With the 2018 Senior Bowl in the books here are 5 final thoughts on the week and what implications there are on the draft going forward:
-While on some level this debate occurs every draft season, this year it seems to figure quite prominently given some of the high risk/high reward top names in this draft class. It was on display this week at the Senior Bowl centered on two position battles between a pair of prospects. At EDGE rusher we saw the undersized, but highly productive Ogbo Okoronkwo have a big week in all the drills battle for status versus Marcus Davenport who has excellent size and physical attributes, but lacks the technique to be a force consistently early in his career. Davenport made up for a poor week of practice with a big game, but Okoronkwo played well in the game himself and he showed far more in practice. Despite that the hype seemed to surround Davenport more even though he’s a riskier investment for a top pick.
The same debate (though magnified) played out at the QB position as well. Baker Mayfield may be slightly undersized, but he’s coming off an incredible college campaign and had an excellent week of practice. Yet many focused on Josh Allen who has size and a stronger arm, but was highly inaccurate throughout the week and is coming off a poor college season. While Allen’s practice sessions were average at best (and that is very generous), he did redeem himself with a strong game. Still everything points to Mayfield not only being more NFL ready, but that Mayfield offers far more certainty to at least be a decent starting QB in the league. Allen has some clear potential, but he comes with a ton of risk and he may never make it in the league.
This week’s debates feel like the tip of the ice berg for this draft season, with much of the debate likely centered on Allen and how he compares to the rest of the QB class.
-One position group that really shined this week were the interior defensive linemen (including 5 techs). Andrew Brown, Harrison Phillips and Da’Shawn Hand all had really strong weeks and should be top 75 players (if not higher). Small schooler Nathan Shepherd dominated for a practice and a half before getting injured, and he should see his stock rise considerably potentially into the top 125. Later round guys like Justin Jones, Poona Ford and Christian LaCouture also had nice weeks as well that helped their case. Brown was probably the biggest overall winner of the week of this group as he showed he can be very dangerous in a one-gap scheme that allows him to attack the QB. His quick first step made him a one man wrecking ball at times. This is a talented group, and in terms of the overall draft class there are a whole host of other options worthy of top 100 picks. Top to bottom this might be the best position group in the class.
-We could see potentially 5 or 6 quarterbacks taken in the first round this year in the draft (including two Senior Bowlers), but that doesn’t mean the QB class stops after those names. In fact given that so many of those top 6 have some uncertainty to their game, it opens up the possibility that a prospect outside of that group could end up being a better option 3-5 years in the future. The Senior Bowl featured three potential options in that 2nd tier, Kurt Benkert, Mike White, and Kyle Lauletta. Benkert came in with perhaps the most buzz of the group, but he did little to shine this week. He did show some flashes and will still get mid-round consideration. White didn’t do much during the week of practice, but he had a strong game to build on. The real winner of the week and the guy most likely to be a diamond in the rough is Lauletta. Lauletta was the only non-FBS school QB at the Senior Bowl, but he quickly showed he belonged. He had a very solid week of practice and was probably the 3rd best QB on either squad (behind only Mayfield and Allen). In the game though Lauletta played at another level and just shredded the South defense throughout the 2nd half of the game. He had a number of big time throws in the game and his draft stock should really start to rise.
-One of the weaker positions in this draft class in terms of star power has to be the receiver position. There are a couple big names up top, but after that it’s anyone’s guess how the rest of the class shakes out. While the Senior Bowl wasn’t expected to really provide any “stars” to the position group, the hope was that the intriguing group of 12+ receivers would start to provide some clarity for the 2nd and 3rd tier of the class. Outside of James Washington there wasn’t much early starter potential in this group, but there were a number of guys with size and some intriguing traits that the hope was a few guys would emerge. Unfortunately that really didn’t happen as the only guys to really play well all week were Washington and DaeSean Hamilton in practice and DJ Chark in the game. As for the rest of this group the remain generally where they were when they entered the week, and if anything it makes the wide receiver class look even thinner after the top few guys.
-In years past the Senior Bowl has been a proving ground for some of the top offensive tackles in the draft, but this year the group might have raised more questions about this critical position group in this draft class. Overall in the class there isn’t much certainty at offensive tackle, and it doesn’t figure to be a position group that is heavily targeted early in the draft. The hope was the Senior Bowl might jump a few other tackles into the top couple of rounds or at least cement the status of some of the guys projected there. Unfortunately two of the bigger names (though both smaller school guys with some questions) had to pull out of the event before it started. That left Tyrell Crosby and Brian O’Neill as the top projected offensive tackles here with small school intriguing options like Alex Cappa and Brandon Parker as guys who could potentially rise. Crosby remains the top OT from this group and overall he had a decent week, but he was too inconsistent to get really excited about. O’Neill is more raw than probably most expected, as his technique is a definite work in progress. The upside is nice, but he looks like he will need some time to develop. Cappa had a strong week in practice, but was simply over-matched in the game and probably needs a lot of time to get to the level where he can face NFL talent. Parker has the size teams will love, but he doesn’t have the skill set to do anything with it at this time. All told it was a disappointing week for offensive tackles and it didn’t really bolster the depth of this class.