One of my favorite weeks in the pre-draft process just passed, as more than 120 four-year college players travelled down to Mobile in order to compete one last time in pads before NFL teams decide to make them part of their organization. While most of these players aren’t used to working together and it takes more than three days for quarterbacks and receivers to get into some rhythm for example, I think these matchups of the best versus the best can be very telling for scouts, especially since everything the prospects do from now on will be in shorts. Therefore I want to point out the guys who „made some money”, meaning they got scouts talking and improved their draft stock with the way they performed in practice and/or the game.
Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
Deebo was sensational all week long, showing explosiveness, play strength and impeccable route acumen. I’ve loved this dude ever since I first saw him play for the Gamecocks and I had him as one of the top receivers heading into the 2018 season. While his collegiate career has been marked by injuries, I thought his potential when healthy was very high and he proved that down in Mobile. Samuels roasted basically everybody in one-on-ones other than the Temple corner Rock Ya-Sin, who he went up against quite a bit for what I thought was the best battle throughout practice. However, he even beat that guy on multiple occasions, including a fade route where he used a little hop-step off the line and tremendous burst to create separation. Moreover the South Carolina standout displayed nice body control and adjustments to the ball in the air, making numerous big plays in one-on-ones and team drills. That included a spectacular leaping grab on a back-shoulder throw off a double-move in day two team drills. He made fast guys look slow and he exposed longer corners with his short-area quickness, which includes making a couple of DBs look absolutely foolish on whip or pivot routes at the goal-line. Deebo showed he’s not just a premiere return-man and RAC-specialist, but he can get open against the best of them.
Keelan Doss, WR, UC Davis
I had only heard of this kid a little before last week and funny enough I actually met a former wide receiver coach of his on Sunday. Doss features good size around 6’3” and he is such a technically sound overall receiver. The former Aggie is a crisp route-runner who has some shake to create separation. I love his work off the line, where he doesn’t waste much time with the defender in press and gets even with him pretty much instantly. He is such a smooth all-around athlete, who makes it look easy when working back towards the ball, trusting his hands and attacking it at the highest point. Doss created constant space and extended himself for catches while coming out of his breaks clean. As we approach draft season, I will go back and watch more of his tape, but so far I know this – he stepped up in all of UC Davis’ big games while he was there, including a 13 catch, 106 yards performance versus Stanford last year. Overall he caught a school-record 321 passes for over 4000 yards, while destroying the FCS competition. Doss reminds me a bit of Zay Jones and Cooper Kupp when I think back to their performances during Senior Bowl week and the way all those guys dominated their level of competition.
Terry McLaurin, WR, Ohio State
Whenever you are fifth on your own team in scrimmage yards, you might not get a lot of looks from scouts. McLaurin was a late add for the week, but he made the most of it and forced everybody (including me) to go back and watch some more of his tape. The Ohio State dynamite flat-out ran by some people on day one and was sharp coming out of his breaks, while also showing strong hands at the point of the catch. He continued to come up big time and time again in practice, especially on those go-routes down the field where basically nobody could run with him. McLaurin fights for the ball in the air and plays taller than he actually is, while not being afraid to make tough catches in traffic, which was highlighted by one huge grab he came down with off a flea-flicker in the game on Saturday with three defenders around him. I think he is a guy who simply brings juice to the offense whenever he touches the ball, whether that may be on quick routes, bubble screens or end-arounds. In addition to his play-making ability on offense, McLaurin has been an outstanding special teams contributor for the Buckeyes, especially as a gunner on punt coverage.
Ben Powers, OL, Oklahoma
Heading into last week, I was curious to see some of these Oklahoma offensive linemen work individually, as they had been such a strong overall unit through 2018, and there was a clear distinction between the two guys they sent down to Mobile. While Dru Samia struggled heavily with how wide his hands got and the balance issues he showed, his teammate Ben Powers had a really good week. The 6’4” guard keeps a strong grip on defenders and has the sturdy base to swallow power rushers. Powers showed the ability to anchor and keep his hands inside the chest of the opposing guy early on in one-on-ones versus the D-line. Then he doesn’t stop his feet late in reps and showed that he likes to throw people to the ground at the end. I thought Powers was very consistent protecting the passer and creating movement in the run game by rolling his hips and using proper hand-placement all week long. Although Samia kind of scared me with the way he got whooped in one-on-ones, I really like the nastiness all those guys on the Oklahoma offensive line play with.
Chuma Edoga, OT, USC
There were several players who flashed during Senior Bowl practice, but nobody made it look as easy as this kid did. Edoga was a heavily used backup at either tackle spot at USC, but took over on the right side in his junior year. After what I saw throughout the week, I think he is one of the few guys who will make the transition to left tackle as a pro. Edoga has excellent, controlled feet that will allow him to move to the blindside at the next level. In pass protection he forces opponents to widen their rush and guides them around the quarterback. When those guys try to purely win with speed, Edoga has the agility to stay stride for stride with them and really force them past the QB. He might have had the best sequence of anybody in OL vs. DL one-on-ones on the first day and continued to excel from that point on. When I watch his tape with the Trojans, it occurs to me that he needs to finish plays better overall, but he might have not lost a single rep all week long and that didn’t change in the game.
L.J. Collier, Edge, TCU
I didn’t have this guy on my radar too much before Senior Bowl practice kicked off. He started popping when I watched his partner in crime Ben Banogu in their bowl game versus Kansas State, when Collier had his best career game at TCU with a couple of sacks and four TFLs. However, it wasn’t until last week that I really looked at this kid as a true threat off the edge at the next level. Collier is a twitched-up athlete, who explodes off the line, can convert that speed to power and use the lean of opponents against them. He just jumped off the screen constantly in one-on-ones, flat out running over the Charleston guard on day two and as he might have been defeated once by Boston College’s Chris Lindstrom, he came right back to push him back into the quarterback’s lap the very next rep. Altogether I thought he had one heck of a week coming off the edge, having a way of getting home late in reps with his hands. In team drills he sniffed out some bootlegs and stayed home to force throws into the dirt and he finished strong with a couple of pressures during the game. When they faced the South team the coaches lined Collier up inside a bit and he beat the guards with quickness. He also absolutely killed South Carolina’s left tackle Dennis Daley on a quick up-and-under off the line later on.
Montez Sweat, Edge, Mississippi State
I’m not sure if anybody made himself more money last week than Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat. The first-team All-American stood out from the get-go in pass-rush one-on-ones with his speed around the edge and length to create problems for offensive linemen. On day one Sweat won early on an up-and-under and then came back with a monster stutter and bull rush against the Alabama State kid to wrap up the session. Following that he quickly got some top 10 buzz around Senior Bowl media after coming into the week as more of a late first round prospect. While he has put up some really good production for the Bulldogs (30 tackles for loss and 22.5 sacks in two years), he is still looked at as a pretty raw talent and scouts see a lot of potential to improve. Despite that I thought Sweat dominated all week long with his get-off and power, while showing off his tremendous natural ability, including the length at 6’6” with 35 5/8-inch arms. Despite a stacked defensive line class, I’d be shocked if this guy makes it past the top 20 at this point.
Daylon Mack, DT, Texas A&M
The ascent of this guy started two weeks ago already down in St. Petersburg. Mack dominated the competition at East-West Shrine week and was promoted to the Senior Bowl. When he arrived in Mobile he set the tone early when he put Alabama center Ross Pierschbacher flat on his back on a bullrush in one-on-ones. He continued to whoop opponents with his incredible power as the week went along. Mack is a former five-star recruit, who didn’t start a single game until his senior year, but he has improved his draft stock immensely these last couple of weeks. Usually the 320-pounder is not trying to quick-swim O-linemen or something like that – he wants to physically go through opponents and gets them to lean backwards early on in the rep. At 6’1” Mack might not fit every scheme, but with that low center of gravity and base strength, thanks to the trunks he has as legs, he will be a rock at nose guard for some team. He might be a one-trick pony at this point rushing the passer, but I think he went from a late-round upside guy to day two consideration.
Khalen Saunders, DT, Western Illinois
This kid became an internet sensation with his crazy backflips before he even arrived in Mobile. So Saunders wanted to show his athleticism on the field, but what impressed me even more was that power in his lower body, which was apparent time and time again when he drove opponents backwards as a bull-rusher. To complement that brute force he has a feel for how offensive linemen are leaning and the ability to take advantage of them when they are lunging into him to withstand the rush. I saw him engage and then quick-swim or push-an-pull on several occasions in one-on-ones at practice and on Saturday in the actual game. For anybody who hasn’t followed his story – Saunders’ wife gave birth a little prematurely as he was at their first practice, but she asked him to stay in Mobile and take advantage of this opportunity to impress scouts. When he found out that this baby daughter was up and well, he ended the session with another little flip to celebrate. Saunders would go on to finish an already successful week with an early sack and another pressure in the game.
Terrill Hanks, LB, New Mexico State
In a rather underwhelming linebacker class down in Mobile, this guy stood out from the get-go. Hanks created some buzz when he showed off his ripped physique at weigh-ins (6’2”, 234 pounds) and backed it up on the field. The small-school backer is not afraid to fill the gap and meet ball-carrier head on. He displayed a ton of speed, athleticism and instincts, flying around sideline to sideline and showing up around the ball all over the field. Moreover, he showcased that he trusts himself athletically to stay with plays, which enables him to find crossers and run underneath areas where the ball might go in the passing game. In the game on Saturday he was tied for the most combined tackles with eight and forced a holding call on a screen pass to the running back, where he split a couple of offensive linemen and made one of them commit the penalty. Through his career with New Mexico State Hanks recorded almost 400 tackles, with 42.5 of them for loss, 11 sacks and eight INTs. He brings a skill-set that NFL scouts covet nowadays.
Iman Marshall, CB, USC
I was really disappointed with Marshall when he was asked to take over the number one corner role for USC after the departure of Adoree Jackson after the 2016 season. He was one of the most underrated defensive backs in the country in my opinion, but once he was pushed into a more prominent role his junior year, he seemed to not be ready for the challenge. That is why this week in Mobile was so crucial for Marshall’s draft stock. He has improved his work in press a lot, can recover and find the ball in the air. I really like the competitiveness and trust in his lower body he brought to the table. The four-year starter did a nice job using the sideline as help by guiding receivers into the boundary and not leaving them any space to work with or try to come down with the football. He had an absolutely beautiful coverage snap in the actual game working against star of the week Deebo Samuels, where he gained inside position and rode the receiver towards the sideline, turning and looking back to the quarterback, who ultimately had to overthrow his intended target. While I still need to find out if there were any issues with him health-wise during that two-year stretch he played at a sub-par level, he really changed my mind on him going forward.
Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple
This young man was the most intriguing draft prospect for me coming into last week. Rock Ya-Sin is a former one-year grad transfer from Presbyterian, who quickly earned one of those highly touted single-digit numbers at Temple due to his toughness. He has good length at 6’2” and is an impressive overall athlete. Ya-Sin has a special ability to flip his head when overextending and recovering against receivers coming out of their break by using a speed turn. While he has the top-end burners to run with guys down the field, his most intriguing quality to me is the fluidity of the hips. The one-year starter can gear down and get himself into position with ease. He is a PBU-specialist who really contests every single pass to force those incompletions, which made his one-on-one matchups with South Carolina’s Deebo Samuels such a joy to watch, as he seemed to search the competition continuously. Outside of that guy, Ya-Sin pretty much locked everybody down and displayed the ability to faceguard receivers without making premature contact. His combination of athleticism and competitiveness has put him in first round conversations.
Others I liked:
Drew Lock, QB, Mizzouri
Bernard Pollard, RB, Memphis
Dexter Williams, RB, Notre Dame
Penny Hart, WR, Georgia State
Gary Jennings, WR, West Virginia
Travis Fulgham, WR, Old Dominion
Chris Lindstrom, OL, Boston College
Elgton Jenkins, OL, Mississippi State
Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas State
Charles Omenihu, Edge, Texas
Carl Granderson, Edge, Wyoming
Isaiah Buggs, DL, Alabama
Keke Kingsley, DL, Texas A&M
Greg Gaines, DT, Washington
Dre Greenlaw, LB, Arkansas
David Long, LB, West Virginia
Lonnie Johnson, CB, Kentucky
Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware