Folks, it’s almost about that time. Draft season is upon us, and we here at The Draft Network will have you covered from every angle leading up to Round 1 on April 29 in Cleveland.
Since 1950, the Senior Bowl has served as the gold-standard for draft-eligible prospects looking to rise on respective draft boards across NFL war rooms. This year’s event is loaded with high pedigree talent with the likes of 2020 Heisman winner DeVonta Smith (who will only complete interviews), joined by Alabama teammates Mac Jones, Najee Harris, and Alex Leatherwood, Florida’s Kyle Trask, and Texas’ Sam Ehlinger, to name a few.
Along with your Power 5 studs you see on your TV each Saturday, the Senior Bowl offers us a glimpse of the lesser-known prospects from smaller schools around the nation. With that, let’s dive into the players I am most looking forward to watching in Mobile, leading up to kick-off on Jan. 30.
Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&M
Mond fits the NFL mold. At 6-foot-2 and 217 pounds, he touts above-average ability to maneuver within and beyond the pocket, a must in the NFL. He’s a flat-out battler on the gridiron who took a massive amount of hits while under center for the Aggies. He doesn’t tout a bazooka on his shoulder, but Mond works seamlessly in the short to intermediate areas of the field with impressive zip on a slightly awkward release.
A four-year starter in College Station, Mond will go down as one of the most successful A&M quarterbacks ever after leading the Aggies to a 9-1 season in 2020, highlighted by a 41-27 win over North Carolina in the Orange Bowl.
Mond broke several program records during his time in Aggieland, including career passing yards (9,661), career passing touchdowns (71), completions (801), attempts (1,358), and total offense (11,340), and tied one, career total touchdowns (93).
What I’m Watching: These are his final live action reps before practice-like settings at his pro day. Although he had a four-year career in the toughest conference in the country, I want to see Mond progress as a passer. I want to see him become a pass-first quarterback outside of the pocket, instead of the opposite. His game reminds me a lot of Marcus Mariota, and I can see him rising in the middle part of the draft if he's able to put on a nice showing in Mobile.
James Hudson III, OL, Cincinnati
A very unique prospect along the offensive line, Hudson was initially recruited by Jim Harbaugh to play defensive line at Michigan. Hudson not only switched positions but he also switched schools, transferring to Cincinnati where he’s developed into one of this year’s most underrated prospects. He’s ultra-physical at the point of attack, occasionally leading to off-balanced blocks with his weight too far over his feet, but Hudson has a very nice anchor and smooth footwork for only working on the offensive side of the ball for a couple of seasons.
What I’m Watching: Cincinnati faced decent competition on a weekly basis in the American Athletic Conference, but nothing like Hudson will see this week and moving forward. The possibility of Hudson being exposed as an overall inexperienced blocker could come to fruition against higher-level rushers this week, but I don’t see it happening. He has quick hands, a nasty motor, and consistently wins 1-on-1 matchups. I’m very excited to watch Hudson work in Mobile.
Frank Darby, WR, Arizona State
Oh, those Sun Devil wideouts. For the third year in a row, we are talking about a former Arizona State wide receiver as a sleeper in their respective draft. N’Keal Harry in 2019, Brandon Aiyuk in 2020, and now Darby.
At just 6-foot-1, he doesn’t flash from a frame standpoint. It’s his footwork, toughness, and route-running that set him apart from some of the other receivers in Mobile this week. Darby’s feet are as smooth as silk, and what he lacks in speed he makes up for in his craftiness and artistry running routes. According to our own Drae Harris, Darby is good in the passing game due to his toughness and competitiveness. He gets off the line with good releases due to his foot quickness and hand usage. He then creates separation against man coverage with creative route-running and sufficient separation quickness at the top of the route.
What I’m Watching: I’m looking for Darby to skyrocket up draft boards. His skill set is very intriguing due to his pure ability to find ways to get open; no matter the route, or opposing coverage. There are a few impressive corners in Mobile that will line-up opposite Darby this week. If he’s able to show his expertise out wide and dominate, I don’t see him slipping past day two.
Charles Snowden, LB, Virginia
At that height, Snowden would become the tallest linebacker in NFL history alongside Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders legend Ted Hendricks from the ’70s. I don’t foresee a positional change, as Snowden is a heck of a second-level defender. Not highly recruited out of high school, Snowden signed with the Cavaliers and didn’t come into form until the latter half of his collegiate career. He totaled 44 total tackles, 10.0 tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks, three pass deflections, and a forced fumble in eight games as a senior. The numbers don’t jump off the page, but Snowden is just 22 years old and has ample room to develop in the correct NFL defense that allows him to use his physically-gifted frame.
What I’m watching: His length alone allows him to disengage opposing blockers at will, easily tracking ball carriers from gap-to-gap. Although I don’t see him working much if at all with his hand in the dirt, similar to how the Arizona Cardinals use Isaiah Simmons, Snowden presents unbelievable difficulties for opposing blockers if relegated to some work outside as a 9-technique. It’ll be hard to miss him on the field via his vertical prowess, and I think he uses that to his advantage this week.
Daelin Hayes, EDGE, Notre Dame
The more tape I watch of Hayes, the more I like. By no means does he have the god-given edge-rushing capabilities of a Gregory Rousseau out of Miami or Azeez Ojulari of Georgia, but man, if Hayes is able to continue to develop, he will become a nice piece within any NFL front.
His frame is NFL-ready. He’s a brick wall at 270 pounds and consistently jolts opposing linemen with strong hands. Despite missing most of 2019 with a shoulder injury, Hayes bounced-back in his graduate season, totaling 6.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, and two forced fumbles. His stats aren’t something to write home about, but Hayes has everything to gain in Mobile.
What I’m watching: Hayes has the frame to simply overpower opposing linemen. He isn’t thrown around, he can play both inside at 3-tech and outside at 5-technique, and his adjustment to the NFL level will be one of rapid succession simply due to his build. I’m on the hype-train surrounding Hayes.