The NFL Draft got started in Mobile, Alabama this week for the Senior Bowl. Players from around the nation came together for three days of practice and then capped off with the Senior Bowl game on Saturday.
The Senior Bowl has been a pool of players that the Los Angeles Rams and general manager Les Snead have historically pulled from. With needs along the offensive line, in the secondary, and on the defensive line, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Rams draft from this group of players in April.
If you missed any of my coverage this week, you find those links below.
Now, let’s wrap-up the week with winners and losers from the Senior Bowl.
iOL John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota
John Michael Schmitz made my standouts lists after all three days of practices. He once again showed out during the game on Saturday. Coming into the week at the Senior Bowl, Schmitz was pretty comfortably a second-round pick. During the broadcast, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah noted that Schmitz might have worked his way into the first round.
Oh, baby.— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) February 4, 2023
O'Cyrus Torrence and John Michael Schmitz. pic.twitter.com/UpzeehkzaZ
At the end of the day, the Senior Bowl is only part of the process. However, Schmitz stood out in a way that will be hard for NFL teams to ignore in April. He was named a team captain for the game, showing his leadership skills. Whoever drafts Schmitz is getting a home run.
OT Dawand Jones, Ohio State
Dawand Jones only participated in one day of practice, but he showed what he needed to. There might be some durability concerns about him, but if he’s clear for the combine and his Pro Day, it will be a moot point. He reported a headache and concussion-like symptoms. He was held out for precautionary reasons. It’s worth noting that he was on the sideline cheering his teammates during Thursday’s practice.
EDGE Will McDonald, IV, Iowa State
Will McDonald IV needs to add some control to his game, but that’s something that can be coached up in the NFL. What can’t be coached is his high-motor, length, and pure athleticism. In four seasons at Iowa State, he had 33 sacks and nine forced fumbles.
Will McDonald IV bending the edge and bursting to the QB on the first rep of team practice pic.twitter.com/M3z5ka0EvX— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) January 31, 2023
This week, he showed that he can go up and win against some of the better tackles in college football. On Thursday, he won back-to-back reps against Tennessee’s Darnell Wright. This is the type of edge player that the Rams could consider drafting. McDonald was quiet during the game, but he had a good week of practices.
TE Payne Durham, Purdue
Coming into Mobile, it was pretty well known how good of a blocker Payne Durham was at Purdue. However, throughout the last week, Durham made some catches that should have him going up draft boards.
Payne Durham comes down with an impressive catch on the wheel. Snatches the ball and immediately tucks it in to prevent the DB from knocking it away pic.twitter.com/jhjImkmXF9— Billy M (@BillyM_91) February 4, 2023
On Wednesday, Durham showed his ability as a blocker in the run game, lining up in-line and then as an H-Back as a lead blocker. On Thursday and during the game, Durham made some of the best catches of the week. He finished the game with two catches for 24 yards and he converted a two-point conversion. During the opening drive, he also had a block that helped pop open Northwestern’s Evan Hull for a 24-yard run. This is the type of tight end that the Rams are missing in their offense.
iOL Cody Mauch, North Dakota State
Coming into Mobile, there were some questions on whether or not Mauch would be able to hold up against the competition as well as what position he would play. Mauch played strictly left tackle in the FCS at North Dakota State.
By week’s end, Mauch had played nearly every position on the offensive line. He started Tuesday at left guard and played center on Wednesday. On Thursday he was at those position and at right guard. During the game on Saturday, he took snaps at right tackle. Mauch is likely a left guard in the NFL, but that willingness to play wherever he’s needed is commendable.
S Sydney Brown, Illinois
There might not have been a better safety at the Senior Bowl than Sydney Brown. The weird thing about his week, is that he somewhat went under the radar until day three. He was named the American Team’s Practice Player of the Week and was simply all over the field. That continued into the game on Saturday. Brown is a player that’s likely going to be under-drafted and whoever selects him is going to end up very happy.
Illinois safety Sydney Brown sniffs this screen out and triggers downhill to blow it up with an assist from Kansas’ Lonnie Phelps.— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) February 4, 2023
Brown has been one of the most impressive players at the #SeniorBowl this week. pic.twitter.com/GtZ1fH9o9D
OT Matthew Bergeron, Syracuse
After Isaiah Foskey got the better of him the regular season when Syracuse took on Notre Dame, Bergeron solidified himself as a second round pick in Mobile. He showed good versatility, playing both left tackle and guard.
He’s a solid, dependable player on the offensive line and at the end of the day, that’s what all 32 teams need on their roster. There are a lot of good tackles in this draft and Bergeron is one of them. He’s a solid prospect that isn’t getting the attention that he deserves. That might work out in the Rams’ favor. This week, Bergeron let the NFL know that he means business during the Senior Bowl.
RB Tyjae Spears, Tulane
Spears had a very good week, but showed some of his limitations during the game. He’s a player that needs to go to the right situation where an offense is going to get him the ball in space and put him in favorable opportunities.
Clayton Tune 7-yd pass to Tyjae Spears#National 3 #American 0 1sᴛ #SeniorBowl pic.twitter.com/taUvgZMfyT— Sᴘᴏʀᴛs 24/7 (@Sports_24x7_) February 4, 2023
During the game, Spears had one carry for two yards, but three receptions for 15 yards. In the NFL, Spears isn’t going to carry the load. He’s likely a change of pace and receiving back in an offense.
OT Blake Freeland, BYU
Blake Freeland was someone that I was very excited to watch at the Senior Bowl. He’s 6’8 and has the size to be dominant. Whether it was a bad week or flaws in his game standing out more, Freeland’s good moments were few and far between. He likely solidified himself as a day three draft pick.
Pressure by Byron Young on Malik Cunningham on the interception#National 20 #American 10 4ᴛʜ #SeniorBowl pic.twitter.com/ra2sXjYLdu— Sᴘᴏʀᴛs 24/7 (@Sports_24x7_) February 4, 2023
He consistently got beat in one-on-ones. During the game, he got pushed back into Malik Cunningham to cause an interception. While he played better during the game, it’s the mistake that will be remembered.
EDGE Andre Carter, Army West Point
For all of the potential first round hype that he had coming into the Senior Bowl, Andre Carter didn’t stand out very often and was contained by a lot of the tackles in Mobile. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares during the rest of the draft process, but he may have slid into the second round after his week at the Senior Bowl.
I'll admit that I was expecting more out of Andre Carter, both in this game and in #SeniorBowl practice.— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) February 4, 2023
The tools are insane with him. Super long and explosive athlete off the edge. Still, he's light in the pants and needs a better pass-rushing plan. That's showing today.
Simply put, the quarterbacks, outside of Jake Haener from Fresno State, were not very good. Haener played better as the week went on and ended up winning the Senior Bowl MVP.
However, Jaren Hall didn’t rise to expectations. Malik Cunningham showed that he’s most likely a pretty big project. Cunningham is an athlete, but what about the rest? Max Duggan didn’t rise to the occasion and at times was a Duggan disaster-class. Lastly Tyson Bagent from Shepherd looked overwhelmed.
iOL Olu Oluwatimi, Michigan
Oluwatimi from Michigan came to the Senior Bowl as one of the top centers in the class. However, he was often overmatched against quickness and power. He got a little better as the week went on, but overall, he didn’t catch my eye positively very often.
He’s an experienced center from Michigan with over 40 starts which is a good sign going to the next level. However, I have concerns about his overall ceiling.
- DL Karl Brooks, Grambling State
- DL Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin
- CB Jakorian Bennett, Maryland
- EDGE Lonnie Phelps, Jr., Kansas
There are a lot of guys that caught my eye this week that just missed my list and those players are above. Jakorian Bennett led the Power-5 in pass breakups and then recorded one of the higher speeds in Mobile for a defensive back. He’ll be a fit for the Rams in the middle rounds. Meanwhile, Lonnie Phelps had quite a few positive moments rushing the passer in team drills and during the game.
Benton and Karl Brooks execute a stunt to apply pressure on Tune pic.twitter.com/fCsASEbGqM— Billy M (@BillyM_91) February 4, 2023
Karl Brooks and Keeanu Benton each had a good week of practice and they continued that into the game. The Senior Bowl was made for players like Brooks who played at a small program at a HBCU and then ended up raising his draft stock against quality competition. He possibly moved from a late day-three prospect to early day-three.