The 2021 Senior Bowl is now in the rearview mirror and once again the event proved to be one of the best weekends on the NFL evaluation calendar. The Senior Bowl allows evaluators to get a first-hand look at the top seniors (and other eligible players) in the class and an opportunity to see them compete against the highest level of competition, while also seeing how these players handle NFL coaching.
In Saturday’s matchup, the National Team beat the American Team 27-24, and a handful of players stood out and earned some money. Now, before we get into some of my key takeaways from Saturday’s game, it is important to note that evaluators place a heavier emphasis on how these players practiced throughout the week, rather than how they played in today’s game. As a matter of fact, when I was scouting in the league, it was common for us to fly home Thursday afternoon or early Friday morning and not even stay for the actual game as we were able to make good evaluations from the time we spent watching practice. That being said, how these players compete and show out in live situations when the cameras are on in the game is important and gives players who may not have practiced well an opportunity to leave Mobile with a good impression.
Without further ado, here are my five key takeaways from Saturday’s Senior Bowl Game. Click on a player's name to read his full premium scouting report.
Kellen Mond is an Intriguing Prospect
We already know who the top four quarterbacks are in this draft class. The likes of Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, and Trey Lance are all considered potential franchise quarterbacks and should all expect to hear their name called within the top 12 picks. After the top four, Alabama’s Mac Jones is the next guy who should expect to hear his name called. Jones was unable to play in the actual game due to an ankle injury, but he had a strong week of practice and I came away impressed with his ability to drive some of those balls into tight windows at the intermediate level.
Evaluators really wanted to see who out of the rest this quarterback group at the Senior Bowl could separate themselves with a good showing in Mobile. I believe that Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond did enough to separate himself from the pack a bit and really helped himself in the game. Mond won the MVP of the Senior Bowl and really impressed me with the way he was able to throw the football down the field. Out of all the quarterbacks, he possesses by far the livest arm and is also the most athletic of the group. I was really impressed with some of his ball placements on Saturday and his ability to keep plays alive with his legs. There are sometimes he holds the ball too long, and you do wish he was more consistent down to down, but there is definitely some upside here with Mond.
The Defensive Line Shined
By far the biggest storyline was how dominant the defensive linemen were. I mean, there was a point where I actually felt bad for some of these offensive linemen because they were routinely getting beat. A few players I want to touch on specifically include UCLA’s Osa Odighizuwa, Pittsburgh’s Patrick Jones II, Miami’s Quincy Roche, Northern Iowa’s Elerson Smith, and UAB’s Jordan Smith.
Odighizuwa really had a strong week and carried his performance over to the game. He flashed quickness for a big man, and his length and power make him a force inside. Jones is a guy who didn’t have a strong week of practice but showed up in the game. He showed his burst and nasty change of direction with his unique inside counter which he got home on. I think Jones II is a better player than what we saw in practice and I’m happy he played well on Saturday. Roche was one of the biggest names at the event and he lived up to the hype. He possesses an excellent first step and is advanced with his hands, but to me he really showed he does have power to hold the point of attack—which was a question mark of his. Also, his motor is just outstanding. There were multiple plays of him making tackles just from backside pursuit. Smith is a player I didn’t know much about heading into this week. He didn’t play this fall as Northern Iowa didn’t have a season due to COVID-19, but Smith had a strong game. He was making plays everywhere it seemed like and his length and athleticism really popped out to me. I expect scouts to do more homework on him as the months progress. Lastly, Smith is a guy I know the league is higher on than the media, and he really stood out today. He has the size, athleticism, and natural bend to really rush the passer.
It's a Good Year to Draft a Middle-Round WR
Outside of the defensive line, the receivers had the best day of all of the position groups. Even without the likes of Kadarius Toney or D’Wayne Eskridge playing in the game, the receivers stole the show. Players like Louisville’s Dez Fitzpatrick, Clemson’s Amari Rodgers, and South Carolina’s Shi Smith all stood out in the game. Fitzpatrick especially is a guy I want to note as I thought he was outstanding all week but was getting a bit overlooked with some of the bigger names out there drawing more attention. Fitzpatrick showed his ability to run crisp routes and separate laterally, and also showed some nice ball skills even though he did have two drops on the day. Both Rodgers and Smith showed their ability to win from the slot and be weapons with the ball in their hands after the catch. Teams who need slot receiver help will love this draft class.
Tall Corners with Length Stood Out
I honestly think you could make a case that Washington’s Keith Taylor had the strongest performance of any player in the Senior Bowl game. Taylor, a corner who measured in a 6023, had a hell of a game. He showed his ability to be patient at the line, flip his hips, find the hip of the receiver, and run stride for stride down the field with guys. His length on the outside is outstanding and his ability to play press-man at the next level will make him a hot commodity come draft day. Taylor had two really impressive passes defended and one that led to an interception.
Another corner with length that showed out on Saturday was Minnesota’s Benjamin St-Juste. St-Juste is a 6-foot-3 corner who did a really good job at challenging receivers early in the route and showed good movement skills for a corner with his height. The league loves tall corners with long arms that can run, and both of these players fit that mold and earned some cash with their performances.
Perhaps my two favorite players at the Senior Bowl, North Carolina’s running back Michael Carter and UCLA’s running back/receiver Demetric Felton, had great games on Saturday. Carter is a top-five running back and just confirmed my thoughts on him with the work he did this week and in today’s game. He may not have the size of other backs in this class, but in terms of natural running skills, I’m not sure there is a better player. His vision burst and ability to make defenders miss are outstanding. I loved what he was able to show in the receiving game as well.
Felton is a guy I know well from following the Pac-12 as closely as I do, and he’s a guy who made some big money this week. After playing almost exclusively at running back last season, Felton made the transition to receiver this week and made it look easy. His burst and suddenness out of breaks are outstanding and he showed natural hands and ball skills. He can be a weapon in the slot in the NFL, but honestly, I still think he can play running back at the next level. The kid runs tough and is stronger than people think. Whichever team that drafts him will have fun figuring out ways to get the ball in his hands.