Tuesday at the Senior Bowl is by far the longest day. Most media (myself included) arrive on Monday night with plans of waking up at six o’clock the following morning to catch the live weigh-ins. Some of them (also myself) sleep through their alarms and take the L. Oh well, the measurements end up online anyways.
But for the players and coaches, it’s a full day. Right after the weigh-ins, media day gets crunched into the span of three hours. The top players from each squad have their mini podiums to sit behind and most of us are personally introduced to some players we caught a glance of a few Saturdays last fall.
The coaches end up saying interesting things too.
gruden announces brian callahan as the bengals offensive coordinator pic.twitter.com/0A8Hv3BoWB— john sheeran (@John__Sheeran) January 22, 2019
The players have semi-absorbed a minimized-yet-nuanced playbook and are ready to hit the field for their first practice. Most of them haven’t been in pads since late November, a handful of them are teammates once again but their individual talents begin to humble. The vast majority are no longer the best player on their own team, though there were a few who could sufficiently make that argument after Tuesday’s practice. Let’s start with the standouts.
Everybody in the stadium took note of Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat for the South. Those who didn’t just weren’t looking at the field, or on Twitter.
Montez Sweat hesi bull pic.twitter.com/5TaW3ULvNx— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) January 22, 2019
Sweat showed in the one-on-ones that he can win in just about every way. If you give him a soft edge, he can burst around and under the tackle. If you recover and get your hands on him, he has a rip move to negate it. If you overstep in your kick slide, he can fire off an inside counter. If you try to anchor his bull rush, he can put you on your behind. Sweat’s tape and production against SEC competition has already gotten him in the first round conversation. He’s doing nothing against the top senior tackles in the country that he hasn’t already done this year.
The South team also had teammates from Texas A&M Kingsley Keke and Daylon Mack. Both interior rushers played with excellent leverage and extension, getting the South guards off-balanced and constantly re-anchoring. Mack in particular plays with natural leverage at 6’1”, but his violent hand usage elevated him from the rest.
The North team’s interior rushers showed out in a similar way, specifically Khalen Saunders from Western Illinois and Renell Wren of Arizona State. Keep in mind, defensive tackles are some of the guys that see the biggest rises in stock from the Senior Bowl. Aaron Donald and Grady Jarrett are the best examples, and when someone starts showing sheer dominance in one-on-ones, it’s smart to take note.
Also, Saunders can do this:
Khalen Saunders is a pretty impressive 300 pounder. pic.twitter.com/mz8P6gZSp5— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) January 22, 2019
There’s no Baker Mayfield amongst this group of passers. The top two in the eyes of the actual decision-makers in this year’s crop seem to be Daniel Jones and Drew Lock, and this is as good of a synopsis as you’ll see about them:
Jones has quicker eyes than Lock, Lock has a quicker reset and stronger arm.— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) January 22, 2019
Jones had trouble driving throws down the field while Lock looked slow as a processor, but on the first day of practice, looks can be deceiving. Each quarterback has his flaws but will undoubtedly make a certain franchise want to risk it all and draft them at a spot they probably should not go. As of right now, neither are worth the 11th overall pick. I cannot say the same thing about other notable quarterback down here.
Will Grier from West Virginia slung the ball like he had something to prove — not that he was insanely accurate or anything, but he attached a cannon to his arm that clearly wasn’t there this past season.
Per @seniorbowl, Will Grier had the highest max initial throwing speed today for South squad QBs @ 66.1 mph which is equivalent to approx. 60 mph (avg. velocity @ delivery.)— All Pro Analytics (@AllProAnalytics) January 22, 2019
To put in perspective, 2018 1st round QBs averaged 57.5 mph at the combine last year. #NFLDraft #WVU
Grier’s got the production that teams should covet, but his velocity is less than desirable. The outrageous throwing speed he put on display yesterday was a clear indication that he wanted to erase those doubts and as a result, he looked uncomfortable and less-than-stellar. He’s better than he looked on Tuesday, we’ll see if that throwing speed returns to the mean.
The Bengals don’t exactly need cornerbacks, regardless of Darqueze Dennard’s impending free agency, but the North cornerbacks balled out. In particular, Corey Ballentine of Washburn was superb in bump-and-run coverage against the North receivers and never looked out of place. It’s interesting how small school prospects handle playing against mostly Power 5 talent, and Ballentine stepped up to the plate.
Nasir Adderley of Delaware is listed as a safety, but the above paragraph describes him to a tee as well. The North had had playing cornerback a good amount of time and he looked natural there with fluid hips and timely hands. Adderley is one of the few small school guys that can realistically be drafted in the first round, so his performance here is astronomical.
The Wednesday practices will not be open to the media as a storm has forced both teams to practice inside a nearby indoor facility. The next update will either be posted Thursday night or sometime on Friday, so stayed tuned.