Every year, I get the list of the Senior Bowl prospects and go through each one for a 15-30 minute tape and initial data scouting session. I then slap an initial (school) grade reaction on each prospect and write a few lines about my first reaction to my preview study on them – to publish during Senior Bowl week to get ready for the practice week and game.
I’ll get a better feel for these players after we get their Combine and/or Pro Day numbers and run our scouting analytics and do deeper research on some of them, but for now he’s a first reaction preview of the players going into their Senior Bowl week (ranked by lowest-to-highest initial reaction grades)…
*Updated grades/ranks noted after scouting the entire week.
WR Collin Johnson, Texas (6’5”/220) *Early Preview Grade: D+/C- (Update: D+)
Update: Did not look good to me at all this week…a lot of drops, and double-catching. I was already shaky on him, but now I’m just moving on.
Org. Comments: 10 years ago, Johnson is a top 10 pick on his size...but not as freakish by today’s standards. Big catch radius guy with good hands. The problem I see (and saw two years ago when I did a preview on him) – he’s too slow, gangly in motion for the NFL…he’s going to have trouble getting open because he’s so slow to get up to speed. And I don’t think he has the NFL speed/movement skills to be a key starter in the league.
He’ll have a role in the red zone at his size, but the new era WRs are so quick, sharp, versatile…and Johnson is just ‘big target’. A little better version of Auden Tate…which works to some degree in the NFL, but not a star, not a guy the defenses worry about until the end zone – which a career just doing that isn’t the worst thing.
He’s not got the frame to consider moving to TE either. I have feeling he’ll be lost in the NFL some, or could be the XFL’s #1 WR in TDs. His choice.
WR Quartney Davis, Texas A&M (6’2”/200) *Early Preview Grade: C/C-
A solid underneath, tough WR who has enough juice to go medium-deep as well. I’ve previewed so many stud WRs ahead of watching Davis, he’s like a super letdown by comparison. He’s just ‘good’ in a world of a lot of ‘great’. He’s going to get lost at the Senior Bowl considering all the other talent there.
WR Antonio Gandy-Golden, Liberty (6’4”/220) *Early Preview Grade: B+ (Update: C)
Update: Looks like a great NFL WR prospect, has the body and athleticism…but he looked shaky in performance all week. Had some ‘wow’ plays in easier drills, but in the 11-on-11s, he was not really a factor. Could be he was just overwhelmed with the adjustment to the higher caliber of college play and he’ll improve with time, but…
Org. Comments: Reminds me of a slightly slower Julio Jones, with more confidence/aggression. Has the perfect NFL size. Great hands. Contests for every throw. Willing to go inside for catches. Great, quick feet off the snap. He’s a WR prospect that might be as good as there is in this draft. Hasn’t faced high-end competition or played with a great QB, so it’s hard to see/know his full upside or limitations. When I watched him against Syracuse, he was toying with coverage (6-119-0 in a loss)…just his QB was not so hot.
WR Kalija Lipscomb, Vandy (6’1”/201) *Early Preview Grade: C+/B-
It’s hard to tell what’s an ‘OK’ WR prospect vs. a ‘good’ one anymore…the new era of WR prospects are so good, they’d be ‘A’s’ 10 years ago, now I’m not sure whether to classify a guy Lipscomb as a solid ‘B’ or is he a ‘C’ on the scale of new era prospects.
Example…Lipscomb reminds me a bit of Sterling Shepard. In his 2016 NFL Draft, Shepard was #40 pick and a coveted WR. Today, Shepard would be lost in a wash of Sterling Shepard’s and be around a #100 +/- pick. 10 years ago, he might be the top WR talent in the draft. The passing game is evolving so fast at the lower levels, that naturally the WRs (and CBs) are getting better…along with the QBs.
Lipscomb could be a starter and top 5 WR from this class, or a forgotten backup…depending upon where he lands. He’s a very solid WR prospect who doesn’t stand out in one thing but is good/fine at everything…and hard to scout because the QB play at Vandy was a disaster in 2019.
WR K.J. Hill, Ohio State (6’0”/195) *Early Preview Grade: C+
Capable NFL WR…but I do not see any ‘it’ factor here, in a game/showcase week with a handful of ‘it’ factor WRs. Hill is just solid/capable but not special…he’s forgettable, not a good attribute to have going into the NFL Draft. He’s has high end speed it looks like, but I didn’t see a total WR stud to go with it. A lot of people love him among the WR class, I just haven’t seen ‘it’ yet.
WR Van Jefferson, Florida (6’2”/197) *Early Preview Grade: C+/B-
Update: Was the WR who his team leaned on the most, the one the QBs were looking for in 11-on-11s. Increased his football stock overall, but we had decent grades on him already.
Org. Comments: Quality NFL prospect. Not as flashy as some of the top names I have ranked here, but a quietly very good WR prospect. Fast feet, quick off the snap to get himself open. Good hands and awareness. Has NFL size and athleticism. He’s good, maybe not great…but good or very good. We’ll see if the Senior Bowl competition helps or hurts his case.
WR Jauan Jennings, Tennessee (6’3”/210) *Early Preview Grade: B/B-
Could be more of a B/B+ prospect. Really shows the confidence and swagger and ability of a #1 WR in the NFL. Has size, speed, and catching skills of an NFL starter. Had a couple knee surgeries in 2017, and that’s a minor red flag…but looks a lot better two years removed from it (2019) than he did coming of it in 2018. I’m intrigued. Jennings could steal the show at the Senior Bowl…or get exposed a bit. I’m interested to see.
WR Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State (6’1”/206) *Early Preview Grade: B+ (Update: B+/B)
Update: Didn’t blow anyone away at the Senior Bowl week. Was fine but I was looking for something attention-getting and did not see it.
Org. Comments: Maybe he’s an ‘A’, I don’t know…I can’t take it anymore, there is such an abundance of talent in this game/showcase week. Aiyuk was the 2nd to last of 14 Senior Bowl WR prospects I preview scouted and I’ve seen so many ‘A’/freak talent WRs, and thus a really terrific, capable WR like Aiyuk becomes a ‘B’ unless he does something out of this world. He is really talented and high effort and effective and quick to get open and fast after the catch. He didn’t make me fall out of my chair, in this first watch, so he only gets a ‘B+’ but I’m wondering if I just don’t know how to classify these guys anymore…they’re all so great.
WR Denzel Mims, Baylor (6’3”/215) *Early Preview Grade: B+
An end zone assassin. The guy takes on a different spirit in the end zone, he catches everything thrown his way whether he high points, dives, leaps/extends, has guys draped all over him, is getting held/P.I.’d. His TD-ability is an A+. He’s just a good receiver before the end zone that I can see, BUT he might have more to give in that area as well…he’s just so accomplished on bombs and high point plays.
WR James Proche (Pro-shay), SMU (6’0”/193) *Early Preview Grade: B+/A-
‘A’ hands. ‘A+’ route running skills. ‘A’ toughness. ‘A’ WR IQ/instincts. He’s everything you want in an NFL WR prospect except probably ‘B-ish’ speed. He’s not a burner, he’s just sensational at his craft. I’m trying to classify him in my head, and the first thing that came to mind was a better, (hopefully) more mentally stable/less diva Jarvis Landry.
Proche gets open at will it seems and makes every catch on every ball thrown his way it seems…diving catches, one-handed catches regularly, catches with guys draped all over him. He’s one of those guys that are always open, but he’s not that fast…but the DBs have to respect him and they can’t figure out how to play him. He wins in tight coverage; he eats them alive in soft coverage. He’s just a great football WR/technician.
WR Devin Duvernay, Texas (5’11”/210) *Early Preview Grade: A/A+ (Update: A/A-)
Update: A total downer for the week. I was expecting to see something compelling, but he showed he was fast and that was about it. He didn’t do anything wrong; he just had a chance to show out and just looked ‘good’/OK. It’s harder for WRs like him to shine in this setting, so I give him some grace…but my eyebrow is raised and looking forward to doing deeper study here.
Org. Comments: I mean, I can’t even explain this WR group at the Senior Bowl…it’s overloaded with talent. Every player I bring up to watch, just when I think there can’t be another ‘A’ potential prospect…here comes another one.
Duvernay may be the best of the bunch. Not that guy that jumps out at you at first glance, but the guy who ends up the top guy. He’s got a great knack for getting open. He’s got super-fast feet/burst 2-3 steps into his route, he starts to look like Tyreek Hill speed at a certain point but he plays more of a bulldog, Julian Edelman style over the middle/underneath but will play medium-deep and burn you that way as well.
The most impressive attribute of them all with him is – after the catch, he’s like a top tailback. Tough as nails with breakaway speed. He’s also like a smaller A.J. Brown, but 10x the receiver instincts. He’s a ‘wow’ worker. 8.2 catches per game, #1 in the Big 12 in catches, #3 in all the NCAA in 2019. #1 in rec. yards in the Big 12, #5 in the NCAA in 2019. He’s the kind of warrior WR every team would love to have.
WR Bryan Edwards, South Carolina (6’3”/215) *Early Preview Grade: A-
Breakaway speed just jumps out at me, especially at his size. Beyond tough…plays physical and is hard to bring down. Wonderful hands, often making ‘wow’ catches. He’s the total package. He’s a little like A.J. Brown, if Brown was a better WR technician. The only small knock I had on Edwards was that’s he’s not as quick off the snap and not as sharp cutting on routes, and that will hurt him a touch at the next level from being instantly great…but he almost has it all. A true talent who played on a terrible passing game team. He caught 6 of his team’s 12 TD passes in 2019.
WR Michael Pittman, USC (6’3”/220) *Early Preview Grade: A/A+
I can’t wait to see more, but what I just saw in a preview…might be the best total package WR in the 2020 NFL Draft, and one of the best WR prospects I’ll have ever scouted. Just a quick reaction to some preview tape.
Has the size of a true #1 force WR but has the speed/agility of a much smaller-sleeker WR…a very smooth athlete. Everything he does seems effortless…he might have 4.4+ speed with 6.7-6.8 three-cone at his size. Great hands. Dominated with pretty mediocre QB play for a major-name school.
WR Chase Claypool, Notre Dame (6’4”/229) *Early Preview Grade: A/A+ (Update: A/A+)
Update: Stunning. No grade change but is my #1 WR leaving the event. A cross between Mike Evans and Julio Jones comes to my mind here. Very interested to see his Combine numbers. Great feet and just great everything.
Org. Comments: It’s unreal the talent here. Guys with such skills, I can’t even generate existing NFL comps in my head to compare them too. College WRs should not be built like this and so technically sound like this…in general and speaking of Claypool.
Claypool is like if Darren Waller was quicker, way more polished, and had better hands. I can’t believe this guy is 225+ and is so sleek and quick.
I think he was underutilized at Notre Dame – they sent him deep a lot and then threw dump/crap underneath. He has more to give – like a faster, better, stronger, more polished Kenny Golladay.