The 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl down in Mobile Alabama is a must-see event that displays some of the best college football players in the country. For all these graduating college athletes, the Senior Bowl gives them an opportunity to showcase their talent before the 2018 NFL Draft. In this edition, we will discuss the 2018 South team’s possible NFL Draft prospects.
The North frankly got their tail kicked today. The team coached by Vance Joseph got humiliated 45-16 by Bill O’Brien’s South team. Maybe the Broncos should have fired Vance Joseph after all consider the Senior Bowl reps gave most of the good players to the North since Houston doesn’t own a first or second-round pick. The South team won 45-16 where the North team put up almost no fight defensively. This game is going to be tough to evaluate because it’s possible Vance Joseph is just a clueless moron. Or maybe Bill O’Brien is that good? Nevertheless, who stood out for better or worse for the North during the 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl?
I owe these quarterbacks an apology. After ripping them for three straight days, it turns out that they can actually play a little. Hanging 45 points up whether it is an All-Star game or not is difficult. Let’s start with Mike White who I complained about having anemic arm strength. It turned out that I was just wrong as White might have been the best quarterback on the field on Saturday. White just went out and ripped it all afternoon. His final stat line of 8-11 for 123 yards and a touchdown on just three possessions was really impressive. Every attribute was there with White throwing for timing and rhythm. Even for a quarterback with a slender frame (6-foot-4, 220), White completed a hell of a ball with enough mustard on it despite getting rocked by a defender. White absolutely impressed me, there’s no doubt. I officially moved him up from undraftable to the 5th round.
Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert was inserted into the lineup after White. Benkert made one really nice play but the rest was mostly garbage. He finished the game going 4-11 with 90 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. His footwork makes him an unsustainable quarterback option in the next level. Some of the throws he was making were just wildly inaccurate because he never sets his feet. Benkert was my favorite of this group during the week but I’m not sure how this footwork is fixable. Below is the interception that Benkert threw to Scedrick Cooper. I seriously don’t know what he’s trying to accomplish. This isn’t basketball, baby! No need for that fadeaway cheese. Adding insult to injury, I’m pretty sure Benkert suffered a concussion during the game because he refused to slide instead of getting popped by a defender. A quarterback with no self-awareness is unfixable.
The guy who really stole the show was Kyle Lauletta of Richmond. Do his pure tools really wow you? Absolutely not, but I think Lauletta proved he can be a competent backup in the league. This guy just carved up the defense like a Thanksgiving Day turkey the entire game. His stat line of 8-12, 198 yards, and three touchdowns was just nothing but domination. Sure, the North team’s corners stunk but that isn’t Lauletta’s fault. His accuracy on throws, especially ones down the field was just unbelievable. I apologize to you Mr. Lauletta as well, you are a draftable quarterback.
Brandon Silvers of Troy really didn’t see much game action going 1-2 with 9 total yards.
Rashaad Penny is the guy who I really wanted to see shine today. If you want to know what Kareem Hunt looked like last year at the Senior Bowl, all you had to do is witness the show that Penny put on. Penny isn’t a guy who takes your breath away with pure speed but somehow has that ability to break away from the defense. Penny was up and down during the week but when he stepped up for prime time. He finished the day with 64 rushing yards on 9 carries (7.1 per attempt) and a 73-yard touchdown catch. This shouldn’t be surprising because he averaged over 7 yards a career this past year in college. I have a hard time not putting this guy into the 2nd or 3rd round and a big-time steal just like Kareem Hunt was this past year.
The other backs, Darrel Williams and Ito Smith continue to just be a bunch of meh to me. In what is a crazy deep running back class, both of those guys just don’t stand out.
D.J. Chark went insane. The LSU product needed to have a good game to show his limited college production was because of smelly quarterback play and a lame duck Ed Orgeron. Just like Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, Chark really took advantage of the opportunity prior to the draft to raise his stock. Chark caught 5 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown. Tough to top that performance. Chark showed an ability to stretch the field out running Michael Joseph and DeMarcus King on some deep shots. It’s one thing to beat the defender, it’s another to come up with the ball as Chark finished the play more often than not only being targeted 7 different occasions. Good speed and plus route running makes Chark an interesting prospect. He also comes in that similar frame to Beckham at 6-foot-2, 195. I’m expecting him to be a third-round pick or in that expected sort of range.
In a weak wide receiver draft class, Tre’Quan Smith also really stood out and put his name in the mix. That continues the trend, UCF just won all week. Let’s just break down the tools you look for out of a receiver. First, can he separate? The first way to do that is through route running. Creating space with short area quickness within the route tree is a must in the NFL. Bottom of the screen with the gold helmet, Smith has no trouble getting open.
Second, what physical tools does a receiver have to expand the route tree? That includes height and speed. Smith is 6-foot-2 but boy did he show that he has a set of wheels on him. Bottom of the screen again, watch him win the deep route blowing by Michael Joseph. Smith finished the afternoon with five catches for 79 yards and a score. By the way, Smith was also only targeted five times meaning he caught every ball thrown his way.
The other winner was J’Mon Moore. The Mizzou product is your height, weight, speed demon at 6-foot-3 with probably 4.5 speed. Moore only caught one pass for 22 yards but you can see the big-bodied receivers pure tools.
Marcell Ateman is similar at 6-foot-4 but can’t run nearly as well. We did see him win in the red area on which is likely what he will be asked to do in the NFL. His college teammate, James Washington, stinks. It’s official. To not catch a pass in that game is unacceptable. Then again, I shouldn’t be surprised, he can’t even run routes.
Jordan Akins was the winner here. I think this guy is going to be a factor in passing situations. He caught 2 passes for 31 yards and can really run. I normally am not in favor of drafting a guy who is already 26 because there is not much room for growth.
The other tight ends are going to have to be primary blockers. Both Ian Thomas and Deon Yelder caught one ball each. Neither are natural route runners and didn’t really stand out at practice.
With any offensive lineman, if you don’t hear their name during the broadcast, that probably means they’re doing a good job. My favorite guard of the week was Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn but he didn’t appear in the game. I thought during the actual game the guards played better than the tackles. Guys who were just all around solid include Colby Gossett (App State), Bradley Bozeman (Alabama), and Taylor Hearn (Clemson).
Now it’s time for the bad. Alex Cappa of Humbolt State came in with the small school pride hoping to prove he was capable. Well, we now know that he was overwhelmed. Cappa was responsible for giving up three of the five total sacks allowed. Just to show you an example of the struggles, this is a play that Cappa should have given up the sack but somehow the quarterback Mike White completed the pass. Cappa was allowing pressure the entire game. Others who didn’t play well include Joe Noteboom of TCU and Austin Golson of Auburn.
Marcus Davenport was the entire defensive line. I’m being serious, this dude couldn’t have been more dominant. In my practice notes, I wrote how he seemed a bit slow off the ball. We’re talking about a 6-foot-7 monster up front who solidified his spot inside the top 20 of the draft. Let’s start from the begging to break down the tools.
Powerful hands and the ability to get after the quarterback? Here’s a big check. Watch for the bottom of the screen. Davenport bullies Brian O’Neill of Pitt with his pure power. Also, notice how easy it is to wrap up Baker Mayfield. I’m not convinced he wouldn’t have made Mayfield just disappear altogether.
In the next clip, you will notice another key trait. In a battle with bad boy Will Hernandez, Marcus Davenport isn’t able to get to the quarterback in time. In the NFL, that isn’t always a bad thing. For a guy with elite measurables, sometimes swatting down a pass is the best possible result. Baker Mayfield is obviously a short quarterback but swatting down passes isn’t easy and is an incredibly valuable skill set. Especially going against a guard with the strong pedigree that Hernandez has.
Another question you have to ask is how athletic Davenport is? Okay, he can get to the quarterback and swat a pass but does that mean he a freak like Khalil Mack or Jadeveon Clowney? Well, Maybe he is. Marquis Haynes notches the sack but Davenport has the where with all to pick up the fumble for the scoop and score. Davenport was actually a wide receiver coming out of high school so it’s not too shocking that he can move well.
Finally, you want a pass rusher that can attack the ball. It’s one thing to get the sack. It’s another to create a turnover and create points for your team. Create turnovers and big plays for the rest of the defense, that’s what gets you paid in the NFL. Davenport doesn’t get the sack but those tarantula arms create enough disturbance to the quarterback, Tanner Lee, that he makes a horrible interception. You can see that Davenport could be a strip sack grandmaster in the NFL. There aren’t enough good things you can say about this dude.
I thought Andrew Brown of Virginia also really helped himself. I always prefer to pay attention to five-star recruits that fail in college. Virginia isn’t a football powerhouse after all. I thought he was really quick off the ball and will be curious to see what his 10-yard split will be at the combine.
Poona Ford of Texas was also really impressive. He always finds a way to impress with his ability to just push the pocket. There’s something to be said for a defensive lineman that create natural leverage in the interior line. Nothing bothers quarterbacks more than interior line pressure. Ford was the Big 12 defensive player of the year for a reason. He recorded 4 tackles in the run game including one for a loss.
We knew Darius Leonard could run. Nobody knew a hell of a lot else. It turns out this guy can really tackle. Leonard notched 14 tackles during the game and just flew around the field. I thought he got stuck in the mud a bit in terms of covering short area quickness during the practices. There’s something to be said for guys who are just tackling machines. Leonard showed good instincts but I definitely need to see more. The good news for Leonard is that he made so many plays that it was hard to evaluate everyone else.
Shaquem Griffin also played well. I thought he got engulfed on the edges a bit when he had to disengage from a big tackle but overall had a nice showing. I thought he covered the field very well and you know what you’re getting. A tough, gritty defender who will be a high motor guy on every single play. I also think there is a chance that he runs a crazy 40 time at the combine.
Again, the corner situation was not good on either side. The stand out was Jeremy Reaves of South Alabama. He was a late add but was the best defensive back on the field. He notched 8 tackles, a pass break up and an interception. I didn’t see him enough in the practices to know how well he truly moves.
Kam Kelly had a decent day but it seems like he’s going to have a holding problem in the NFL. In terms of pass breakups, M.J. Stewart had the best day with two. He was the best pure cover corner I saw during the game.
Siran Neal, Danny Johnson, and Levi Wallace weren’t impressive at all. The defensive back group is just not a good class in 2018.