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Senior Bowl Notes, Observations From Day 1 (Tuesday 1/22/2019)

Air Date:
January 23, 2019

Senior Bowl Notes, Observations From Day 1 (Tuesday 1/22/2019)

*In no particular order, mostly the order I made the notes, and excuse types…moving fast.

I can start with this…before any player hit the field, my sense is everyone in the media is bought into Daniel Jones (North team) as being in some obvious (to them) race for the #1-2 QB ranking in the draft class with Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins.

The football people aren’t on the same page with this Jones media love. The football scouts are talking more Drew Lock because of his ‘big arm’.

This Daniel Jones disconnect between the media and football people will not stand. They are never in disagreement for long. Usually, the media will gravitate towards the football people’s chatter. It happened with Carson Wentz, it happened with Josh Allen last year…so, by using past logic – it will be Drew Lock as the guy they start to push over Jones.

And per usual, it’s all about ‘big arm’.

The one player everyone is gaga over, and totally bought in on, before they hit the field – DE Montez Sweat, Mississippi State. A strong chance he’s a top 10-15 pick in the draft. His physique is terrific: 6’6”/252 with an 84” wingspan.

SOUTH PRACTICE:

-- 6’7” Buffalo QB Tyree Jackson was a late add to the Senior Bowl when Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson had to drop out. Jackson stands out, literally, where ever he goes. I thought his tape was quite lacking, and he you could see the issues in practice, but there were also ‘moments’ with a ‘big arm’. He’s going to get himself drafted on size, I’d almost guarantee it…moth to a flame in the NFL. Moth to a flame.

-- When I saw WR Hunter Renfro (Clemson) take the field, and how much smaller he was than almost anyone here, I started re-wondering why the Senior Bowl was going to waste a spot on him. However, when they started playing – Renfro more than held his own. He was Cole Beasley out there…great routes, undersized, just gets open and makes catches. He frustrated many big-name corners in drills.

-- The NFL Network crew tried to push Temple CB prospect Rock Sa-Yin from the jump, and then I saw him keep getting beat by WRs working smart routes…and then the chatter stopped on him and they shifted to others. Sa-Yin wasn’t bad, he just wasn’t as advertised day-one.

-- I wasn’t familiar with West Virginia WR Gary Jennings prior, but boy did he catch my attention in practice. I don’t think he caught anyone else’s attention because he was subtle good…and because he doesn’t have the size or speed or name of any of the WR group, but very savvy off the snap and super glue hands. He looked like he could get open whenever he wanted, kinda like Taywan Taylor.

-- Five guys who stood out BIG TIME in the one-on-one D-Line/O-Line drills…

1) DT Daylon Mack, Texas A&M is unblockable. He’s not quick enough to make a bunch of sacks and tackles, but he just blows up any blocker in his way with super-human strength. He is a ‘must double’ DT in the NFL.

2) OT/OG Dru Samia, Oklahoma was about the only OL prospect who could handle Mack…and it was a chore for him. Otherwise, Samia was halting everyone.

3) Samai’s college teammate OG Ben Powers was the only other OL prospect who seemed to win most of his battles in general.

4) OT Andre Dilliard, Washington State was another OL standout – just a wall of a human being as blocker.

5) DE Montez Sweat, Miss State was the real deal. Too fast for most every blocker lined up on him. A physical freak. All the ‘he could go top 10-15’ talk could shift to ‘he could go top 5’, potentially, by the work he’s doing here.  

-- Sweat was the real deal. The NFL Network crew were pushing La. Tech DT Jaylon Ferguson hard pre-practice, but he was lost among the mediocre this day…and isn’t in the same stratosphere as Montez Sweat.

-- Wyoming DE Carl Granderson was getting a lot of love from people pre-practice, and I thought he looked terrible in drills here. Physically looks the part, but he was so easily blocked away that it looked strange. Could be weak upper body or a bad day. Not sure. He comes in so upright and creates a nice target for blockers to shove off course.

-- South Carolina WR Deebo Samuel looked really good at times and struggled mightily at other times. Seemed to struggle working/getting open inside but felt more comfortable just trying to beat people deep.

Notes from the 20 or so plays in 11-on-11’s…

-- The starting QB rotation for the drills…

#1) Will Grier – and he definitely looked the worst of any of the ‘big 3’ QBs on the South team. His throws looked uninspired and unconfident. He identified open receivers but threw the ball low and way behind them. He did not help himself at all this day. It was just like 2-3 throws…all weak, so not running off a cliff – but when you see negatives on Grier from other ‘observers’; that’s why.

#2) Gardner Minshew – he looked fine. Nothing stood out. No one is talking about him or getting excited by his prospects. He semi-invisible besides people saying, ‘like Mayfield’, but they just mean he’s short for a QB prospect.

#3) Jarrett Stidham – an unusual day for me with Stidham, something I wasn’t prepared for. What was unusual – the NFL Network guys really gave him a nice push. Talking about how great/promising he was in 2017 but perplexed on why he struggled in 2018. Daniel Jeremiah then shared a story about Stidham as the best QB in an Elite-11 QB camp he attended. They all bragged about his arm. I was stunned he got so much positive attention.

On the field, he was fine. Arguably the best QB for the South this day judging by this bad process to judge by.

#4) Tyree Jackson – held his own. Made a few throws that got people excited. He still looks like he short-arms the ball way too much – bad mechanics, bad feel for pocket passing.

-- North Dakota State’s Bruce Anderson seemed to be the main RB they used in the 11-on-11’s. Marshall WR Tyre Brady seemed to be the WR in on the most snaps in 11-on-11, but there was a lot of rotating. LSU TE Foster Moreau seemed to be the main TE.

-- The one guy who jumped off the page in 11-on-11’s was West Virginia LB David Long. So fast to the ball and play. Looked like the leader of the defensive group in live action.

-- I watched Kyle Shanahan speak a few times in interviews the past 24+ hours…you know, he’s a pretty smart, humble, normal-sounding human being…unlike many NFL head coaches.

-- Very important message for some of you… We are going to want to keep an eye on the South for betting this game. They have the #1-2-3 best QBs here. They have the best pass rusher (Sweat) and DT (Mack) and maybe the three best OLs I’ve seen in Mobile (Dillard-Samia-Powers). Most importantly – the QBs.  

I suspect the South will be a -1.0- or -2.0-point favorite and that’s fine. Anything at/under -3.0, at this stage. We have to see if any late scratches, but I like the South…and, usually, the betting line is announced Friday.

NORTH PRACTICE:

-- The North team feels inferior to the South in every way BUT at WR. The North is loaded at WR. Let me hit the three guys who are making the most noise right off the top…as they dominated the NFL Network cutaways and chatter, as well as talk among the football people…

1) UMass WR Andy Isabella is clearly the WR everyone wants to watch/is the main one everybody is talking about. He sticks out because of his name being easy to remember, and his easy Julian Edelman comps…but he doesn’t really stick out at an event like the Senior Bowl.

It’s hard for guys like Isabella, or like a Trent Taylor a few years ago, or Cooper Kupp, or even what Gary Jennings was doing earlier with the South team – not eye-catching size, but beautiful route-running and meticulous timing with their QB – that skill set doesn’t translate well in the one-on-one’s here because the DBs are holding everyone in one-on-one’s and then you’re only as good as the QB you’re working with…and all the North WR studs got the weakest QBs here to work with by and large.

I kinda felt like all the Isabella pre-hype fell flat because it couldn’t translate as well to the 1-on-1 or 11-on-11 work. Isabella looked fine he just can’t be a superhero in this setting.

The NFL Network told the story multiple times how Isabella beat Denzel Ward in a track field event in high school…and that is a legit piece of interesting info – and backs up the likelihood Isabella is a 4.3+ runner (and I think a 6.6+ three-cone).

2) The WR prospect I liked just as well as Isabella coming into the Senior Bowl week is Georgia State’s Penny Hart…and he has some similar issues as Isabella (smaller, meticulous) in trying to show off here.

However, I walked away from day-one in the… Hart > Isabella camp.

Isabella needs a place to display/deploy his style or he’ll wind up forgotten like Trent Taylor (so, basically, needs to go to NE and wait for Edelman to leave and Brady never to leave). Hart, on the other hand, seems more like he’s going to be a star because he can play an Edelman type style with a Tarik Cohen type flare working more routes like an all-around WR.

I’m all-in on Hart as one of the best WRs in this class, and arguably the best WR here. *Looks at two draft websites for their WR draft rankings, sees Hart at #55 and not listed in their 50 only ranked.*

Isabella is arguably the best…but no place to go where his style is fully maximized. *Looks at the same two draft websites for their WR draft rankings, sees Isabella #23 and #19.*

3) The guy who has ‘the look’, one that will get him drafted higher than Isabella-Hart, most likely…and he may end up deserving it, is UC Davis WR Keelan Doss – who looks like Andre Johnson working right now. Big body. Physical. Smart routes. Athletic. Good hands.

The Senior Bowl stole Doss from the East-West game before Doss even went to the E-W week.

Isabella-Hart-Doss are the best WRs here, to me, so far…but there are so many good-very good prospects here it’s crazy. However, none of them are Courtland Sutton…and none in the style/class as Christian Kirk. Isabella, among all of them, could be an instant star but I don’t where/how. He’s not becoming a star with Josh Allen or Blake Bortles, etc. If he landed with Aaron Rodgers, etc., then watch out.

-- With all the great WRs on the North team, it’s a great test/way to scout the CB prospect’s talents. The one guy that looked the best/most confident against these WRs was USC CB Iman Marshall. I was a fan coming in, and it’s only enhanced now.

-- Really nice showing (without defense) of 6’8” TE Donald Parham catching the ball in the very opening QB-WR-TE play run-throughs without any defense. Parham, obviously, just stands out with his height, so everyone wanted to see if he could catch the ball – he didn’t. Without resistance.

I didn’t see him catch when working against defenders…but I can’t recall the TEs really getting the opportunity in ‘vs.’ drills 1-on-1 or 11-on-11.

-- Two guys who dominated the 1-on-1’s among the OL-DL battles, from my view (and none of the OLs grabbed my attention)…

1) DT L.J. Collier, TCU was virtually unstoppable…whether bull rushing or speed rushing. I gave him a D+ grade in my preview, but I’m a bad I’ll be throwing that grade out after watching his work here.

2) Washington DT Greg Gaines doesn’t look like an athletic DT prospect at 6’1”/307 and kinda ‘big’/chunky looking…but, man, if he did not just blow up his blockers in the 1-on-1 drills Tuesday.

-- I didn’t see anything that special in the 11-on-11’s. There wasn’t much time for the North to do them, it seemed.

My only three things to convey from 11-on-11…

1) RB Karan Higdon, Michigan seemed to be the main RB they were pushing…maybe.

2) WR Keelan Doss just has that ‘look’ working in the 11-on-11’s. Not from catches or plays that happened…just him moving around, etc.

3) The QB rotations…

#1 Drew Lock – seems to be pushed as the starter at this point. Thought it would be Daniel Jones…but I think Jones is losing steam FAST. Not because Lock is anything special.

# 2 Daniel Jones – He showed, to anyone who was watching, that he doesn’t have the arm of the other top guys here. Jones pushed to allow himself to be eligible to be here and is probably going to regret it. He’s a bill of goods sold to the fans by the media, and it’s falling apart already.

#3) Ryan Finley – The North’s best QB but buried because of the silly love for Lock and Jones. Finley is so much better than Jones it’s not fair – it’s an injustice that’s going to cost Finley draft status.

-- One last thing…

Watching the San Francisco 49ers coaching staff vs. the Oakland Raiders working with their teams…gimme the 49ers. I’d prefer less Jon Gruden as the ‘star’…because what a great job he did with Oakland this past year, so let’s focus in on him grabbing the spotlight with his stupid Y-Spyder Banana or whatever the heck play that didn’t work in 2018 was.

Someone who played for Gruden commented…”These are same plays we ran when I was playing.”

…and I was like…EXACTLY.

Not sure what we’ll review tomorrow with the practices moved indoors and access limited/no TV coverage happening. But I got something in mind…it might be my Senior Bowl Dynasty Draft top 12 (a day early).

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About R.C. Fischer

R.C. Fischer is an NFL Draft analyst for College Football Metrics, and a football projections analyst and writer for Fantasy Football Metrics. 

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