2021 Senior Bowl: Practice Notes (Fantasy Football)
Earlier this week, we published a full 2021 Senior Bowl primer with a preview of every skill position player. Now that we have a few days of practices to review and evaluate, it’s time to take a look at where we stand ahead of Saturday’s contest. With no East-West Shrine Bowl and now NFL Scouting Combine in 2021, the Senior Bowl is more important than ever. Every practice rep, tracked metric, and highlight is going to be in bigger focus for scouts and coaches.
The practices and the week as a whole (especially the interviews) have always been just as important as the game itself, and that is probably even more true in 2021 with the access to these players limited. NFL teams are extremely restricted in who they can send to the Senior Bowl, so this will be a unique experience for everyone. These practices matter, and they matter a lot.
With that being said, let’s go over some of the developments over the last few days.
Most of the quarterbacks projected to be selected early in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft are not participating in the Senior Bowl. Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, and Trey Lance are all underclassmen, while senior quarterback Kyle Trask is not participating due to an ankle injury. That has left Mac Jones as the lone quarterback prospect who has the potential to be drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft in Mobile, and he has reportedly separated himself from the pack. Everywhere you look, all you see are glowing reviews of Jones:
For the record, I walk away from watching the Senior Bowl thoroughly impressed with Mac Jones. Best Senior Bowl practices I’ve seen in years
— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) January 28, 2021
There’s a track record of QBs using the @seniorbowl practice week to cement or boost their draft stock and there’s little doubt Mac Jones did that this week.
He brought his Alabama accuracy to practice, made good decisions, showed natural leadership.
A really impressive week.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 28, 2021
Mac Jones with a 10 cent throw
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 28, 2021
Jones picked up an ankle injury towards the end of Thursday’s practice, and it’s possible he doesn’t play on Saturday. However, these practices throughout the week are sometimes even more important to scouts and coaches than the game itself, and Jones aced every test. He has cemented himself as a first-round pick, and it’s possible he leapfrogs some of the aforementioned names (aside from Lawrence) in the draft. Most importantly, Jones appeared to answer the question about his success being reliant upon a dominant Alabama roster, as he worked seamlessly with wide receivers he just met a few days ago.
As for the other quarterbacks, Ian Book and Kellen Mond appeared to be in the next tier followed by everyone else. Sam Ehlinger, Feleipe Franks, and Jamie Newman were all inconsistent, while Book and Mond were at least more consistent in their passing.
As ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said, Bates' size and catch radius make him an attractive option in the redzone.
— Jay Tust (@KTVBSportsGuy) January 28, 2021
At the running back position, Michael Carter is someone who improved his stock throughout the week. With Najee Harris not participating, Carter was the name seemingly everyone was talking about. Chris Evans is a name that also stood out, and Kylin Hill impressed as both a runner and a pass-catcher and is listed as a riser by many analysts in their notes.
The @SeniorBowl isn't the easiest event for a running back to standout, but I like what I've seen from Michael Carter this week. Traits in person back up what's seen on film.
RB4 for me behind Najee, Etienne and Javonte Williams
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 28, 2021
Demetric Felton is someone who is going to intrigue a lot of teams because of his ability as both a running back and a receiver, either out of the backfield or in the slot. He still needs some development as a wide receiver but has excellent quickness and has been displaying his route-running ability in Mobile. He reminds me of Dexter McCluster from about a decade ago, though he is stronger and could develop into a better runner out of the backfield. He isn’t going to come in and start for anyone, but some teams will view him as a player who can immediately be used in packages while they develop him for a larger role.
Kadarius Toney is a name everyone is talking about, and Tony Pauline described him as “absolutely electric.” Toney was already expected to be a Day 2 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but he may rise all the way to the top half of Round 2 based on his performance in Mobile. He did appear to drop a number of passes, including the one in the highlight below, which could concern some teams. But his explosiveness and quickness are things you can’t teach, while many teams will feel his ball security issues are something they are willing to work on if they think he can consistently get open at the next level.
The way Kadarius Toney moves…???? pic.twitter.com/sLp6yvnbJx
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) January 28, 2021
— 4th and JAWN (@4thandJawn) January 29, 2021
Nico Collins, Josh Palmer, and Austin Watkins all stood out in red zone drills, while Amari Rodgers is a smaller wideout who has been impossible for defensive backs to cover throughout the week. Rodgers entered Senior Bowl week as a Day 3 pick but could very well be leaving as a Day 2 pick after consistently impressing. The odds are stacked against quicker wide receivers in these drills, but what scouts are seeing Mobile is backing up what they have already seen on tape from
— With the First Pick (@Withthe1st_pick) January 28, 2021
Notre Dame’s Ben Skowronek, who was already facing an uphill battle to be drafted, reportedly suffered a significant foot injury:
I'm told Notre Dame receiver Ben Skowronek suffered a significant foot injury today and could be out of commission for a while.
— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) January 28, 2021
John Bates is a player I mentioned earlier in the week as someone I had my eye on, and he didn’t disappoint. It’s hard to get through anyone’s Senior Bowl practice notes without finding a paragraph about Bates along with a clip of him doing something impressive. Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline had this to say about Bates while listing him as one of his biggest risers:
John Bates is not the fastest, quickest, nor the prettiest athlete on the field. Rather, he is a damn good football player and was efficient and productive in every area of the tight end position on Thursday.
He showed himself to be a terrific blocker and consistently controlled opponents at the point of attack. At the same time, he caught just about everything thrown at him. A late addition to the Senior Bowl, he increased his NFL Draft stock in Mobile.
Duke’s Noah Gray and Bowling Green’s Quintin Morris both improved their stock in Mobile, and
Gray had what many are calling the catch of the week here:
#Duke TE Noah Gray with perhaps the catch of the Senior Bowl here.
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) January 28, 2021
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Mike Maher is an editor and featured writer at FantasyPros and BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive, follow him on Twitter @MikeMaher, and visit his Philadelphia Eagles blog, The Birds Blitz.