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Senior Bowl 2021: Day 1 practice notes and observations

Day one of Senior Bowl practice has concluded. Here are some of my key notes.

2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Photo by Senior Bowl/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

Under a blend of clouds and an occasional sunshine, the initial practice session for the 2021 Senior Bowl came and went. On the campus of the University of South Alabama, collegiate seniors divided into two teams coached by the Miami Dolphins and the Carolina Panthers conducted practice before all 32 NFL teams and a large gaggle of media members, including myself. With that being said, here are some of my key takeaways from today’s practice.

Senior Bowl notes

  • It is no secret that the Atlanta Falcons are in need of some pass rushing help and a few pass rushers were able to stand out considerably throughout the day on both sides. Notre Dame DE Daelin Hayes and Pittsburgh DE Rashad Weaver were two prospects that showcased versatility and quick get-offs at the snap during their practice with the National team.

On the American team, Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham and Baylor’s William Bradley-King were often seen in the offense’s backfield causing disruption.

  • I mentioned in my ‘players to watch’ piece that the Falcons can very well add some more punch to the receiving corps this offseason. The one receiver that I highlighted was Wake Forest’s Sage Surratt. On day one, Surratt showed why was he was often relied upon as a playmaker on offense for Wake Forest.

Thanks to his ability to win one-on-one situations and play bigger than his listed 6’2 215 pound frame. Clemson’s Amari Rodgers was also a standout, and was joined by and Houston’s Marquez Stevenson and his ability to haul in receptions in contested situations.

  • One of the best defenders on the day regardless of position or team was UCF’s Richie Grant. Entering the draft process, Grant has developed a reputation of being a ballhawk at the safety position, especially in single-high coverage. His instincts stood out on day one of practice just like they normally do when you view his collegiate film.
NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports
  • A lot of talk has been handed out lately to Alabama QB Mac Jones and his overall draft status. Some see him as a first rounder while others think he is more of a Day 2 project. During the opening stage of practice at the Senior Bowl, Jones looked more like the latter. Jones was late on a few throws and missed a couple of ‘gimme’ throws, the kinds of throws he’ll need to make to show teams he’s deserved of going in round one. He still has time to improve, so let’s keep an eye on him as the week goes along.
  • Want a late round tight end prospect that quietly made a play or two? Try Duke’s Noah Gray as that prospect. Gray had a solid weigh-in at 6’3 240 and an arm length measurement of over 31” inches. While not known to dazzle anyone with his athleticism, Gray was able to make some very impressive catches on the day, including a beautiful seam route for a large gain that was hauled in from Wake Forest QB Jamie Newman. Senior Bowl week can be a massive one for Gray and his draft stock.