2020 Senior Bowl: Day Two Practice Notes (Fantasy Football)
R.C. Fischer previews the 2020 Senior Bowl practice week for FantasyPros.
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I’ll be covering the Senior Bowl week practices for FantasyPros again this season. For all three practice days, I will offer my thoughts and notes from 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.
Day Two (Wednesday) Senior Bowl 2020 Practice Notes
North Team Notes
It was a so-so day for the North team’s quarterbacks.
One of the problems that evaluators are going to have here is when the quarterback play is sub-par, it throws everything off. You cannot evaluate the wide receiver or tight end prospects as well, nor can you evaluate the cornerbacks when the quarterbacks are weak. For the South, Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson really doesn’t belong here, and he’s hurting the passing game drills in the live 11-on-11 (non-tackle) work. Patterson doesn’t have the arm or the passing game prowess to work with this all-star group of receiver prospects. Washington State signal-caller Anthony Gordon isn’t wowing anyone either, but he’s a step ahead of Patterson.
Utah State quarterback Jordan Love is the one everyone waits to see. When Patterson or Gordon are leading the drills, you can see coaches, scouts, media, turned away talking or checking their phones, etc. When Love takes over, everyone stops and watches.
I’m finishing my own full scouting report on Jordan Love for College Football Metrics.com, and one of the knocks I have on him is that he doesn’t have a lot of fire, spirit, or whatever you want to call it. He has the best arm in this draft…he’s got such arm talent that it’s crazy, but his leadership and mannerism just don’t seem to be there — they’re not evident to me. The 11-on-11 offensive drills seem to be downbeat for the North team, and some of it can be blamed on the quarterbacks (all three of them) are not taking charge/firing anyone up with their body language or play in my opinion. And that’s going to be an issue for evaluators on Love: can he become a strong leader, one the team will rally around?
I remember the year that Baker Mayfield went to the Senior Bowl. He had everyone’s attention, and he was interacting with everyone. He just has a personality that changes a team dynamic. I do not see that from Jordan Love here, and for sure not from Patterson or Gordon.
I could be reading too far into things, but I thought USC receiver Michael Pittman Jr. kind of won day one of practices, as there were a lot of people “wowed” by his overall movement skills and size and prowess. Today, it looked like he was playing throttled back a bit, and he looked somewhat frustrated with the quarterback play, almost like he knew he was wasting his time giving his maximum effort (which is not a good thing to show).
The South lines up Pittman and Notre Dame receiver Chase Claypool at the same time in the offense, giving us a glance at two of the best-looking wide receiver prospects of the past few years on the field together, but the quarterback play isn’t allowing us to see them showing their skills off. Claypool ‘won’ this day in my book over Pittman because he played with energy the whole time, while Pittman looked like he was taking a bit of a victory lap from the publicity from yesterday or was getting frustrated at the sloppy quarterback play. It’s not going to hurt his draft status at all, but this practice didn’t help grow Pittman’s legend.
A lot of people praised UCLA running back Joshua Kelley as the prospect “winner” of the day for the North’s running back corps. However, I thought Baylor running back JaMycal Hasty showed more NFL skills as a Dalvin Cook/Aaron Jones-type runner, and he can really get open in the passing game. He was hard to cover in passing drills. Kelley had a few nice runs in 7-on-7 work, but that’s not a real tell on things for me.
There has been a lot of scouting and analyst talk about Wisconsin defensive end Zack Baun’s conversion to linebacker at the Senior Bowl. Most are talking positively or glowingly about what they are seeing. He’s starting to become one of the winners of the week, so far, on defense.
Cal inside linebacker Evan Weaver is getting good buzz too. I think that Matt Patricia is taking a bit of a shine to him because he’s such a cerebral player. Weaver was the 2019 PAC-12 Defensive Player of the Year after making an incredible 181 tackles in 13 games.
Coming into the week, many were in awe of Oklahoma defensive tackle Neville Gallimore — and his buzz is only growing in Mobile. He’s trying to push his way into the first round of the draft rankings for evaluators. He sticks out among all the defensive tackle prospects in many drills.
One side note — ESPN U. covered the practices today, and by watching their coverage, I could hear the lack of vocal leadership of the North quarterbacks. The real vocal leader of the practices is Matt Patricia. He did a nice job communicating, yelling, praising, working with guys one-on-one. Compare that to his offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, who works like someone who had his personality removed at birth — the quarterbacks interacted more with Bevell, and they took on the same (lack of) personality and communication. Bevell interacting with the players is like watching a terrible first date. He’s not helping this process, making any friends, or recruiting any talent.
Last year, Jon Gruden was actively selling himself and the Raiders the entire week, which is smart. Kyle Shanahan was a great communicator, and he connected with the young men on his team last year. He even drafted a few of them. Patricia yelled and praised, and, I think, scared his guys a bit (mostly in a good way) while Bevell put them to sleep (which was one of the reasons so many Seattle players had issues with him back in the day when he was the OC there).
South Team Notes
On day one of practice, a lot of people got their first “real” look at Utah State quarterback Jordan Love and went “wow,” and all the talk started about Love as a first-rounder, possibly the third quarterback taken in the draft. Love is captivating in an instant. His arm is sublime, and he has the size and mobility to go with it. After day one, Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert was forgotten in the wake of the “discovery” of Love.
Day two was a different story.
The initial Love hype wore off as football people started looking more closely at how good of a quarterback he is in the 11-on-11s, and Love just doesn’t jump out yet. He’s a 7-on-7 god, a 1-on-1 delight. But in an 11-on-11 with a lot of moving parts, Jordan Love gets human. With that, the day two shift in chatter was to how polished and “ready” Justin Herbert is compared to him. The Jordan Love hype train lasted about 24 hours. Not that he’s done or ignored, but the overheated excitement is dying down.
That day two belonged to Herbert over Love was my gut reaction to watching this day of practices. Herbert was more polished and showed more personality and leadership.
The North team practiced first today, and it was kind of a dull event for them because the quarterback play was so unimpressive (Patterson, Gordon, Love). The weaker North offensive day allowed the smoother South quarterbacks to show what they bring to the table in the later practice. Justin Herbert looks the part, and Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts also looks very comfortable leading the offense. Herbert and Hurts showed their NFL preparedness today versus Jordan Love’s “improvement needed” day-two effort.
It’s nice watching the South practice in 11-on-11s when Herbert and Hurts are at the helm, but people pay less attention when Colorado quarterback Steven Montez takes over. He’s just nowhere nearly as gifted as Herbert or Hurts. Montez might be the No. 2 QB for the North, but he’s the clear-cut No. 3 for the South.
Florida receiver Van Jefferson had the best wide receiver day for the South team, I thought. He made several catches all over the field in 11-on-11s. He’s getting open with solid route running, and he’s getting to and catching contested balls. He helped himself today, and the people around the team are reporting positives about his work ethic and demeanor.
Talking about South team wide receivers, I keep waiting for the Texas wide receiver Devin Duvernay “show” to begin, but it hasn’t really happened. He is fast as can be, and everyone evaluating knows that. He gets open off the snap a bunch. He looks great in 1-on-1s and in 7-on-7s, but the 11-on-11 drills haven’t really worked for him or shown him off. I’m not sure if it’s his fault, however, as the passing games have been pretty choppy and sloppy on both sides today (understandable due to the cold and the not used to each other aspect), and Duvernay works a pro-style game, working well in tight windows, and it’s hard for him to be in sync like that with new quarterbacks in such a setting. I don’t see the coaches getting him involved with bubble screens or jet sweeps to help, either.
There’s a lot of attention on Memphis RB/WR Antonio Gibson, a lot of curiosity about his unique talent and whether he can transition to “real” NFL running back or if he’s just a gimmick guy. When people talk about the “ready to go” contributor at running back from the South, they are talking more about Arizona State rusher Eno Benjamin. The scouts see him as a slippery runner, very good passing game option, and guy who can block for his size. Benjamin’s stock is on the rise a bit.
Analysts are constantly oohing and awing over South Carolina defensive tackle Jevon Kinlaw, and the TV analysts are especially going gaga trying to one-up each other on how much they love him — but as I watched the 1-on-1 blocking drills, I thought all the offensive linemen handled Kinlaw pretty well. Everyone expected this force of nature in the drills, but he was just a talented guy battling other talented guys and not really blowing them away, or even winning as much. Kinlaw is a talent, but the TV people seem to have latched onto him, and they are hyping him a little too much, I think.
Speaking of the DL vs. OL drills, it’s not sexy to talk about, but every time I watch the drills South Carolina State offensive tackle Alex Taylor just stands out, literally and figuratively — he’s 6’8″+/308 with 36 1/8″ arms and 11″ hands. He’s just walled off every pass rusher they’ve thrown at him in drills. He’s going to fly up the draft rankings after this week after beginning the process as a little-known FCS offensive line prospect.
Join us tomorrow for day three coverage –the practice finale before the game on Saturday.
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