Dynasty Impressions: Making Sense of the Senior Bowl

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

After missing the 2019 Senior Bowl because of the birth of my daughter, I was able to make the trip to Mobile to catch this year’s iteration. 2018 was my first chance to attend the event, so I was excited to go back again - this time better prepared to view it now that I knew the general routine. Another thing that helped was that I was not shivering this year. Matt Waldman had warned me that it gets pretty chilly in the stadium, even when the temperature is in the 50’s and 60’s. I am pretty warm-natured, so I just brought a light jacket on my first visit. What a big mistake! As the sun set below the stadium and the wind from the water whipped through, it felt more like 20-30 degrees. This time, I came prepared with multiple layers and gloves. I am very glad I did because we had an unusually cold day on Tuesday when the wind felt like a bone-chilling whip. While still a little bit cold, I was better able to focus with my teeth not chattering.

The Senior Bowl is one of the more interesting scouting events on the calendar each year, but it can also be the most dangerous in terms of drawing erroneous conclusions. It is a spectacle, to be sure, with players, scouts, fans, media outlets, businesses, coaches, and networkers all compressed into small spaces and vying for their specific interests. It is important to be able to separate perception from reality at this event. In this piece, I will endeavor to do that from a dynasty league perspective and give readers the information they need to determine who might have value to dynasty squads down the road, either as part-time contributors or perhaps even as future stars. I did not see every rep, but did my best to soak up as much as I could of each skill position group I watched. I also watched reps that others had recorded in these practices that I had not been able to see live. This approach worked to give me well-rounded, though far from perfect, impressions of prospects. Below, I have grouped players by position. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I endeavored to pick out prospects 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

Anthony Gordon, Washington State- Gordon had some nice off-platform completions this week. He does not have great arm strength. However, his quick release, anticipation, and above-average accuracy lead me to believe that, at minimum, Gordon will be a primary backup in the league at some point.

Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma- Hurts was the player I had the most questions about from friends and family upon return from the Senior Bowl. While he did improve overall throughout the week, I was disappointed to have to share with them that I did not see the pinpoint accuracy on most throws that I was hoping to see. I believe him to be a see-it-throw-it passer rather than one who is anticipatory. He does operate exceptionally well under pressure, which is a rare trait for a quarterback to possess. His scrambling ability is also second-to-none. He will eventually get an opportunity to start somewhere and is one of the more exciting fantasy-friendly options in this draft class. Hopefully, he will be paired with a team that will allow him to sit behind an established starter for a time.

Justin Herbert, Oregon- His arm talent is exceptional and stood out throughout the week, but so did his slow processing speed. Ultimately, that is not a trait I consider fixable and it will limit Herbert in the professional game.

Jordan Love, Utah State- In my opinion, Love did the most this week to help his draft stock. I saw a quarterback with excellent mechanics and who was willing to take chances with his throws rather than play it safe. While that can be a double-edged sword, I saw a passer that was more daring that reckless. I will be honest-- I have some concerns about his ability to process and I need to see more of Love's Utah State film before drawing bigger conclusions. I just would say at this point that my first exposure to him in Mobile was favorable.

Steven Montez, Colorado- Montez has the prototypical body-type and a strong arm, but that was largely the best I could say for him. Montez has a painfully slow processor and is always hoping to make the pass on his first read. He did not see pressure often in the controlled practice environment. When he did, he melted. His accuracy was all over the place. Montez seems like someone who will be a camp arm or will hang around on a practice squad, but who will struggle to ever crack a 53-man roster.

Shea Patterson, Michigan- Consistency and accuracy was lacking all week for Patterson. I did not see much to suggest that Patterson will be any more than a late-round or undrafted free agent project for a team.

RUNNING BACKS

Darius Anderson, TCU- Running backs may be the hardest position to evaluate in Mobile, simply because there are not as many types of reps that put them in positions to see their good and bad traits. That said, Anderson showed me something this week. He is an especially good receiver who is fun to watch on wheel routes. I saw him make exceptionally sharp, NFL-caliber cuts on certain plays. I will be very surprised if Anderson is not doing some of these things on Sundays two to three years from now.

Joshua Kelley, UCLA- Kelley’s power, vision, and burst through the hole were on full display this week and he had arguably the best showcase of any of the backs this week. His cuts were among some of the sharpest and most crisp of anyone at his position. He did enough to practically cement a day-two draft pick and thus make himself a very interesting asset that dynasty owners will be contemplating taking after the first round of their rookie draft.

Antonio Gibson, Memphis- Gibson is intriguing in that he played mostly receiver at Memphis, but did get some work running in their outside zone system. It was interesting to see him run more inside zone and gap concepts at the Senior Bowl and do pretty well with it, despite the inexperience. He looked to me better suited to situations in which he was asked to be a receiver rather than a runner, which is kind of strange for someone his size. Gibson has great short-area quickness and times his cuts and bounces well. He may have bumped himself into being drafted on late day three with his performance.

JaMychal Hasty, Baylor- Hasty’s play drew some Dalvin Cook comparisons, but I see him as more of a J.D. McKissic type of back. He is too undersized to be a three-down option. Yet, he has the speed, burst, and acceleration to be dangerous in the passing game or in situations in which the play design gets him into space.

Lamicall Perine, Florida- The term “tackle breaker” is the first thing that comes to mind when I hear Perine’s name called. He does not possess exceptional speed, but that is not going to stop him from being a good-to-possibly-great NFL back. He does have the body and the bubble to be an every-down back and he showed a lot of maturity with the decision-making on his runs. I like his chances to be a day-three selection.

Ke’shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt- We got to see only one day of practice from Vaughn and he did not play in the Senior Bowl due to an undisclosed injury. Thankfully, I have some familiarity with Vaughn’s game already because he went to a college that is not far from where I live. When I have watched him play, I see a three-down back that is also an above-average pass-catcher, but who needs to improve his vision. I think that is a correctable issue because vision is really rooted in understanding blocking scheme and learning the timing and rhythm that goes with the specific scheme. If he can do that, look out, because Vaughn is an otherwise solid player.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State- There were some at the Senior Bowl that loved Aiyuk, but I was not one of them. I watched some of his film from Arizona State to get a better feel for his game. He is speedy… and beyond that, I do not see what all the fuss is about. He does not deal well with tighter coverage and cannot come down with the ball in contested situations. I think best-case scenario, he will develop into a Ted Ginn Jr Jr. type.

Chase Claypool, Notre Dame- Claypool is a bigger-bodied receiver that seems out-of-vogue in the current NFL, but his my-ball-mentality and complex route running ability for a man of his size will win scouts over. I saw one rep during which he made a great adjustment in the air to come down with the ball in a one-on-one drill. That was a great play that sums up his game well.

Devin Duvernay, Texas- He is a compact guy with a game built on speed and getting yards after the catch. The problem is that he does not handle press man coverage well at all. What folks drafting him will have to decide is if he is more like Deebo Samuel or ArDarius Stewart. I tend to lean more toward the latter.

Antonio Gandy-Golden, Liberty- Here is another player that some liked a lot more than I did. He appeared to be limited in his release moves to just a jab step and an arm-over. He can learn other moves, certainly, but I was hoping to see more. He did not deal well with being pressed. He also did not look very natural as a route runner to me.

K.J. Hill, Ohio State- As long as he is earning reps primarily from the slot, I think Hill will be a dynamic playmaker in the NFL. Soft hands, fluid breaks, and exceptional, technical route running are the standout pieces of his game. He also had arguably the best-looking catch of the week when he snagged a pass one-handed while awkwardly contorted.

Van Jefferson, Florida- In a Senior Bowl week in which the receivers shined, Jefferson was the crown jewel. I saw a fluid route runner who could change direction on a dime, adjust to poorly thrown balls, and beat both man and zone coverages. I also witnessed him dispel concerns about contested catch ability on several reps. He will likely end up in the middle or late second round of rookie drafts. I will be aggressively seeking to get him on my team with an early second-round pick as long as his team fit ends up being decent.

Juaun Jennings, Tennessee- Jennings was not far behind Jefferson. After having a rather disappointing weigh-in at 206 pounds, Jennings put that behind him and went on to have a great week of play. He was separating horizontally often, and even when he did not, he was almost always finding a way to scrap with the defender and earn the football. I want to see his route-running improve, but the raw material is there for a good NFL receiver.

Collin Johnson, Texas- Chase Claypool was not the only big-bodied receiver doing work this week. The 6’5” Collin Johnson also showed off that he had excellent foot frequency for such a large man. Some of the route running he did was pretty spectacular and unexpected for a guy of his size. While I do see a receiver that needs to get better at dealing with press off the line, I acknowledge that he does good work on contested balls and using his body to box out safeties and cornerbacks. I see him becoming an effective red zone threat.

Kalija Lipscomb, Vanderbilt- Lipscomb is someone who will best be used in the slot, because he does not have the physicality needed to earn separation as a traditional Z or X receiver. That said, I question his effectiveness from that position. He did not look sudden or especially quick in Mobile to me.

Austin Mack, Ohio State- While sound route running and separation techniques were largely present in his game, there were multiple plays during which Mack lost his focus and double caught or dropped the ball. His success will depend upon if he cleans up this issue or allows it to impact his confidence to the point it plagues his game.

Denzel Mims, Baylor- I had no exposure to Mims prior to the Senior Bowl and came away really liking him. I heard the name “Dez Bryant” tossed around. Generally, I bristle at those types of comparisons, but Mims really does have that type of game. He may not be quite the physical specimen that Bryant was, but there is more refinement in his technique that makes up for that. He is currently going in the late second in most early rookie drafts, but I see that climbing significantly even before he gets to the Draft.

Michael Pittman Jr., USC- He showed off savvy route running this week. I especially liked Pittman’s ability to accelerate through breaks. He possesses the size and strength to be a team’s primary guy or their big slot option. The one thing that was disappointing is that he was not generating yards after the catch very often.

James Proche, SMU- Lots of people raved about Proche this week, but I did not find him all that impressive. He is metrically not what you would hope for at the position and cannot handle being pressed, which will limit him to slot duty in the NFL. He will need a specific fit as a zone-beater because he will not win often in man situations. The Patriots were rumored to like Proche, and I could see that being a good fit for his limited skillset.

TIGHT ENDS

Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic- Bryant is quietly one of the better prospects in this class and while he was not blowing up the Senior Bowl with highlight plays, he was showcasing some intriguing skills. He is hard to cover and a chore to bring down after the catch. He told the media at the event that he models his game after George Kittle. While not as nuanced as Kittle at this point in his development, Bryant showed some growth throughout the week that suggests he could, like Kittle, be an under-the-radar prospect that develops into a big-time NFL producer in 2-3 years.

Josiah Deguara, Cincinnati- Deguara was sound in every facet. He found success blocking, receiving, working the seam, and going vertical throughout the Bowl week. I wished for more physically, but just because he is not a freak does not mean he cannot be an effective tight end at the next level. I saw enough this week that I want to believe that he has that potential.

Jared Pinkney, Vanderbilt- Pinkey is a solid, but not spectacular player. When I watch him, I think of Anthony Fasano-- a lunch pail guy that could catch, block, and do what you asked him to do, but did not really excel at any of it. Perhaps team fit will make him more exciting for fantasy purposes. However, based on the raw talent, I would not take Pinkey until the later rounds of a rookie draft.

Steven Sullivan, LSU- He is a receiving tight end, one that reminds me a lot of Evan Engram stylistically. Like Engram, he is going to need help learning to block. Yet, for fantasy purposes, his lack of blocking acumen may end up being a blessing in disguise. I will be very interested if he goes to a team that is creative with its usage of players and excels at building schemes around their player strengths.

Charlie Taumoepeau, Portland State- He is built like an H-back and I could see him taking on that role on a team. He is also a decent receiving option, which could endear him to a team that wants to use their H-back in creative ways, like Kyle Juszczyk is deployed for San Francisco, for example.

Adam Trautman, Dayton- Trautman was arguably the most celebrated of the tight end prospects coming into the week by the draft community. He did not disappoint. Both as a blocker in the run game and route runner, there was a lot to love about his game. I think we could see Trautman get picked in early day two after what he displayed this week.

If you liked this article, please read my other work here.

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