2018 Senior Bowl Practice Week Winners & Losers (Fantasy Football)
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The Senior Bowl game will be played on Saturday but most all of the major on-field scouting activity takes place during the week with the Tuesday-Thursday practice sessions. After scouting/observing all three days of practices it’s mandatory to do a ‘winners and losers’ article. So, here’s my scouting take on the key positions from a fantasy football perspective after observing this year’s Senior Bowl week of practices.
WINNER: Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma)
His Tuesday late arrival got a ton of focus. Everyone was wondering whether he’d even show, and when he did they wondered whether he would weigh-in/get measured (for fear he’d come in ‘too small’).
Some expected/feared the worst, but Mayfield did show up and participated right away. He then measured above 6’0″ tall. He was also, clearly, the best QB talent on the field and a natural leader.
Mayfield has moved into the discussion for ‘top QB prospect’ for the 2018 NFL Draft with his Senior Bowl week.
LOSER: Josh Allen (Wyoming)
I feel Josh Allen is becoming like a political figure and we’re dealing with ‘fake news’ on him. Fans and scouts observe Allen and see an erratic, strong-armed guy with terrible performance numbers (in the context of first-round picks). People are questioning/mocking Allen. And then there is the alternative reality of the media and mainstream football analysts who are totally smitten with Allen and are overdoing their joy when he did anything properly and then went into teenager defense mode when Allen did something wrong this week. It has to be excused as not his fault or not that big of a deal.
I don’t think ‘the people’ are buying this elaborate scouting con — one that I believe NFL teams are trying to perpetrate on gullible Cleveland/Hue Jackson and are using pawns in the analyst/media community to do their bidding (as they usually do). You’d think throwing the ball a hundred miles an hour with not a lot of great performance numbers to lean on would be met with skepticism, but the NFL establishment is like a moth to a Jamarcus Russell-flame for big-armed QB prospects.
Allen didn’t sway ‘we the people’ this week, so I think his draft stock will dip if Cleveland doesn’t get suckered into him.
SLEEPER: Luke Falk (Washington State)
Falk is the anti-Josh Allen. He doesn’t have the big arm. All Falk can claim is being the smartest, most prepared quarterback in this draft. Falk is blowing people away with how much he understands the game and he showed his poise and efficiency on the field this week. He isn’t ‘sexy’ with a big arm, but if you’re into not throwing passes 25 feet over receiver’s heads at 117 miles an hour, you might find Falk ‘sexy.’
WINNER: Kalen Ballage (Arizona)
He’s a guy that scored eight TDs in one game in 2016 but was also benched some in 2017. He played a bizarre role for Arizona the past two years, often lining up as a wildcat QB but was really a 6’2″/222-pound running back, but was mostly either running the ball from a wildcat/shotgun snap or playing like a quasi-wide receiver (he has great hands). His college play and performance has some of the most bizarre highs and lows you’ll ever see.
Scouts wondered if he could play like a normal, traditional RB. Ballage did so with flying colors this week. He ran the ball like a ‘real’ RB but also just torched coverage as a receiver in every passing drill. Ballage went from enigma to intrigue this week.
LOSER: Rashaad Penny (San Diego State)
He was everyone’s favorite RB prospect going into this week, and probably still is, but I didn’t see him standout or do anything that made me feel like he was clearly the best RB prospect here. Kalen Ballage and Jaylen Samuels looked better, all-around, to me.
Penny is not a bust. He has skills. He’s just not as much of a stud RB as advertised. He really struggled to catch passes in the live drills at times – not that he’s incompetent, just not very smooth catching passes – where Ballage and Samuels looked like quasi-wide receivers with their receiving skills.
SLEEPER: Darrel Williams (LSU)
I thought Williams looked as good/better than Penny. He has a sweet size at 5’11″/229, ran the ball well, and caught the ball reliably all week (and did in his college career). Williams is under-the-radar because he’s been behind/splitting time with Leonard Fournette and Darrius Guice. He’s a lot better than his current draft status and showed it this week.
WINNER: DaeSean Hamilton (Penn State)
I came into this week wondering why Hamilton was getting invited here (had a solid/unspectacular college career), but I left wondering if he was the single best WR prospect in Mobile. I think a lot of people had that same thought process/evolution at the Senior Bowl week.
He displayed some of the best moves off the line of scrimmage or down the field making cuts of any WR prospect you’ll see. He was virtually uncoverable because he ‘breaks ankles’ off the snap with his elite agility.
I’m still not sure if he has more than ‘quick’ to give to the NFL, but he is definitely the big WR ‘winner’ here because he went from the bottom of the pack to the most talked about guy in about a 48-hour span.
LOSER: Marcell Ateman (Oklahoma State)
Weighing in at 6’4″/216 pounds, people were excited to see what this big receiver would do with this Senior Bowl opportunity. From my perspective, I forgot Ateman was even at the practices. He did nothing that grabbed attention or stood out. Other big WR prospects like Allen Lazard and Jaleel Scott had moments. Ateman was a ghost.
SLEEPER: J’Mon Moore (Missouri)
Moore had moments that caught attention but mostly flew under the radar because he played on the South team, and the South is where all the weaker QB prospects are at. This might have affected Ateman as well.
What I did see from Moore in flashes made me want to see more. I’m looking forward to his Combine and Pro Day as well as deeper tape study.
WINNER: Dallas Goedert (South Dakota State)
Goedert got hurt early on in the Tuesday practice, couldn’t go the rest of the week, and had to drop out of the event. How can that be a ‘winner?’
Well, Goedert might have had the biggest buzz of any non-QB prospect coming into the Senior Bowl. Scouts were touting him as the possible top TE prospect for the draft because his highlight reel is filled with circus catches — they wanted to see if this small school TE was for real or not. I did too.
We all got stood up, but that’s helped his legend grow/stay in tact. He’s still the ‘man of mystery’ as a top TE prospect. He didn’t hurt his lofty status, and no other tight ends here really did stand out.
LOSER: Troy Fumagalli (Wisconsin)
Some scouts were pushing him as a top-five TE prospect coming into this week, but I saw nothing that made me believe that. I didn’t see much in pre-study or in his production, and he was a bit of a ghost in Mobile. He’s not ‘bad,’ he’s just not a top prospect at this stage. He didn’t help his draft stock this week.
SLEEPER: Ian Thomas (Indiana)
He was the one tight end I kept noticing making plays this week. He’s not flashy, but efficient. He’s built like a tank (6’3″/256) but he moves well and has very soft hands. He surprised me in pre-study and he kept my attention in Mobile.
WINNER: DE Marcus Davenport (UTSA)
Davenport had all the buzz coming into the week, as a top-10 overall pick projection. He looked fantastic at his weigh-ins. He was the early ‘buzz’ prospect. His first two days he didn’t do Superman-things, and people got frustrated waiting to see something special. On Thursday, in live 11-on-11 drills, he started to show what all the excitement is about.
He’s a great pass-rushing prospect, and no one at this event was even close by comparison. He hurt himself with some people, but no one I spoke to was downgrading him or disappointed. His stock is solid and likely to rise.
LOSER: LB Tre’ Williams (Auburn)
I always seemed to notice him getting lost in the coverage drills, and he just moved around the field heavy-footed, kinda clunky in most 11-on-11 activity. He didn’t appear to have the ‘it’ to be an NFL linebacker.
SLEEPER: DT Justin Jones (NC State)
I kept seeing this oddly numbered (jersey #27) defensive tackle/mountain of a man (6’2″/323) in the backfield chasing QBs and RBs. He was the D-Lineman I saw having the most penetration of the interior of any DT prospect. He had a solid, but not spectacular career at NC State, but he looked like a possible star on and off all Senior Bowl week.
It may be a head-fake because I’ve seen big DT prospects shine in Mobile after having a ho hum college career. The good news is Jones has some/displays some ‘it,’ but the downside may be whether he can or wants to bring it every snap.
I will have a breakdown of the Senior Bowl game itself on Monday for FantasyPros. I will be scouting, analyzing, and statistically grading over 600+ prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft over the next few months for our seventh year at College Football Metrics and analyzing their dynasty-fantasy football impact of these rookies for the rookie drafts all offseason at Fantasy Football Metrics.