2020 Senior Bowl: Risers and Sliders

The path to the 2020 NFL Draft shifted up a gear this week with the 2020 Senior Bowl. In a game that was defined more by poor offensive line play than anything else, the North Team coached by the Detroit Lions came out a convincing 34-17 winner.

In recent years the Senior Bowl has become the premier College Football All-Star game. It’s so much more than just an All-Star game, however.

The week of practice that runs up to the game is more important than the game itself from a scouting perspective.

The event gives players the opportunity to get amongst two NFL coaching groups, whilst scouts and front office staff from all 32 NFL teams analyse their every move. You can’t understate he importance of the interaction with the coaching groups. The now Las Vegas Raiders coached one team at last year’s Senior Bowl and their draft class and UDFA signings were interspersed with players they’d coached in the game. The San Francisco 49ers coached the other team and have coined the phrase “Mobile to Miami” to describe the impact that experience has had in the turnaround of the franchise.

Impact of 2020 Senior Bowl on NFL Draft stock

Every year, players raise their NFL Draft profile at the event. For some, they get lost when they arrive at Mobile, the little fish suddenly getting dwarfed in the big pond.

Before getting in to some individuals that raised their profile at the 2020 Senior Bowl, and some that fell far short of expectation, one group that stood out for me was the FCS players. Ben Bartch (St. John’s), Kyle Dugger (Lenoir-Rhyne), and Adam Trautman (Dayton), all made a name for themselves in the week of practice.

All of them looked like they belonged, and Trautman really pushed himself up draft boards during the week. There’s even buzz around Mobile that he has put himself in TE1 contention.

2020 Senior Bowl
Photo Credit: NBC Sports

In the game itself, Dugger was the most impressive of the trio, making several tackles and consistenly being sticky in coverage.

Although the NFL Network and ESPN player have had extensive coverage of 2020 Senior Bowl practices and the game live, it isn’t always possible to see or hear everything on every player. So I spoke to my man on the ground in Mobile, Mello from Stick to Football, on Friday night and we shared some thoughts on players that had a great, or poor, week at the 2020 Senior Bowl.

2020 Senior Bowl Risers:

Justin Herbert - QB - Oregon

2020 Senior Bowl
Photo Credit: Butch Dill (AP)

Herbert wasn’t going to come to Mobile and supplant Joe Burrow from the consensus number one overall pick. That’s not what this week was about for Herbert. What it was about was separating himself from Jordan Love. It was about showing consistency, accuracy, and that athletic playmaking that he showed in the Rose Bowl. 

That’s what he did, whether it be in practice or the one quarter of game time that he saw. In that limited game time he went 9/12 for 83 yards and a touchdown to Lamical Perine. I was particularly impressed with how he targeted multiple receivers, with 6 different receivers getting at least one catch.

There have been questions about his ability to make big throws, and it felt like he addressed those issues throught the week, which was something Mello commented on:

“He had a really good week of practice. He made a lot of the throws that I didn’t think he was going to be able to make because Oregon never asked him to do it, like those outside the hash throws. But he was able to do it.”

Van Jefferson - WR - Florida

Photo Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

There was a lot of talk on social media during the week about the performances of Ohio State’s K.J. Hill. However, for me, the wide receiver who increased his draft stock more than any other was Van Jefferson.

He caught almost everything that was thrown his way all week. Every route that he ran looked polished. He was practically uncoverable all week.

“Van Jefferson really caught the eye of a number of guys we were watching practices with. What I saw was, he has really quick feet and made some really good plays this week. He was probably the most impressive receiver from both groups.”

The 2020 NFL Draft WR class is insanely deep so to put in a performance like this at the 2020 Senior Bowl is vitally important for your draft stock. 

Bradlee Anae - EDGE - Utah

Photo Credit: The Draft Network

The Utah defense has been one of the stories of the 2020 College Football season and Bradlee Anae has been a key component of it.

His 2020 Senior Bowl week got off to a slow start. There were concerns over some of his measurements. and his play in practice wasn’t up to the level of some less well known edge rushers like Jason Strowbridge of UNC.

However, Anae grew through the week, looking stronger with each practice session. 

He saved the best for last with a dominant performance in Saturday’s game. Again, it should be stressed that from a scouting perspective, the game is secondary to the week of practice but Anae put on a show on Saturday.

He brutalised Texas Tech tackle, Terrance Steele on multiple occasions on his way to a couple of sacks. It was Anae’s pressure on Jalen Hurts that was a contributing factor in Malik Harrison picking off a wayward pass.

Lloyd Cushenberry - IOL - LSU

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off the back of winning a National Championship, Cushenberry has increased his draft stock dramatically this week. He has looked like an immovable force at times during practices, and then in the game on Saturday combined superbly with former LSU team mate, Damien Lewis, to give Justin Herbert a solid pocket to work from. 

On Lamical Perine’s receiving touchdow, both Lewis and Cushenberry made key blocks to pave the way for Perine to get in to the endzone.

Interestingly enough, Cushenberry came in to this week behind Matt Hennesey of Temple at the centre position.

“I really like Matt Hennesey, I thought he had a good week too” – Mello.

Although Hennesey has had a good week, Cushenberry has overtaken him with his performance and could well be the first centre taken in April.

Troy Pride - CB - Notre Dame

2020 Senior Bowl
Photo Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Troy Pride is, to my mind, the cornerback who increased his NFL Draft stock the most from this 2020 Senior Bowl.

It’s likely that will continue in to the NFL Combine where he will be one of the fastest cornerbacks on display in Indianapolis.

“We talked to Brian Kelly. Troy Pride is probably going to run in the 4.3s (for the 40-yard dash). That’ll probably be 4.4 when you take away that coach bias.”

Pride showed that speed during the week. Where he looked beaten off the line of scrimmage, he used his speed to recover well and make a play on the ball. 

During the game, he covered Van Jefferson well. He also made a great tackle on Lamical Perine who proved difficult to stop for most players on the day.

His finest moment of the week came on an interception in the third quarter. He flashed that speed again on the ensuing return, making it back to the 10 yard line before finally being stopped.

Marlon Davidson - DL - Auburn

Photo Credit: Vasha Hunt USA TODAY - Sports

Marlon Davidson made probably the biggest impact of any player in just one days worth of performance than anyone else at the 2020 Senior Bowl. 

Davidson is a guy that has played in the shadow of Derrick Brown at Auburn. There has also been questions about where he might play at the next level. Will he be an edge rusher, will be play defensive tackle. 

He may not entirely emerged from Brown’s shadow in this 2020 NFL Draft class but he certainly raised his draft stock substantially by dominating everyone who was put in front of him on Tuesday.

Unfortunately we were deprived of seeing any more from him as he pulled out injured after Tuesday, something that caused some mutterings in Mobile:

“Sometimes these guys have a really great day, and then mysteriously they get injured, roll an ankle or something like that. We were discussing that might be the case with Davidson. He was killing everybody. He did so well for his draft stock that I think his agent was probably like, we’re done here.”

2020 Senior Bowl Sliders:

There were a number of players who didn’t do anything necessarily terrible this week but at the same time their play didn’t stand out either. I expected to see more from Texas A & M wide receiver Quartney Davis and Memphis running back Antonio Gibson. The Ole Miss defensive line duo, Benito Jones and Josiah Coatney struggled but that was no surprise so it’s hard to say their NFL Draft stock slid. 

The following four players definitely did see their stock slide.

Shea Patterson - QB - Michigan

Photo credit: Mike Kittrell/AL.com

“You’re killing me Shea, you’re killing me on that.”

They’re not the words that anyone wants to here. However, when Shea Patterson stood rooted to the spot as Jordan Love and Anthony Gordon rolled out to their left, the frustrations of his coach were clear to hear.

Patterson has not had a good week by any stretch of the imagination, and to my mind seems like a very long shot to be drafted. He seemed like the worst performing of all the six quarterbacks.

“If I was going to draft one of them, between Shea Patterson and Steven Montez, it would be Montez” said Mello of the former Michigan quarterback.

In the game, he opened up with a 74 yard touchdown to Darrius Anderson, who’s step out of bounds at the one yard was missed by officials. Unlike most of Jalen Hurts reps, Patterson was given a ton of time by the offensive line to throw.

However, he was picked off by Kindle Vildor, over threw Chase Claypool on a 3rd and 5, and missed a gaping hole to step in to created by some great play by Houston’s Josh Jones.

Nick Harris - IOL - Washington

2020 Senior Bowl
Photo Credit: Mike Kittrell

With Creed Humphrey taking the decision to return to Oklahoma for another year, the battle for the top center in the 2020 NFL Draft is a really interesting one. 

I’ve already spoken about how Lloyd Cushenberry has raised his stock this week at the position, but Nick Harris was a guy who in that discussion coming in to the 2020 Senior Bowl.

Coming out of the week is a very different conversation. He looked bad in 1 on 1’s and then in the game on Saturday he gave up a penalty that negated a touchdown and didn’t impress with the rest of his performance. 

Mello had witnessed this first hand this week.

“He does not look like he can play very well. He really got dominated by a lot of the interior defensive linemen and did not anchor down and hold those guys. I think it was Davon Hamilton from Ohio State was frequently kicking his ass. He could not stop him. He doesn’t look strong enough to play the position.”

John Simpson - IOL - Clemson

Photo Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Simpson was rated as one of the best guard prospects to come out of Clemson for a number of years going in to the 2020 Senior Bowl.

However, he was absolutely dominated in the first day of practice. It didn’t help that he saw 1 on 1 work with Javon Kinlaw and Marlon Davidson but the whole emphasis on the Senior Bowl is the best, playing the best.

Simpson looked far from the best. Although he seemed to have a better day on Wednesday, he still had his struggles on Thursday.

With prospects such as LSU’s guard, Damien Lewis, stepping up this week, this performance could have a significant impact on Simpson’s draft stock.

Essang Bassey - CB - Wake Forest

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Bassey has made a name for himself, alongside Amari Henderson, at Wake Forest over the last three years. I was excited to see him square of against some of the wide receivers on show at the 2020 Senior Bowl and see how he compared to some of the more high profile cornerbacks.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t lived up to my expectations this week. 

The playmaking ability that we’ve seen from his time at Wake Forest hasn’t been evident. He’d been torched a few times during the week. As the week progressed he seemed to be become more and more frustrated with his play and struggled to contain those frustrations.

“I didn’t hear anything good about him. You usually get some buzz around Mobile about who played well and his name just never came up.”

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