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The annual Senior Bowl week took on extra importance in 2021 with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the scouting combine and pro days. The week of practices, interviews and the Senior Bowl itself played out last week in Mobile, and there are a few NFL draft prospects who should have caught the attention of the Cleveland Browns staff in attendance.
Here are a few of the standouts from the week and an eye for how they could help the Browns as a draft pick or priority free agent.
Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson
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Rodgers dominated all comers in individual drills. His quick feet, precise routes and strong hands made him a matchup nightmare for cornerbacks. Rodgers also showed toughness in the slot in the actual game. This is the kind of catch that separates a good college slot receiver from an NFL-caliber one, and Rodgers proved he's the latter: https://twitter.com/PFF_College/status/1355630878622363648?s=20 The son of former NFL QB Tee Martin, Rodgers is generally projected as a 4th-5th round selection.
Cameron Sample, DL, Tulane
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Sample is a bit of an odd projection because of his size. He's 6-3, 280 pounds but wins with power and great use of his hands. He's a little small to play DT other than in rush packages, and he's not the athlete to line up as an EDGE full-time. But he's really good at what he does, and he displayed that in both practices and the game. https://twitter.com/GavinoBorquez/status/1354302297493430273?s=20 https://twitter.com/LaurieFitzptrck/status/1355629720168230915?s=20 Sample is typically projected as a late-round pick or even an undrafted free agent.
Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami FL
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Roche started out at Temple and steadily progressed as a speed-oriented EDGE rusher and general menace to the opposing backfield. He transferred to Miami for his senior season and didn't finish plays as well, so it was important to see him do more than just beat his blocker in Mobile. And he did that very capably in practice sessions. The ability to win inside as well as outside is critical in Joe Woods' defense. while he didn't get that chance often for the Hurricanes, he did it in Mobile on reps like this: https://twitter.com/JohnOwning/status/1354829361665380355?s=20 Roche should be in play for the Browns in the second round.
Richie Grant, S, UCF
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Grant fills the role of playmaking safety in the Browns defense. He's capable of working in either single-high or split, but he also proved in Mobile he has some man coverage skills. https://twitter.com/BradKelly17/status/1354827615304118272?s=20 He picked off six passes as a sophomore for the Knights and also was a willing, heads-up tackler. Grant is a solid, NFL-ready prospect that the Browns would likely need to grab in the second round.
Carlos Basham, EDGE, Wake Forest
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"Boogie" Basham danced all over the competition in Mobile. He consistently won against a relatively uninspiring group of offensive tackles in every practice drill. https://twitter.com/KyleFaheyNFL/status/1354308005223931904?s=20 The quick first step, active hands/shoulders and relentless drive are all over his Demon Deacon's game film too. While he's not an elite athlete and he needs to keep his balance better, Basham can generate pressure and play the run well on his way into the backfield. He's a Day Two prospect and a nice potential replacement for Olivier Vernon in Cleveland.
Tony Fields, LB, West Virginia
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Fields fits the role of nickel-package (the base defense in Cleveland) LB with his quickness, fast processing skills and ability to flip his hips and run with tight ends and RBs in coverage. He did that well enough in Mobile to earn the honor of the top practice LB as voted on by the offensive players. https://twitter.com/JimNagy_SB/status/1355328568490942465?s=20 He's small (6-1, 222) and was asked to do a little bit of everything in college, so he's somewhat under the radar. Fields is likely a fifth- or sixth-round pick, though that could change upward.
Nico Collins, WR, Michigan
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Could Collins join former Wolverine receiving mate Donovan Peoples-Jones in Cleveland? After watching Collins consistently win reps down the field, it's a tantalizing idea. Collins sat out 2020 but didn't lose his speed or his ability to use his impressive size to create space for himself with the ball in the air. https://twitter.com/BradKelly17/status/1354267906264207360?s=20 His long-striding style limits him to outside and deeper-field usage only, but if Rashard Higgins leaves as a free agent that role in open for the Browns. As a middle-round prospect, Collins proved he can get open and make plays down the field. Anything before the Browns pick in the third round is too rich for my taste, however.
Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington
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The Browns can use a penetrating 3-technique DT who can create pressure on his own. Enter Awuzurike. The first step he shows here on the inside move is something he also did fairly well for the Huskies defense. https://twitter.com/PFF_College/status/1354422680552943619?s=20 Awuzurike can also drop the pads and play the leverage game against the run, but it's his ability to shed and quickly blow past interior offensive linemen that will get him drafted in the third or fourth round...perhaps by the Browns.