Tulane RB Tyjae Spears (22) (Courtesy of Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports)
Nick Merriam was one of three of our Defiant Takes Football writers that made their way to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama this weekend to observe practices. After discussions with personnel and media down at the event, Nick has compiled a list of players to highlight. These players boosted their draft stock amongst the consensus during the first NFL off-season event.
ALL SENIOR BOWL OFFENSE
QB Jake Haener – Fresno State
Haener led the way this past week for an underwhelming quarterback group. Capping off the competition with an MVP performance seals this spot. Haener is physically nothing to get super excited about, but his poise and decision making are NFL worthy. He’s an intriguing developmental piece, but may be capped as a high-end backup.
No. 2 Jake Haener, @FresnoStateFB
“Haener helped himself significantly and was the best of the National Team’s quarterbacks in the day’s early-practice window.” ?
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) February 1, 2023
RB Tyjae Spears – Tulane
This year’s excellent running back class was highlighted by a strong Senior Bowl group. With all the talent in Mobile, Spears still managed to stand out. His acceleration was a clear dominant trait in college, but his deceleration really stood out in-person. Spears has the twitchy open-field athleticism to impact passing downs consistently.
Tyjae Spears is flat out electric. pic.twitter.com/rviWEjgQlx
— Ryan Fowler (@_RyanFowler_) February 2, 2023
RB Kenny McIntosh – Georgia
McIntosh quietly played well enough to potentially see a top 100 selection in this upcoming draft. After a productive season at Georgia, McIntosh flashed vision and upfield and upfield burst all week. But more importantly, his anchor and smoothness in one on one pass protection reps was a step above all other backs.
Who doesn’t love a good pass pro rep from a RB?! Georgia’s Kenny McIntosh has been impressing in Mobile pic.twitter.com/ChoiUKBNie
— Jack Brentnall (@Jack_Brentnall) February 2, 2023
WR Michael Wilson – Stanford
Wilson was a relatively unknown name coming into the week due to a lack of high end production and injuries at Stanford. However, he was the best outside receiver all week long. Wilson’s combination of size and body control at the catch point with an unexpectedly diverse release package led to multiple impressive wins in one on ones.
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) February 1, 2023
WR Nathaniel “Tank” Dell – Houston
Tank Dell was a hot name coming into Senior Bowl week and he lived up to the hype. Though he came in even smaller than expected (5’8” 163 lbs), it was well known that Dell’s ability to separate would shape his draft case. The suddenness of Dell’s quick breaking routes tortured defensive backs throughout the practices. He’s the picture of the modern slot receiver.
— PFF College (@PFF_College) February 1, 2023
TE Cameron Latu – Alabama
Overall the tight end group struggled to produce in high numbers as pass catchers this week so it’s Latu’s blocking that really stole the show. All week Latu showed prowess blocking 6-techs in the run and play-action game. It’s worth note that the edge players Latu went up against were amongst the most talented groups in Mobile this year.
Bama TE Cameron Latu combo blocking the frontside to clear the edge for the RB pic.twitter.com/oPCBU4IIT4
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) February 3, 2023
RT Dawand Jones/Darnell Wright (The Big Boys™) – Ohio State/Tennessee
The massive right tackles ate their lunch.
It’s too difficult not to credit both Jones and Wright in this space. Jones showed the ability to adjust his game better to his wide frame and historic wingspan. Wright looked fluid moving at his size, and consistently attacked defensive ends successfully in one on ones.
Darnell Wright with the snatch trap technique. By far the player that uses it the most in this draft. pic.twitter.com/LOeTCfNFmW
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) February 4, 2023
RG O’Cyrus Torrence – Florida
Torrence came into the week as arguably the most well regarded prospect and didn’t hurt his stock. The right guard slimmed down a bit but still had the ferocious power and strength that made him such a dominant gap scheme guard at Florida and Louisiana. Torrence should hear his name called on day one of the NFL draft.
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) February 1, 2023
C Emil Ekiyor Jr – Alabama
Ekiyor played well at both guard spots throughout the week and surprised with his apparent comfort playing center. Other than a couple so-so snaps of the ball, Ekiyor showed the necessary hip fluidity and movement skills to play center. The added versatility shown makes Ekiyor one of the clear winners of the competition. NFL teams shape their board based on the added adjustability a roster gains by adding each individual player.
Talked w/ Emil Ekiyor after Day 2 of #SeniorBowl practices wrapped.
About 20 minutes prior to practice he found out he’d be taking some center reps. This is some of the tape he put out today. Pretty amazing all things considered. pic.twitter.com/5x7wwhsqcd
— Kyron Samuels (@kyronsamuels) February 1, 2023
LG Cody Mauch – North Dakota State
If there were any questions about Mauch’s game translating to the NFL level it would be about the jump in competition at edge rusher he’d be facing. Though he looked decent as a left tackle, the work he showed at left guard should protect against the athleticism jump. Mauch looked comfortable in short sets and used his feet well in small spaces. As a run blocker, his mauler mentality is perfect for the interior as long as he can add some weight.
Cody Mauch vs Andre Carter II pic.twitter.com/O9SXbIYrQd
— Josh Taylor (@JoshTaylorFB) February 1, 2023
LT Matthew Bergeron – Syracuse
Bergeron’s versatility will be a key to him being selected high in the NFL draft. Though he’s mainly a left tackle, he showed right tackle and guard prowess during the week. Bergeron’s pass sets are at a unique refinement level. It gives him a high floor entering the NFL. He had no trouble matching up against SEC edge players throughout the Senior Bowl week.
— Nick Merriam (@nickwithsports) February 1, 2023
ALL SENIOR BOWL DEFENSE
DL Keion White – Georgia Tech
It’s difficult to label White’s position (6’5” 280lbs), but he showed ability to win from 3-tech, 5-tech, and standing positions all week. Early in the season, Myles Murphy was highlighted for his tools and potential. Lately, Lukas Van Ness has appeared more and more in mock drafts for the same reason. Keion White showed that he may be the next player to shoot up consensus boards with his combination of twitch, size, speed, and hand usage.
Keion White is POWERFUL pic.twitter.com/Og9jFsIXqq
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) February 1, 2023
DT Karl Brooks – Bowling Green
Brooks played edge at 303 pounds at Bowling Green and dominated MAC competition. He began the Senior Bowl week as an edge player before reducing down to rush at 3-tech. The transition looked smooth. Brooks’ unique ability to get a quick jump off the ball and convert inertia into power gave offensive linemen fits in all three practices.
— WalkTheMock (@WalkTheMock) January 31, 2023
DT Keeanu Benton – Wisconsin
Benton had been pinned as an immediate impact run stuffing nose tackle in the NFL, but Senior Bowl week may have changed his overall outlook. Benton showed a true pass rush bag rushing from the 3-tech spot all week. The combination of an initial pass rush move plan with the ability to adjust and win on the fly stood out amongst defensive linemen. At 312 pounds, Benton may project now as a 3-tech that can reduce down to nose tackle on plays with five down linemen.
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) February 2, 2023
EDGE Will McDonald IV – Iowa State
There were questions circling whether or not Will McDonald’s speed rush first mentality would translate against higher competition. With the higher profile of trench play at this all-star game, his consistent ability to win off the edge was impressive. McDonald’s speed off-ball as a rusher may be enough to sneak into the back end of round one.
Not many pass rushers have gotten past Darnell Wright this week, but @CycloneFB edge rusher Will McDonald has a few win against him.
McDonald has been using his speed effectively against’s Wright’s outside shoulder, which set up this nice inside counter. Good week for McDonald pic.twitter.com/sHbN1sQfVA
— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) February 1, 2023
LB Daiyan Henley – Washington State
Henley’s tape had a number of scouts interested in what he’d show against higher competition at the Senior Bowl. With a build that fits the modern hybrid Mike/Will linebacker perfectly, Henley looked fluid in one on one coverage drills. Often the one on ones between running backs and linebackers heavily favor the backs, but there was a sequence where Henley had a pass break up on three straight reps.
Washington State LB Daiyan Henley really impressed me during the 1v1s during the Senior Bowl practices. Here are a couple of his PBUs. pic.twitter.com/Odudu71X4l
— John Owning (@JohnOwning) February 6, 2023
LB Ivan Pace Jr – Cincinnati
Pace’s downhill motor impressed all Senior Bowl week. Though he at times looked slow accelerating in pass coverage drills, his chase down speed from trail created some downfield pass break ups. In the game, Pace’s tackle for a loss created by tossing 337 pound O’Cyrus Torrence into a running back summed up his style of play.
Every Ivan Pace Jr. pass-rushing rep through 2 days at @seniorbowl
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) February 2, 2023
CB Kyu Blu Kelly – Stanford
Kelly had some interest heading into Senior Bowl week, and showed why in full team drills. His zone awareness and ability to bait quarterbacks created more than one turnover during the week. Though he dropped a couple would-be interceptions, the consistency to hit his spot in zone and take away options showed. Kelly may not be a day one talent, but he’s likely secured a day two selection in the draft.
Kyu Blu Kelly has had a nose for the ball here today. Nice zone eyes, baits the QB from the Cover 2 flat. pic.twitter.com/FilOOUEHUW
— Marcus Whitman (@TFG_Football) February 1, 2023
CB Riley Moss – Iowa
Moss still has a ways to go as a prospect but he had a couple of downfield pass break ups in one on ones. The thing that stood out consistently was Moss’ speed. Moss clocked the fastest speed and acceleration combination measured all week from the NFL’s on-field technology. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years from NFL front offices, it’s that traits get you drafted.
Fastest DB from @seniorbowl National team on Day 1 yesterday? It was the guy who many are lazily projecting to safety, Iowa’s Riley Moss. @R_moss5 hit 19.73 on @ZebraTechnology tracking data.??? pic.twitter.com/wwA8aeYSmc
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) February 1, 2023
CB Julius Brents – Kansas State
Brents was helped by the press coverage alignment of one on one drills. He was one of the standouts from the measurement portion of Senior Bowl week at 6 foot 3 inches with near 34 inch arms. Brents showed ability – though inconsistently – to disrupt routes from the line of scrimmage with his raw physicality. In a league starved for man cover corners, it’s a valuable presence to put on tape.
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) January 31, 2023
S Sydney Brown – Illinois
Brown didn’t flash a ton in coverage at the Senior Bowl but brought the physicality he showed at Illinois. What may boost Brown’s stock more than other safeties is his ability to play from 2-high, slot, and even the outside cornerback position in team drills. That versatility from a player with a 213 pound frame with high-end movement skills will be valued.
Illinois safety Sydney Brown sniffs this screen out and triggers downhill to blow it up with an assist from Kansas’ Lonnie Phelps.
— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) February 4, 2023
S Jammie Robinson – Florida State
Robinson was the player you almost forgot was at the Senior Bowl, but that may be a good thing. Despite the high number of receivers that showed ability to separate on downfield developing routes, Robinson seemingly was the one defensive back that never got beat. Robinson was another safety – like Brown – that adjusted well to the difficulty of 2-high and slot responsibilities.
A great example of the physicality in coverage that Jammie Robinson can bring ? pic.twitter.com/bdhUrXCpTN
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) February 1, 2023
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