With this year's Senior Bowl officially in the books, the 2020 NFL draft's top upperclassmen gave front offices one last look at their physical profiles and skillsets on the field.
If there was one position group that shined the brightest in Mobile, Alabama, it was the interior offensive line prospects. More specifically, four of the top centers in the 2020 class were at the Senior Bowl this past week: LSU's Lloyd Cushenberry III, Temple's Matt Hennessy, San Diego State's Keith Ismael and Washington's Nick Harris.
All four of these players had their flashes throughout the week, showing many of the traits they put on display in their final year of college and clarified a lot about this group.
Here's how I rank the Senior Bowl center group after what I saw in Mobile.
1. Lloyd Cushenberry III, LSU
The only player that was able to stonewall Javon Kinlaw in the one-on-one periods was Cushenberry. He declared as a graduating junior after the Tigers won the National Championship and then accepted his invite to the Senior Bowl to prove to scouts he is the top center in the 2020 class. He did just that, and I believe he might have been the best offensive lineman in practice, pound for pound, in Mobile. His combination of hand quickness, mobility and lower-body strength to anchor down makes him the best pass protecting center in this class. Those traits were on full display against a player like Kinlaw. After Kinlaw was forced to leave in the middle of the week because of injury, Cushenberry cruised past the rest of the defensive lineman in the drills, rarely getting beat in any further reps. It was a lights-out performance for quite possibly the top center in this year's draft.
2. Matt Hennessy, Temple
Hennessy, who weighed in at over 300 pounds, got off to a great start at the Senior Bowl. He looked much stronger and more physically imposing than I expected, and it showed on the practice field. He got after defensive tackles all week long in the one-on-one pass protection drills. Hennessy's bread and butter is that he's built low to the ground with natural leverage, combining that with his excellent lateral agility to mirror athletic pass rushers. He was dominant in that regard, but what surprised me most was his ability to fight power with power in the one-on-one reps. The biggest concern I had on his tape was his play strength, but there were times in practice where he overwhelmed defenders with his punch and finish. I still believe Hennessy's size and traits are best equipped for a zone-blocking scheme, but he proved this week that he could appeal to any team looking for an upgrade at center.
3. Keith Ismael, San Diego State
The biggest surprise was how well Ismael performed. He doesn't wow anybody with his size, but he has a good enough physical profile along with the requisite play strength to hold his own against the longer, more powerful interior rushers. Like Hennessy, Isamel is built low to the ground and plays with natural leverage, staying balanced with smooth hips, agile feet and a strong base. Ismael is one of the best reach blockers in this class because of his mobility in space, but in his one-on-one pass rush reps in practice, he proved that he can also operate in a phone booth and erase defensive tackles with his hands at the point of attack. Not too many people knew about Ismael before the Senior Bowl, but I guarantee you his name is now firmly on the radar for NFL teams in the day two range of this year's draft.
4. Nick Harris, Washington
It was ultimately a rough week for Harris. It started at Tuesday's weigh-in when he was measured at an underwhelming 6-foot-1, 293 pounds, well below NFL standards for offensive linemen. Many brushed off his size and play strength concerns on tape because of how well he moves and competes, but those critical elements came back to haunt him in practice. Harris was often overwhelmed in the one-on-one pass-rush drills and had no answer for power rush moves and the length of more physically-imposing defensive tackles. What surprised me most about Harris was his inability to mirror and stay in front of quick inside rushers. From a physical traits perspective, Harris simply looked outmatched in every category. At an event where every other center held their own and had consistent flashes in drills, Harris undoubtedly walks away from Mobile as one of the biggest letdown prospects. He is a center-only prospect at his size and only suits one particular blocking scheme: zone. I'm just not sure how much NFL teams are going to value him after what I saw at the Senior Bowl.