2 sacks and 2 force fumbles.
Haason Reddick made the most money
Haason Reddick – Temple
Temple’s defensive end Haason Reddick was the talk all week long with his versatility, instincts and athleticism. Coaches for the North team lined him up as a hand in the ground defensive end, at inside and at outside linebacker. He showed a smooth transition from being on the line of scrimmage, to playing in space, sorting through blockers and dropping into coverage. Reddick came into the Senior Bowl as a day three prospect but based on his performance is now considered a first round talent. Reddick made the most money for himself and will be on everyone’s radar at the NFL Combine. There was one play in the game where Reddick dropped back in the passing lane forcing the quarterback to take off running, Reddick then chased down the quarterback to the sidelines pushing him out of bounds. This might not of been a play that made the box score but Reddick showed many facets of his game on that memorable, single play.
Safeties to watch
Lorenzo Jerome – Saint Fancis (PA)
Obi Melifonwu – Connecticut
Looking at the safeties invited to the Senior Bowl I couldn’t identify any that would make an impact other than Justin Evans, boy was I wrong. As soon as the 6’4 220 pound UConn safety Obi Melifonwu stepped on the field he grabbed my attention. Ok he is a big boy but “what” can he play? Obi displayed he can come up and be a force in the run game, but more importantly and the reason he will make money at the next level, he has a skill set to come down and cover receivers with nice footwork and the ability to break on the football. Don’t be surprised if you hear his name called on Day 1, Day 2 at the worst. Another safety that made a name for himself is the small school standout from Saint Francis Lorenzo Jerome. All he does is make big time plays and that shouldn’t be taken lightly. After a very productive college career, James had 2 interceptions in the NFLPA All Star Game the week before and got called up to play in the Senior Bowl. At the Senior Bowl he matched his 2 interception game with another 2 and also had a big play in run support chasing down a receiver running a reverse, causing a fumble. If I was a NFL GM I would be looking closely at this kid because he makes plays!
Evaluating the plethora of corners
Desmond King – Iowa
Jourdan Lewis – Michigan
Rasul Douglas – West Virginia
Damontae Kazee – San Diego St.
This was the most loaded position group as you had the big name corners in Desmond King, Jourdan Lewis and TreDavius White, and then you had the lesser known guys Rasul Douglas and Damontae Kazee who performed above expectations and could be steals in the draft. White displays great footwork in press and sticks to receivers on breaks. Lewis will be a lovely nickel corner in the league that can move outside when asked. King is an instinctive guy who is best suited as a zone corner or safety. Douglas’ size and length is disruptive which can get him on the field quickly. Kazee’s tenacity and toughness makes him very hard to shake at the line of scrimmage.
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