Brace yourselves: The Senior Bowl is only days away, and the exclusive all-star event will reveal the true nature of certain prospects.
Now, performing well in Mobile, Alabama, isn’t the be-all and end-all, but a strong week goes a long way toward convincing NFL teams and evaluators alike. Here are a few prospects that will need to put their best foot forward and specifically answer a few pressing questions.
Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
Question: Has his natural throwing ability improved?
There’s no doubt that Jalen Hurts is a true football player. With elite athleticism and a strong work ethic, his intangibles will intrigue many teams. Unfortunately, that solid foundation hasn’t been helped by his passing ability, which at this point is severely limited.
Hurts’ arm talent isn’t the question, but his natural ability and mechanics are. He struggled with anticipation and decision-making under pressure. While he has admittedly improved since his days at Alabama, at Oklahoma, he missed too many throws — something the gaudy stat lines didn’t always indicate.
The Senior Bowl will strip Hurts of Lincoln Riley’s offense and his own rushing ability, putting him in an inexperienced and uncomfortable spot. At his best when the lights are brightest, let’s hope he can respond by showing growth and improved play.
Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama
Question: Can he rush the passer?
Raekwon Davis is a powerful defender who was considered a potential top-10 pick entering the year. He recorded 8 1/2 sacks in his sophomore season and earned comparisons to stars like DeForest Buckner and Fletcher Cox by the time he was 20. Although those comparisons still seemed presumptive at the time, they’ve looked even worse in hindsight.
Davis struggled his way to 1 1/2 sacks as a junior and only posted 1/2 a sack in his final campaign at Alabama. Now rushing the passer isn’t everything for a player like Davis — he's at his best using his heavy hands and stout frame in run support. However, it does considerably limit his upside leaving him as a two-down player in an ever-decreasing role.
With a week of one-on-ones coming up, Davis needs to get back to that sophomore form and prove it wasn’t a fluke.
Kindle Vildor, CB, Georgia Southern
Question: How will he hold up against tougher competition?
Kindle Vildor is one of my favorite players in this class. He’s a twitched up athlete with quick feet and an aggressive nature. He’s strong in man coverage but playing at Georgia Southern has limited his exposure to “big time” competition — despite facing both LSU and Minnesota this season. Vildor performed admirably in both those games and the Senior Bowl is yet another opportunity to prove he belongs.
The one-on-one drills between cornerbacks and wide receivers have a big impact, and Vildor needs to prove his mediocre long speed and lackluster physical profile can handle it.
Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, Liberty
Question: Can he gain separation?
If Antonio Gandy-Golden was just a bit faster and a bit quicker, we’d be talking about a first-round pick. He possesses all of the traits of an elite jump-ball specialist: strong hands, insane body control and quality concentration skills. The only problem (and it’s a big one) is he hasn’t proved he can consistently separate.
When asked to run a limited route tree, Gandy-Golden dominated the easy competition at the collegiate level but struggled to create space against tougher opponents.
Both the Senior Bowl and combine one-on-ones will be critical to proving he’s sufficient enough in this area to make a legitimate NFL impact. The acrobatic maneuvers and one-handed catches are easy to fall in love with, but he needs to check this box for me to be all-in on his NFL future.
Darnay Holmes, CB, UCLA Bruins
Question: Can he bounce back after a disastrous season?
Darnay Holmes is a speedster who came to UCLA as a heavily hyped recruit. But Holmes fell victim to UCLA’s disastrous environment and regressed in a big way this season and showed a lack of effort that wasn’t present in years past. It looked as if he was saving himself for the next level. Holmes’ play was a far cry from his 2018 season where he clamped N’Keal Harry and showed he could go toe-to-toe with track stars like Marquise Brown.
Ultimately, Holmes will need to show off his talented skill-set and answer for his red flags if he wants to bring his draft stock back up. He has all the talent in the world. Holmes just has to commit.