The Senior Bowl not only signals the official start to NFL draft season, but also serves as the first springboard for prospects to work their way up the draft hierarchy. Last year, we saw receivers Michael Wilson, Tank Dell, and Jayden Reed massively boost their stock. Offensive linemen like Matthew Bergeron and Darnell Wright generated tons of buzz, pushing them up teams’ boards. And defenders like tackle Keeanu Benton and safety Sydney Brown, among others, made themselves money with strong showings at practice. We’re sure to see a similar effect for this year’s Senior Bowl standouts.
After spending the week watching practices in Mobile, Alabama, and reviewing tape, I came away very impressed with a few players on both sides of the ball. Starting with the quarterbacks, let’s take a look at the NFL draft prospects who helped themselves at the Senior Bowl.
It’s not easy for a quarterback to shine at the Senior Bowl. Generally speaking, they are forced to drink from an information fire hose, learning new terminology, new plays, and new teammates’ names on the fly; there’s a pronounced lack of chemistry and familiarity with their pass catchers most of the time, and trying to throw with anticipation and timing is always a massive challenge. In reality, the quarterbacks who boost their stock the most during Senior Bowl week do so in interviews with NFL teams. Whether it’s by showing maturity, leadership, and the ability to learn quickly, or by proving their whiteboard knowledge, the interpersonal off-field stuff is often more important than what happens on the field.
The reason I start with that little prelude is that the two biggest-ticket quarterbacks at this year’s Senior Bowls left practice onlookers pretty underwhelmed. That’s not to say that National team quarterbacks Bo Nix (Oregon) and Michael Penix Jr. (Washington) were bad. Both had their moments in team drills and red zone sessions, and Penix in particular had a few impressive throws, including one off a bootleg rollout and another on the move. The former Husky was voted top QB of the National squad by his defensive teammates. But neither quarterback seemed to separate themselves with pure on-field performances.
On the American team, South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler led the way, shaking off a very rough first day of practice to finish the week strong. Rattler measured in at just 6 feet even, but rocked a well-built, muscular frame and weighed in at an impressive 219 pounds. That bulk will help his cause. He also flashed high-end arm strength and velocity during the week, ripping passes downfield while showing the ability to put it where only his receiver can get it. Rattler threw a perfectly placed deep-ball touchdown to Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint in the game, too.
Tennessee’s Joe Milton III had an up-and-down week of practice and struggled at times with accuracy, but that was the expectation for him coming in. Another expectation was that he’d show off his elite arm strength, and he did a lot of that. Scouts and evaluators always talk about how much of a difference it makes to see quarterbacks actually throw the ball in person, and Milton’s massive frame (6-foot-5, 235 pounds) and absolute cannon for an arm were sure to have impressed decision-makers in Mobile this week. His traits will get him drafted as a developmental backup at some point on day two or day three.
There probably won’t be a first-round running back in this draft, and my current top-ranked players at the position (Florida State’s Trey Benson and Texas’s Jonathon Brooks) were not in Mobile this week. But I think there’s going to be a handful of running backs that go off the board at some point in the top 100 that will contribute to their new teams early on.
One of those guys, and one of the most impressive backs this week, is Kentucky’s Ray Davis. The former Wildcats star (who also played for Vanderbilt and Temple in his five-year college career) is built like a beer keg at 5-foot-8, 220 pounds, and showed toughness and versatility in practices. He runs with a low center of gravity (as you’d expect) and good balance, giving him the ability to sneak through the line and explode to daylight at the second level. Davis showed some ability in the passing game too, running crisp routes and making difficult catches—including a one-handed grab in one-on-one drills.
USC’s MarShawn Lloyd was another big standout at practice. The 5-9, 217-pound back showed off quick footwork and a nifty jump cut, running from a low, balanced base with some surprising juice.
Fans are going to LOVE Marshawn Lloyd when he gets drafted to thier team. Wish SC gave him the rock more.— Trojan Football fan (@TrojanFBx) January 31, 2024
Don’t sleep on MarShawn!
Lloyd is an elusive back who averaged 3.97 yards after contact per attempt in 2023 (20th among backs with at least 100 carries), finishing third out of 157 qualifying backs in PFF’s elusive rating (177.0). He was also effective catching passes at Senior Bowl practice, answering some question marks about that part of his game after he reeled in just 13 catches last season.
New Hampshire running back Dylan Laube was another surprise star in Mobile. The small-schooler has a rock solid and compact build at 5-9 and plays with explosive burst and extremely quick feet. Think Austin Ekeler lite; Laube was the only player in college football with over 1,000 rushing yards and 100 catches combined in the past two seasons and showed off incredible versatility all week, even tracking a pass downfield on a deep shot in one-on-ones.
Laube, who caught 68 passes for 699 yards and seven scores last season to go with 749 yards and nine scores rushing, has a chance to get drafted—and would be a nice addition to a team that’s looking for a change-of-pace or pass-catching back.
If there was a unanimous star of the week at receiver, it was Michigan’s Roman Wilson. The 5-10, 186-pound pass catcher was consistently open for the National team, showing explosive burst, quick feet, and sudden change-of-direction skills. His big highlight was a ridiculous one-hander in a one-on-one drill against cornerback Quinyon Mitchell (who was a star in his own right this week).
NASTY one handed grab Roman Wilson pic.twitter.com/x0dfppTPUv— Anthony Cover 1 (@Pro__Ant) January 31, 2024
Wilson, who came into the week with a little bit of buzz, probably lacks the size and overall statistical profile to sneak into the first round come April. But he does look to have solidified himself as a day two pick with his consistently outstanding performance in Mobile. The speedster caught 48 passes for 789 yards and 12 touchdowns for the national champions last season—and it won’t be too surprising if the Jim Harbaugh–led Chargers have their eye on him in the second or third round.
Georgia’s Ladd McConkey is another likely day two receiver who had a good week. The 5-11, 187-pound pass catcher showcased incredible short-area quickness and rare stop-start acceleration, both as a route runner and yards-after-the-catch creator. McConkey can play all over the formation, separates well, and catches everything.
Ladd McConkey's Red Zone 1-on-1's were comedy— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) February 1, 2024
Florida’s Ricky Pearsall did a lot of separating in practice last week, too. He brings good size (6-1, 193 pounds) and shows excellent balance and body control. He’s quick with his footwork and knows how to vary his route tempo to get corners out of position. He can go up high for the ball, and while it didn’t happen this week—he made one of the most ridiculous catches I’ve ever seen against Charlotte in September.
This isn’t a great class for tight ends (outside of Georgia’s Brock Bowers), but a trio of players stood out to me in Mobile. Kansas State’s Ben Sinnott consistently made plays, displaying toughness at the catch point and a little bit of run-after-the-catch ability. Florida State’s Jaheim Bell is more of an H-back type at 6-2 and 244 pounds, but he caught the ball well and can line up all over the formation. TCU’s Jared Wiley, who was named the top tight end on the American team by his defensive teammates, also flashed. He brings a massive frame (measuring 6-6, 253 pounds) with smooth athleticism and strong hands. He’s got a big catch radius and made a nice one-handed snag in one-on-ones.
There were almost too many exciting offensive linemen to keep track of in Mobile. So let’s just run through the list of guys that flashed for me consistently. Oregon center Jackson Powers-Johnson was one of the stars of the first two days (he injured his hamstring and didn’t practice on Thursday). Weighing in at a robust 334 pounds and standing 6-3, Powers-Johnson rocks a SpongeBob SquarePants-shaped frame and plays with a mean streak. He’s got great balance and quick feet, and is capable of handling power or getting out on the move. He vaulted himself into the first-round discussion.
Oklahoma’s Tyler Guyton drew rave reviews all week for his combination of size, strength, and athleticism. He seems destined to be a mid-first-rounder, at worst. Oregon State tackle Taliese Fuaga performed well out there too, solidifying himself as a lock for day one. I was impressed with the length and light feet displayed by BYU tackle Kingsley Suamataia, who uses his hands well to grapple with oncoming rushers. And Washington tackle Roger Rosengarten more than held his own, showing extremely smooth movement skills to go with effective hand use to keep pass rushers off his frame. He lacks power at the point of attack but his light feet and flexibility on the edge should make him a very intriguing day two pick.
Every Roger Rosengarten 1-on-1 from the Senior Bowl. One of the best OL this week pic.twitter.com/Xk8cyqtC72— James Foster (@NoFlagsFilm) February 2, 2024
Connecticut interior lineman Christian Haynes impressed as well, lining up both at guard and center. He showed good strength and an ability to re-gather and re-establish his anchor to stop opponents in their tracks. He used vice-grip hands to sustain blocks through the whistle.
It was hard to miss Texas lineman T’Vondre Sweat, who measured in at 6-4 with an 81-inch wingspan (he declined to be weighed). He was listed at 362 pounds this year—and he plays like a bulldozer. He’s not exactly fleet of foot, but when he times his first step right and explodes out of his stance, he can be too much to handle for opposing centers and guards.
Every T'Vondre Sweat 1-on-1 from the Senior Bowl pic.twitter.com/Yr2OeZ8RNA— James Foster (@NoFlagsFilm) February 2, 2024
Florida State lineman Braden Fiske also made some nice plays, showing first-step burst, good balance, and an unrelenting motor. He measured in with suboptimal 31-inch arms, which could be an issue for some teams, but was voted the top DL on the American team by his offensive teammates because of his excellent hand use and tenacious style.
I was impressed by Alabama lineman Justin Eboigbe, who just kept flashing every time I watched DL-OL one-on-ones. Eboigbe, who weighed in at 292 pounds and is 6-4, showed excellent first-step burst and a variety of pass rush moves, including a variety of swipe moves, a push/pull move, and a very effective long-arm stab.
Eboigbe again here! Look at the pop in this long arm but doesn’t go stale with it as he one hand shrugs the block at the top of the rush. BIG fan of this guy. pic.twitter.com/YnhSa2whpU— Alex King (@AKing_Evals) February 2, 2024
Missouri lineman Darius Robinson was one of the biggest risers during Senior Bowl week, generating buzz with several strong practices. Robinson brings a big, extremely well built frame (6-5, 286 pounds) and excellent length (84-inch wingspan) to the defensive line and shows good first-step burst and tremendous power as a rusher. Robinson flashed a very effective club move and mixed in a long-arm stab to walk opponents back into the backfield. He has a good inside counter to attack the B-gap when tackles overset to the outside. He’s extremely tenacious and rushed from both the edge and the interior.
Every Darius Robinson 1-on-1 from the Senior Bowl pic.twitter.com/CezVgXSsmk— James Foster (@NoFlagsFilm) February 2, 2024
It wasn’t a huge surprise when Robinson was named the Overall Practice Player of Week by a panel of NFL scouts and front-office executives.
The linebackers group didn’t really catch my attention this week, but there was an abundance of excellent play from the defensive backs in Mobile. Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell was maybe the best all-around player at the event, showing incredible instincts and excellent ball skills to knock passes away. I did not see Mitchell get soundly beaten (apart from one play on which he stumbled), and he was a tone setter for the entire National team defense. Mitchell was sticky in coverage and reacted quickly to break on the ball, knocking down pass after pass. On this rep against Roman Wilson, his reactive athleticism, make-up speed, and ability to find the ball were all on display.
This rep by CB Quinyon Mitchell is why I don’t lose my cool when a CB doesn’t execute textbook technique at the LOS. I’m more interested in the recovery and finish.— Cory Yates (@CoryRAanalytics) January 31, 2024
If Mitchell was the star of the show for the National team, Louisville’s Jarvis Brownlee Jr. was the big winner for the American squad (and was named top cornerback on his team in a vote by his WR teammates). Brownlee showed off great instincts and anticipation in coverage, regularly running the opposing receiver’s route for him in one-on-ones.
Every Jarvis Brownlee Jr. 1-on-1 from the Senior Bowl pic.twitter.com/XiZvjTtoXi— James Foster (@NoFlagsFilm) February 3, 2024
Notre Dame corner Cam Hart also caught my eye, making a lot of plays for the National team. And Missouri’s Kris Abrams-Draine flashed multiple times for the American squad.
At safety, I kept name-checking Evan Williams, who consistently showed excellent awareness in coverage and reacted quickly to stay in phase with receivers. He was really quick to break on the football and get his hand into the passing lane. Williams capped off a solid week by picking off Milton in the game.
That’s all I got for an exciting, sun-soaked week in Mobile. There is sure to be plenty of movement on each team’s draft boards coming off the eventful week. And with the Senior Bowl in the books, all eyes turn toward the next big event in the pre-draft phase, the NFL scouting combine, which kicks off later this month.
An earlier version of this piece originally misstated where Braden Fiske played in college; he played at Florida State, not Boston College.