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Do ‘Senior Bowl Standouts’ become NFL stars?

The Rams have not been consistent in choosing players out of Mobile

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NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

A January, 2020 article from Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports lists 10 standouts at the Senior Bowl from that year. A few months later, Les Snead drafted two of them on day two: Wide receiver Van Jefferson and linebacker Terrell Lewis.

On Lewis:

This rep against St. John’s Ben Bartch is noteworthy not because Bartch is from a Division III school in Minnesota and would clearly have no chance against one of Alabama’s best defensive players, but because Bartch balled out all week, at no point looked out of his element, and this is one of the few examples where he was easily beaten.

Lewis has a chance to be a Day 1 pick and that was only aided by his performance this week.

On Jefferson:

Maybe the best route runner at the Senior Bowl, Jefferson regularly won against some of the best defensive backs in the country, and by the way, he was one of the fastest players in Mobile, too.

Coming into the week there were questions about why Jefferson didn’t put up better numbers at Florida last season but if you want a crash course on what type a player he is, just watch the LSU game; he had eight catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns, often while lining up across from Derek Stingley Jr., arguably the best cornerback in college football.

Three years later, Lewis has been released not just because of an extensive injury history, but due to poor play when he did get consistent game reps. Jefferson’s Rams career is not only in jeopardy of ending when his contract expires in 2024, but perhaps sooner because Sean McVay needs to know that he has receivers past Cooper Kupp on the roster who can impact the game.

Perhaps one of the most surprising stats for me from the 2022 season is that Van Jefferson played in 498 snaps, including at least 94% of the snaps in the final six games. But Jefferson had 24 catches and 369 yards in 498 snaps; Kupp had 75 catches for 812 yards in 530 snaps.

“Okay, but Cooper Kupp, man, that guy’s good!”

Sure. But Allen Robinson also had 33 catches for 339 yards in 562 snaps. Ben Skowronek had 39 catches for 376 yards over 696 snaps.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

I would go deeper on Jefferson’s numbers, but he didn’t have the qualifying 45 targets (he had 44) on NextGenStats even though he played in 11 games and nearly 80% of the snaps in those 11 games. Perhaps better days are ahead for Jefferson, that’s not something I can tell you, but I believe it is safe to say that L.A.’s return from those two Senior Bowl standouts didn’t reach Les Snead’s expectations.

And they weren’t the only ones.

Other future Rams who Snead would have seen at the 2020 Senior Bowl include Terrell Burgess, Brycen Hopkins, and Tremayne Anchrum. Draw conclusions as you see fit, four of L.A.’s first five picks in the 2020 draft (the exception being Cam Akers) were at the Senior Bowl. At least two of them were standouts.

Burgess, also released this past season, said teams were mostly just trying him out at different positions so he could showcase his versatility. Anchrum was actually listed among “Losers” at the Senior Bowl for not having ideal measurements and being held out with injuries, perhaps a reason Snead was able to get him in the seventh round. Anchrum may in fact be one of the few “winners” out of the Rams 2020 class, if he can stay healthy in 2023.

Other 2020 Senior Bowl standouts

Going back to the 2020 Senior Bowl, let’s see the other eight standouts, a group headlined by a current NFL star but maybe without many trailing him on this list: Justin Herbert, Jordan Love, Denzel Mims, Adam Trautman, Josh Jones, Troy Pride, Javon Kinlaw, Kyle Dugger.

Perhaps the only person on the list who had a lot to gain and is a current starter in the NFL is Dugger. Herbert may or may not have helped his case at the Senior Bowl, but he was considered a candidate to go first overall for several years and even then he went after Tua Tagovailoa in the 2020 draft. Dugger was a small school prospect who ended up going 37th to the Patriots and he’s been a standout for Bill Belichick.

Others said to have big weeks were K.J. Hill and Lloyd Cushenberry. And Neville Gallimore, Chase Claypool, and Jason Stowbridge.

2021 Senior Bowl

Notably, I can’t find any players at the 2019 or 2021 Senior Bowls who were drafted by the Rams other than Robert Rochell and Ben Skowronek two years ago. Perhaps good, perhaps bad...Creed Humphrey was a standout at the 2021 Senior Bowl, among quite a few others. Some good, many nowhere near an NFL field on Sundays.

SteelersNow listed Rochell as a “Loser” early in Senior Bowl week.

Jumping up to compete against the best senior receivers the country had to offer, Rochell did not stand out in a good way on Tuesday. In one-on-ones, he was repeatedly beaten to the inside with an inconsistent trigger and a lack of eye discipline. Rochell seemed to be lost and never felt comfortable in the drills against the receivers. It led to Rochell having a down day and appearing as if he did not belong despite good measurables and obvious great athletic traits on film. In order to increase his stock, Rochell must be better during the rest of the week.

For players who reportedly boosted their stock in 2021, is that such good news for the teams that picked Amari Rodgers or Boogie Basham? It might be if you picked Quinn Meinerz or Richie Grant, although I’m not sure either case is solidified yet. Skowronek is listed among the “Losers” on that list too.

On the first day of practice, Skowronek had a slow start in receiving drills, and his average agility hurt him on early reps. On Day 2, he began to establish a rhythm, and the Notre Dame product broke off a crisp out route and made an easy catch near the sideline.

Unfortunately, he suffered a foot injury and sat out the remainder of the week in a walking boot and on crutches. He could’ve put himself in the sleeper category for teams that want a mismatch pass-catcher who can beat linebackers and safeties in the middle of the field.

Perhaps making him available in the seventh round.

Derion Kendrick only Ram from 2022 Senior Bowl

A year ago, Snead only selected one player from the Senior Bowl, identifying Kendrick as the standout cornerback from Mobile. Oddly, given that Snead is said to be so into “speed” and “GPS tracking” for identifying speed, the Rams chose Kendrick in the sixth but then ended up picking Cobie Durant in the fourth over Tariq Woolen in the fifth. Woolen, a candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year after recording six interceptions for the Seahawks and running one of the fastest 40-yard dash times in combine history, was also at the Senior Bowl.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 02 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Many of the best players at the Senior Bowl were out of L.A.’s draft range, as the Rams didn’t have a pick until 104 (choosing Logan Bruss) but for the third time in the last four years, it doesn’t come off as though Snead is that interested in who does well in Mobile.

Then again, in 2020, he was all over it. That was also one of his worst classes, most likely.

And be wary of what you are “hearing” out of Mobile. Last year, it was popular to say that Malik Willis was standing out was popular to say that Willis was standing out. PFF, always desperate to be popular, was really trying to make it a point that Willis was solidifying himself as the top quarterback and an early pick. Willis ended up going 86th overall.

It doesn’t mean that there has to be a direct connection or line drawn directly from the Senior Bowl to bad prospects. It may only mean that the Senior Bowl serves as no more of a quality evaluation process than the combine or pro days, in that there will be players who dominate on those fields that fail and players who are quiet in those environments who go on to succeed.

The Rams may yet choose a couple of prospects who excel at the Senior Bowl this year. And their reasons for liking those players may not have anything to do with what happened there.

Perhaps it shouldn’t.