The week of Senior Bowl practices is over. College players from across the country came together to show that they can prepare like the pros for multiple days, all under the watching eyes of the NFL's evaluators. This is different than the NFL Combine in that the players are actually putting on pads and playing a version of competitive football instead of running and jumping around in t-shirts and shorts.
Let's deliver a bunch of Top 5 lists highlighting the best players from each position and a little more. Remember: Everything you're about to read is a roundup from the week's practices only. These are not full evaluations of each player! Those will come later.
Top 5 Quarterbacks
The best passers in the class weren't in Mobile. Only seven quarterbacks were. These were the best of an imperfect bunch.
1. Michael Penix Jr., Washington
The good: Very strong arm, mostly good accuracy, improved mechanics
The bad: Struggled to connect with receivers when pressured, a carryover concern from college
2. Spencer Rattler, South Carolina
The good: Plenty of highlight-reel throws with proper ball placement, velocity and accuracy
The bad: Mechanics were spotty, bouts of inaccuracy including in passing drills with assistants
3. Joe Milton, Tennessee
The good: Excellent size, cannon for an arm with untamed velocity to match, solid mobility with willingness to run, has alluring potential
The bad: Struggled to consistently throttle down his throws and make his passes catchable, gunslinger mentality will lead to some hero throws and some turnovers
Solid showing from Joe Milton in team drills— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) January 31, 2024
Kept the offense on schedule, showed his mobility, and made one of the throws of the day fitting a slant into heavy traffic
Was also impressed whenever he was shown listening to coaches or speaking to teammates pic.twitter.com/3jQshXQOew
4. Bo Nix, Oregon
The good: had spurts where he looked like the best quarterback when pressured, acquitted himself in goal-to-go drills, did a good job keeping his eyes downfield, improved as the week went on and had his best practice on the last day
The bad: Clearly undersized, felt like his footwork was sloppy on the second day of practice, had bouts of inaccuracy all week -- especially on longer throws
5. Carter Bradley, South Alabama
The good: Good size, strong enough arm, improved accuracy as the week went on, made a handful of nice throws and wasn't shy about trying tight windows
The bad: Off-target rate improved as week went on but was noticeable throughout
Top 5 running backs
This was a deep group with backs who can work in today's pass-friendly NFL. Not much separation between the first three names for me.
1. MarShawn Lloyd, USC
The good: Thick powerful RB with low center of gravity, good vision, decisive, good physicality, very shifty especially considering his size, flashed good skills in receiving game, solid blocker
The bad: Speed is solid but won't wow you
2. Dylan Laube, New Hampshire
The good: Thick, stout running back with outstanding receiving skills, good burst when running to the edges - hit 20.59 mph in practice, not a bad blocker
The bad: Among the oldest prospects at the Senior Bowl (will turn 25 during the 2024 season)
3. Ray Davis, Kentucky
The good: Very good size, powerful, good burst on his runs, awesome agility, incredible hands - literally made at least one spectacular catch every day, has pass protection skills, worked on kick returns and as a protector on punts
The bad: Didn't see top-end speed, among the oldest prospects at the Senior Bowl (will turn 25 during the 2024 season)
4. Kimani Vidal, Troy
The good: Short stocky powerhouse (one scout called him a "little ball of muscle", good vision and runs downhill, physical runner who can drag defenders to gain max yardage, flashed speed in his routes
The bad: Unsure of top-end speed, had a fumble in an end-zone drill
5. Isaiah Davis, South Dakota St.
The good: Pro-level size with huge hands, very good balance to go with good patience, vision and burst, physical runner, has potential in the passing game, good in pass protection
The bad: Played at FCS-level in college, did not see breakaway speed often
Top 5 wide receivers
The wideouts this year are such a deep group -- not only from the Senior Bowl, but from the overall class. I could have gone eight-deep.
1. Roman Wilson, Michigan
The good: Beyond a rookie-level route running technique already, adjusts and goes all out for off-target throws, knows how to exploit gaps in zone coverage, good speed with better explosiveness, played through contact
The bad: Undersized, limited second gear will allow some defensive backs to run step-for-step
2. Brenden Rice, USC
The good: Has many of the quality route-running traits other Senior Bowl receivers had but with a much larger body, extension of his long arms paid dividends on off-target throws, surprising explosiveness and quickness for a larger WR, won several contested catches
The bad: Not a burner, had an occasional drop
3. Ricky Pearsall, Florida
The good: Solid size, talented, nuanced route runner with quick, agile feet, very good hands, good speed - clocked at 20.45 mph
The bad: Struggled with press coverage - contact slowed him down
4. Ladd McConkey, Georgia
The good: Excellent route runner who routinely got open with agility, nuance and subtle hands, will juke DBs out of their cleats after the catch
The bad: Undersized, did struggle with press coverage, speed was solid but not amazing
5. Malachi Corley, Western Kentucky
The good: Short-but-thick receiver, was able to separate with physicality, flashed very good acceleration, had quick cuts
The bad: sometimes wasn't quite fast enough to get open, occasional drops
Top 2 tight ends
This was an underwhelming group, hence why I only have two names.
1. Jaheim Bell, Florida St.
The good: Much more of a wide receiver than a tight end, stocky build, solid speed for his size, physical, strong hands that consistently snared passes away from his body, won multiple contested catches
The bad: Not a great blocker, not as tall as typical tight ends, handful of drops including in route drills (no defenders against him)
2. Ben Sinnott, Kansas State
The good: Best of the big men as far as receiving goes, had some good footwork, won on some contested catches, had the fastest speed among tight ends after Day 1 with 18.91 mph
The bad: Couldn't always separate from coverage and usually won with his size and catch radius
Five whispers I heard
1. College coaches are wary of what the landscape of college football has become thanks to NIL money and the transfer portal. Pro coaches are wary of the growing number of older prospects coming into the NFL now thanks to the Covid year wiping out a year of eligibility plus those same NIL deals swaying some players from going to the pros.
2. Enough people believe the Bears will hold on to the No. 1 pick and draft USC's Caleb Williams, citing that it's a better deal financially for them to have him on his rookie contract for as many as five years rather than extend Justin Fields. Folks think Fields will bring back a conditional draft pick that turns into a first-round pick in 2025 if Fields leads his new team to the playoffs.
3. Add the Broncos to the list of teams that are willing to give up whatever it takes to get a quarterback if given the chance.
4. Multiple evaluators believe Michael Penix Jr. will go in the third round or later, citing the combination of his injury history, his age, and his up-and-down play when he's pressured. I'd be surprised if this wound up happening because quarterbacks are always in demand, plus Penix's injuries are more than two years in the rearview.
5. Roman Wilson met with the Steelers, Buccaneers and Texans, Ray Davis, Dylan Laube and Joe Milton met with the Patriots (the Patriots were linked to pretty much everybody), Laube and Tulane WR Jha'Quan Jackson met with the Eagles.