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Dynasty Impressions: Making Sense of the Senior Bowl

Taking a look at the Senior Bowl through a dynasty football lens.

For many players, the Senior Bowl will be a critical step on the path to being drafted. Many are watching, and judgments (rightly and wrongly) are being made. Even with all this scrutiny, very few things written this week about the event will look at events and players from a long-term, dynasty fantasy football viewpoint. I attempted to approach my coverage of the event from that perspective, hoping to give readers glimpses of players from this game who might contribute to dynasty squads down the road, either as part-time contributors or perhaps even as future stars.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to see every rep. There were times that there were 4 or 5 different drills going on at different points of the field. I usually spent time moving around to different locations and just soaking in a little bit of everything. This approach worked to give me well-rounded, though far from perfect impressions of prospects. Below, I’ve grouped prospects by position. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I endeavored to pick out players that either had some hype surrounding their status coming into the Senior Bowl or showed something in practices to make me believe they may possess traits which could lead them to become successful NFL contributors.

Quarterbacks

Josh Allen, Wyoming- Allen had a tough week, and time doesn’t permit me to go into all the reasons I believe he had poor results. However, the largest problem I noted with Allen was his erratic and inconsistent footwork. This often caused his passes to be thrown late and off the mark. His footwork has to be cleaned up if he is to have success at the next level. Fellow Footballguy Scott Bischoff noted that Allen is “like a Civil War cannon” that gets the job done, but “we want laser-guided missiles now.”  I am not saying that Allen has no chance in the league, but he is a 2-3 year project, whereas I believe Mayfield is much closer to being ready for meaningful playing time and is a safer bet to produce.

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma- Of all the prospects present, Mayfield was the easy winner at quarterback this week. The biggest thing that stuck out to me was the fact that his processing speed was so much quicker than that of the other quarterbacks present. He also engaged the coaches, asked questions when he wasn’t sure what to do, and listened attentively when other quarterbacks were receiving coaching feedback. I think he can play, and with the right team fit, Mayfield has a bright future in the league.

Mike White, Western Kentucky- White didn’t do anything spectacular in Mobile, but there were moments where his touch and placement on passes was on par with what you would expect from a savvy NFL veteran. On most plays, his processing of what was going on around him was accurate, and he made solid decisions with the football. White has the tools to be a great functional backup in the NFL, with the potential to develop into a low-end starter if given ample maturation time.

Running Backs

Kalen Ballage, Arizona State- I came into the week not expecting much from Ballage, but he pleasantly surprised me. He was a smooth mover for a 222-pound guy. I also saw much more pass catching ability than expected. Though he doesn’t show the inclination to set up defenders with multiple moves, Ballage was making sharp cuts that caused poor tacklers to falter momentarily and sprung him for additional yards. He notably improved his stock this week. I’m excited to see where he will land in the NFL Draft.

Rashaad Penny, San Diego State- Penny delivered when it came to running arrow routes and other out-of-the-backfield patterns, but I was very disappointed with his work between the tackles and his ability to block. He also dropped quite a few balls this week - something I would not have expected given the reputation he has among the draft community as being a great receiving back. I came away feeling Penny is overhyped and won’t be the instant impact runner that dynasty owners are trying to mine with that later first or early second-round pick.

Jaylen Samuels, North Carolina State- A very speedy Samuels made himself incredibly hard to cover out of the backfield. I saw excellent burst through the line of scrimmage, great body control, and elusiveness. I learned this week that Samuels’ college usage was versatile, which leads me to believe he could be used in a joker role in the NFL. That could be potentially very exciting for fantasy owners depending upon which team drafts him.

Ito Smith, Southern Mississippi- Smith was not on my radar before this event, but he’s firmly on it now. Smith’s burst was eye-popping, his blocking superb, and he showed me pass-catching chops throughout the week. I feel he lacks the size to be a true featured runner and doesn’t have the frame to add much more. However, the team who takes him will have a very nice change-of-pace option at their disposal.

Akrum Wadley, Iowa- Wadley showed good agility at times but made many mistakes that had coaches on his back much of the week. I was not impressed with his route running, something that will be critical to him earning a role at his size. I know smaller backs can succeed with the right fit, but Wadley is going to struggle mightily to hang in the NFL if he can’t add some weight to his frame.

Wide Receivers

Braxton Berrios, Miami- Although Berrios was the smallest player at the Senior Bowl, I had been told by others to watch out for his potential to be a speedy slot receiver. While he has quick feet and is a fluid mover, Berrios struggled often to not flatten his routes and to run them the way the coaching staff asked of him. On one rep, I heard a Denver coach exasperatedly tell him, “It’s an out route, not a comeback!” Berrios will have to improve dramatically in this area in the coming days if he hopes to be drafted or earn a camp invitation.

D.J. Chark, Louisiana State- Chark demonstrated throughout the week that he has elite speed, but the rest of his game is in need of serious refinement. Perhaps a team can use him in the deep game early on and work on developing the other parts of his repertoire.

Michael Gallup, Colorado State- When I watched him play before the Senior Bowl, I saw a receiver who really struggled to get off press coverage. I didn’t see that player show up in Mobile. Instead, I was relieved to see he handled being pressed well, that he exhibited “my ball mentality,” and ran polished, smooth routes. While he doesn’t have the ideal metrics and is a little underweight, I think a team will see the potential to add to his frame and take a chance on him.

DaeSean Hamilton, Pennsylvania State- Hamilton showed off his sure hands, a good understanding of route-running technique, and made quick work of establishing rapport with quarterback Baker Mayfield. I loved his head fakes and double moves that left corners dizzy. It will be tougher to make pro corners bite on these routes the way his Senior Bowl colleagues did, but I feel Hamilton’s solid technical work belongs in the NFL.

Allen Lazard, Iowa State- I noticed as I watched early multiple repetitions against defensive backs that Lazard was trying to play fast, but failing to use his frame to box out defenders. The 6’4, 227-pound prospect was exhorted by the coaches to play to his size. There was some noticeable improvement by the third day of practice, presumably because he heeded the advice.

J’mon Moore, Missouri- A few folks I talked to before leaving for Senior Bowl week asked if I would keep an eye on Moore. Unfortunately, I wasn’t impressed by what I saw. Moore often fought the ball, which led to drops. As I studied him further for this piece, I was not surprised to learn that this was a problem for him in college. Catching technique can be improved with coaching and repetitions, but it is difficult not to revert to old habits under pressure. Add that to the fact he failed to get separation from defensive backs consistently throughout the week and you have a prospect that I feel is vastly overhyped.

Byron Pringle, Kansas State- Pringle wasn’t a player that folks were looking forward to seeing this week, but he certainly turned heads on all three days. Pringle had a very solid week, displaying good hand usage against defensive backs and understanding of how to set up at the break point to win the ball against press coverage. Pringle showed that he can play, and if a coaching staff pays more attention to that fact than where he will likely be drafted, we could see him make an impact in the league sooner rather than later.

Jaleel Scott, New Mexico State- A metric darling with a freaky wingspan, Scott made a handful of impressive plays in one-on-one drills this week, including a diving snag on the sideline. However, I didn’t see him separate from defensive backs as much as I would have liked. He also dropped the ball a good bit on contested catches, which was very disappointing, considering it’s supposed to be where he wins.

James Washington, Oklahoma State- Washington had a reputation coming into the week as being a guy who can win in the vertical game and as a solid all-around prospect. As I watched him throughout the week, I felt like this was a pretty accurate characterization of his play. I noticed that Washington needs to polish his overall route-running, but he does run fade routes with scary effectiveness. Washington has a chance of being a first-round selection, meaning he could land somewhere in the mid-to-late first in dynasty rookie drafts.

Justin Watson, Pennsylvania State- Out of all the prospects I watched this week with whom I was not familiar, Watson surprised me the most. He was making contested catches regularly, moving with fluidity through his route stems and breaks, and beating corners to catch points regularly. Though he is still likely a day-three selection, I’ll have him on my waiver wire speed dial should he show flashes at the next level as he did at the Senior Bowl.

Tight Ends

Jordan Akins, University of Central Florida- Though he’s an older prospect (25 years old) Akins showed himself to be extremely athletic, a very smooth route runner, and a receiver who effortlessly plucked the football out of the air.

Adam Breneman, University of Massachusetts- Breneman got hurt on day one, and I didn’t see enough of his reps to form an opinion.

Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin- Fumagalli’s hands were solid all week, and though I didn’t see any incredibly athletic moments, I did see a consistent player. NFL coaches like consistency, so if he’s drafted high enough and into a favorable system for tight end production, we’ll want to consider him in the late second round or early third of our rookie drafts.

Mike Gesicki, Pennsylvania State- His athletic profile impressed me before I saw him play. Then I saw him play and I was awestruck. This guy was winning contested balls constantly and getting separation at will on all three days of practice. He’s not a very good blocker, but that could actually work in our favor for fantasy purposes. I see the potential for him to become a mismatch nightmare if paired with the right team.

Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State- Perhaps of all the prospects I was looking forward to watching, Goedert was at the top of my list. I tend to love basketball converts (Goedert played up until his senior year in high school)  because they understand how to use their bodies to win the ball. He did not disappoint in the limited work he did before sustaining a hamstring injury. On the rep during which he was injured, Goedert had gained separation on the defender and hauled in a pass about 15 yards from the line of scrimmage.   

Durham Smythe, Notre Dame- I liked what I saw from Smythe in terms of body control and ability to come away with difficult catches. I also thought he did a great job blocking when he was asked to do so. He’s another solid prospect in a really deep class.

Ian Thomas, Indiana- Overall, I wasn’t really a fan of what I saw. He was big, but lumbering. He struggled to separate from those covering him and when he did get separation, it was usually because he pushed off the defender. Unless Thomas somehow becomes a more fluid mover, I don’t see him becoming a fantasy factor in the future.

Individual Defensive Players

EDGE Marcus Davenport, University of Texas-San Antonio- Davenport was much hyped coming into the week but had a disappointing first and second day. He did seem to look more comfortable on the third day of practice, which shows he was starting to adjust himself to some of the coaching he was receiving. The raw tools as an edge rusher are evident, but it’s going to take some work to develop them.

EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma- His name is just as hard to say as Owamagbe Odighizuwa’s was a year ago, but I’m hopeful Okoronkwo will end up being more of a factor than Odighizuwa was at the pro level. I was impressed by his ability to rebound from a bad first day and show well on days two and three. He was adept at using leverage to hold up against the run and was often using great hand technique to defeat blockers and cause havoc on the edge. He even did some good work when asked to cover running backs.

EDGE Kemoko Turay, Rutgers- A player I did not look at critically until these practices, Turay really surprised me. He bends the edge so well, displayed good hand usage, and has that twitch you want to see in an edge rusher. I really look forward to seeing who takes Turay and what he may be able to accomplish with more development.

DT Poona Ford, Texas- Ford was one of the big winners of the Senior Bowl in terms of measurables and play. His 80+ inch wingspan is typical of someone much taller than the 5’11” prospect. Ford’s performance throughout the week matched his strong performance at the Shrine Game the previous week. Ford dominated one-on-one drills against offensive linemen, but it’s important to understand that the defender has the natural advantage in these drills and that they are not a good simulation of a game situation. That said, Ford was very disruptive throughout the practice week, demanding a double team often in 11-on-11 situations. With the right team fit and usage, I could see Ford being an interior defensive tackle that matters for fantasy in DT required formats.

DT Justin Jones, North Carolina State- I found myself not as much of a fan as everyone else. I really liked his bull rush, but I question how well he will hold up to double teams. I want to watch more of his college work before making a final judgment.

LB Shaquem Griffin, Central Florida- I love Griffin’s story. His left hand was removed at age four due to a prenatal condition. He and his twin brother were recruited by UCF, but Shaquille was given more playing time, while Shaquem was relegated to special teams. It took a regime change for Shaquem to get a true chance to start, and he made the most of his opportunity. In Mobile, Griffin also made the most of his chances. When rushing from the right side, he often made it to the quarterback and was constantly around the ball. The staff even used him as a safety and he did good work from that position as well. Griffin will have limitations, but he’s shown that he can play a role at the NFL level.

LB Dorian O’Daniel, Clemson- Before O’Daniel hurt himself in the second day of practice, he was showing well. Though considered undersized, O’Daniel was constantly around the ball, making tackles near the line of scrimmage on running plays, and covering running backs and tight ends well down the field. I could see O’Daniel carving out a coverage linebacker role that would make him an asset to modern defensive schemes. We also know that these type of players tend to be fantasy relevant.

LB Tre’ Williams, Auburn- Williams laid the biggest lick of the practice sessions when he quickly diagnosed a Raashad Penny run. While he’s great against the run and sheds blocks well, I noted that he struggled somewhat in coverage. He’ll only be a two-down thumper unless he can improve his coverage skills.