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Josh Berg’s Draft Log: The Importance of the Senior Bowl

Senior Bowl

The draft process is a very long and drawn out process, and it has been for years. Scouts, general managers and coaches are working non-stop to get firm opinions and evaluations of collegiate prospects so they can make the best selection possible for their team. Teams spent countless hours dissecting film and breaking down a player’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as talking to coaches and the prospects themselves in interviews to get a feel for the type of person they are.

One of the first chances most coaching staffs and teams get to interact with draft prospects is the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. A week-long event filled with practices led by NFL coaching staffs, one on one matchups between prospects, all culminating in a North vs South showdown to finish off the weekend.

Kyle Shanahan

However, this weekend is not just the stereotypical all-star game. These coaching staffs and players take the weekend very seriously, and it has been proven to be a great measuring stick of draft stock for players and gives the coaches a real good look at some of the highly touted prospects in the draft pool. Some players in recent years have used this weekend to really solidify their draft stock, and some others have used it to catapult their status into a top ten pick. Just within the last few seasons we’ve seen quarterbacks take massive leaps in the draft thanks to showings in Mobile.

Daniel Jones won the MVP last season in Alabama and catapulted his draft status into a top six pick by the New York Giants, while Baker Mayfield two years ago impressed with his showing that the Cleveland Browns took him number one overall. This weekend matters. It does not get all the media coverage that the NFL Scouting Combine does, but for the players this weekend can truly decide your fate and future in the NFL.

First Impressions

Baker Mayfield

There is a saying “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”, and this weekend is the chance for prospects to make their first impressions to teams. The amount of time they get working with real NFL coaching staffs and representatives is crucial in the process. Players get to go out and get provided with honest feedback and coaching about their skillsets and performances in practices. The Browns have repeatedly stated in various articles and interviews that they made their minds up about Baker Mayfield after his experience down at the Senior Bowl. Impressions are everything.

At the Senior Bowl, your stock is not going to get hurt by poor performance. The weekend is strictly for prospects to get feedback and coaching so they can get better and help themselves in the long run. In past seasons it had been common for players to deny the invitation to Mobile because they were already a “guaranteed first round pick”, but with the way the league is changing and the way that we all evaluate talent is changing, the trend is going away from strictly looking at the film of a player and more to a full evaluation process. The film is still the biggest part of a player’s evaluation but these little events like the Combine and Reese’s Senior Bowl are incredible tools for players to take a leap and boost their draft stock.

2020 Quarterbacks

Justin Herbert
Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

One prime example in this year’s class is Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert. He has been a highly talked about prospect for two years now. He could have declared last season and would have been a consensus first round pick and probably the first QB on most draft boards. Instead he decided to return for his senior year at Oregon and try to provide scouts with even more film to evaluate. Well that plan hasn’t exactly worked in his favor; with the emergence of Joe Burrow and the lack of development we have seen from Herbert on film this season has given most evaluators more questions about his game than answers.

The Senior Bowl would be a great opportunity for Herbert to try and close the gap between him and Burrow because he would be able to showcase why he was a top tier prospect coming into the season and potentially give teams a reason to think twice before passing him up on draft night.

Joe Burrow

On the flip side of this Joe Burrow is another prospect that can attend the festivities in Mobile if he decides to do so and I am one of those that believes he should go to the Senior Bowl. As mentioned above nobody’s stock gets hurt when going to Mobile, because as much as we talk about the importance of showcasing for the coaches and getting feedback on where to improve their skill sets; on the surface the Senior Bowl is a college all-star game. With that being said Joe Burrow needs to go to Mobile. That is not just because of how badly I want to see him play when I go down there in January, but it is the best thing for the security of his stock.

 If Joe Burrow decides to decline his invitation to the Senior Bowl that will allow Justin Herbert or Jordan Love or any other top tier quarterback that got invited to potentially close the gap in the discussion for QB1. However, if Burrow goes to the Senior Bowl and performs well then, he leaves no doubt about who should be the top-rated quarterback on draft boards. Add in a great performance in the College Football Playoff and a week to potentially work with Zac Taylor (assuming the Bengals coaching staff is one of the teams selected to coach the weekend), Joe Burrow very well could leave Alabama with the number one overall pick locked up.

Josh’s Final Thoughts

Jordan Love

When you take into account the number of players that can benefit from this weekend; there is no potential bigger beneficiary than Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. Love, a redshirt Junior that will graduate in December, announced earlier this week that he will declare for the NFL Draft as opposed to taking a graduate transfer away from Utah State. There is no more polarizing QB prospect this year that Jordan Love. Nobody denies his potential with the arm talent and traits he possesses, but after subpar results this season scouts have their doubts about his projection to the next level. Whether you like him or hate him, there is no denying that Jordan Love would significantly benefit from accepting his invite down to Mobile this January.

Last season there were ten first round picks at the Senior Bowl led by the likes of New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, and Green Bay Packers safety Darnell Savage and with the list of invited this season the Senior Bowl could be filled with first round talent once again. Players like South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, and LSU defensive back Kristian Fulton have already accepted their invitations down to Alabama, and with the potential announcements of LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, and Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown the Senior Bowl might not just be filled with first round talent, but top fifteen talent across the board.

Berg’s Big Board 1.0

Chase Young

 It’s that time of year again, and if you listened to the podcast this week you know that there were a lot of changes in just one week on my official big board. So, after some serious re-tooling and some late-night debates I finally was able to compile my first top 50 big board for the 2020 NFL Draft.

1. Chase Young EDGE Ohio State
2. Joe Burrow QB LSU
3. Jerry Jeudy WR Alabama
4. Jeffrey Okudah CB Ohio State
5. Isaiah Simmons LB Clemson
6. AJ Epenesa EDGE Iowa
7. Derrick Brown IDL Auburn
8. Tua Tagovailoa QB Alabama
9. CeeDee Lamb WR Oklahoma
10. Andrew Thomas OT Georgia
11. Javon Kinlaw IDL South Carolina
12. Grant Delpit S LSU
13. Kristian Fulton CB LSU
14. Henry Ruggs III WR Alabama
15. Tristan Wirfs OT Iowa
16. D’Andre Swift RB Georgia
17. CJ Henderson CB Florida
18. Yetur Gross- Matos EDGE Penn State
19. Jedrick Wills OT Alabama
20. Kenneth Murray LB Oklahoma
21. Justin Herbert QB Oregon
22. Dylan Moses LB Alabama
23. Tyler Biadasz IOL Wisconsin
24. Laviska Shenault Jr. WR Colorado
25. Jonathan Taylor RB Wisconsin
26. DeVonta Smith WR Alabama
27. Tee Higgins WR Clemson
28. Jeff Gladney CB TCU
29. Creed Humphrey IOL Oklahoma
30. Paulson Adebo CB Stanford
31. Xavier McKinney S Alabama
32. K’Lavon Chaisson EDGE LSU
33. Raekwon Davis IDL Alabama
34. J.K Dobbins RB Ohio State
35. Trevon Diggs CB Alabama
36. Jalen Reagor WR TCU
37. Alex Leatherwood OT Alabama
38. Travis Etienne RB Clemson
39. Jaylon Johnson CB Utah
40. Curtis Weaver EDGE Boise State
41. Neville Gallimore IDL Oklahoma
42. Najee Harris RB Alabama
43. Austin Jackson OT USC
44. Shaun Wade CB Ohio State
45. Michael Pittman Jr WR USC
46. Julian Okwara EDGE Notre Dame
47. Justin Jefferson WR LSU
48. Marvin Wilson IDL Florida State
49. Jake Fromm QB Georgia
50. Troy Dye LB Oregon

“My Guys”

Laviska Shenault

The term “My Guy” has been used by scouts for as long as I can remember. Basically, it is stating that this is a player that you have loved more so than other people do, and more so that you like other prospects from a film perspective. These players are not necessarily your highest graded players at their positions, but they are players that you felt standout on tape, and you hope to see do well at the next level. Here is the list of “My Guys” inside my top 50.

24. Laviska Shenault Jr WR Colorado
28. Jeff Gladney CB TCU
39. Jaylon Johnson CB Utah
45. Michael Pittman Jr WR USC
50. Troy Dye LB Oregon

Josh’s 3 Things of the Week

Kristian Fulton

Keep an eye on Senior Bowl Acceptance Announcements

With the Senior Bowl moving closer and closer each and every day, more and more prospects will announce their intention of attending the weekend festivities. With big names like Kristian Fulton and Raekwon Davis already announcing their acceptance, keep an eye out for big time names like Derrick Brown, Trevon Diggs and Joe Burrow to potentially announce their intentions within the next few weeks.

Quarterback Declarations

Jake Fromm

It happens every year but the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft comes a lot quicker than people think, Justin Herbert backed out of the draft last season so it would not surprise me if we see someone also decided to stay back in school this year. Jordan Love already declared for the draft, but maybe Jake Fromm decides to stay at Georgia for one more go around?

Whole Nine Draft Podcast

Whole Nine Draft

After a two-week break of the Whole Nine Draft Podcast due to unforeseen circumstances the latest episode of the show is up on Apple Podcasts and Spotify so go check those out via the links down below.