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2020 Senior Bowl: Day One Practice Notes (Fantasy Football)

Jan 22, 2020

Herbert did everything he needed to do at the Senior Bowl practices on Tuesday.

R.C. Fischer previews the 2020 Senior Bowl practice week for FantasyPros.

This piece is part of our article program that features quality content from experts exclusively at FantasyPros. For more insight from R.C., head to Fantasy Football Metrics and College Football Metrics.

I’ll be covering the Senior Bowl week practices for FantasyPros again this season. For the next three days, I will share my thoughts on notes on the practices for both teams and share some rumors/buzz/chatter going around among the scouts that I’m hearing. I work as an independent scout for the NFL Draft for the past decade, but most of my annual football work is mainly for dynasty and fantasy football purposes, so most of my notes and concerns will be on the offensive skill players with a fantasy bent.

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Day One (Tuesday) Senior Bowl 2020 Practice Notes

Weigh-Ins and Measurements
Before the practices began, and because Monday was a holiday, the official weigh-ins and measurements were taken early in the morning Tuesday. A few notes on those:

The quarterback prospects everyone is mainly here to see are Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Utah State’s Jordan Love. Both passed the weigh-in/measurables with flying colors.

Herbert coming in at 227 pounds was a positive, as many scouts worried he looked a bit heavy or played in the 240s during the season some. Some were wondering if he really was close to 6’6″, and he came in just over at 6’6 1/8″. He also measured with a 10″ hand size, which scouts love a 10″ or above reading and fear 9″ or less. There was a worry Love was under 6’3″, but he measured 6’3.5″, and he also delighted with a 10 5/8″ hand size.

I scout prospects via game tape, and I run my own analytics on 600+ draft prospects each year for College Football — and I know these height and hand measurements might seem trite, but they matter as pieces to an overall big puzzle of scouting a player relative to their style of play expected at the next level, and Herbert and Love exceeded expectations in these areas, to the scouts’ delight. No one measurement matters or disqualifies or proves/disproves anything in scouting, but all the pieces are taken into consideration comparing two similar prospects and considering geography/conditions they might play in at the next level.

I was hoping Jalen Hurts might come in bigger than 6’1″, but he was right at 6’1″ in the official measurements.

Among the wide receiver group, which is another area where scouts want to see 10″ or greater hand size, only Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool and Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk hit the mark — and both at exactly 10.0″.

Texas’s Collin Johnson came in as the tallest receiver prospect at 6’5 5/8″, but added to scouts’ concerns on him overall with a small 8 3/4″ hand size.

A lot of interest here in Memphis running back prospect Antonio Gibson. His 6’0″/223 size was about as expected, but then his 8.5″ hand size was a major disappointment.

Most scouts and analysts were focused on Justin Herbert for the South practice (the first group practicing), and later Jordan Love for the North. Some notes on the position:

Herbert did everything that scouts were looking for. He looked calm, confident, and polished…but he lost the day to Jordan Love once Love started throwing. Herbert is technically sound, but Love is such a natural thrower and has the best arm by far here, or probably of anyone in this draft…so, the Senior Bowl 7-on-7/no pressure practice work will really show off Love’s skill set more than any other quarterback prospect here.

I can tell from the scouts and analyst buzz — Love is going to race into the top 10-15 in mock drafts soon. He’s built to be a guy all the scouts and Senior Bowl watchers love. It’s difficult for scouts to get a real feel on the quarterbacks during the Senior Bowl week because so many ‘big arm’ guys are a head fake in these shorts and pads non-contact practices. However, Love has all the tools and displayed them in this setting and has scouts and fans buzzing.

The whole process works against Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts. His primary weapon is his running ability, but the quarterbacks aren’t doing any of that in this type of practice. Hurts is locked in a box, in a sense, during practice. Hurts does not have the arm or technical or natural passer skills of Love or Herbert, so he looks a bit meek by comparison. His real gift as a runner-thrower will be hidden here and will hurt his draft stock coming out unless he runs wild in the game itself. This practice week is a bit unfair to him.

Wide Receivers
The wide receiver talent here is ridiculous. They’re the best I’ve seen in my 10+ years watching/scouting Senior Bowl practices. There were so many impressive athletes doing nice things that it is difficult to ever pick ‘bests’ out of it. For day one, if I had to pick, my gut feeling looking at the reactions and chatter after it seems like most scouts are torn between/debating two North team WR prospects – USC’s Michael Pittman Jr. and Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool.

If I had to pick a ‘winner,’ it seemed to me like Pittman was the smoothest, the most ‘wow’ inducing wide receiver between the two and of the group on either side.

If anyone lost a little steam among the bigger name wide receiver prospects, it might have been Texas’s Devin Duvernay…almost in an unfair way. Duvernay might be the biggest name/biggest interest WR prospect right up there with Pittman and Claypool, but he a drop or two in the practices that stood out (when he is known as Mr. Reliable) and just his size (5’10”) and style doesn’t immediately ‘wow’ in this format like the 6’4″ guys in Pittman and Claypool.

Duvernay is not falling in the draft rankings because of this, however. I’m just noting that everyone wanted to see him work and do great things — but there wasn’t much buzz about his day after his practice, nowhere near like Pittman v. Claypool.

Defensive Players
The two defenders that earned a lot of buzz were both D-Lineman — Auburn’s Marlon Davidson and South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw.

Marlon Davidson looked great working as a defensive tackle, and not as good as a defensive end in practice. He’s listed as a defensive end prospect and played there a bunch for Auburn and was OK on tape, I thought. However, he officially came in at 6’3″/297 pounds — which is prime for a 4-3 scheme defensive tackle prospect. He is miscast as defensive end prospect in my book.

Davidson was dominating interior lineman working drills as a defensive tackle but was just OK-to-good when working as defensive end against the bigger and rangier offensive tackles.

Javon Kinlaw is a pure defensive tackle prospect — 6’3″/315. He’s a monster and a 1st-round draft pick projection. He worked all day as a defensive tackle that I saw and was just a bull pushing blockers backward.

Running Backs
These showcase practices make it hard for a running back prospect to shine, not like how the quarterback and wide receiver/tight end prospects have one-on-one drills to show off in, but I thought there were a couple of moments where Memphis running back Antonio Gibson just looked different than the other guys. He just has a different gear or athleticism about him, and it’s raw.

Gibson was mainly a wide receiver for Memphis, but they started to get him some work at tailback later in the 2019 season, and a potential star was born — in Memphis’s final seven games, Gibson ran the ball 30 times for 384 yards. That’s 12.8 yards per carry, and he added four touchdowns on that total — that means he averaged one touchdown every 7.5 carries! And they weren’t cheap TDs either, as they included a 78-yarder, an 18 yarder, a 29 yarder, and a 65 yarder.

Against SMU this past season, he caught six passes for 130 yards and a score, ran the ball three times for 97 yards (and the aforementioned 78-yard touchdown), and returned a kick for a 97-yard score in the game. Gibson is the running back that all the scouts and team execs want to see more work/tape on.

Join us tomorrow for day two notes from the 2020 Senior Bowl. Also, all the Senior Bowl weigh-in numbers for height, weight, arm, and hand length can be found here on my website College Football 2020 Senior Bowl Weigh-In Results.

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