Players to Watch Out for at the Senior Bowl

Players to Watch Out for at the Senior Bowl

written by Alex McQueen 

This Saturday (27th) the annual Senior Bowl will take place in Mobile Alabama. The event is a kind of Allstar Game for College Seniors. The event gives players a chance to showcase their abilities all week, with NFL Coaches running practices and running the two teams.

Players are invited from a variety of different levels, with players selected from Div 3 Football to the SEC. Giving a fantastic opportunity for some of these smaller school players. The most recent examples being Cooper Kupp and Carson Wentz who have both had very successful starts to their careers in the NFL.

Below, I have summarised the five players I am most looking forward to seeing this week at the Senior Bowl, some of which could be making a name for themselves in the NFL in the near future.

1.Jaleel Scott, WR – New Mexico State

This is a name, that many will not know. But when you play your College Ball at a small school, in the SunBelt Conference, you aren’t going to become a household name. Scott, is a player, admittedly I knew nothing about, until seeing a single catch in a game against Arizona State. Honestly probably the best catch all year, If you haven’t seen it, give it a Google. You won’t be disappointed.

Jaleel Scott is approximately 6’2” and would best be described as a tall receiver with decent athletic abilities. He is excellent in a contested catch scenario, and has a ridiculous catch radius. Typically receivers of Scotts build struggle to be athletic, Scott on film appears to buck this trend and is a very fluid runner with some decent after the catch ability. Scott is also a decent route runner, with decent ability to move coverage (see touchdown against Arkansas). Overall, Jaleel Scott appears to have solid foundations, to become a # 1 type receiver in the NFL. However his draft stock could rest very heavily on how he performs against better opposition at this weeks Senior Bowl.

Scott is currently projected to be a late round pick, on some draft sites, But with a good showing in the Senior Bowl, he could definitely move up many draft boards, and have a Cooper Kupp type impact in the NFL in his Rookie Season. He is definitely a sleeper going into this years draft process.

2.Harrison Phillips, DT – Stanford

Harrison Phillips is one of my favourite defensive players in this years draft, having impressived at Stanford. Phillips is a Physical interior defender, who excels in controlling the line of Scrimmage. Due to his size, physicality and general strength, he is very difficult to move off the line of scrimmage.This, accompanied with his quickness off the line enables Phillips to excel in holding his blocker up, filling the gap and stuffing the oppositions run game.

Phillips does struggle to create any form of pass rush, however he is able to push the pocket, and force the OL into the Quarterbacks face. I have seen this happen on numerous occasions the last year, mainly due to his grit and determination with 100% effort from whistle to whistle.

Overall, Phillips is not an attractive player to watch but he does the dirty work enabling his teammates to look better, by forcing Running Backs to bounce runs outside. However his inability to pass rush will affect his draft stock. If he can demonstrate this at the Senior Bowl he could well move that little bit higher up a few boards.

3.Shaquem Griffin, OLB – UCF

Shaquem Griffin is one of my favourite stories in College Football this year. Shaquem is the twin brother of Seattle Seahawks Shaquill Griffin and apart from one thing, they are identical. Shaquem had to have his left hand amputated at the age of 4, due to a Prenatal condition called Amniotic Band Syndrome in which Shaquem was born with a deformed left hand which due to pain had to be amputated.

Shaquem does not let his obvious handicap get in his way. If you watched his game film you would not know about his hand. He plays with no limitations and instantly stands out over his teammates. Shaquem has had two very successful seasons at UCF as an Edge Rusher, but is able to make plays in a variety of ways. One such game was the American Conference Championship Game against Memphis. Griffin made big plays all game and stood out above every other defensive player.

However, Griffin lacks size, and is smaller than a typical Edge rusher in the NFL, so he may well have to adjust and find another position, potentially as a weakside linebacker or special teams contributor.This is an adjustment im sure he will easily make. Griffin has the determination and Footballing instincts to make a smooth transition. Griffin is used to working hard and proving coaches wrong, and has done so throughout his college career. At one point Griffin was a third string player getting minimal game time. By the end of college he was probably the first name on the team sheet.

I am of no doubt that Shaquem Griffin will be drafted this April, and I have no doubt that he has the ability to make a 53-man roster. My only concern is that many NFL teams may struggle to see past his amputated hand. Hopefully over the course of Senior Bowl week, he can show that his lack of a hand is not a hindrance and he can compete and play at a higher level than his two-handed counterparts.

4.Michael Gallup, WR – Colorado State

At the opposite end of the spectrum to Jaleel Scott, we have Michael Gallup, Gallup is the headline WR at this years Senior Bowl and is essentially a certain first round pick, and probably the first WR selection in April’s Draft.

Gallup is a natural outside receiver, who has the ability to also make plays from the Slot position. Gallup was the highest graded WR by ProFootballFocus last year, and averaged 3.47 yards per route run. This is in part to his ability to make defenders miss and create yards after the catch, as well as his deep threat ability with approximately 40% of his receptions coming on deep passes. A large portion of which also resulted in touchdowns.

Gallups best assets are his hands. He is very sure handed, and had very few drops in his last college year, and is very good at making hands catches on not letting the ball into his body. He is also very good at using his hands to create seperation from CB’s.

Gallup appears to have an almost complete game, with very little to work on to be successful in the NFL, however, in college he has only had 1 year of real production, so there is always the doubt that he may have essentially peaked. And not be able to match this performance when he makes it to the NFL. Gallup will have to use the Senior Bowl Practices and Game to show to any Scouts watching that he is the real deal and not just a flash in the pan.

However, if Gallup can continue to improve and perform as in college, he is very much a player that every team would want, Can line up anywhere, is a mismatch athletically, is a good route runner and has sure hands. This will make him a very desirable receiver in this years draft.

5.Quarterbacks – Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Tanner Lee

It was very difficult to pick just one quarterback from the 8 participating in the Senior Bowl. So i have selected three. Baker Mayfield, who is probably the most talked about Quarterback in the Draft Process. Josh Allen, who is in the discussion for a high first round pick, but needs to prove himself. And finally Tanner Lee, who only just made the Senior Bowl as a late invite for the injured Mason Rudolph. Each has something different to prove this week.

Baker Mayfield has been the best QB in College Football this year, but there are some growing concerns over his play. His style is very similar to Johnny Manziel and some are concerned that his play may not translate to the NFL. The system he ran at Oklahoma was also simplified and made things easier for Baker. This week, he will need to show that he has all the ability to play in the NFL, and also show that he can make the correct Pro-Style reads and make good decisions.

There has been much talk over the ‘Big Arm’ of Josh Allen over the past year, this coupled with having the same coach as Carson Wentz has drawn some comparisons. There are some high expectations for Josh Allen coming into the draft due to the Media Hype surrounding him and other QB’s. For Allen in the Senior Bowl, he just needs to show the Athletic Talent he has, and not underperform. If he does this he may well solidify as a First Round Pick. Fail to do so and we could see him slide down the draft boards.

Finally Tanner Lee. He has been given an opportunity to show scouts his abilities, that he almost didn’t have. Lee has all traits scouts look for in an NFL QB in terms of Size and Arm talent, but through college has struggled with Mid-Level passes, as well as struggling to move from first read on to second & third. Overall he has been inconsistent in the playing time he has had at Nebraska. Lee just needs to show that he will be a good prospect in the draft, to solidify his place as a Day 3 Selection, for a team that will have the chance to try develop him as a back-up / potential starter.

This guest piece was written by Alex McQueen. Alex is a Cincinnati Bengals fan and has followed the game for over 10 years. His college team is the Cincinnati Bearcats. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @Queenie_1993

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