Senior Bowl 2021 Roster: Highlighting Top NFL Prospects in College Showcase

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IJanuary 26, 2021

Senior Bowl 2021 Roster: Highlighting Top NFL Prospects in College Showcase

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    There are some changes in place for the 2021 Senior Bowl, which will be the 71st edition of the college football All-Star showcase. And this year's game will be even more important than past ones.

    That's because the NFL Scouting Combine, the East-West Shrine Game and the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl have all been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. So, the Senior Bowl will be the only opportunity for top draft prospects to take the field in a competitive setting and try to impress NFL scouts and teams.

    This will also be the first Senior Bowl to be held at Hancock Whitney Stadium, which is located at the University of South Alabama and just opened in 2020. And instead of featuring North and South teams, this year's Senior Bowl will feature American and National teams.

    The American team will be coached by the Carolina Panthers' staff, while the National Team will be coached by the Miami Dolphins' staff.

    Some talented players who were expected to play in the Senior Bowl have pulled out due to injury. That includes Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith, who would have become the 10th Heisman Trophy winner to participate in the game. But Smith will be out due to the finger injury he suffered in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

    Here's a look at the full rosters for both teams in this year's Senior Bowl, followed by a breakdown of some of the top players to watch in the contest.

American Team Roster

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    Quarterbacks
    Mac Jones, Alabama; Kellen Mond, Texas A&M; Jamie Newman, Georgia.

    Running Backs
    Chris Evans, Michigan; Kylin Hill, Mississippi State; Elijah Mitchell, Louisiana; Larry Rountree III, Missouri.

    Wide Receivers
    Trevon Grimes, Florida; Racey McMath, LSU; Josh Palmer, Tennessee; Cornell Powell, Clemson; Amari Rodgers, Clemson; Shi Smith, South Carolina; Marquez Stevenson, Houston; Kadarius Toney, Florida; Austin Watkins, UAB.

    Tight Ends
    Kylen Granson, SMU; Noah Gray, Duke; Tre McKitty, Georgia; Quintin Morris, Bowling Green.

    Offensive Linemen
    Jack Anderson, Texas Tech; Deonte Brown, Alabama; Ben Cleveland, Georgia; Landon Dickerson, Alabama; Carson Green, Texas A&M; Alaric Jackson, Iowa; Drake Jackson, Kentucky; Alex Leatherwood, Alabama; Dan Moore, Texas A&M; David Moore, Grambling State; Royce Newman, Ole Miss; D'Ante Smith, East Carolina; Trey Smith, Tennessee.

    Defensive Linemen
    Carlos Basham, Wake Forest; William Bradley-King, Baylor; Chauncey Golston, Iowa; Malik Herring, Georgia; Wyatt Hubert, Kansas State; Quincy Roche, Miami; Cam Sample, Tulane; Marlon Tuipulotu, USC; Payton Turner, Houston; Marvin Wilson, Florida State.

    Linebackers
    K.J. Britt, Auburn; Riley Cole, South Alabama; Jabril Cox, LSU; Paddy Fisher, Northwestern; Monty Rice, Georgia; Janarius Robinson, Florida State; Jordan Smith, UAB; Charles Snowden, Virginia; Grant Stuard, Houston.

    Cornerbacks
    DJ Daniel, Georgia; Ifeatu Melinfonwu, Syracuse; Aaron Robinson, Central Florida; Robert Rochell, Central Arkansas.

    Safeties
    Joshuah Bledsoe, Missouri; Shawn Davis, Florida; Tyree Gillespie, Missouri; Richie Grant, Central Florida; Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State; JaCoby Stevens, LSU; Mark Webb, Georgia.

    Kicker
    Jose Borregales, Miami.

    Punter
    Max Duffy, Kentucky.

    Long Snappers
    Thomas Fletcher, Alabama; Ryan Langan, Georgia Southern.

National Team Roster

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    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    Quarterbacks
    Ian Book, Notre Dame; Sam Ehlinger, Texas; Feleipe Franks, Arkansas.

    Running Backs
    Michael Carter, North Carolina; Najee Harris, Alabama; Khalil Herbert, Virginia Tech; Trey Sermon, Ohio State; Rhamondre Stevenson, Oklahoma.

    Fullback
    Ben Mason, Michigan.

    Wide Receivers
    Nico Collins, Michigan; Frank Darby, Arizona State; D'Wayne Eskridge, Western Michigan; Demetric Felton, UCLA; Dez Fitzpatrick, Louisville; Cade Johnson, South Dakota State; Ben Skowronek, Notre Dame; DeVonta Smith, Alabama; Sage Surratt, Wake Forest; Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State.

    Tight Ends
    John Bates, Boise State; Hunter Long, Boston College; Kenny Yaboah, Ole Miss.

    Offensive Linemen
    Aaron Banks, Notre Dame; Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa; Jake Curhan, California; Adrian Ealy, Oklahoma; Robert Hainsey, Notre Dame; James Hudson, Cincinnati; Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma; Brenden Jaimes, Nebraska; Robert Jones, Middle Tennessee; Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater; Jaylon Moore, Western Michigan; Dillon Radunz, North Dakota State.

    Defensive Linemen
    Jonathan Cooper, Ohio State; Ta'Quon Graham, Texas; Daelin Hayes, Notre Dame; Tarron Jackson, Coastal Carolina; Patrick Jones, Pittsburgh; Osa Odighizuwa, UCLA; Ade Ogundeji, Notre Dame; Levi Onwuzurike, Washington; Elerson Smith, Northern Iowa; Shaka Toney, Penn State; Rashad Weaver, Pittsburgh.

    Linebackers
    Derrick Barnes, Purdue; Tuf Borland, Ohio State; Baron Browning, Ohio State; Tony Fields, West Virginia; Justin Hilliard, Ohio State; Hamilcar Rashed, Oregon State; Chazz Surratt, North Carolina.

    Cornerbacks
    Tre Brown, Oklahoma; Camryn Bynum, California; Thomas Graham, Oregon; Benjamin St-Juste, Minnesota; Keith Taylor, Washington; Ambry Thomas, Michigan; Rodarius Williams, Oklahoma State.

    Safeties
    Divine Deablo, Virginia Tech; Darren Hall, San Diego State; Damar Hamlin, Pittsburgh; Tre Norwood, Oklahoma; Christian Uphoff, Illinois State.

    Kicker
    Riley Patterson, Memphis.

    Punter
    James Smith, Cincinnati.

    Long Snapper
    Camaron Cheeseman, Michigan.

Could Toney Further Boost Stock, Move Up Draft Boards?

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    This year's NFL draft class features some talented wide receivers. Smith and LSU's Ja'Marr Chase are likely to be the first ones to come off the board, but there are several others who could also be first-round selections, including Toney.

    Toney just completed his fourth season at Florida, which was a breakout year for the senior. He had 70 receptions for 984 yards and 12 total touchdowns (10 receiving, one rushing and one punt return) for the Gators, emerging as one of the top playmakers in their offense. He'll be close to home for the Senior Bowl, as he attended Blount High School near Mobile in Eight Mile, Alabama.

    The Athletic's Dane Brugler has Toney as his highest-graded Senior Bowl prospect who is scheduled to still participate in the game, but he noted that scouts have concerns over Toney being "more passionate about rapping than football." However, Toney has the skills to be successful in the NFL.

    "A loose, elastic athlete, Toney routinely makes the first man miss with his special start-stop twitch, frustrating would-be tacklers and creating explosive plays," Brugler wrote. "Though his 2020 film showed an improved route runner, he is still a work-in-progress with his steps and tempo. Toney has the quickness to run circles around defensive backs during Senior Bowl drills, but scouts will be focused on his route movements."

    If Toney can further improve his draft stock with a strong showing for the American Team in the Senior Bowl, he could potentially solidify himself as a first-round prospect and start to appear there in more mock drafts. It's a good opportunity for the soon-to-be 22-year-old to prove himself this week.

Will Jones Prove He's a First-Round Talent?

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The top quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL draft class include Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State's Justin Fields, BYU's Zach Wilson and North Dakota State's Trey Lance, all of whom could be first-round selections. But can Jones also work his way into that mix?

    Jones had a tremendous year as a redshirt junior at Alabama, leading one of the top offenses in the country. He passed for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and four interceptions while leading the Crimson Tide to a 13-0 season and the national championship.

    While there have been split opinions over whether Jones will be drafted in the first round, ESPN's Todd McShay has the 22-year-old as the fifth quarterback getting selected in the opening round. And Jones could prove that he deserves that with a strong showcase at the Senior Bowl this week.

    "Jones puts excellent placement on deep balls, anticipates well and shows poise in the pocket," McShay wrote.

    And there's no denying that Jones is a strong offensive leader, considering the results produced by Alabama last season. So, if he can prove that he has the skills necessary to excel at the next level combined with his leadership ability, he could be an attractive proposition for NFL teams.

How Will Players Who Opted out of 2020 Season Look?

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Because the 2020 season took place amid the coronavirus pandemic, players had the choice to opt out. 

    For some, that marked the end of their college careers, as they decided to begin preparing for the 2021 NFL draft and not return to school next season. Several of these players will be taking part in the Senior Bowl, which will be the first time they've been in action since the 2019 campaign.

    Among these Senior Bowl participants are Michigan wide receiver Nico Collins, Wake Forest wide receiver Sage Surratt, Washington defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike, Michigan cornerback Ambry Thomas and Oregon cornerback Thomas Graham. There's also Jamie Newman, the former Wake Forest quarterback who transferred to Georgia but didn't end up playing for the Bulldogs after opting out.

    It will be interesting to see how these players look after not taking part in the 2020 season. If any of them have impressive showings, it could quickly boost their draft stock.

    Collins and Thomas were likely to play big roles for Michigan last season, and that could have led to them being early draft picks. That could still end up being the case, especially based on how this week goes.