The Senior Bowl is a great scouting evaluation tool to find clues that help answer remaining questions on NFL Draft prospects.
How do small-school prospects fare against top competition? It’s a great opportunity to gauge the truth about a prospect’s burst, speed and fluidity compared to their contemporaries given the level playing field. It’s often the first look at seeing guys play positions we project them to play in the NFL that they didn’t play in college.
Looking ahead to the 2019 Senior Bowl, there are several prospects with a lot to prove in terms of answering questions about their respective skill set. Let’s examine the top five.
Germaine Pratt, LB, North Carolina State
I have a lot of questions about this linebacker class. LSU’s Devin White, Alabama’s Mack Wilson and Michigan’s Devin Bush are clearly at the top of the class, but who is next? There is a considerable drop off.
Pratt is a player that could be in that next tier of linebacker prospects, but how high of a pick is he worth? A converted safety, Pratt doesn’t have the skill set you would expect for a guy moving to the second level. His movement skills are modest and he is tight in the lower half, which limits his range/burst. While he stuffed the stat sheet for the Wolfpack, does he have the play speed to be an NFL starter in today’s NFL? Can he carry tight ends down the seam and remain in phase? Can he buzz into the flats and cut off angles?
We’ll get a clear look at Pratt isolated in those situations during practices in Mobile.
Sheldrick Redwine, CB, Miami
Studying Redwine’s 2017 tape over the summer and keeping closing tabs on him during the 2018 season, I thought I had Redwine pretty well figured out as a prospect and knew who he was. But then it came out that Redwine was playing cornerback – and not safety – at the Senior Bowl and I feel like its back to square one.
I never had questions about Redwine’s projection to playing safety in the NFL. He was a fixture there for the Canes for multiple seasons and gauging his skill set was easy, but the transition to corner has me perplexed. Can he play there? We’ll find out this week.
Zach Allen, DL, Boston College
Allen is easy to like as a football player. His hand usage and motor are outstanding as he racked up tackle after tackle for the Eagles over the last two seasons. But how dynamic of an athlete is he? Can be bend even a little? The tape is not kind to him in either area.
Allen has true tweener traits between playing on the edge or interior, but also has limitations in either spot. I am not confident he can consistently win around the outside hip of offensive tackles and he lacks the frame of a true interior defender.
I am curious to see what an NFL coaching staff does with Allen this week and where scouts want to see him lineup.
Jaylon Ferguson, EDGE, Louisiana Tech
Ferguson is the NCAA’s all-time leader in sacks. I repeat, nobody in NCAA football history has recorded more sacks than Ferguson. Then why aren’t we talking about him as a high first round pick? Well, despite him regularly getting home in college, his projection to doing the same isn’t clean.
Ferguson is a long and powerful rusher with good variety in his pass rush attack, but what type of an athlete is he? How sudden and twitched up of a mover is he? Does he have the juice and bend to win around the arc? Facing top competition in Mobile, we’ll learn just how high we should be valuing Ferguson.
Tyree Jackson, QB, Buffalo
Jackson flirted with transferring but opted to declare for the NFL Draft and an important part of the process to maximize his draft stock is by performing well at the Senior Bowl. There is no denying Jackson’s physical traits - he has a massive frame and has a rocket launcher for a right arm.
With that said, Jackson’s polish as a passer in terms of accuracy, mechanics and processing is severely lacking. The NFL has a soft spot for investing in quarterbacks with rare physical gifts and believing they can develop the finer points of playing the position. How Jackson fares at the Senior Bowl will heavily influence his draft ceiling.