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MOBILE, Ala. — With slightly warmer temperatures and less wind, Wednesday’s Senior Bowl practices offered better conditions for 2020 NFL draft evaluations at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
The Detroit Lions (coaching the North Team) and Cincinnati Bengals (South) took their time getting into the rhythm and flow of practice, and the Lions actually cut their session short — purportedly for how well practice went — by at least 20 minutes.
But there was ample time for individual player evaluations. We tried to highlight some players who had good individual performances from Wednesday, but in a few cases some players carried over their momentum, good or bad, from the day before.
Day 2 winners
Utah State QB Jordan Love (North team)
We can’t quit Love — which sounds like a Motown song title — and Wednesday’s performance is case in point of why. Love makes some of the prettier throws you’ll see. There are times when you think there aren’t a dozen QBs in the NFL who are more gifted throwers. And there are plenty more when he’s not pretty at all.
That inconsistency wasn’t an issue in Wednesday’s practice, when he was dialed in. Love was flashing that arm talent all day, making good decisions and looking as comfortable with his brand-new receivers here than he did with some of his own receivers this season at Utah State.
He is taking chances downfield in this setting. Many of the other quarterbacks were throwing underneath in the seven-on-sevens while Love attacked the second level. His top throw of the day might have been a sideline route to Baylor WR Denzel Mims, hitting him perfectly in stride for a touchdown in individual work.
Love had a better day overall than any other Senior Bowl QB, even Justin Herbert, who again was very solid after a strong Tuesday effort. Love’s evaluation isn’t an easy one, given his up-and-down final season, but the likelihood of him being a top-15 pick feels higher than the possibility of him slipping out of Round 1.
Baylor WR Denzel Mims (North team)
We mentioned the earlier Love hookup, but that wasn’t Mims’ best catch of the day. These two hooked up on a gorgeous fade down the left sideline in 11-on-11 work. Mims gained separation on Iowa CB Michael Ojemudia, high-pointed the ball and hauled it in despite crashing to the ground.
That’s two strong days from Mims, who stepped it up another notch on Wednesday. The 6-2 3/4, 206-pound wideout has 33-inch arms, underrated speed and quickness, and he uses his hands very nicely to keep defenders at bay. He has been a standout in every phase.
Mims also seems to get into his breaks nicely, and he had DBs grabbing at his jersey most of the practice. If he keeps this up through Saturday’s game, then Mims will go into the NFL scouting combine with a lot of momentum. Most scout grades I’ve heard have been in the fourth-round range, but it wouldn’t stun me if he rises above that.
Houston OT Josh Jones (North team)
He buried Utah EDGE Bradlee Anae, who is among the more sophisticated pass rushers down here, on a dominant one-on-one rep. Jones also looked really good in stonewalling Syracuse EDGE Alton Robinson on both his initial pass-rush move and his counter.
I didn’t watch every single DL-OL battle Wednesday, but I didn’t see Jones lose a rep on the ones I saw. He’ll likely earn a top-30 overall grade from me in this class when it’s all said and done, and you’ll start hearing some first-round buzz for Jones soon, the way we did around this time a year ago for Andre Dillard, who went 22nd overall to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Michigan EDGE Josh Uche (North team)
There’s still a debate to be had about what a team will do with Uche, who is a pass rusher in a sawed-off frame at 6-1 and 241 pounds. But it’s clear that Uche has pass-rush ability that shouldn’t be wasted because he doesn’t fit an ideal protoype.
Uche had a fantastic practice Wednesday, racking up wins all day. He has great twitch and wiggle, and great upfield quickness to stress bigger tackles. Every time I looked up, Uche was in the backfield.
That’s not all he does. Uche also opened eyes in coverage, blanketing Purdue TE Brycen Hopkins on one impressive one-on-one rep. It’s unclear if Uche will have quite the three-down versatility of players such as Patriots LB Jamie Collins or Saints LB Demario Davis, but I’ve been impressed with his bag of tricks.
There aren’t too many Robert Mathis-sized full-time pass rushers who have made it, so maybe Uche can win the way Yannick Ngakoue does. The way he is showing out, I may have to rethink my overall evaluation of Uche.
Small-school prospects (both teams)
Dayton TE Adam Trautman absolutely looks the part. Division-III OT Ben Bartch from St. John’s (Minn.) certainly belongs here and is working his way into the Day 2 draft discussion with his play. Lenoir-Rhyne (N.C.) S Kyle Dugger had a pick Wednesday of Justin Herbert and has looked more comfortable.
Credit to Jim Nagy and the Senior Bowl staff for finding this smaller-school gems and giving them a great stage to show that level of competition isn’t a big negative in their draft evaluation. All three could be gone inside the top 100 picks.
Day 2 losers
South team quarterbacks
Neither Colorado’s Steven Montez nor Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts was bad on Wednesday. But neither were consistent enough — throw to throw, drill to drill — to give them a winning grade.
Montez was solid on Day 1, less so on Day 2. Hurts was probably better on Day 2 than he was on the first day, but there are enough misfires and checkdowns (when there were open options deep) to be concerned overall.
Hurts is going to be the type of prospect whom many teams will knock for his accuracy, but a handful will believe in his playmaking ability and elite football character. Nothing we’ve seen this week can erase those undeniable qualities, but there haven’t been enough positives here to think that the pool of admiring teams is growing at all.
Herbert had a good day overall, but it was maybe a slight downtick from a strong Day 1.
Auburn DL Marlon Davidson
This is an unfortunate addition here because Davidson was having a terrific week. But he showed up to Wednesday’s practice in a boot on his right foot after suffering an ankle injury.
If Davidson’s injury is nothing serious, it’s a relief. But he’s only finding himself on this side of the fence because the injury derailed a fine showing so far.
Texas Tech OT Terence Steele
Steele had a few nice reps in one-on-one in Day 1 (plus a few forgettable reps later in the day). And Wednesday’s practice wasn’t his best overall, either.
He was lined up as the starting right tackle Wednesday, but he got chewed out a few times by Bengals OL coach Jim Turner for a few different things. One was for not knowing his assignment, with Turner yelling “get me a tackle who knows the drill!” Florida’s Jabari Zuniga also stung Steele with a dip-rip move.
The 6-foot-6, 312-pound Steele is very long (nearly 36-inch arms), with a classic NFL tackle build, but he looks like a rookie-year project for some NFL team. Steele still lacks some refinement and timing with his punch, and he’s gotten down on himself after a few mistakes. The potential is there, but he’s off to an uneven start.
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