MOBILE, Ala. — With apologies to some of the big-name Senior Bowl players (such as Justin Herbert) whom we overlooked here, along with some of the terrific small-school additions for the best pre-NFL draft event, we came up with a list of 10 prospects — six on offense, four on defense — who could open some eyes this week.
These aren’t necessarily the 10 best prospects in Mobile, Alabama, for the all-important Senior Bowl. But they’re 10 players who have the ability to impress readily, along with the potential to come up short. It’s a crucial week for all 100-plus prospects down here, but this group of 10 especially has a lot riding on this week.
Utah State QB Jordan Love
Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts might have the most to gain or lose of any prospect in Mobile in terms of their draft stock. Love could lay claim to that distinction as well. Despite turning in a sub-par statistical season (20-17 TD-INT ratio), he’s still a first-round possibility.
We rankled the masses by mocking Love to the Green Bay Packers with pick No. 30, but that’s about the range I could envision him going — and with a strong week in Mobile, perhaps higher. He’ll be throwing to some longer-framed North Team receivers this week (USC’s Michael Pittman Jr., Baylor’s Denzel Mims, Liberty’s Antonio Gandy-Golden and Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool) who can make him look good.
Washington State QB Anthony Gordon
We’re legitimately excited, from an evaluation standpoint, to see how Gordon throws. He went from not getting much Division I recruiting interest to throwing five passes in 2018 (behind Gardner Minshew) to leading the nation in passing yards this season.
Gordon’s size is a worry — we’ll see in the official measurements, but he looks to be about 6-foot-2, 205 pounds. He also is changing footwork from the shotgun-based Air Raid system and will need to show he can drop back and throw from under center.
Still, there are enough positives to be intrigued. As long as Gordon performs well here, we think he’ll go higher than Minshew did. He’ll be coached by the Detroit Lions, who had few answers when Matthew Stafford got hurt last season. Could Gordon win the Lions’ staff over this week with a strong performance?
Memphis RB-WR Antonio Gibson
The Senior Bowl lists him as a running back. He also played more receiver in college. And kick returner. And there was no better touch-to-touchdown ratio in college football than Gibson, who scored 13 touchdowns on only 94 touches this season. Yeah, do the math on that one.
Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy compared Gibson to his former Tigers teammate Tony Pollard. I see a lot of Cordarrelle Patterson in the 6-2, 220-pound hybrid weapon. He’s extremely fast and well-built, which makes this week a perfect showcase event for Gibson.
Arizona State WR Brandon Aiyuk
In a crowded WR draft, with several talented prospects attending this game, we could have gone a number of routes at this position. But Aiyuk is the pick here because he’s been among the biggest one-year jumps for any prospect in this cycle, and there’s a lot to unpack in his game.
Some scouts will end up putting higher grades on Aiyuk than they did on former teammate N’Keal Harry, who was a first-round pick by the New England Patriots last year. Others remain unconvinced that Aiyuk is as polished as he needs to be to unleash his straight-line juice.
Aiyuk could end up making some money at the NFL combine with his 40-yard dash, but I want to see him in one-on-ones against these solid corners.
Florida Atlantic TE Harrison Bryant
One of my favorite players on tape this season, Bryant has a ton of athletic ability for the position and is capable of a “wow” catch that could open some eyes in Mobile. He made one of those against Ohio State in a blowout loss that didn’t get enough attention at the time.
There were some games this season where he was uncoverable. Many of those came against lesser competition, but it’s not as if he faded against quality opponents. Time after time on tape, you can see him threatening the seam and making big plays down the middle.
Bryant might not test through the roof at the combine, so this week could be his money maker. There’s enough effort from him as a blocker in his game to where I think he’ll also show well in that area.
Houston OT Josh Jones
Someone tell me why Jones shouldn’t be in the first-round discussion. After this week, we might not have any excuses left. I couldn’t quite pull the trigger on Jones in Round 1 in my recent mock (almost had him at two different spots), and I now risk looking out of touch in a few weeks’ time.
Last year in Mobile, Washington State’s Andre Dillard had a great week of practice (and a so-so Senior Bowl game) and rose to the 22nd overall pick to the Philadelphia Eagles. This type of rise wouldn’t shock me for Jones, who has steadily improved over his college career. And in my mind, he’s a much cleaner prospect with similar upside to the 23rd pick last year, Alabama State’s Tytus Howard.
Jones possesses an athletic build and body type that could limit his appeal to certain teams that prefer more bulk. But his easy footwork, pass sets and recovery speed are all plus quality.
South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw
He might be the big dog of the big-dog position here now that Auburn’s Derrick Brown has opted against coming to Mobile. We still expect Brown to go top 10, but Kinlaw could be the next interior player off the board. Coming off hip surgery, Kinlaw played his tail off this season — flip on the Alabama tape, which is what we call a “moneymaker.”
We easily can see Kinlaw dominating in one-on-one drills against a fairly uninspiring group of guards and centers in Mobile this season. He can get a little high in his stance and will have sloppy handwork, but Kinlaw is one of those big, long, broad-framed, quick and ferocious agitators who simply should not escape the top 20 picks.
Oklahoma DT Neville Gallimore
If Kinlaw isn’t DT1 at the Senior Bowl, then it’s probably Gallimore. The Canadian-born fifth-year senior has had a steep learning curve along the way, but he’s made himself into a compact enforcer who oozes burst and power and quickness. His finishing ability really has improved, too, over the past few seasons.
Gallimore’s numbers have been ordinary at best, but it doesn’t take C.O. Brocato to tell how disruptive he can be over the course of 60 minutes. That’s what losing 30-plus pounds will do for a man. Gallimore is expected to blow up the combine with his incredible speed (he’s run sub-4.8 in college) and strength on the bench. But I’m excited to see him potentially tee off on these offensive linemen this week.
Tennessee EDGE Darrell Taylor
The pass-rush group in Mobile is a solid group, but we think Taylor has a lot to gain (or lose) this week. He’s not coming off the type of season NFL scouts were hoping to see, but there’s still enough pass-rush juice and individual traits to get excited about his potential.
Taylor possesses some first-round traits, but I’ll be interested to see his weigh-in and practice-week performance. Although he’s listed at 6-4 and 255 pounds, some scouts believe he’s perhaps a shade below the 6-3 mark and might have played heavier than that this season. He also struggled as a run defender at times, had a horribly timed penalty in a close game against Alabama, and leaves you wanting a bit more after four years for all the tools in Taylor’s bag.
However, Taylor’s edge-bending quickness might be the kind of thing that really stands out in this environment.
Oklahoma State CB A.J. Green
Call him “the other A.J. Green” if you’d like, but there’s a lot to like about the Cowboys’ competitive corner that could allow him to make his own name this week and going forward. He has nice length at 6-foot-1 to combat the impressive number of big receivers at this year’s Senior Bowl, good ball skills (despite what this year’s stat sheet shows) and plus-level athleticism to flip his hips and run.
There’s a chance that Green will impress with the little things, too. He appears to be a very smart, instinctive player, and scouts have talked up his competitive attitude. Watch the Oklahoma game and you can see Green scrapping until the final whistle even after the Sooners got ahead comfortably.
Oh, and Green will be on the South Team roster coached by … the Cincinnati Bengals. Yes, the team that currently employs another player named A.J. Green.
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