Senior Bowl 2023: Who did well, and who has their work cut out for them ahead of NFL draft
The 2023 Reese’s Senior Bowl wrapped up this weekend as the Jake Haener-led National team defeated the American team 27-10. Haener, of Fresno State, was named the Most Valuable Player after the quarterback completed 12-of-19 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown.
Haener is the No. 137 overall prospect in the latest Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board, putting him in the late-fourth, early-fifth-round range.
Who stood out? And whose performance raised questions?
Here’s a look at some of the players who received praise for their work at the game and/or the week of practice leading up to the game:
Who stood out
- Florida guard O’Cyrus Torrence (No. 31) was dominant all week after “slimming down” to 337 pounds. Torrence was also measured with a wingspan of 84 inches.
- Teams still aren’t sure if Iowa State edge Will McDonald (No. 46) will hold up against the run, and he may be used as a pass-rusher-only early on in his career, as he needs to bulk up and add strength. But McDonald had wins all week against solid tackles, including Tennessee fast-rising tackle Darnell Wright (No. 30), the highest-ranked player in the game according to the updated Rigdon big board.
- TE Payne Durham, Purdue (No. 90) had a good week catching the ball, according to media reports. Durham is said to have performed well during run-blocking drills, too. During the game, Miami’s Will Mallory (No. 197) and Alabama’s Cameron Latu (No. 216) had their moments, as Mallory caught 5 passes for 46 yards while Latu caught 3 for 30. The much-higher-ranked Luke Musgrave (No. 47) of Oregon State also had a solid week of practice, according to media reports, but had just 2 receptions for 12 yards against the National team.
- Minnesota center John Michael Schmitz (No. 53) may have worked his way into the first round, according to NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah.
- Wisconsin DL Keanu Benton (No. 57) was tough to move and showed some pass rush moves. Benton is the No. 2 nose tackle in this draft behind’s Baylor Siaki Ika (No. 39).
- Bowling Green’s Karl Brooks “has seemingly locked himself into Day 2” with his performance in Mobile, according to James H. Jimenez of SB Nation’s Hustle Belt. Brooks is ranked No. 59. Brooks was also used all over the defensive line, including as an edge rusher in a 3-4 and as a 3-tech and as a nose tackle. He also showed that he could hold up against the run.
- OT/G Matthew Bergeron, Syracuse (No. 64) also stood out, as he performed well at guard and his natural position of tackle, where the Quebec, Canada native has good size (6-foot-5, 323-pounds, 33 5/8-inch arm length, 82 3/8-inch wingspan). Media reports say Bergeron looked smooth all week.
- No two players climbed higher in the Rigdon big board rankings than Tulane RB Tyjae Spears (No. 76) and Northwestern FB Evan Hull (No. 213). Spears, who was not even listed among the top-500 prospects when Senior Bowl practices started last week, turned heads all weekend with his electric play; however, as the game itself showed, Spears is still probably seen as more of a third-down, change-of-pace RB after carrying the ball 1 time for 2 yards. Hull, meanwhile, was solid during the week of practices, then led all players with 10 carries for 74 rushing yards during the game. Hull climbed up from near the bottom of the rankings up to the Day 3 range with his performance.
You can’t convince me that there’s anyone in Mobile who’s made themselves more money this week than Tulane running back Tyjae Spears…
— Oliver Hodgkinson (@ojhodgkinson) February 2, 2023
- Central Michigan pass rusher Thomas Incoom (No. 95) moved into the top-100 after his strong week of practices, which culminated with a sack of Bagent late in the game.
- Stanford receiver Michael Wilson (No. 108) also enjoyed a meteoric rise in the rankings after a strong week. The 6-foot-1, 216-pound redshirt senior battled injuries throughout his career, as he’s missed most or at least half of the past three seasons. But he appeared healthy and dominant all week in practice, then caught 4 passes for a game-high 76 yards in the game, including a 44-yard TD. If he can pass his medical tests at the Combine, Wilson could continue to rise.
- Coaches seemed to love Illinois safety Sydney Brown, twin brother of RB Chase Brown. Sydney Brown (No. 157) communicated directions from the coaches onto the field and showed good burst. Teams may look at him as either a strong or free safety. Chase Brown, meanwhile, finished fourth in the NCAA in rushing yards this past season. An AFC executive told ESPN’s Todd McShay that both players will probably be “underdrafted and we’ll look back at this class in three years and wonder why they weren’t picked higher.”
- South Carolina CB Darius Rush (No. 75) showed that the Gamecocks have more than one elite cornerback in this draft. Rush’s measurables were off-the-charts at 6-foot-1, 196 with a 79 3/4-inch wingspan and nearly 33-inch arms. He was also blazing fast, as an on-field radar estimated his speed at 21.65 MPH, fastest among any defensive backs. Brugler said Rush arguably made more money this past weekend than any other player.
- The 6-foot-3, 202-pound Julilus Brents (No. 103) of Kansas State was the tallest cornerback and had good moments in practice. Scouts were also impressed with Iowa CB Riley Moss (No. 156).
Who needs a closer look
- This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as QBs often have a tough time performing in this sort of format, but none really stood out. Dane Brugler of The Athletic said all six QBs struggled, which includes Haener, TCU’s Max Duggan (No. 113), Houston’s Clayton Tune (No. 130), BYU’s Jaren Hall (No. 170), Sherpherd’s Tyson Bagent (No. 228) and Louisville’s Malik Cunningham (No. 243).
- Ohio State OT Dawand Jones (No. 37) was dominant during his one day of practice, then missed the rest of the week after reporting concussion symptoms. It’s good to be cautious, but coaches and scouts alike probably wanted a longer look at the massive 6-foot-8, 360-pound Jones, whose 86.5-inch wingspan was the longest ever recorded at the Senior Bowl.
- It was a rough week of practices for BYU OT Blake Freeland (No. 132), and while Freeland seemed to right the ship during the game, he was pushed back into Cunningham during one play, which contributed to an interception by the quarterback. Notre Dame interior lineman Jarrett Patterson (No. 148) also struggled, particularly at run blocking, according to various reports.
- North Dakota State OT/G Cody Mauch (No. 42) didn’t disappoint on the field; rather, his performance all week showed that he belonged among the game’s elite prospects (although the fast-rising Brooks gave him fits in practices, according to media reports). Instead, the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Mauch’s wingspan (79 3/4-inch) and arm length (39 1/8-inches) are less-than-ideal for a tackle at the next level, so he’s expected to kick inside to guard.
- Turns out, SMU receiver Rashee Rice (No. 48) isn’t as tall as the Mustangs listed him, as he measured in at 6-feet, 200-pounds. He didn’t catch a pass in the game.
- Army edge Andre Carter II (No. 63) is right on the cusp of the second round in the Rigdon big board rankings, but that’s based mostly on traits (he measured 6-foot-6, 252-pounds) and a 2021 season in which he racked up 15.5 sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss, 4 forced fumbles, 3 passes defended and 1 interception, fumble recovery and block. Those numbers were way down this past season (3.5 sacks, 7 TFLs) as teams consistently focused on keeping Carter in-check. Still, he looks more like a basketball small forward on the field, and it showed in practices and in the game, as Carter clearly needs to add weight and strength in addition to refining his pass rushing moves.
Jake Rigdon (@jrigdon73) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak.com. He also covers the NFL draft from a Dallas Cowboys perspective in this subReddit. And his big board is updated at least once per week during the season and leading up to the draft.