2018 Reese's Senior Bowl
(Photo: Glenn Andrews/ USA TODAY Sports)

The 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl is a great place for NFL coaches, scouts, and general managers to find their next batch of young talent. The best Seniors around the country fly into Mobile Alabama for three days of practice including a collegiate All-Star Game. Teams get an up close and personal look at some of the fascinating prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft class. Great players have played in this game in the past including Carson Wentz, Von Miller, and Kareem Hunt are just some of the recent examples.

The first day of the practices overall tries to get the players acclimated to the plays and formations that will be called on Saturday. Throughout the day there was a number of fumbled quarterback-center exchange messes that needed to be cleaned up. Later, it was more of up-tempo practice getting in a bunch of reps in the latter half of the practices. There’s still a number of questions that need to be answered! Luckily we have two more practices to find out more. Who stood out on the first day of the 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl practices?

Quarterbacks:

It’s a star-studded quarterback group that features the Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield and Wyoming gunslinger Josh Allen. I’ve been on record for saying Mayfield has no chance of making it in the NFL, but I have to admit, he looked pretty good on day one. That, of course, comes after he was late to show up for the Senior Bowl missing the weigh-in and press conferences. Again, part of my statement comes from the fact that his demeanor is more than questionable which he will have the chance to talk to teams face to face. Mayfield doesn’t have the biggest arm of the bunch but he has some nice touch on his passes dropping a few right in the bucket. Watch him lead Michael Gallup right in stride for the reception below. It was a good first day for Mayfield. I moved him up from the 6th round to the 4th round. Let’s see if he continues the momentum the rest of the week. Mayfield also measured in at 6-feet 3/8 and small hands (9 1/2). If you’re banking on him being the next Drew Brees, well, good luck. I’m just not buying it. For now, Baker Manziel seems more accurate but we have a long way to go.

Josh Allen remains a huge mystery to me. Allen measured in close to 6-foot-6 with enormous hands 10 1/8 inch. Yes, hand size matters when evaluating a quarterback. Allen has rare, and I mean rare arm strength. He has a howitzer on him that I haven’t seen since Carson Wentz. In fact, he probably has a better arm, Allen just isn’t nearly as advanced as Wentz was at this stage in terms of mechanics, footwork, and accuracy. I knew Wentz was going to be a star the first time I saw him at North Dakota State; I don’t get that same feeling with Allen. The two share the same collegiate coach but Allen’s ceiling is undeniable. His 56 percent completion percentage was talked about but this guy attempts throws no one else on the planet would. Coaching is going to be a big deal for Allen. His accuracy was spotty but I’m pretty sure he knocked the wind out of some of his receivers catching the ball as there was an obvious adjustment period on day one. We are a long ways away from figuring out whether Allen is going to be the face of a franchise. What we do know is he has the Nolan Ryan fastball. The question is whether he can develop a changeup and throw with touch, timing, and rhythm on a consistent basis, something the baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan never did but succeeded because his fastball was just that damn good.

Quick notes on the others Luke Falk (Washington State) and Tanner Lee (Nebraska). Falk is probably a nice back up in the league who oddly looks like a clone from a playstyle standpoint to Matt Hasselbeck. Tanner Lee just stinks and airmailed a bunch of throws.

Running Backs:

Kalen Ballage is a really interesting prospect that has great athleticism but never produced like he should have in college. Ballage can be a three-down back in the NFL who cuts up the field and has the ability to shake someone out of their boots. He also has a nice set of hands and showed he has the burst to run outside the tackle. Jaylen Samuels of N.C. State is a do it all kind of player. He has played running back, fullback, and tight end for the Wolfpack. Samuels hit the holes hard in practice and runs with great power. Any time you talk about a guy with 16 receiving touchdowns and 15 rushing touchdowns, I’m not sure how you don’t give him a closer look. Akrum Wadley from Iowa is the guy who needs to show me and is a bit overrated in my mind.

Wide Receivers:

It’s flat out a terrible receiving draft class so it’s hard to pick out someone I like. Michael Gallup (Colorado State) and DaeSean Hamilton (Penn State) are my two favorites thus far. Both can be seen in the clips above catching passes. Hamilton is building off the momentum from the East-West Game. He’s a really solid route runner and has no problem getting off of press coverage. I’m just not sure how much pure speed he has. If you want to watch a receiver who stinks, look no further than Allen Lazard (Iowa State), who can’t separate or catch for that matter. I think he might have dropped about 800 passes today. The Senior Bowl is all about crossing off players on that draft board as well.

Tight Ends:

Unlike last year, the tight end crop is shaky. Tony Fumagalli of Wisconsin, has some hype around him and is actually missing a finger. From the footage I saw, there was a ton of grabbing between him and his defender on all the reps. Is that a normal occurrence or can he actually create space? Not everyone is Gronk. I’m looking forward to whether Mike Gesicki of Penn State or Durham Smythe of Notre Dame can stand out this week. Both are on my watch list.

Offensive Line:

Tyrell Crosby, the Oregon tackle, and Will Hernandez, the UTEP guard, were both unbelievable on Tuesday. Hernandez has a nasty edge to him, bullying defenders to the ground. Good luck moving a 330-pound guard with a giant neck roll. I’m not sure he moved an inch in the one on one drills stonewalling people. He even has a nice knee bend to him and moved his feet better than expected. Talk about a guy who wasn’t afraid to make the jump from UTEP. Crosby just looks like a left tackle, right? It’s hard to find those guys. He rides Oklahoma’s Okoronkwo up the field like he wasn’t there. Unlike the other tackles, Crosby had a great center of gravity to him and shifted his feet well. He has great size at 6-foot-4, 320.

Other players had up and down days. Brett Toth, the Army tackle from the East-West game, was either stonewalling people or getting tossed to the ground. That’s what you’re going to get from a raw tackle prospect. I thought the Pitt tackle Brian O’Neill was a bit overhyped. He was too long in his stance and didn’t seem like he was a pure tough-nosed tackle. Maybe that’s part of his basketball background. Scott Quessenberry (UCLA) had some inconsistency issues but he might be a prospect to watch. Everyone needs centers.

Defensive Line:

B.J. Hill of NC State, Nathan Sheppard of Fort Hays State, Tyquan Lewis of Ohio State, and Chad Thomas of Miami were my winners. Hill really pushed the pocket and could be a real nose tackle for a 3-4 team. Sheppard comes from a small school, but man, does he have a serious motor on him. He consistently played through the whistle and would not quit. Obviously an important quality for a defensive lineman. Lewis is just a flat out stud. No other words needed. He ripped Brett Toth to the ground and got to the quarterback in the team drills. Chad Thomas from Miami is just flat out nasty. He carries over the buzz from the East-West game. He also has a really nice swim move and violent hands to go with it.

The biggest surprised was Jalyn Holmes of Ohio State. He really struggles and got beat on just about every rep. I did not expect that from a Buckeye.

A wildcard for me for the rest of the week is Harrison Phillips from Stanford. He had some gitty up to him in the drills. Once I found out he was a former wrestler, he peaked my attention.

Linebackers:

Can we make Ogbonnia Okoronkwo a linebacker, please? You don’t see a lot of 240-pound defensive ends in the NFL. In the practices, he got ridden by the quarterback getting swallowed by bigger tackles. I’m interested to see if I will get my wish.

Defensive Backs:

Michael Joseph from Division III Dubuque might have been the best corner on the field. No, I’m not kidding, some guy from D3 stole the show. He did an excellent job shadowing Braxton Berrios who comes in the Ryan Switzer mode. Joseph showed really great feet and comes with nice size at 6-foot and long arms. It’s really impressive for a guy to make the jump from D3 to shine on the first day. That’s how you get yourself on the radar.

Darius Phillips of Western Michigan got beat on a deep route by Justin Watson of Penn but he had a great collegiate season in 2017.

Isaac Yiadom might have had the best pure feet of all the defensive backs from Boston College. Armani Watts was the safety from Texas A&M that picked up Tanner Lee and is extremely high on my list at the position.