Each year a couple of draft prospects see their stocks skyrocket following the Senior Bowl.
It is a platform for players to put themselves on the map with plenty of one-on-one opportunities against the very best in the country and, as we have seen, it can turn a fringe top-100 prospect into a top-50 lock.
Here is my shortlist of the seven players who could be next in line to receive the biggest draft stock boost from a strong performance in Mobile, Alabama come January.
Josh Jones, OT, Houston
Two of the biggest risers from last year’s Senior Bowl were offensive tackles Andre Dillard and Tytus Howard. Both were considered Day-2 players at the time, but their respective performances propelled them to first-round picks. If there is going to be an offensive tackle from this 2020 class that replicated that leap, it is going to be Houston’s Josh Jones. At 6-foot-7, 310 pounds, he is going to immediately pass the eye test at the weigh-in.
On the field, Jones is going to blow away scouts with his movement skills in space. There is no doubt in my mind Jones will quickly assert himself as the top pass protector at the event. When it’s all said and done, Jones’ week at the Senior Bowl will firmly put him in the top-20 conversations of the draft.
Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State
After playing in Mike Leach’s air raid offense at Washington State, many have labeled Anthony Gordon as a system quarterback. His stats have been inflated by Leach’s design, but make no mistake, Gordon has NFL throws on his tape. It comes in flashes, but you can see he throws with accurate ball placement at all three levels of the field. His arm strength won’t stand out comparatively to players like Justin Herbert and Jordan Love, but his accuracy could separate him from the rest throughout the week. A strong performance could significantly alter how coaches and scouts view Gordon’s projection to the next level.
Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois
At 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, Southern Illinois safety Jeremy Chinn has a real shot to be the biggest winner of weigh-in day. He possesses a thick, muscular physique similar to an NFL linebacker. Chinn hits like one too — he is a heat-seeking missile coming downhill. At the same time, his range, change of direction and movement skills in space are like that of a cornerback. Chinn’s man coverage traits just pop on tape after years as a former cornerback and basketball star.
Whether it is staying in phase on the hip pocket of tight ends and slots or attacking the catch point like it’s a rebound, Chinn is going to impress a ton of scouts in the one-on-one period in Mobile. Nasir Adderley got a ton of hype following the Senior Bowl last year, and Chinn’s overall playmaking ability as both a run defender and rangy ballhawk is why he will be the next top-tier FCS prospect.
Harrison Bryant, TE, Florida Atlantic
The 2020 tight end class is going to be relatively shallow compared to the groups we have seen in recent years. No one has emerged as the frontrunner for TE1 in this draft, but that could change with several top prospects competing at the Senior Bowl — including Jared Pinkney and Brycen Hopkins.
The tight end who will generate the most hype throughout the week though could be Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant. He is a mismatch nightmare in one-on-one looks as a pass-catcher. After Bryant was the Mackey Award winner for the best TE in college football, it is surprising to see he’s not getting more draft hype than other prospects at the position. There is a strong argument to be made that he is the most complete, all-around tight end in this class; and when you combine his efficiency as a blocker to his natural gifts as a receiver, Bryant could emerge as TE1 once the Senior Bowl is over.
Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
Like the tight end class, there is plenty of room for linebacker prospects to raise their draft stock. After Isaiah Simmons, Dylan Moses and Kenneth Murray, who knows which linebacker gets drafted next. If you remember a couple of years ago, Haason Reddick was a relatively obscure possibility before dominating at the Senior Bowl. He became a first-round selection.
The Reddick breakout candidate at this year’s event will likely be Wisconsin’s Zack Baun. Like the former Temple star, Baun is a hybrid pass rusher/off-ball LB who could split reps at both spots throughout the week to show off his versatility. His tape is incredible and his game is very similar to former Badger Joe Schobert, who is now a Pro Bowl player for the Cleveland Browns. Look for Baun’s name to potentially emerge in some first-round mocks after Mobile.
Robert Hunt, IOL, Louisiana-Lafayette
If you are looking for a big mauler on the interior offensive line, I have a Ragin’ Cajun you need to check out. Robert Hunt is a physical blocker who is going to make an impact in the run game the moment he steps into the league. The big question for him will be the jump in competition level, especially in pass protection. How will he fare against this loaded defensive line class in at the Senior Bowl, which includes Javon Kinlaw, Neville Gallimore, Raekwon Davis and other big names? If Hunt rises to the challenge, I won’t be surprised if he has a Will Hernandez-like rise up draft boards this spring.
Van Jefferson, WR, Florida
A prime candidate to break out in one-on-one drills is Florida wide receiver Van Jefferson. At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, he is a smooth mover and one of the most effective route runners I have watched on tape so far.
We’ve seen players like Terry McLaurin and DaeSean Hamilton dominate in these drills in recent years because of their ability to separate against man coverage, and Jefferson will quickly assert himself as one of the most difficult players to stay attached to. Jefferson’s college production at Florida is just average, but if he stands out in Mobile it could go a long way for his draft stock in the spring.