Emptying the Senior Bowl notebook with a look ahead to the Combine (and it’s biggest snub)
With the Senior Bowl now in the rearview mirror, the NFL recently released the list of prospects who were invited to the annual Combine. In total, 319 prospects were invited – with one shocking snub (more on that below) – to the event, which will be held Feb. 28 through March 6 in Indianapolis.
So let’s empty the proverbial notebook on a few remaining Senior Bowl tidbits before taking a quick peak at the Combine participants.
* Bleacher Report recently released its post-Senior Bowl top-150 big board, and the player from the game who ranks highest is offensive tackle Darnell Wright of Tennessee, who’s slowly moving up draft boards. Wright was measured at 6-foot-5, 342 pounds with an arm length of 34 1/8-inches and a wingspan of 82 3/8-inches – all terrific for his position. However, Wright ranked last among all Senior Bowl linemen in one category: hand size. His measurement of 8 1/2-inches was last among the 23 offensive linemen, according to Pro Football Focus. Wright is ranked No. 30 in the latest Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board.
* Draft analysts are still raving about the work Washington State linebacker Daiyan Henley and Florida A&M pass rusher Isaiah Land put in during Senior Bowl practices Henley moved up to No. 76 in the Rigdon big board, one spot ahead of Noah Sewell of Oregon, due in part to his coverage skills. Here’s what NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein and Eric Edholm had to say about Henley: “The wideout-turned-linebacker showed off his lateral twitch and ball skills to hound the route and squeeze the catch point. The ability to play well on all three downs is a huge advantage for linebackers on draft day. …” Henley was measured at 6-foot-1, 230 pounds. Land, meanwhile, presents a dilemma for teams due to his size (6-foot-3, 226 pounds) and the level of competition he faced in college. Some analysts see him moving to SAM linebacker in a 4-3 defense, then kicking out to pass rusher on obvious passing downs. The consensus, though, is that Land needs to bulk up at the next level, even if it’s for a 3-4 defense that wants to use him as an outside linebacker. Land had 1.5 sacks in the Senior Bowl and reportedly held his own during practices.
* Another SWAC star who shined during Senior Bowl week was Jackson State “do-it-all linebacker” Aubrey Miller Jr., who had 7 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and 1 sack during the game. Miller moved up to No. 170 in the Rigdon big board update.
* Teams looking for a slot receiver can probably find Houston’s Nathaniel “Tank” Dell early on Day 3 of the draft due largely to his size at 5-foot-8, 163-pounds. Dell is the No. 127 prospect in the Rigdon big board. However, he reportedly impressed during Senior Bowl practices. From 33rd Team: “… Dell showed the most flashes during Days 1-2 and was rarely covered in the 1-on-1 drills. He profiles as a slot wide receiver at the next level and has an impressive ability to attack the ball when it’s in the air. During team drills, he won on almost every route.” The receiver also led the country in receiving this season with 109 receptions for 1,398 yards and 17 TD, with more than half of that coming from the slot. Overall, Dell caught 228 passes for 3,155 yards and 32 TDs in three seasons for Houston.
* One of the stars of the Senior Bowl was also the biggest Combine snub. Bowling Green defensive lineman Karl Brooks (No. 59) has been a fast-riser. Here’s what the Senior Bowl’s Jim Nagy had to say about the Brooks omission:
Moving forward, NFL should add one “snub” from initial Combine list based on Draft Twitter backlash. This year that guy would overwhelmingly be Bowling Green DL Karl Brooks. pic.twitter.com/G7X4gMlDue
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) February 8, 2023
* Next week, Fanspeak will show how challenging it can be for small-school players like Brooks to make it to the next level as we follow Pittsburg State guard Kory Woodruff’s journey to the NFL.
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.