Offense: Arizona State WR Brandon Aiyuk
We wrote about him before the game; we're writing about him afterwards as well. The Sun Devil speedster once again played a critical role in the Sparky offense, pacing the receivers with 11 targets, 7 receptions, 161 yards, and 1 touchdown.
What was the touchdown, you asked?
Aiyuk's speed pushes sub-4.4, his ball-tracking downfield hasn't failed him yet this season, and his vision as a ball-carrier/returner make him a big play on two legs. But it's that acceleration that has you watching this rep over and over and over again. You can see him hitting the turbo button when he sees green grass.
Aiyuk has risen more than almost any other receiver so far this year -- perhaps fellow Senior Bowler Devin Duvernay, or Oregon State standout junior Isaiah Hodgins. Sometimes, rises are inflated by visibility and hype -- this simply cannot be the case with Aiyuk. His athletic ability and ceiling as a designed-touch player makes him essentially a lock to be drafted on Day 2; on the current Senior Bowl roster of receivers, he's likely the best player in Mobile.
Defense: Northwestern EDGE Joe Gaziano
Big Joe! Gaziano is far from the sexiest pick for our defensive nominee -- he's a late-round Big 5-tech who may struggle to translate into the NFL given a modest athletic profile. Though don't you dare besmirch his hustle, underestimate his strength, or -- critical to this conversation here -- think he can't get after the passer. With his 1.5 sacks on Saturday against Minnesota, Gaziano is now the Northwestern career leader for sacks with 28.5.
Gaziano will attend the 2020 Shrine Game, but I'd imagine he's still on the Senior Bowl radar for his stout play and inside/out versatility. To set that record on Senior Day for a Nrothwestern program with few bright spots this year, however, really stands out as a laudable moment for our Sunday Senior Showcase. Hopefully Big Joe brings that dominance down to St. Pete's this year.