Fri, 05 Mar 2021

TWENTYMAN: 10 players to watch at the Senior Bowl

Detroit Lions
27 Jan 2021, 00:25 GMT+10

Tim Twentyman

NFL teams will flock to Mobile for the Senior Bowl this week to evaluate the top senior talent entering this year's NFL Draft. The three days of practice leading up to Saturday's game offer scouts, coaches and executives an extended look at high-end prospects competing against one another.

The Senior Bowl takes on even more importance this year with scouts not getting college visits this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and with a shortened college football season, opt outs and game cancelations. NFL talent evaluators are probably a little bit behind where they'd like to be with the evaluations on some of these prospects at this point.

"Just talking to general managers around the league this season, outside of one GM who didn't travel with his team to their games on Sundays, I haven't talked to many who (were going) to many games to watch prospects," Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy told Yahoo Sports.

"I just can't imagine getting to April if you're a general manager and picking players that you've never seen physically before."

There were 93 players drafted from last year's Senior Bowl prospects, including 37 in the top 100 picks, per NFL.com.

New Lions general manager Brad Holmes comes from a Rams organization that's selected a lot of players from the Senior Bowl over the years, including Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp, Gerald Everett, Joe Noteboom, Josh Reynolds and many others. Los Angeles has been one of the teams with the most Senior Bowl draft picks over the last few years.

Looking at this year's Senior Bowl, here are 10 prospects to keep an eye on:

1. DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

It's not often the Heisman winner shows up in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, but Smith, who had 1,856 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns for national champion Alabama this season will be there. Smith injured a finger in the National Championship game, so he won't go through on-field drills, but he's going through meetings with the Dolphins staff coaching the National team, and the interview process with all 32 teams. The Lions could certainly be in the market for a receiver in this draft with only two receivers currently under contract for 2021.

2. Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

The Lions are looking at potential trades this offseason for veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford, which means Detroit could very much be in the market for a quarterback in this draft. Jones was a Heisman Trophy finalist this year after completing 77.4 percent of his passes with 41 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Jones is considered by most analysts to be one of the top five quarterbacks in this draft along with Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance.

3. Carlos Basham Jr., Edge, Wake Forest

One of the top pass rushers expected to take part this week, Basham recorded 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss in 2019 in a full season. He had five sacks in six games this past season. He has 19.5 sacks and 33.5 tackles for loss over the last three seasons. The Lions will likely be looking to improve their pass rush this offseason.

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4. Patrick Jones II, DL, Pittsburgh

Jones has been one of the best pass rushers in the ACC over the last two seasons. He's got ideal size at 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, and he has recorded at least 8.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss in each of the last two seasons for Pittsburgh. Pass-rush drills between the offensive and defensive linemen are always popular at Senior Bowl practice. A lot of eyes will be on Jones early on.

5. Kyle Trask, QB, Florida

Trask leads the next group of quarterbacks that could be late Day 1 or Day 2 picks in the draft. Also in that group is Kellen Mond (Texas A&M), Jamie Newman (Georgia), Sam Ehlinger (Texas), Ian Book (Notre Dame) and Feleipe Franks (Arkansas), who will all be competing in Mobile this week. It's a great class of quarterbacks on this year's Senior Bowl roster. Trask (6-5, 240) threw for 4,283 yards with 43 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season.

6. Levi Onwuzurike, DL, Washington

Onwuzurike is one of the best defensive tackles in the draft. He had a 45-tackle season from the interior with six tackles for loss and two sacks in 2019, but opted out of the 2020 season. He's strong and agile, and will be looking to show that his 288-pound frame is an advantage for him and not a weakness.

7. Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State

Wallace had a breakout sophomore season in 2018 with 1,491 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in 13 games. Playing nine games in 2019 and 10 this past season, Wallace caught at least 50 passes in both seasons for 900-plus yards and 14 combined touchdowns. He's considered by most analysts to be a Top 50 pick.

8. Rashad Weaver, DL, Pittsburgh

Weaver and Jones were one of the best pass-rushing duos in college football for Pittsburgh this past season. Weaver possesses terrific size and length (6-5, 270), and recorded 7.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss in just nine games for the Panthers in 2020.

9. Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

Toney was one of Trask's favorite targets for the Gators this year, catching 70 passes for 984 yards (14.1 average) with 10 touchdowns. He also rushed 19 times with an 8.5 average per rush and another score. He returned a punt for a touchdown this season and averaged 12.6 yards per punt return. He'll be looking to show off his speed, agility and explosive playmaking ability this week.

10. Hamsah Nasirildeen, S, Florida State

Nasirildeen suffered a torn ACL in November of 2019 that limited him to just two games this past season. In those two games he had 13 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and an interception. He has elite size at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, and recorded 101 tackles and two interceptions in 11 games for the Seminoles in 2019 before suffering the knee injury. The Lions could be on the lookout for secondary help this offseason, particularly at safety.

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