2018 Senior Bowl: Matt Miller's Biggest Draft Takeaways
Mobile, Ala. — The 69th Reese's Senior Bowl featured a group loaded with talent at wide receiver, tight end and safety, but the biggest storylines surrounded the play and plans of quarterback Baker Mayfield and, more specifically, if he would separate himself from Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen.
It's rare to have two legitimate first-rounders at quarterback competing in the Senior Bowl, but we had that this week with Mayfield and Allen stealing the show. We'll take a look at how both performed in front of NFL scouts and coaches during practices and in the game.
We'll also break down who the moneymakers of the week were, which players left Mobile with questions about their stock and some of the best individual storylines from Alabama.
Throughout the week of practice, several players wowed our group of writers, podcasters and evaluators camped out in the press box. Here are a few that will leave Mobile with improved draft stock.
James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
Washington was flawless through the week of practices and impressed with his physical route running, his speed on deep routes and his ability to track and attack the deep ball. He might even sneak into the late first round if he can parlay this into a strong NFL Scouting Combine performance.
Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
Could the UTEP guard find his way into the late first round? I thought so, as did my podcast co-host Mello, after a strong week of practice. Hernandez is exactly the kind of blocker the New England Patriots would love at left guard. Hernandez was a known factor before Mobile, but he was seen as more of a Round 3 type.
B.J. Hill and Justin Jones, DL, North Carolina State
How talented is this NC State defensive line? Bradley Chubb will be a top-five pick, and his two linemates dominated all week. Justin Jones showed off the power and anchor skills, while B.J. Hill was quick and explosive knifing through the line. Both have a chance to hear their names called in the third round after a strong Senior Bowl.
DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Penn State
The Penn State offense revolved around running back Saquon Barkley, but there was no denying the skill of DaeSean Hamilton when he was given chances this season. That showed up at the Senior Bowl. Hamilton, despite a few early drops, emerged as a clean route-runner with the speed to separate from defenders. He could be looking at a Zay Jones-type rise to the second round following this week.
Alex Cappa, OT, Humboldt State
Small-schoolers like Alex Cappa have a chance to really shine in Mobile, and that's exactly what happened. Cappa's film is nasty, and it's already clear the improvements he's made working with renowned offensive line coach LeCharles Bentley are paying off.
Biggest Question Marks
Some prospects make money in Mobile. While others might not necessarily lose money, there are times when a player is hyped up but leaves the Senior Bowl with at least question marks about their game. Here are a few players I'm left re-evaluating after the week of practices. Remember, scouts leave before the game and don't put as much stock into how players look there.
Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSA
I like Davenport a lot as a developmental pass-rusher, but he's nowhere near the finished product some have imagined. His film is very good, but you also have to consider that he was dominating schools like Rice and North Texas. Davenport showed this week against better competition that he needs a coach who can loosen him up and get him comfortable as a pass-rusher. The athleticism is undeniable, and he has a very high ceiling, but he's far from ready to be unleashed on the NFL. It's worth adding that Davenport's best day came on Thursday, after I had already left Mobile.
Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State
Penny is a player I really liked on film and expected to see have a big week in Mobile, but he was largely absent in drills on Tuesday and Wednesday. Penny's build is also a small concern given his large, muscular upper body and the lack of lower-body power. He's still a possible mid-rounder, but the traits he showed this week don't match the production he turned in at SDSU.
Brian O'Neill, OT, Pitt
Drills at the Senior Bowl are slanted toward the defensive line having success given some of the situations the blockers are put in, which might be why O'Neill struggled this week. He did flash his athleticism and agility, but he had a hard time pushing defenders out of the hole. I left Mobile thinking O'Neill would be a great right tackle in a zone scheme.
Quarterback Stock Watch
Josh Allen, Wyoming
If you went to Mobile liking Allen's potential and traits, you left Mobile with your thoughts confirmed. If you aren't impressed with Allen and want more accuracy, you probably saw that too. I tried to stay neutral and asked the Stick to Football crew with me to do the same (some like Allen, others don't). The result was we saw a quarterback with rare traits who improved as the week went on. Allen's best performances came on the last day (Thursday) and in the game, as he had developed chemistry with his receivers. I continue to believe he'll be a top-five pick.
Kurt Benkert, Virginia
Benkert won't excite many, but he's a solid quarterback prospect and should be considered a mid-round pick who has the tools to be a starter down the road. Stick to Football co-host Dan Bazal summed it up perfectly this week at practices, calling Benkert "another Matt Schaub." That's a compliment, but Benkert will enter the NFL as a mid-rounder with some starter tools (accuracy, pocket presence) but a need to develop in other areas.
Luke Falk, Washington State
I may have been too low on Falk heading into Senior Bowl week. My issues with him aren't on the field but related to the number of injuries that have piled up at Washington State. Falk isn't the biggest (6'3 3/4", 211 lbs), and he has a shot-putter's delivery, but he's accurate and smart and would be a perfect pickup for a West Coast offense.
Kyle Lauletta, Richmond
My goal this week was to learn who Kyle Lauletta was. I've mentioned in previous articles that I intentionally didn't watch film of him before the week, which allowed a fresh look at who he is. Lauletta doesn't have great arm strength or overwhelming athletic tools, but he's a clean passer and was able to show off his touch accuracy and decision-making as the week progressed. He's a late-rounder I'd love on my team.
Tanner Lee, Nebraska
Tanner Lee has a big arm...and that's about it. Based on my unofficial tracking of the quarterbacks throughout the practices, Lee had more turnovers and more misses than any other passer. His turnovers weren't great plays by the defenders, either, but huge misses on his part. Lee needs developing, which is why I have him as a late-rounder.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Bakermania was in full effect all week long, and the Oklahoma quarterback rose to the occasion. His mother being hospitalized because of illness caused Mayfield to arrive in Mobile two hours before his first practice, but he was among the first players on the field Tuesday. From that moment on, his energy, accuracy and athleticism were on display. Mayfield had a strong week and confirmed that his playmaking and touch aren't a product of scheme or Big 12 defenses.
Brandon Silvers, Troy
The lowest-ranked quarterback on my board from the Senior Bowl, Silvers didn't stand out as a top-tier prospect. His mechanics need a ton of work, and he seemed lost against simple Senior Bowl defenses and the speed of the South roster. He has a shot as a late-rounder with development potential, but in a deep quarterback class, he might be overlooked entirely.
Mike White, Western Kentucky
White was a favorite of the Stick to Football crew on film this season, and he was what we all expected in Mobile: a solid quarterback with a quick release, pretty good athleticism and enough arm to drive the ball to covered receivers. White's accuracy was a bit all over the place, but that's also due to a lack of chemistry with the receivers. He and James Washington had a nice thing going by Wednesday afternoon, and we saw White have a strong performance in the game. He looks like a mid-rounder with starter tools.
Skill Players Shine
The quarterbacks definitely received the most attention this week, but the skill players might be the ones making the biggest impact in terms of draft stock.
James Washington has received plenty of love here and on my Twitter account, but he should be highlighted as a player who answered his biggest question marks (speed, scheme) this week against very good South defensive backs. Washington's stock is soaring.
Elsewhere, DaeSean Hamilton, Colorado State's Michael Gallup, Miami's Braxton Berrios and Allen Lazard of Iowa State were all very impressive. Hamilton emerged as the best route-runner on the North roster and was constantly open for the quarterbacks. Gallup has the burst and body control to be a very good pro receiver right away.
For Berrios, his size (5'8 5/8", 177 lbs) might hold back his stock, but he was catching everything and showed his toughness all week. Lazard (6'4 1/4", 227 lbs) has excellent size and may project best as a big slot receiver (almost like Evan Engram), but what he was able to do with his body control and reach impressed.
The running back class here wasn't great, but Iowa's Akrum Wadley dominated with quickness and by showcasing his route-running skills and ability to make plays in space.
What Will the NFL Do with Shaquem Griffin?
Central Florida linebacker Shaquem Griffin has overcome so many obstacles to get here, and now his NFL fate rests on the desks of 32 general managers.
Griffin's left hand did not develop properly in the womb as a result of amniotic band syndrome. His family decided to have his hand and part of his forearm amputated when he was four years old, but that didn't stop him from becoming one of the best players in college football this season.
The twin brother of Seattle Seahawks standout Shaquill, it's been amazing to watch Shaquem battle all week long. Unfortunately, as he told a group during his media day press conference, he has not yet received an invite from the NFL to the annual scouting combine.
I'm betting the league will come around on Griffin. I'd also bet he hears his name called on Day 3 of the draft and is given a chance to play right where he did at UCF—sometimes as a pass-rusher, sometimes in space. That's what he did this week, and no one could match his intensity and determination as he ran down quarterbacks and running backs.
Brett Toth Picks the Army over the NFL
Army offensive tackle Brett Toth was one of the best players on the field this week. He's athletic and tough, and while he's already a dominant run defender thanks to the Black Knights offense, he also improved as a pass protector. But the NFL will have to wait.
Because Toth attends West Point, he's required to serve two years in the U.S. Army. There have been other players in the past (Navy's Joe Cardona stands out as a recent one) who petitioned their service academy for a waiver that would allow them to go pro immediately, but Toth won't do that. He plans to serve his two years and then hopes to play in the NFL.
Toth, if he hasn't already, should call Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva. The Pro Bowler famously served as an Army Ranger before signing with the Steelers. Toth has a chance to be drafted—which would allow a team to hold his rights—but this situation is definitely unique.
Will Hernandez was absolutely dominant this week—so much so that I'm picking him as practice MVP over the more famous players on the field (e.g., Baker Mayfield, Shaquem Griffin). Hernandez was simply that good.
The Senior Bowl can be skewed toward the offensive line when it comes to dominating in one-on-one drills, but Hernandez was flat-out unbeatable. It was the best offensive line performance I've seen since Zack Martin of the Dallas Cowboys showed up and whipped everyone.
Like Martin, Hernandez is a guard on the NFL scale, and teams will love his toughness and patience, his ability to finish blocks and his movement skills as a pulling blocker. He should walk into an NFL locker room this fall and immediately be a starter.
Draft stock is a very fluid thing, but Hernandez should get looks starting late in the first round.
Rashaad Penny came to play on Saturday.
After an uneven week of practices, Penny saved his best for last and dominated when given opportunities in the run game. In a pure zone scheme, the San Diego State star showed vision and burst and was also patient in picking and choosing his rushing lanes. The Penny we saw on the field Saturday was closer to the player seen on film.
Other standouts: Long snapper Tanner Carew, Oregon; running back Kalen Ballage, Arizona State; quarterback Mike White, Western Kentucky; guard Will Hernandez, UTEP; cornerback M.J. Stewart, North Carolina; defensive end Marcus Davenport, UTSA
All-Senior Bowl Offense
QB - Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
RB - Akrum Wadley, Iowa
FB - Dimitri Flowers, Oklahoma
WR - James Washington, Oklahoma State
WR- DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State
TE - Mike Gesicki, Penn State
OL - Alex Cappa, Humboldt State
OL - Will Hernandez, UTEP
OL - Wyatt Teller, Virginia Tech
OL - Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
OL - Brett Toth, Army
All-Senior Bowl Defense
DE - Marcus Davenport, UTSA
DT - B.J. Hill, North Carolina State
DT - Justin Jones, North Carolina State
DE - Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State
LB - Shaquem Griffin, UCF
LB - Dorian O'Daniel, Clemson
LB - Kemoko Turay, Rutgers
CB - M.J. Stewart, North Carolina
S - Kyzir White, West Virginia
S - Quin Blanding, Virginia
CB - Michael Joseph, Dubuque