Prospects I Love – Senior Bowl Edition
With Senior Bowl week effectively in full swing, and two days of practices being in the books, it is time for me to take a look at who has stood out and improved their stock the most. It is worth noting that the Senior Bowl is meant to help players develop and further advance their skills, as well as try new things and showcase versatility. Nobody’s stock is truly damaged at Senior Bowl weekend, but these guys showcased why their stock should be rising after this weekend is all said and done.
Kyle Dugger S Lenoir-Rhyne
I was already on the Kyle Dugger hype train coming into Mobile this weekend. His tape often showed he was the most athletic and versatile player on the field with elite range and ability to make plays. Coming into Mobile I was most looking forward to seeing how he handled the elevated competition moving from Lenoir-Rhyne to playing against some of the best division one players in the country. Not only did Dugger elevate his game to be on par with these D1 players, he went above and beyond all of them. Dugger has shown command of the secondary the entire week and looks more athletic and fluid than everyone.
The big question coming in was how he would adjust to a faster game speed, or if maybe a transition to linebacker would be a better fit for him moving forward. He instantly took away all doubt of him being anything but a safety, as he shined in one on one drills, and in coverage downfield even breaking up a few passes and causing a turnover. He took command of the defense at times, making his voice be heard from the back, communicating with the rest of the defense what he was seeing.
He truly was impressive in all facets of the game. Dugger has become the talk of the weekend for a lot of scouts, and I expect him to be rising up boards for a lot of teams, especially teams like Dallas and Pittsburgh who have needs at the safety position.
Van Jefferson WR Florida
Another player that was on the South roster that I came massively impressed with over the last few days has been Florida Gator WR Van Jefferson. Coming in, Jefferson seemed to always get lost in the middle of the shuffle of this incredibly deep receiving class. With names like Michael Pittman Jr, Denzel Mims and Collin Johnson here, his name got even more lost in the shuffle. This weekend has been a different story as he has completely taken over Mobile with his route running ability. He has made some moves that have had scouts talking about him for hours on end. Jefferson had always been impressive to watch on film due to his ability to create separation with his dynamic route running and footwork, but seeing it live in person feels like a totally different level.
Darnay Holmes, who has been the most impressive cover corner this week, seemed to only lose reps against Jefferson due to his ability to make sharp cuts and cause Holmes to lose a step of his footing. He also was very effective downfield using his speed to get behind the defender to allow the ball to be thrown in front of him in stride. There was one rep in particular that made a lot of scouts turn our heads. It was him one on one with Darnay Holmes and he ran a comeback, in route with a stutter step to the inside down the middle of the field (poor description I know, so see clip below), and he created so much space with ease. His cuts have been crisp all weekend, and his hand strength is better than advertised. He is someone that personally has snuck inside my top 10 at wide receiver after being someone who has floated between the 12-15 range.
Jason Strowbridge IDL North Carolina
Moving on to the North roster for this selection and the first name that I could think of without hesitation that has impressed is Tar Heels defensive linemen Jason Strowbridge. Coming into Senior Bowl week the talk amongst the defensive line front was about Javon Kinlaw (for obvious reasons), Leki Fotu and Raekwon Davis. With Fotu being unable to practice due to an injury and Davis dropping out for an undisclosed reason, Strowbridge has been able to come in and tear up the competition this weekend. Strowbridge is someone that can play both inside and outside on the defensive line and has been used at both spots in practice.
However, it has been when he has lined up on the inside where he has completely stood above all. His ability to gain inside leverage with his strong and physical hand usage has been dominating to watch. Coaches and scouts have been raving about how effective the North Carolina lineman has been in one on one opportunities, as well as his elite arm strength to shed blocks. He has been dominant beating the likes of Washington center Nick Harris, and Kansas tackle Hakeem Adeniji on multiple occasions this week in practice. It has not just been his active hands in drills that have been impressive either; he has knocked down a total of four passes at the line of scrimmage through two days of practice, including two against Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts on Wednesday’s practice, showing his versatility as a defensive linemen on both the inside and off the edge.
Strowbridge is someone at 6’4 267lbs that will be garnering a lot of interest post Senior Bowl and should be a name to look out for in the coming weeks amongst draft circles as a riser on boards because of his showing in Mobile, AL.
Lloyd Cushenberry IOL LSU
Rounding out the list of guys that have impressed me the most this weekend (there is more, see below) is another player from the South roster (sorry North guys) is LSU interior offensive lineman Lloyd Cushenberry. Now Cush will be the first to tell you that his film does not tell the whole story of what he is as a player. Because coming into Mobile I was skeptical of how he would perform against guys like Javon Kinlaw and Terrell Lewis after his tape showed some inconsistencies.
All that Cushenberry did this week to shut everyone up was shut down South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw every time they were paired against each other. One way to get people to look at you and talk about you is shutting down a consensus top 15 player in the entire class. He has done a tremendous job of creating a heavy base and keeping everything in front of him. He has shown serious strides in footwork improvement as well as lateral movement technique, that allows him to keep everything in front of him. Cushenberry throughout the week has shown tremendous balance and ability to gain leverage on the defender from the point of attack.
With all that being said, the most impressive thing throughout the entire week for Lloyd Cushenberry has been his hand usage. He knows exactly where to place them to gain position on the defender and throw them off their base. A few reps against Javon Kinlaw he forced Kinlaw to lose his footing and go lower than he wanted to. Kinlaw has been dominant all week against everyone that stands in his path, but Lloyd Cushenberry has been the exception and I expect teams to notice and push him up boards a few spots as he makes his case for the top rated interior offensive linemen in this class.
There are so many names I wanted to include in this article, but it would have been over 20-30 pages and nobody has time for that. So, here is one person at each position that I did not write about above but deserved to be talked about as guys that impressed me a lot throughout practices this weekend. Some of these are obvious ones that I refused to talk about because I wanted to highlight other players, while others are guys that you can expect to see rise up draft boards very soon.
Justin Herbert QB Oregon
Eno Benjamin RB Arizona State
Collin Johnson WR Texas
Brycen Hopkins TE Purdue
Matt Hennessey OL Temple
Javon Kinlaw DL South Carolina
Akeem Davis-Gaither OLB Appalachian State
Darnay Holmes DB UCLA