Senior Bowl 2019: Former five-star recruits are getting a chance to rebuild NFL draft stock in Mobile
These big recruits fell short of expectations in college but can fly up boards if they ace the predraft process
MOBILE, Ala. -- The Senior Bowl provides opportunities to different prospects for different reasons.
Small-school prospects can showcase their skills against top competition. Quarterbacks can prove they can be efficient passers in unfamiliar environments with unfamiliar receivers. Versatile prospects can demonstrate their abilities at multiple positions, or maybe a specific position to which they project in the NFL that they didn't play in college.
Also, former mega, five-star recruits who had relatively disappointing careers at their respective schools can exhibit the immense talents that made them so highly touted as youngsters and plant a seed inside the minds of GMs, coaches, scouts, and analysts that their relatively underwhelming performance in college may have mainly been due to variables outside of their control.
Let's pinpoint those prospects in Mobile this week who can use the Senior Bowl as a springboard during the predraft process after they fell short of expectations over the past few years. All rankings listed are according to 247 Sports' Composite rankings, which is an aggregate rank from a variety of major recruiting services.
Chuma Edoga, OT, USC
Edoga was the No. 1 guard and No. 26 overall recruit and in the country in the Class of 2015. He enrolled early at USC but actually spent the first two seasons of his career with the Trojans as a backup. Edoga finally earned a starting gig in 2017 and locked down the right tackle spot in 2018.
On film, it's obvious why he was a five-star recruit. He was blessed with long arms (nearly 35 inches at the weigh-in on Tuesday morning), and he glides back in pass protection, which keeps him well-balanced to strike defensive linemen and keep them under control. However, at a shade under 6-foot-4 and 303 pounds, Edoga doesn't have traditional NFL offensive tackle height or weight. At times at USC he'd get overpowered by bigger, stronger rushers, and he wasn't an authoritative people-mover in the run game despite his ability to quickly get in position down the field on combos or runs to the perimeter.
In Tuesday's practice, Edoga had a few nice reps against Texas's monstrous edge-rusher Charles Omenihu, one of the most powerful defensive ends in the class, and his pass-blocking prowess was on full display in team drills. Edoga's lack of size will scare some teams away. But if he continues to show improved anchoring ability against the likes of Omenihu and other more physically intimidating defensive linemen during Senior Bowl week, he'll rise up the boards of smart teams that notice he's an ascending player with loads of natural talent and plenty of length. Oh, and he doesn't turn 22 until May.
Daylon Mack, DT, Texas A&M
Mack was the No. 4 defensive tackle and No. 14 overall recruit in the country in the Class of 2015, ahead of players at his position like Christian Wilkins and Da'Ron Payne.
He had 9.5 tackles for loss but no sacks as a true freshman then just 7.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks over the next two seasons manning the nose for the Aggie defense. Yes, he often played the unheralded, two-gapping role of reading the play then reacting instead of simply attacking upfield, but after his junior year in 2017, he was labeled a disappointment by most simply because his supreme athleticism for his size hadn't translated to more general disruption.
In 2018, he was given more opportunity to attack, and it paid off as he had 5.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. At 6-foot-1 and 327 pounds, Mack has a classic nose tackle frame and an ultra-powerful bull rush is his go-to move with good reason. While he's not a hand-work master, his hands are like lead pipes. Also, Mack's burst off the ball is reminiscent of most sub-300 pound defensive tackles who play further away from the ball along the defensive line.
During practice on Tuesday, Mack repeatedly drove offensive linemen. Didn't matter the drill or the blocker. And this is coming after a dazzling week at the East-West Shrine Game in Tampa. With more demonstrations of domination in Mobile, his draft stock will continue to rise.
Iman Marshall, CB, USC
Marshall was the No. 1 cornerback and No. 4 overall recruit in the country in the Class of 2015, ahead of players like Derwin James and Minkah Fitzpatrick.
He didn't necessarily have a poor career at USC but was unable to build on six interceptions in his freshman and sophomore seasons. In fact, that last time Marshall picked off a pass was in that sophomore year in 2016.
Now of course, a cornerback isn't solely judged by interceptions, and many teams tended to stay away from the long, rangy outside corner, yet on film he surprisingly looked stiff at times getting out of his backpedal. Marshall was capable of recovering because of his freaky linear explosiveness in the Pac-12. That may not be the case at the pro level. He was very consistent breaking up passes, with 36 in his Trojan career and never fewer than eight in a season.
He measured in with strangely short arms under 31 inches, but Marshall has great size at 6-foot-1 and 203 pounds. Smoother movements in coverage during Senior Bowl week would definitely help him to improve his reputation in the scouting community.
Byron Cowart, DL, Maryland
Cowart was the No. 1 defensive end and No. 3 overall recruit in the country in the Class of 2015. After three years at Auburn without a sack and just 1.5 tackles for loss, he transferred to Maryland and blossomed, maybe not into the superstar many thought he'd be, yet there were some flashes of his tremendous talent. He had three sacks, five tackles for loss, and actually intercepted two passes.
At a little over 6-foot-3 and 297 pounds, Cowart is much more of a defensive tackle now than a traditional defensive end. Similar to Mack, he has that easy-to-notice twitch off the ball and that speed generates serious power at the point of attack.
In a few instances on Tuesday, Cowart's quickness got him into the backfield in a hurry. On a few other reps, he put blockers on skates with his bull-rush. It's been a long, tumultuous road for Cowart. If he has a solid week in Mobile then tests well at the combine, some teams will view him as a good value pick early on Day 3. If Cowart builds on his strong start and betters himself as the week progresses, the third round won't be out of the question.
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