The Hottest NFL Draft Prospects Coming out of Senior Bowl Week

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 28, 2019

The Hottest NFL Draft Prospects Coming out of Senior Bowl Week

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    Jim Lytle/Associated Press

    Almost one-third of NFL players on current rosters have displayed their skills during Senior Bowl week. To name a few, Aaron Donald, Von Miller, Russell Wilson, Zack Martin and Carson Wentz started their post-collegiate draft journeys in Mobile, Alabama.

    Several seniors and fourth-year juniors boosted their draft stocks or added to existent early-round buzz coming out of the collegiate ranks.

    After an extraordinary showing, there's a wide receiver on the rise. Now, he has a shot at becoming the first player selected at his position in April. Multiple small-school talents also put themselves on the radar as hot prospects to watch leading into the NFL Scouting Combine.

    The Senior Bowl didn't tell the entire story, but several incoming rookies translated quality practices into production during Saturday's game. Those standouts forced new assessments on their draft placements. The drills also provided a glimpse of player techniques and tendencies that may have caught a team scout's eye.

    Wrapping up the action from Mobile, we'll take a look at eight prospects who significantly elevated their draft outlooks over the last week.


WR Deebo Samuel, South Carolina

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    Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    Among all the prospects present during Senior Bowl week, Deebo Samuel may have helped his cause the most. He broke his fibula three games into the 2017 campaign and then led South Carolina in receiving yards (882) and touchdowns (11) last season.

    Still, questions lingered about his quickness and agility, but the senior checked some crucial boxes, per CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson:

    "Coming into Mobile, scouts questioned Samuel's deep speed—he averaged 14 yards per reception in college—and he answered those questions from the moment he stepped on the field. He ran by defenders all week and also flashed his jaw-dropping change-of-direction skills during red-zone drills on Thursday."

    Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area captured Samuel routinely hauling in receptions during seven-on-seven red-zone drills. The South Carolina product didn't look slow in his breaks and avoided wasted movement. Most importantly, he flashed strong, reliable hands with the ball in the air.

    Samuel earned Offensive Practice Player of the Week honors for his stellar showing during the drills, and he likely put himself on the radar as a potential first-round pick. The combine could further solidify his spot in the top 32, but it'll take a decent 40-yard dash time.

WR Andy Isabella, Massachusetts

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Some analysts may dispute Andy Isabella as a hot prospect because he struggled with drops earlier in the week. Typically, it's also not a positive to see a wide receiver use his body to secure a reception.

    According to Joe Goodberry of The Athletic, Isabella needed to clean up his technique, but he showed significant progression all the way through the Senior Bowl:

    "Isabella also struggled to catch with his hands away from his frame. With a good amount of drops, you could tell he's a body-catcher who prefers to secure the ball that way...By day three, Isabella's routes were cleaned up, the Raiders staff allowed him to get some deeper opportunities, and he looked his best."

    Isabella caught a critical fourth-down pass for the North squad and also scored a touchdown.

    It's a good sign to see Isabella respond to coaching, adjust accordingly and shine in an actual game scenario. According to RealGM's Jeff Risdon, he's been hand-timed at 4.26 seconds on a 40-yard dash, which will cause scouts to salivate.

OT Andre Dillard, Washington State

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Leading up to this point, Alabama's Jonah Williams stood out as the top offensive tackle on most draft boards, but he may have some competition out of the Pac-12. According to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, Washington State's Andre Dillard could push him for the top spot at the position:

    "Another big riser for the week is Washington State's Andre Dillard. He's firmly in the conversation to be the first offensive tackle drafted if he can continue his strong predraft performances. Dillard has the size (6'4⅞", 311 lbs) and length that Alabama's Jonah Williams doesn't and checks the boxes as a very good athlete."

    Along with the length advantage over Williams, Dillard also plays with a little more weight, which may appeal to teams that prefer linemen with more mass. Beyond the measurements, Arif Hasan of The Athletic pointed out Dillard's run-blocking performance, which may have opened some eyes during practices.

    "He won most of his reps, often against the FBS sack record-holder Jaylon Ferguson of Louisiana Tech," Hasan wrote. "He entered the game having to prove that he could run-block—mostly because the Mike Leach offense disdains running the ball—but he did an effective job of it."

    His ability to seal the edge on run plays speaks to his complete profile as a perimeter blocker. Keep an eye on Dillard's stock coming out of Indianapolis in March; he could sneak into the first round.

    Williams didn't have his best outing as a pass protector in the CFP National Championship game. If he doesn't stand out among his peers at the combine, the top tackle spot would be open to several prospects, including Dillard.

OL Dalton Risner, Kansas State

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    When asked, Dalton Risner said he's most comfortable at right tackle. During Saturday's Senior Bowl, the Kansas State offensive lineman stifled the hype around Mississippi State's Montez Sweat and Louisiana Tech's Jaylon Ferguson.

    Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski wrote: "Dalton Risner has shut down Montez Sweat and Jaylon Ferguson. The Kansas State right tackle is arguably the best player on the field." 

    Both pass-rushers came into the game with a lot of buzz because of their performances during drills, and Risner's impressive showing extended beyond the controlled practices. He stonewalled two high-upside defensive ends, one of whom could become a first-round pick. 

    Risner's versatility will help his draft stock. The visuals of him putting defensive players on the ground, courtesy of KSNT's Pete Francis and The Athletic's Dane Brugler, and minimizing a couple of standouts push the Kansas State product into the discussion for Day 1 consideration.

DE Montez Sweat, Mississippi State

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    Jim Lytle/Associated Press

    Montez Sweat didn't flash during the Senior Bowl, but that doesn't erase what he accomplished during the week.

    Danny Kelly of The Ringer and NFL Network's Bucky Brooks used the word "dominant" to describe his overall showing. "He was everything that we thought he was going to be, and more. … He is someone whose stock is on the rise after a dominant week," Brooks said.

    When spectators with front-row seats use the term "dominant" for a prospect's showcase, your ears should perk up.

    Nick Bosa and Josh Allen sit atop the mountain among pass-rushers. Sweat probably won't surpass either prospect on draft day, but he could enter top-10 range after bull-rushing offensive linemen in Alabama.

    Front offices place a premium on pass-rushers, which puts the Mississippi State product on the radar as a rising talent. Sweat recorded 19 sacks his last two seasons, so his resume and solid first impression bode well for his stock going forward.

LB Terrill Hanks, New Mexico State

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    Linebacker Terrill Hanks wowed spectators at every turn during the week. For starters, he displayed a chiseled physique at his weigh-in, standing 6'2", 234 pounds.

    After watching Hanks, NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah tossed out a noteworthy comparison on Day 2 of practices:

    "His speed has jumped out in both of his practices this week. I see some similarities to Colts All-Pro rookie Darius Leonard in terms of production and body type. Leonard's rise began at the Senior Bowl last year, and Hanks is picking up where Leonard left off here in Mobile."

    No pressure, right? It's just a comparison to one of the top rookies from the 2018 draft class.

    Hanks flashed all over the field Saturday. According to KTSM 9 News' Andy Morgan, he led the South squad in tackles with eight. If the New Mexico State product wants to meet Jeremiah's lofty assessment, it must start with making stops, as Leonard led the league in solo tackles (111) in 2018.

    Coming into the week relatively unknown, Hanks has generated enough buzz to move his stock into Day 2 territory. As a linebacker with experience at safety, he could land with a team that needs a second-level defender equipped to play the run and cover the pass in space.

CB Rock Ya-Sin, Temple

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Cornerback Rock Ya-Sin didn't come to Mobile as an unknown, and Brugler thinks the Temple product met expectations to keep his name among the top prospects in the 2019 class.

    "Ya-Sin has a natural feel for timing with the ball skills to make a play as the pass arrives," Brugler wrote. "He entered the week as the top corner in Mobile, and so far he has lived up to that with his tough-minded approach."

    Brugler also acknowledged that Ya-Sin and Deebo Samuel both scored victories in one-on-one situations. The Temple cornerback stands at 6'2", 190 pounds and shows toughness with the ability to press wide receivers early in their routes. He's not going to give up much cushion and stays alert for the ball when it's in the air.

    Although he's coming out of a non-powerhouse program, Ya-Sin likely earned more money in Mobile after a solid matchup against Samuel, who was arguably the most impressive overall prospect during Senior Bowl week.

    Furthermore, Ya-Sin is a confident cover man. He can talk while locking down a receiver, per NFL Draft Network's Jon Ledyard. He possesses ideal size for a cornerback, he displayed his ball skills, and he also brings the mindset needed to excel on the professional level.

S Nasir Adderley, Delaware

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    The Oakland Raiders' coaching staff gave out team decals to North squad team captains and players who stood out during the game. After an impressive catch, an interception or a score, coaches slapped a sticker on the playmaker's helmet.

    Safety Nasir Adderley finished the contest with three.

    Adderley, a team co-captain, made stops and picked off a pass late in the game to garner recognition. Before Saturday, he impressed those in attendance with his ability to track the football, which translated to production.

    According to Miller, Adderley could slip into first-round consideration after his display in Alabama:

    "Delaware's Nasir Adderley was the best small-school prospect on the field all week. A smooth operator at free safety, Adderley could push himself into the first 32 picks of the 2019 NFL draft thanks to his above-average coverage skills and excellent range. He's a potential day one starter at either nickel or safety."

    During a postgame interview, Adderley made a point to acknowledge there's talent at Delaware. Right now, he looks like the cream of the crop—not just from his program but among the entire 2019 class.