2019 Senior Bowl: Matt Miller's Biggest NFL Draft Winners and Losers
The Reese's Senior Bowl is the best of the postseason all-star games, as it pits the nation's best senior prospects against one another in a week of practices and drills before Saturday's game in Mobile, Alabama.
Do well and your stock can shoot up like those of Baker Mayfield, Aaron Donald and Philip Rivers in years past. Do poorly and you'll send scouts home with a poor impression and risk a falling grade.
Some will ask how a few practices and glorified scrimmage can help a player more than a year of film. And they can't by themselves, but there is no substitute for seeing a player in person. For some prospects, such as Missouri's Drew Lock, it's important for evaluators to get a firsthand look at their traits, assess the improvements they've already made in predraft training and get a feel for what remains to be cleaned up from a technique standpoint.
The Senior Bowl is huge for evaluation. For some general managers and scouts, this will be the first time they see players in the flesh. Win your reps and win in the game and you can move up the board. That's every player's goal as they arrive Monday, but who helped or hurt their stock by Saturday?
Winners: Forgotten Wide Receivers
South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel was a likely top-50 selection in the 2018 NFL draft before he injured his foot and had to return to the Gamecocks for his senior season. It paid off in a big way, as Samuel showed not only great hands but also excellent ability on breaking routes and after the catch.
His comparison is Stefon Diggs, as both have a thick body, quickness in space and tough hands in traffic. He could be a late first- or early second-round pick thanks to a strong Senior Bowl week.
Another big riser was Ohio State's Terry McLaurin. He showed excellent vertical ability all week as well as great speed all over the field. There were questions about his play outside the Buckeyes' scheme, but he looked better in Mobile than he did throughout his Ohio State career.
For a player scouts called a "reject" last summer, McLaurin looked fantastic.
Losers: Tier-2 Quarterbacks
Will Grier, Ryan Finley, Gardner Minshew, Trace McSorley and Tyree Jackson all had a chance to make money during the week of practices, but each showed struggles that verified their film.
Grier, Finley and Minshew lack the arm strength to be front-line NFL starters. Jackson has a rocket but is stiff and unathletic on the move. The 6'0", 201-pound McSorley lacks most physical traits needed (size and arm strength) despite great intangibles and good athleticism.
Minshew is a leader, and scouts love him, but his lack of on-field tools were alarming throughout a windy, rainy week. If any of the tier-two Senior Bowl quarterbacks can still find their way into the top 100 picks, though, it's Minshew.
Winner: Texas A&M DL Daylon Mack
After being called up to the Senior Bowl following a great week at the East-West Shrine Game, Daylon Mack once again showed he belongs in the conversation as one of the best defensive tackles in the senior class.
Mack has a stout body at 6'1" and showed power, leverage and quickness throughout the week—whether it was in one-on-one drills or in full team sets. He's shown the athleticism to be more than just a run defender in the NFL, which will boost his stock considerably.
Western Illinois' Khalen Saunders is another defensive tackle who had an impressive week and merits mention. Saunders, who stayed at the Senior Bowl through the birth of his daughter, wowed with athleticism and leverage. He's a shade under 6'1", which will be a concern for some teams, but he's incredibly quick and has shown excellent hand usage when blocked.
Winner: Temple CB Rock Ya-Sin
Rock Ya-Sin popped onto my radar in September when Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy sent a text saying he'd seen a physical, fast corner I should check out. He was right.
Ya-Sin started the year as a third-round prospect but has continued to elevate his game. At the Senior Bowl, he showed the speed needed to turn and run in man coverage. Paired with his excellent strength and physicality in press coverage, his performance made him a potential Round 1 selection.
In a class of big, physical cornerbacks, it was refreshing to see the 5'11", 190-pound Ya-Sin hold his own and remain the top-ranked senior cornerback after a week of great competition. The buzz on him was legit. He's a top-40 player in this class.
Loser: Duke QB Daniel Jones
Daniel Jones had a reputation in scouting circles as a player who would show off in Mobile with excellent accuracy, timing, mechanics and technique after he came out of Duke head coach David Cutcliffe's offense. Even though he earned the game's MVP honors, he failed to hit those marks.
Jones' arm strength looked less than impressive once exposed to poor weather. His accuracy was notably off, especially on back-to-back interceptions that were just misses during Tuesday's practice.
Jones had some QB1 hype at times this season, but he left Mobile as the second-best quarterback in attendance behind Lock.
Winners: A Trio of Offensive Linemen
There were several standout players on the offensive line this year, but three were clear winners.
Kansas State's Dalton Risner showed off his toughness, poise and power all week. He lined up often at right tackle and looks like he'll have a career there after he played on both sides for the Wildcats. He's a tough, high-character, NFL-ready tackle.
Washington State's Andre Dillard arguably left Mobile as the top offensive tackle in the draft class. He's very smooth in pass protection but is also a savvy technician who understands how to counter pass-rushers. He'll let his opponents take themselves out of the play and take advantage with his length, leverage and athleticism.
A small-schooler to watch is Alabama State's Tytus Howard. Despite one play where Montez Sweat owned him early in the week, Howard looked very good at right tackle. He could get into the top 50 of a fairly week offensive tackle class thanks to a big week.
Losers: Injured Players (Johnathan Abram, Jalen Hurd, Wes Hills)
You never want to see players lose the opportunity to compete and improve their draft stock due to injury, but it happens every year.
Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram had a fringe Round 1 grade on my board, but he missed the week with a shoulder injury found during the Monday physical required of all players. The severity of the injury and his treatment will determine how much this affects his stock.
The same goes for Baylor wide receiver Jalen Hurd. The former University of Tennessee running back had a fantastic senior season after he transferred and made a position change. Scouts were excited to see him work in person, but a knee injury kept him from participating and showing off his tools at receiver.
Slippery Rock running back Wes Hills parlayed his awesome NFLPA Collegiate Bowl performance (78 yards rushing, TD, MVP honors) into a call-up to the Senior Bowl but left in the first quarter after he suffered a lower body injury. He still helped himself throughout the week of practices but could have had a big in-game moment to remind scouts he's a legitimate prospect.
Winners: Missouri QB Drew Lock and Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham
Everyone wants to watch quarterbacks in the Senior Bowl practices and game. The two who helped themselves the most this week both came from the SEC.
Missouri's Lock left the week as the top-ranked senior quarterback, overcoming Jones for that prized spot. Lock's athleticism, arm talent and moxie make him a potential top-10 pick in the upcoming draft. It's very easy to envision a scenario where the Denver Broncos or Jacksonville Jaguars fall in love with his tools.
Auburn's Jarrett Stidham had Round 1 potential heading into the 2018 season, but a bad supporting cast in his final collegiate year—his offensive line and skill players offered almost no help—caused a poor statistical showing and led to inconsistent play. Stidham's tools are pretty, though, and NFL teams could realize he made the most of a bad situation but is still a viable starting quarterback prospect.
Stidham might not hit Round 1 like Lock, but he helped himself a lot throughout the season.