Day 1 of the 2020 Senior Bowl practices? It’s in the books.
The players have been measured, the tone has been set and the pressure is now turned up for all involved for Wednesday’s second showing. If someone played well Tuesday, the pressure mounts to follow suit. If they flopped, the opportunities to leave a lasting positive impression are now cut by a third.
The North’s roster boasts a number of household names and potential breakout stars in the 2020 NFL Draft. The biggest? Jordan Love. Love oozes potential — it took about two throws for him to remind everyone of how live his arm is. He and the rest of the offensive talent didn't get many opportunities to shine in Matt Patricia and Detroit's install-heavy practice session. But we've seen enough to get a baseline for the rest of the week.
Here's who stood out one the first day of practice in Mobile, Alabama.
Best player: Jordan Love, Utah State
Let's be quite clear: I don't think Love had as good of a day as what we saw from Oregon’s Justin Herbert during the early practice for the South team. Herbert came out and laced the ball all over the field with ease. Love also illustrated ample arm talent, whipping the ball through the blustery conditions to ensure his passes arrived without influence from the wind. But Love struggled to find himself on the same page as his wide receivers for the majority of practice — an understandable issue considering he's never thrown to this group before.
Love will need to be better Wednesday and find more timing with his passes down the field to make sure he's at least putting them on the body of his targets. If he does, he'll be just fine. Love wasn't bad; he flashed his obvious ceiling on numerous occasions but he wasn't great either.
Flash reps: Anthony Gordon, Washington State
Anthony Gordon's footwork was problematic. He clearly struggled when asked to turn his back to the defense and collect himself before throwing. The end result? Many of his passes seemed to suffer from a dip in velocity. Gordon is a raw prospect, that's no surprise. But seeing just how much his arm was hurt by his lower half being out of sync was an eye-opener.
He's still a natural thrower and has enough athleticism to stay excited about his potential as a developmental quarterback on Day 3 of the draft. Gordon will really boost his perception if he's able to show improvement with his drops and footwork throughout the rest of the week.
Best player: Joshua Kelley, UCLA
Joshua Kelley boasts consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns out of the UCLA backfield and in Tuesday’s practice looked to be the most complete running back. He showed a fair amount of wiggle, a promising development after checking in at a confirmed 214 pounds at Tuesday morning’s weigh-in. Kelley was confident in his cuts to the second level, especially when he was able to get north quickly. Assessing running back play in all-star events is a challenge, but it was good to see Kelley's movement skills for his size nonetheless.
Flash reps: JaMycal Hasty, Baylor
Speaking of movement skills, JaMycal Hasty is a fun running back. The Baylor product zipped around would-be tacklers with the ball and showed some nice balance along the way. He's not a finished product and isn't likely to demand a high draft selection, but Hasty has the movement skills to make electric plays happen. He struggled a bit with the pass protection drills in the first half of practice — but the big question will be how well he showcases improvement on that front.
Best player: K.J. Hill, Ohio State
Stop me if you've heard this before: An Ohio State wide receiver has put defensive backs in the blender with strong route-running ability. No? Not ringing any bells? It should.
The Ohio State receivers are nasty in the open field — today's North practice was no exception. K.J. Hill fought the ball at the catch point on a couple of occasions but made a nice vertical adjustment versus tight coverage up the far sideline for a big play and successfully turned defenders inside out multiple times in the one-on-ones. Hill's performance left his former position coach beaming.
Hill lived up to the expectation and standard set by Ohio State receivers in recent years. Now he'll need to finish with authority the rest of the week.
Flash reps: Chase Claypool, Notre Dame; Quartney Davis, Texas A&M
These are two very different players who popped in very different ways. Chase Claypool illustrated size, physicality and strong contested skills. Quartney Davis showcased excellent foot quickness and suddenness at the top of his routes. Claypool let a few throws slip away and wasn't overly consistent versus press coverage while Davis also had issues at times defeating his defender early in the rep.
But both flashed upside and will have scouts eager to see more the rest of the week.
Best player: Matt Hennessy, Temple
Does Matt Hennessy have a great anchor? No. But many centers don't. Hennessy showed wonderful lateral mobility and natural quickness in the trenches. He worked across the face of defenders in the run game with consistency and showed good recovery ability after giving initial push at first contact. Hennessy did give ground on a few of his pass rush one-on-ones, but he's also not often going to draw solo assignments in live action at the next level. Pair his showing with a good weigh-in (302 pounds), and it is easy to see why the Temple product was building momentum prior to this week.
Flash reps: Justin Herron, Wake Forest; Josh Jones, Houston; Matt Peart, Connecticut
Josh Jones is regarded by many as a potential first-round offensive tackle. If you consider his physical tools only, it makes sense. He's a strong athlete for his size and has plenty of room to grow and develop into an impact starter. But he wasn't the only one to make a splash today. Jones coughed up an easy inside pass rush rep to Michigan State’s Kenny Willekes in one-on-ones but rebounded well to put the clamps on rushers from both the left and right side in the immediate aftermath.
Matt Peart and Justin Herron also had strong showings; Herron primarily at offensive guard and Peart at offensive tackle. He illustrated strength, length and foot speed while Herron won with leverage and leg drive. That is, of course, until North Carolina’s Jason Strowbridge tossed him in one-on-ones.
If Herron can erase those reps from the rest of the week, he showed enough promise to make some noise with NFL scouts.