You can have your Summer Scouting Series, and your podcast episodes; your "Way Too Early" mock drafts and your positional rankings -- please read and listen to all of those TDN things. But you know the beginnings of draft season are truly here when the Senior Bowl releases their official watch list.
The Senior Bowl is an iconic moment in the draft calendar. In it, the entire football world descends upon Mobile, Alabama for a week. Upperclassmen from all across the country come to participate in practices and games held by NFL coaches in what will be the final time they put pads on before the NFL Draft.
Senior Bowl executive Director Jim Nagy and his team do a ton of research before the season to put together a potential watch list of players from nearly every school and conference who could be selected to the final Senior Bowl roster later this winter.
On Wednesday, the Senior Bowl team released their watch list for the 2020 cycle, and we broke it down by the numbers.
Players By Conference
- SEC: 120
- Big Ten: 87
- Pac-12: 43
- ACC: 42
- Big 12: 34
- FCS: 34
- AAC: 25
- C-USA: 20
- Mountain West: 19
- MAC: 13
The SEC was the big conference winner on the list, which should not come as a surprise to anyone. The SEC has dominated the NFL draft from top to bottom for nearly a decade, so the sheer amount of potential players from those schools was represented well in the watch list.
The other four conference in what would be considered the "Power 5" came next after the SEC, but it is also interesting that the next biggest category was players from FCS schools. Players like Nasir Adderley, Tytus Howard and Khalen Saunders were FCS players who went on to be drafted from last year's group, and each year that seems to be the case. Small-school guys are definitely on the Senior Bowl's radar early in the process.
This year there are players like Lenior-Rhyne safety Kyle Dugger, Montana linebacker Dante Olson, UC-Davis quarterback Jake Maier, Towson quarterback Tom Flacco (yes, he's Joe's brother), and SDSU kicker Chase Vinatieri (yes, he's Adam's nephew).
Players By School
- Michigan: 15
- Auburn: 13
- South Carolina: 11
- Ole Miss: 11
- Georgia: 10
- Ohio State: 10
- LSU: 10
- Mississippi State: 10
- Florida: 9
- Michigan State: 9
- Notre Dame: 9
- Tennessee: 9
- Missouri: 8
- Purdue: 8
- Vanderbilt: 8
- Alabama: 7
- Arkansas: 7
- Oregon: 7
- Texas: 7
Michigan took the crown as the team with the most watch list players, as broken down by school. Six more SEC schools, as well as Ohio State rounded out the group of teams with double digit watch list guys.
If you're wondering why teams like Oklahoma, Clemson and even Alabama aren't near the top, it's because many of their best players are underclassmen and not eligible for the Senior Bowl. I guess that's what happens when you recruit so well.
Players By Position
- QB: 29
- RB: 38
- WR: 68
- TE: 28
- OC: 17
- OG: 27
- OT: 34
- FB: 3
- DT: 30
- DE: 11
- EDGE: 25
- OLB: 20
- ILB: 35
- CB: 42
- S: 39
- LS: 10
- P: 7
- K: 10
As expected, the wide receiver position is the position that holds the most players on the watch list. With potentially three, four and even five wide receivers on the field at one time, the Senior Bowl has to have the bodies to make it happen for either coaching staff. They'll have the most roster spots, so they get the most looks. As a result, there are also a combined 81 defensive backs being looked at, too.
The most interesting note from the positional watch list, though, is that they're monitoring 10 long snappers, which is pretty cool.
Special teams matters, folks.
TDN's Top Prospects
Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon, TDN's No. 4 overall
Getting into some of the top prospects from TDN's consensus Big Board who are on the Senior Bowl watch list, Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert is likely the top upperclassman quarterback on everyone's preseason board.
There was talk of Herbert declaring last year and potentially being the No. 1 overall pick, but he opted to return to Oregon for his senior season. If they can get him in Mobile, it would be huge, not only from a scouting perspective, but also for teams to connect with Herbert before the Combine, on the field and in the meeting rooms.
Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn, TDN's No. 5 overall
Right now Brown sits at No. 5 overall on TDN's consensus big board, which makes him the top interior defensive lineman on the board.
Brown was a projected first round pick after his 2018 season, but said he had unfinished business at Auburn (likely meaning an SEC Championship and potential National Championship). Brown is a rare talent of size, speed and strength. If he makes it to Mobile for the event, he might have a field day with some of those offensive linemen.
Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU, TDN's No. 9 overall
After missing the entire 2017 season due to an NCAA violation and suspension, the former 5-star cornerback Fulton came back and returned to form immediately for LSU in 2018. He was one of the best coverage cornerbacks in the country last year, and this year he comes in at No. 9 on our preseason big board as one of the top defensive backs in the class. His man coverage abilities are tough to match.
Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia, TDN's No. 11 overall
Speaking of top man coverage abilities, Bryce Hall was another player who could have made the jump to the NFL last year, but chose to come back for one more season.
In doing so, he checks in right outside the Top 10 at No. 11 on our consensus big board. Hall, like Fulton, is a man coverage monster who can win with speed, length and fantastic ball skills. The cornerback class isn't always strong at the Senior Bowl, as many top cornerbacks declare for the draft as underclassmen. But if they can get Hall there, he can be a standout player.
Julian Okwara, EDGE, Notre Dame, TDN's No. 26 overall
Okwara is currently our top edge rusher who is on the Senior Bowl watch list, as he comes in at No. 26 overall on the consensus board.
Okwara is a very alluring edge rusher. With speed, bend and length on the outside, Okwara racked up 12 tackles for loss and eight sacks last season. No Jerry Tillery in the middle this year for Notre Dame, so it will be up to Okwara to step up the pressure. We'd love to see him get to go against new offensive tackle competition in Mobile.
For the full list of players from the 2020 Senior Bowl Watch List visit seniorbowl.com.