NFL draft: Day 1 winners and losers from the Senior Bowl

MOBILE, Ala. — Day 1 at the Senior Bowl was a busy one, with players being measured and weighed in the morning, meeting with the media thereafter, and finishing up with practices for both squads in the afternoon.

There’s only so much that can be gleaned from the first day of practice, so these observations were based only on what I saw. One good or bad practice does not a prospect make, so it’s important to note that there’s plenty of time left this week for players’ stocks to go up or down.

It was a surprisingly cold day on Tuesday, with temperatures in the 40s and a steady, light wind throughout practice on the sunny day. The South Team, coached by the Cincinnati Bengals, had a better tempo to their practice, making it easier to evaluate the prospects. The North Team, coached by the Detroit Lions, took a bit to get going after a slow start, but the intensity eventually picked up.

Here are some of the players who stood out during the two-hour practice sessions:

Day 1 Winners

South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw (South team)

Dominant players need to dominate, and that’s exactly what Kinlaw did early on. Kinlaw probably didn’t need to come to the Senior Bowl to improve his already strong stock as a likely first-rounder.

But we sure are glad he made the trip. In the morning, Kinlaw looked the part at the weigh-in, checking in at 6-foot-5 ⅛ and 315 pounds with long arms (34 5/8 inches) and massive hands (10 1/8 inches). Then he went out in practice and dominated.

Asked Monday whom he most wanted to face in one-on-ones, Kinlaw picked his Clemson rival, offensive guard John Simpson, a talented mid-rounder whom Kinlaw has known for years. Kinlaw whipped Simpson with a speed move that demonstrated how dangerous he can be.

North Carolina DL Jason Strowbridge (North team)

There was shock when he weighed in at 267 pounds (after he was listed at 285 in college), leading to further questions about where Strowbridge’s best position might be in the NFL. He spent a lot of time as a 3- and 5-technique in college, but this is a frame that likely belongs on the edge.

After watching Strowbridge in practice, we suspect he’ll find ways to win no matter where he lines up. He had a disruptive practice, especially in the one-on-one drills, where he shined. Just ask Wake Forest’s Justin Herron, who was put on his backside by Strowbridge on a dominant rep.

It was a great start to the week, flashing power and quickness. The one guy who seemed to slow him down was …

Temple C Matt Hennessy (North team)

Hennessy held up well in one-on-ones and stonewalled Strowbridge twice on what might have been his only two “losses” of the day. The weigh-in also was notable for Hennessy, who measured at a sturdy 6-4 and 302 pounds after being listed at 295 by the Owls. In a draft with three or four centers vying for top honors at the position, it wouldn’t be stunning to see this smart player rise up into the top-50 mix.

Florida WR Van Jefferson (South team)

The son of former NFL receiver and current New York Jets wideouts coach Shawn Jefferson looked polished and fast, even if Jefferson likely won’t be among the best 40-yard dash runners at the position when we get to the NFL scouting combine. What matters more is how fast a player plays, and Jefferson checks that box. He ran clean routes and made several smooth grabs on Tuesday and reads like a prospect who will be a better pro than his college production would suggest.

Florida WR Van Jefferson looked the part on Day 1 of the 2020 Senior Bowl. (Photo by David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Florida WR Van Jefferson looked the part on Day 1 of the 2020 Senior Bowl. (Photo by David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Day 1 losers

North team quarterbacks

It’s Day 1. No one is freaking out. But Jordan Love, Anthony Gordon and Shea Patterson looked less impressive overall than the South group of Justin Herbert, Steven Montez and Jalen Hurts. (And Hurts was not great throwing today.)

Even with some high-end throws that flashed his arm talent, Love’s accuracy was inconsistent. Gordon had little velocity on his passes and his footwork looked a little off. Patterson was fine on the short stuff but almost threw a pick (dropped by Michigan teammate Josh Metellus) in team work and leveled off after a decent start.

We’ll be looking for a better day from all the quarterbacks on Wednesday, especially from Hurts, Gordon and Patterson.

Purdue TE Brycen Hopkins (North team)

It wasn’t a bad day for Hopkins, but it wasn’t great either. He looked less impressive when you compared his reps to fellow North squad tight end Adam Trautman (Dayton). Hopkins looks the part athletically, and should test well, but the son of former NFL offensive lineman Brad Hopkins seems to fight the ball a bit and doesn’t leave himself with great yards-after-catch potential because of a nagging habit of catching the ball off-balance or out of rhythm.

Hopkins was also a little light in weigh-ins at 6-foot-3 3/4 and 241 pounds, although his 10 1/8-inch hands are well above average. Michigan's Josh Uche, a converted pass rusher, did a good job sticking with Hopkins on two reps we watched, which makes us wonder if Hopkins can maximize that athletic skill enough.

West Virginia OT Colton McKivitz

He measured in nicely at 6-6, 304 pounds with 33-inch arms and 10-inch hands. But the one-on-one pass-rush drills were not his finest hour in practice with a few clear losses at left tackle. McKivitz got beat cleanly a few times by Michigan State EDGE Kenny Willekes. He improved at right tackle in a rep against Miami’s Trevon Hill. Overall, it wasn’t a great start to the week for McKivitz, who didn’t use those big hands to keep rushers at bay consistently.

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