The Senior Bowl is a special opportunity for players that exhausted their college ability to impress NFL scouts one last time. Each team is run by an NFL team and scouts from every team watch the players practice in an NFL type setting. Many players have taken advantage of this opportunity to impress and have watched their draft stock soar as a result.
Pitt QB Nate Peterman began his college career at Tennessee before losing the job to Josh Dobbs, who coincidentally, also participated in the Senior Bowl this year. In his two years for Pitt, Peterman showed impressive accuracy and awareness, but his arm strength and physical skills were a question mark. Peterman checked in just a tad under 6'3 and 225lbs, so he has enough size to play and hold up in the pocket in the NFL. While the arm still raises some questions, he checked off most of the other boxes you want to see in a quarterback. Peterman adapted to his surroundings, and was able to pick things up quickly. He made quick decisions, got the ball out in a hurry, and got it where it needed to be. With underclassmen dominating the top of the position rankings, Peterman took advantage of his week and looks like he'll be the first senior QB selected. He was looking at more of a fifth round, developmental grade before the Senior Bowl, but now could end up cracking the back end of day two.
Toledo RB Kareem Hunt had a very productive college career, becoming Toledo's all time leading rusher. He was a tough runner between the tackles, showed good cut back ability, and has work horse potential. He's dealt with some nagging leg injuries during his career, and he came to the Senior Bowl ready to erase any questions about his speed and quickness. All week long he impressed with his consistency, quickness, and pass catching ability. He topped off a strong week of practices with a solid game performance, earning Most Outstanding Player honors after rushing for 116 yards on 15 carries. Hunt showed his usual balance and vision, but improved quickness and burst stood out the most. That could be attributed to his weight, with him checking in at 5'11 208lbs, when he's previously carried between 215 and 230lbs as a result of being banged up. Hunt was already a solid prospect, but the depth at the running back position probably put him in the 5th or 6th round range. His performance here could have pushed him into the third round. A good showing at the combine should only solidify his status as a day two pick and future starter in the NFL.
East Carolina WR Zay Jones may have improved his stock as much as any player this week. He was a highly productive college player that set the NCAA's all time reception record with 399 career catches but he was still an overlooked draft prospect. Most people get caught up with the guys that are 6'4 220lbs or guys that can run a sub 4.40 40. Jones is neither of those. He's always shown great hands and football IQ, but teams wanted to know about his ability to separate consistently against better talent. He put to rest a lot of those concerns. He checked in larger than expected at 6'2 202lbs, up from his listed 6'1 197lb mark. Many times, players are actually smaller than their listed size, so that is a definite plus. But Jones also consistently showed his polish and ability to get open, and his kept on catching everything thrown to him. Jones has good size, athleticism, and he's got the bloodlines. His father was a three-time Super Bowl champion in his playing days. Combine that with his awareness and great hands, and you may have a kid who cracks the top 75 on draft day. He will need to keep his momentum going forward, but for a kid that was a mid-late day three prospect entering this week, he had a fantastic showing.
Eastern Washington WR Cooper Kupp is another productive college receiver that needed to prove himself all over again this week in Mobile, Alabama. While Kupp may not have moved up from a 5th or 6th round to round two, he did a great job of silencing any of his critics. He did exactly what he did at Eastern Washington, but this time, it was against other top draft prospects. Kupp again showed off good size and athleticism, with the ability to run precise routes, and consistently get open while catching everything thrown his way. He's locked himself into a day two selection, and could potentially land in the top 50 overall.
Temple LB Haason Reddick was the most impressive defender this week. He came into the week as a listed 6'1 230lb college defensive end that needed to prove he could stand up and play in space. He checked in at 6'2 237lbs, and left no doubt that he has what it takes to play linebacker in the NFL. Reddick always had an impressive burst, bend, and ability to close on the ball carrier. But he needed to show he was capable of more, because he is just too small to be an NFL defensive end. He was very fluid in space, showing the ability to change direction and cover ground. Reddick also displayed impressive awareness for being new to the role. There may still be some questions as to his best fit in the NFL, because he would need to bulk up to play outside in a 3-4, but playing in a 4-3 might limit his pass rush ability. Whatever role he ultimately plays, he proved this week he has the talent to do anything physically at the next level. He's a definite day two prospect now, and if he can test out as well as he performed this week, it wouldn't be a total shock to see him crack the end of round one.
DE Tarell Basham of Ohio earned MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors after notching 11.5 sacks this year. He came in attempting to prove he was as good as players from bigger schools, and he did just that. Basham was impressive in one on one drills, dominating for most of the week. His ability to convert speed to power was impressive, and his closing speed is legit. At 6'4 259lbs, he could play in a 43 with his hand down or stand up in a 34 alignment. He was a projected day three prospect entering the week, and should have secured himself a spot in the first three rounds. Pass rushers continue to rise as draft day approaches, so good workouts could push him even higher than that.
West Virginia CB Rasul Douglas entered the week as a potential day two pick, but needed something to distinguish himself amongst other corners, one of the draft's strongest positional groups this year. At 6'2 204lbs, he has the frame teams covet in today's NFL. In practice, he did a great job during one on one matchups, showing his ability to press receivers at the line, but he also showed an impressive burst closing on the football. After transferring in from the junior college level, Douglas spent one year as a backup, then blossomed this year to pick off eight passes. He continued his rise up boards with this performance. His length and ball skills should get him selected on day two of the draft, even in a very deep corner class. If he can run well at the combine, he's going to put himself in the round one conversation.
UConn S Obi Melifonwu was one of the most impressive looking athletes at the Senior Bowl. He checked in officially at 6'4 219lbs, which gives him a lot of versatility on the back end. Teams are looking for big safeties to match up with bigger receivers and tight ends in the league. Melifonwu's size is impressive, but he also displayed impressive range, flying around the field to make plays. He's a four year starter that had over 200 tackles the last two years combined. With his size, range, and athleticism, he is definitely on the rise. Melifonwu may not be able to quite get into the range of Malik Hooker, Jamal Adams, or Jabrill Peppers at safety, but he could be one of the next guys off the board at the position when all is said and done.