The Senior Bowl is finally here, which marks the official start of draft season for most non-full time scouts and draft enjoyers. We’ve got three days of practices coming up in Mobile, giving us our first chance to lay eyes on some of the top prospects entering the 2024 NFL Draft.
This class is a noticeable step up in talent from the 2023 event, in large part due to the extra season of eligibility from COVID and a stronger crop of quarterbacks attending. Given the Atlanta Falcons needs, I’ll be keeping a particularly close eye on those quarterbacks, along with the wide receivers, edge rushers, defensive tackles, cornerbacks, and safeties.
Wednesday marked the second day of practices in Mobile, and today gave several prospects ample opportunity to separate themselves from the pack. We once again saw some standout performances from the wide receivers and defensive linemen, but the defensive backs also came to play.
Read on for my biggest takeaways from Wednesday’s practice.
Quarterbacks are good, not great
This year’s group of quarterbacks—on both the National and American teams—are definitely a step up from the 2023 class. That being said, nobody has taken control of the event yet. I thought Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. was the winner of Day 1, but only slightly separated himself from Oregon’s Bo Nix. On Wednesday, things continued to stay close, and I think Nix perhaps had the slightly better day overall. He ripped off a really impressive run during the team session, as well.
Tennessee’s Joe Milton III has been up and down, but has made a few “wow!” throws over the first two days. I think he’s turned heads as potential developmental target. South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler has probably been the most disappointing relative to expectations. I will say that South Alabama’s Carter Bradley has not looked out of place here. I’m not sure he’ll get drafted, but he’s made some good throws and could be the latest Senior Bowl QB to wind up getting a backup job in the NFL.
This is a very talented wide receiver group
This year’s class may lack the bonafide first rounders of some years, but man is this a deep group of receivers in Mobile. It feels like every single receiver on the National team has made plays, but the big winners have undoubtedly been Michigan’s Roman Wilson and Florida’s Ricky Pearsall. These guys are winning almost every single rep and doing it in impressive fashion. Wilson had the catch of the day working against impressive cornerback Quinyon Mitchell.
After relatively quiet first days, we saw strong performances from Arizona’s Jacob Cowing, Rice’s Luke McCaffrey, and UCF’s Javon Baker. Western Kentucky’s Malachi Corley wasn’t quite as involved today, but still made plays. North Carolina’s Tez Walker continued to struggle more than expected, and USC’s Breden Rice had trouble separating throughout the day.
The American side didn’t disappoint either, with South Carolina’s Xavier Legette having arguably the flashiest day of the bunch after an up-and-down start.
Louisville’s Jamari Thrash was still the most consistent (and, overall, the best) of the bunch with his combination of smooth route running and deep speed.
Florida State’s Johnny Wilson also had a strong Day 2, and he was almost impossible to cover. He used his length well and made a number of impressive hands catches.
Tulane’s Jha’Quan Jackson had a nice day after a relatively quiet start. I’d never heard much about Southeast Missouri’s Ryan Flournoy prior to this week, but he has definitely shown that he belong here at the Senior Bowl and is firmly on the draft radar. Georgia’s Ladd McConkey was still effective today, but wasn’t quite as outwardly dominant as Day 1.
Darius Robinson and Braden Fiske dominate
Two guys stole all the headlines on the defensive line today: Missouri EDGE Darius Robinson and Florida State DT Braden Fiske. Each was almost unblockable, both in team drills and in 1-on-1 situations.
Fiske turned heads all day with his incredible first-step quickness, which has blown away the competition on both days. He’s absolutely raised his stock.
Robinson got on the radar when he measured in at 6’5, 286 with almost 35” arms, and has continued to raise his profile. He’s lined up and dominated on the outside and inside, and has won with technique, speed, and power. I don’t think there’s a single player who has helped their stock more through the first two days than Robinson—he’s on the cusp of entering the first-round conversation.
Texas A&M’s McKinnley Jackson continued to play well, and massive Texas nose tackle T’Vondre Sweat remains an extremely tough matchup in 1-on-1 situations.
On the National team, UCLA’s Laiatu Latu continued to show why he’s one of the top pass rushers in the class with consistent production. Kansas’ Austin Booker, Penn State’s Adisa Isaac, and Western Michigan’s Marshawn Kneeland all followed up their strong opening days with a good Day 2.
The interior guys also had a strong showing, with Clemson’s Tyler Davis having a bounce-back after a quiet Day 1. Ohio State’s Michael Hall had a sack and a PBU on back-to-back plays during team drills, and Duke’s DeWayne Carter continued his pass rushing prowess on the inside.
Secondary fights back on Day 2
The sad news is that Oregon’s Khyree Jackson was held out of practice—presumably due to injury. Hopefully he’ll be able to return on Day 3.
In his place were more reps for the rest of the National squad, and Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell took full advantage. He was once again the most impressive secondary player in Mobile, and had a particularly impressive interception against Brenden Rice in the endzone.
We also saw a really strong day of practice from Notre Dame cornerback Cam Hart, who absolutely locked down Tez Walker on a number of reps.
Washington State cornerback Chau Smith-Wade was on the receiving end of a number of highlight reels today, but fought hard and came away with a nice pick against Jacob Cowing.
On the American side, the Auburn cornerback duo of DJ James and Nehemiah Pritchett continued their strong week with some nice coverage reps. Georgia safety Javon Bullard struggled a bit in the 1-on-1s against receivers, but played very well in the team session. Miami’s Kamren Kinchens performed very well against the RBs and TEs in the 1-on-1s, as well. I also liked what I saw from Georgia safety Tykee Smith, who had his share of nice plays.
I’ll be back for Day 3’s practice bright and early on Thursday, and we’ll have a Senior Bowl recap show coming around 6 PM ET!