It is probably a little bit hard for any Eagles fans to think about anything other than the fact that the Eagles are in the Super Bowl (!) in less than two weeks. I know I spent all of yesterday with that rushing through my mind. However, in wake of some of these pre-game jitters for the fans, some distraction would not be the worst thing in the world. As some of you may know, the Reese’s Senior Bowl is an annual staple in the NFL Draft process. The best senior prospects in the country come together for a set of weigh ins, interviews, practices and eventually games to show off their skills in a controlled environment. This is usually a great chance for smaller school players to show they can run with bigger name talent. Guys like Eric Fisher, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jimmy Ward and some guy named Carson Wentz are just a few FCS and non-power five talents to get big big boosts from the game in the last few years. It remains to be seen who the next big Senior Bowl riser will be, but here are the ten best players at the Senior Bowl to keep an eye on.
10. Rashaad Penny, Running Back, San Diego State: Rashaad Penny spent much of his career waiting in the wings behind Donnell Pumphrey as he broke records for the Aztecs; but Penny burst onto the scene this year with a 2,200 yard rushing season that had 23 touchdowns on the ground, two through the air and three more as a returner. Penny, well built at 5’10” and 220 pounds, is athletic and tough. He is a very versatile player who can thrive all over an offense and as a returner. Moving from a run heavy team to the Senior Bowl; Penny will have a shot to show just how much he can do.
9. Darius Philips, Cornerback, Western Michigan: Despite being a small cornerback from a small school; few people make as many big plays as Darius Philips. Defensively, Philips has 12 interceptions and four forced fumbles in the last three years. On top of that; he has turned SIX takeaways into scores. If that wasn’t enough to convince you of the 5’10” cornerback’s playmaking ability; Philips has five career kick return touchdowns, a punt return touchdown and two receiving touchdowns for good measure. Philips is an electric athlete with the ball in his hands and also a savvy defender who plays a physical brand of football. While size may be a concern for him, the Senior Bowl is a perfect environment to show it doesn’t matter.
8. Will Hernandez, Guard, UTEP: Despite UTEP going 0-12 this season, Will Hernandez has been a bright spot on the Miners. The 330 pound guard proved all year, and during his career, to be a dominant run blocker with some nice flashes in pass protection. Hernandez is a nasty player and there is a ton to like about his skill set. It would not be surprising to see him have a huge week and climb NFL draft boards.
7. Harrison Phillips, Defensive Tackle, Stanford: One of my favorite players to watch this year is going to be at the Senior Bowl. Harrison Phillips did a great job for Stanford filling in as a dominant presence on their line after Solomon Thomas left for the NFL. The 295 pound defender has a great frame and high motor that allows him to get after it on third down, but he makes his most impact as a run defender where his physicality allows him to dominate opponents. It will be interesting to see how he does against the best of the best in this draft class.
6. Michael Gallup, Wide Receiver, Colorado State: Michael Gallup is the classic case of a player who is not flashy, but is just damn good. Gallup is not going to blow anyone away with his 6’1”, 200 pound frame nor is he going to run away from defenses on a consistent basis. However, Gallup possesses a blend of savvy route running, great hands and a toughness that makes him dependable to make big catches and pick up hard yards afterward. Gallup is as solid a player as there was in this draft class and this week is a great opportunity to show his stuff against bigger competition.
5. Tyrell Crosby, Offensive Tackle, Oregon: Oregon has a long history of producing athletic offensive linemen and Crosby is just the next in line. The 6’5”, 320 pounder has a lot of experience and good tape for the Ducks. He moves well in space and has ideal length, but also plays with a chip on his shoulder that offensive line coaches should love. It’ll be fun to see how he does this week outside of Oregon’s offense.
4. Shaquem Griffen, Linebacker, UCF: I have talked about Shaquem Griffen a few times over the last few weeks but he remains one of the most inspiring and more fun players in this class. The one handed defender is a high motor, athletic player who dominates all over the field as a run defender, pass rusher and even in coverage. While it is to be seen what NFL coordinators want to do with him; he should have a great week in Mobile where he will kill it in interviews and impress on the field.
3. Uchenna Nwosu, Edge Defender, USC: One of the more underrated players in the country last year, despite playing for USC, Nwosu is an incredibly fast pass rusher who overwhelms offensive linemen with his speed. While he is a bit undersized at 240 pounds; Nwosu definitely has a place on an NFL defense.
2. Marcus Davenport, Edge Defender, UTSA: Conference USA’s best defender last year; Marcus Davenport has a big stage in Mobile to show just how damn good he is. The 6’7”, 260 pound defensive lineman has awesome physicality against the run and a high motor as a pass rusher. While UTSA did not give him the most exposure; Davenport has a chance to take off this week against NFL level competition.
1. Baker Mayfield, Quarterback, Oklahoma: Baker Mayfield is going to go down as one of the most accomplished college quarterbacks of all time. The Heisman winner had an incredible senior season in which he shattered efficiency standards for a college quarterback and was the centerpiece of the NCAA’s best offense. Mayfield is smaller, but he is a strong armed playmaker who can win from in or outside of the pocket. He is a competitor who's teammates will gravitate to his demeanor and will keep a team in any game with his mind set. While Eagles fans should not be fixated on quarterbacks this year; Mayfield is one of the better prospects at the position to participate in the game in the last few years and I am very interested to see how he does in this environment.
Other Names to keep an eye on:
- Kyzir White, Safety, West Virginia
- Isaiah Wynn, Offensive Line, Georgia
- Allen Lazard, Wide Receiver, Iowa State
- Jaylen Samuels, Flex, NC State
- Duke Dawson, Cornerback, Florida
- Mike Gesicki, Tight End, Penn State
- Marcus Allen, Safety, Penn State
- Armani Watts, Safety, Texas A&M
- Quin Blanding, Safety, Virginia
- Da’Shawn Hand, Edge Defender, Alabama