Senior Bowl NFL Draft Stock Impact

Every year after the college football season a selection of college seniors are chosen to participate in the Senior Bowl showcase game. Staff from two chosen NFL teams are brought in to coach the teams. The players practice for a week with their respective teams. The culmination of the week being the Senior Bowl. The Senior Bowl has grown in prominence in the last few years.

The game has been a way for players to raise their draft stock. The flip side being a poor performance can negatively impact a player. It has been seen as a way for smaller school players to compete on an even playing field with players from the Big 6 conferences. There are many skill position players looking to move up in the draft based on this week. We are going to look at some of the players we feel will be fantasy relevant and what we need to see for them to improve their stock.

Quarterback

National Team

  • Kenny Pickett – Pitt
  • Desmond Ridder – Cincinnati
  • Carson Strong- Nevada

American Team

  • Malik Willis – Liberty
  • Bailey Zappe – Western Kentucky
  • Sam Howell – North Carolina
Bailey Zappe - Senior Bowl QB
Bailey Zappe – Western Kentucky University
Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This year’s group of quarterbacks features five of the potential top quarterbacks. The other player set the record for most passing yards and touchdowns in a single season this year. There is not a consensus top quarterback in the class. Senior Bowl week is a huge opportunity for all of these guys to move up teams draft boards.

Kenny Pickett had a great year for Pitt and is potentially the first quarterback off the board. The questions in his game are tied to his arm talent. Pickett needs to show he has the arm strength to make NFL caliber throws. Showing zip on his passes outside the hashes and pushing the ball downfield are things teams will be watching for. Check out the Kenny Pickett Scouting Report here.

Desmond Ridder led the Bearcats to the college playoffs, a first for a non Big 6 team. Ridder is in the mix to be a first round pick. He needs to show that he has consistent accuracy and ball placement. His mobility is a big asset but his accuracy and ball placement are even more problematic when he is moving. Lastly, Ridder will need to show improved decision making, taking what the defense gives him and not consistently forcing the ball into bad spots.

Carson Strong has shown great arm talent and pre-snap reading of defenses. He is a throwback to a traditional pocket passer. Teams will be looking to see that he has the ability to move in the pocket to create time for throws. His ability to roll out of the pocket and throw on the move will also be a focus. Carson Strong Scouting Report is available here.

Malik Willis is an electric athletic talent. His running ability is always something defenses need to account for. Willis’ accuracy is a big question. Throwing on the move with accuracy will be important during this week. Not going for the big play all the time and forcing the ball into coverage will also be something teams will be watching for.

Bailey Zappe set the record for most passing yards and touchdowns in a single season this year. Zappe has questionable arm strength and tends to float balls deep or when throwing to the sidelines. Teams will be looking to see him drive the ball with zip on these passes.

Sam Howell had a down year in 2021 compared to 2020. Howell tended to lock on his primary target. He needs to show the ability to progress through reads. He also needs to demonstrate pocket awareness and accuracy when being pressured. His footwork breaks down in the pocket when pressured. Ben’s Scouting Report on Sam Howell is here.

Running Back

National Team

  • Rachaad White – Arizona State
  • Haasan Haskins – Michigan
  • Tyler Badie – Missouri
  • Abram Smith – Baylor
  • Jerome Ford – Cincinnati

American Team

  • Brian Robinson Jr. – Alabama
  • D’Vonte Price – Florida International
  • Dameon Pierce – Florida
  • James Cook – Georgia
  • ZaQuandre White – South Carolina
Rachaad White - Senior Bowl RB
Rachaad White – Arizona State University
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The running backs are a less heralded group than the quarterbacks. There are some interesting names amongst the group. For players teetering between day two and day three draft expectations this Senior Bowl week is an opportunity they must seize.

Rachaad White is a name that has drawn some interest in the lead up to the draft. White has shown great hands out of the backfield and it would be nice to see him motion out wide and be used in the slot. As a runner Rachaad has shown trouble with reading his blocks in regards to which side the lineman has leverage on. He has also displayed some weakness in following pulling linemen when they block. Lastly his initial burst to get through the hole has seemed to be lacking.

Tyler Badie is a small statured running back which will give some teams pause. It inevitably has led to questions of his ability to run wit power and move the pile. Getting some hard nosed runs in short yardage situations and some broken tackles will help to alleviate those concerns. Badie also needs to show more decisiveness and vision at the line of scrimmage.

Jerome Ford needs to show better receiving ability out of the backfield. His lack of natural pass catching ability will limit his potential at the next level. He has great top end speed and burst but has not shown much agility. Ford would do good to show the ability to cut and make players miss at the second level when he is not able to just use pure speed to beat them.

Brian Robinson Jr. played on an explosive offense but did not show the same trait in his own game. His initial burst and straight-line speed are questionable. He has not shown elusiveness in the open field. His vision at the line and in the open field has also been suspect. His career long run is for 37 yards. Breaking a long run and making guys miss at the second level will be what we are looking for.

James Cook is a versatile running back with great hands. He is the best receiving back in the class. We hope to see him lined up out wide and in the slot to push the limits of his ability as a receiver. As a runner there are questions about the physicality of his game. At 5’11” he weighs 190 pounds. Getting some runs between the tackles and converting on short yardage and goal line carries would be good to see. His lack of physical running can also cause him to get stalled and turned around in the backfield. Being decisive and running hard are things we need to see.

Wide Receiver

National Team

  • Khalil Shakir – Boise State
  • Alec Pierce – Cincinnati
  • Romeo Doubs – Nevada
  • Christian Watson – North Dakota State
  • Bo Melton – Rutgers
  • Braylon Sanders – Ole Miss

American Team

  • Calvin Austin III – Memphis
  • Danny Gray – SMU
  • Jalen Tolbert – South Alabama
  • Velus Jones Jr. – Tennessee
  • Tre Turner – Virginia Tech
  • Dontario Drummond – Ole Miss
Dontario Drummond - Senior Bowl WR
Dontario Drummond – Ole Miss
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

There are some interesting prospects in this group. Athleticism and speed are flashy traits but as we have seen route running is paramount. A great matchup to watch will be George McCreary against the wide receivers as he is the best corner back in the Senior Bowl.

Khalil Shakir is an athletic receiver who shows elusiveness. His small frame has caused problems with physical corners. Showing strength off the line of scrimmage and when going up for the ball are areas we want to see. A lack of discipline on routes allows defenders to stay with him. Running crisp routes will be something we watch for. Lastly, while he makes some amazing catches he has lapses in focus and allows to many balls to come into his body. Being consistent and attacking the ball with his hands are two things look for.

Alec Pierce is a big and fast receiver. His athleticism is unquestioned but it is still up in the air if he is an athlete who plays wide receiver or a wide receiver who is athletic. Pierce has issues with concentration, often turning before securing the ball. We also want to see him reach for the football and not catch it against his body. His route running needs to be more refined and less rounding off on breaks.

Romeo Doubs had a great season with Carson Strong. Doubs has shown a tendency to shy away from the physical side of being a receiver. Going over the middle and winning in contested catch situations are things we need to see. Crisper route running and speed off the line will show his ability in the NFL.

Jalen Tolbert has shown great ability in contested catch situations. This is what makes his drops on easier catches more frustrating. We need to see consistent focus throughout the week in practice and the game. Tolbert is a big receiver who needs to play more physical and to his size consistently as well.

Dontario Drummond is big and physical in his game. His acceleration and ability to get separation are questionable. Showing some elusiveness is a must this week. Going after the ball with bis hands instead of letting it come into his body will also be a focal point.

Tight End

National Team

  • Trey McBride – Colorado State
  • Charlie Kolar – Iowa State
  • Cole Turner – Nevada
  • Jeremy Ruckert – Ohio State
  • Jake Ferguson – Wisconsin

American Team

  • Isaiah Likely – Coastal Carolina
  • Grant Calcaterra – SMU
  • Daniel Bellinger – San Diego State
  • Greg Dulcich – UCLA
Charlie Kolar - Senior Bowl TE
Charlie Kolar – Iowa State
Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The tight end group features some big names. The Senior Bowl week is a chance to show out. Receiving ability is what we will be looking for this week.

Trey McBride is a complete tight end. In the passing game we are looking for cleaner routes without rounding off. Displaying the ability to split the seam with speed will only raise his stock higher.

Charlie Kolar is a big tight end with great hands. We are looking for him to show the ability to come off the line and out of breaks with speed.

Cole Turner is another big target for a quarterback. We would like to see better releases off the line in passing situations. Precision in his routes will also be something we are looking for.

Jeremy Ruckert is a great blocker. He was used sparingly in the passing game. He excelled when given opportunities as a receiver. We want to see his pass catch utilized this week. His overall athleticism has been questioned. Showing off his speed and agility will be big for his draft prospects.

Isaiah Likely has shown great speed and athletic ability. Refined route running is something we will be looking for. Excelling this week against a higher level of competition will quiet a lot of doubters.

Greg Dulcich is good at everything but not elite. Showing some improved agility or better than expected speed will turn heads. In his route running quick cuts instead of rounding off breaks will be something to watch for.

Additional details

How do you like this years crop of Senior Bowl players? Drop us a comment to give your thoughts on what you’re looking for!

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