Since 1950, NFL prospects have traveled to Mobile, Alabama to compete in the Senior Bowl. Like an all-star game for college football players, the Senior Bowl presents an opportunity for pro teams to scout the available talent and for the incoming class to showcase their NFL readiness (or lack thereof). Below I’ve highlighted five players who have a lot of play for on Saturday. Their potential breakouts this weekend could translate into fantasy relevance come the fall.
Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
A former wide receiver turned signal caller, Wentz possesses many of the traits necessary to succeed at the professional level. Measuring 6-foot-6 and tipping the scales at 230 pounds, the North Dakota native is the ideal size for the position. An athletic QB with good mobility, Wentz also has above average arm strength and decision making skills. While his release is quick, he has a tendency to struggle with the deep ball and has been compared to both Alex Smith and Ryan Tannehill.
While his draft stock is climbing, the major concerns with Wentz are his lack of starting experience and the level of competition he’s faced. Named the Bisons’ starter in 2014, Wentz closed out the year with over 3,100 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, which earned him All-America honors. In 2015, he missed significant time due to a wrist injury, but was able to return and lead North Dakota to their fifth straight FCS National Championship title.
This Saturday he’ll attempt to prove he’s more than just a small school standout. If he plays well and executes downfield he could pull ahead of Jared Goff and/or Paxton Lynch on draft day. Coached by the Cowboys staff throughout the week, he’s an interesting keeper prospect behind an aging (an ailing) Tony Romo.
Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech
A versatile talent, Dixon is an aggressive runner and reliable pass-catcher. At 5-foot-10 and 212 pounds he’s on the smaller side, but dense enough to take a hit. More of an east-west runner, the former track & field star excels in space and possesses the speed necessary to consistently pull away from defenders. With patience and balance to boot, this dual threat RB should draw interest from teams looking to add finesse to their backfields.
Louisiana Tech's all-time leading rusher, Dixon has some real wear on his tires. While he’s never suffered a catastrophic injury, he has been plenty dinged up throughout his college career. But if he can add grit to his already impressive pluck, while also hanging tough in pass protection this weekend, he could very well make a splash at the next level. PPR enthusiasts would do well to track the 22-year-old’s progress and landing spot.
Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma
A technician who understands the subtleties of his position, Shepard posted 86 catches for 1288 yards and 11 touchdows this season. Despite lacking prototypical size, Shepard is one of the most dynamic pass-catchers in this class of receivers. A precise route runner who bursts off the line of scrimmage, the speedy receiver owns the middle of the field.
As a speed versus size guy, much of Shepard’s success will be predicated on the talent available under center and the rapport that develops between the two players. Shepard projects to be a slot receiver, but could do some real damage after the catch given his quick feet and sticky hands. He’s never going to be a giant red zone threat, but could easily put up multiple 1,000-yard campaigns. Look for him to produce a few splashy plays on Saturday, making his early round selection this April all the more likely.
Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State
Saturday’s game is a big test for Miller, whose transition from QB to WR has been astonishingly smooth. A multi-hyphenate talent, the 6-foot-1 and 204 pound wideout has been having himself a week. Generating all kinds of buzz, Miller has wowed scouts with his athleticism, game changing speed, and fluidity. Not lacking in confidence, Miller told the press on Wednesday that his 40-yard dash goal at the Combine was 4.28 seconds.
His lack of experience at the position and raw route running are of foremost concern, but if early reports are any indication, Miller could easily go in the first 50 picks of the 2016 draft. Drawing inspiration from the playing style of Antonio Brown, the Ohio native could be a sensational fit in Atlanta opposite Julio Jones. A team desperate to compliment their star receiver, if Miller continues to shine on game day I think he could very well get a call from Thomas Dimitroff.
Bryce Williams, TE, East Carolina
On paper, Williams has everything the modern-day NFL desires in a “move” tight end. At 6-foot-6 and 258 pounds he’s a big target who doesn’t shy away from contact and can high point the ball. Accounts of his play this week, however, have been mixed, with some scouts sighting stiffness and ball security issues.
While rookie TEs rarely produce in fantasy, the former Pirate plays more like a receiver. If he can block well enough, loosen up, and showcase the pass-catching abilities that net him thirteen successful trips to the end zone in his career then he could very well grow into a fantasy asset.
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