The Senior Bowl is just one of several stepping stones to the NFL Draft, but it gives us a good understanding of where the top upperclassmen stand as the Scouting Combine and pro days await us in the coming weeks. If you think the game matters more than practices, then maybe you should ask why Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin flew back home to Cincinnati on Thursday instead of staying for the game on Saturday. Everything is televised, by the way.
Of the nearly 200 players that made both rosters, which of them helped themselves the most with a great week of practice? Here are six that fit that description.
Montez Sweat, EDGE
A productive edge rusher from the SEC, Sweat was thought of as a top-100 player entering the Senior Bowl, but his dominant week of practice now has his name in the discussion for the first round.
Sweat may not blow up the combine, but his insane length in the form of nearly 36” arms combined with superb timing and quickness in his hands made him a lethal rusher to contain in one-on-ones. Every team needs a Montez Sweat, and the trip to Mobile was well worth it for him.
Dalton Risner, OT
Like Sweat, Risner was already a top senior in this draft class, but he’s one of the players that everyone went home with nothing but positive things to say about him. He played mostly right tackle during the week (with only a handful of snaps coming at left tackle) and he did a fantastic job of eliminating doubts about him playing at that spot in the NFL.
Could he play guard or center? For sure. Would he be better suited there? Possibly. But Risner did his absolute best to maintain his status as positionally versatile.
Deebo Samuel, WR
The wide receiver group as a whole was really solid, but every time Samuel was next up in the one-on-one drills, all eyes turned to him. His releases were unmatched, his natural speed and stacking ability on vertical routes were so evident despite the shoddy quarterback play he and everyone else had to deal with.
Samuel was a guy who had fun tape but his projection into the NFL was a little less clear. This past week of practices showed that Samuel has clear value to every team looking to diversify their skill position group.
Khalen Saunders, IDL
There were a handful of players from smaller schools that showed out last week, but Saunders was the one who did so the most consistently. Explosion. Leverage. Finishing ability. Even backflips. Saunders laid it all out there last week, while his daughter was just entering the world.
23-stone NFL Western Illinois defensive lineman Khalen Saunders showed off this perfect backflip on the morning of the birth of his daughter.— Sky News (@SkyNews) January 23, 2019
For more of today's videos: https://t.co/iOm40vn1kt pic.twitter.com/REmml86Zgy
Defensive lineman always seem to be the position where players can stand out the most in the practices, mainly because the one-on-one drills favor them so much. But if you’re an athletic interior rusher from an unknown program, be like Saunders and fly down to Mobile. Odds are, you’ll leave with your draft stock exponentially higher than it was before.
Chuma Edoga, OT
Right now, I don’t know where you draft Edoga, and I’m not sure where you’d want to play him on the offensive line, but if you argued that he had the best week out of every player there, I couldn’t very well disagree.
This sentiment was derived from my underwhelming thoughts on Edoga entering the week of practice. I thought he played with good leverage and had decent athleticism, but both of those things come naturally with being 6’4” and 303 pounds. His near 35” arms and the way he used that length in practice really stood out and will undoubtedly help his case to stay at tackle in the NFL. His evaluation is going to be a fun one for me personally.
Drew Lock, QB
The shiniest of eight turds technically can be called the best of the bunch, and that’s a harsh but fairly accurate depiction of Lock’s time in Mobile. Truthfully, none of the quarterbacks truly asserted themselves over the rest of the pack, but Lock flashed the special arm talent he possessed, and no one else could match him in that regard.
The top two quarterbacks in the class should probably be Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray, but Lock will most likely find his way between those two, if not ahead of those two, come late April. He displayed the charm and arm one team typically falls in love with early in the first round, and that team might just be the Denver Broncos, because you can never count out John Elway drafting a bad quarterback.