With the announcements rolling in of accepted invitations to the 2021 Senior Bowl, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year. While so many high profile prospects have already committed to competing in Mobile, there are numerous announcements still to come. Let’s examine five prospects that I hope to hear are heading to the Senior Bowl.
DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Smith has been unbelievably consistent and productive for the Crimson Tide and actually led the team in receiving last season in an offense that also featured Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy, and Jaylen Waddle. He’s on track to again lead Alabama in receiving this season with 56 receptions for 759 yards and eight touchdowns in six games.
While it seems like there are very few questions left for Smith to answer, measuring in the 170s will leave some doubt in the mind of evaluators. The more exposure and opportunities Smith has to affirm his skill set and continue performing at a high level regardless of the scenario, the easier it will be for NFL decision-makers to invest a high selection on a receiver that features such a slight frame.
Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
Paye is a tremendously rare physical specimen. Sitting atop Bruce Feldman’s 2020 college football freaks list, Paye has rare athleticism for his size. According to Feldman:
Paye clocked the second-best 3-cone time on the team at a blistering 6.37 seconds, which would have topped anyone at the 2020 combine. Paye’s 40 is also moving at 4.57, with a solid 34-inch vertical and 30 reps on the bench press. Paye’s 40 time and 4.15 pro shuttle time are better than any D-lineman or edge player who tested at the 2020 combine. His 11.3 time in the 60-yard shuttle is also elite.
A high school running back, Paye emerged in 2019 for Michigan when he racked up 12.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. His 2020 campaign is off to a terrific start where the application of his dynamic physical traits continues to lead to dominance on the football field. There’s a reasonable chance Paye is the first EDGE off the board in April and a strong showing in Mobile can help solidify that.
Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
A three-year starter at left tackle for Northwestern, Slater opted out of the 2020 college football season. While he did leave an outstanding final impression given his stellar play in 2019, absent of competing at the Senior Bowl, there won’t be any new exposures to Slater for 17 months between his last college game and draft day.
All the feedback we’ve received from league sources indicate strongly that the NFL is high on Slater as a prospect. The Senior Bowl would be the perfect showcase for Slater to solidify his draft stock and make sure he isn’t forgotten as other names have emerged based on how they performed on the field during the 2020 season.
Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
Adebo had so much momentum after his outstanding 2018 campaign but didn’t take the step forward many were hoping for in 2019 to solidify his status as a top-tier cornerback prospect. Opting out of the 2020 college football season, evaluators are left guessing on if that next step will come.
Without any exposure to him this season, Adebo should welcome the opportunity to compete at the 2021 Senior Bowl. With a strong showing, he can capture some buzz with his talent and bring him back in the discussion as a potential first-round draft pick. Adebo needs some momentum and Mobile is that place for him to gain that.
Hamsah Nasirildeen, S, Florida State
Nasirildeen is an exciting talent that had a terrific 2019 campaign before it was ended due to a torn ACL. Finally healthy, Nasirildeen just made his season debut last week against NC State. Nasirilideen’s blend of size, athleticism, football intelligence, versatility, and physicality makes him the total package.
Thinking back to last year’s Senior Bowl where Kyle Dugger and Jeremy Chinn impressed and boosted their stock as “positionless” defensive players, Nasirildeen has the opportunity to do the same in Mobile. Time is running out for Nasirildeen to gain some sizzle during the college football season, so finishing strong and parlaying that into an impressive week at the Senior Bowl can regain the momentum he had in 2019 before the injury.
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