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Thor Nystrom’s Senior Bowl Day 1 Practice Recap (2023)

Thor Nystrom’s Senior Bowl Day 1 Practice Recap (2023)
cameraThor Nystrom’s Senior Bowl Day 1 Practice Recap (2023)

The first day of Senior Bowl practices is in the books, and there’s a lot to unpack from the first day in Mobile, AL. Here is a full breakdown of everything I saw today, including some players who helped their stock and a few who put themselves in an early hole.

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Senior Bowl Day 1 Winners

Jake Haener (QB – Fresno State)

Haener showed up and was exactly as advertised. He's small, he's an average athlete, and his arm strength is mediocre.

But Haener makes the correct decision almost every single rep. He gets the ball out on time and on the hands. A zippy, reliable rhythm thrower. Haener very clearly has a strong command of any huddle he steps into, including ones filled with new faces as was the case on Tuesday.

The only thing that could slow Haener's clockwork efficiency early-on in practice was center-quarterback exchange issues. But those weren't on him. More on that in the section below.

The biggest knock on Haener is something that isn't going to change - he doesn't have a howitzer for an arm. Haener's balls have juice within 20 yards of the line. But his deep passes are max-effort rainbows.

If you can work around this limitation, Haener is going to run your system like clockwork. People want Stetson Bennett to be this class' Brock Purdy. I think it's Haener.

Evan Hull (RB – Northwestern)

Hull didn't do anything to make you fall out of your seat on Tuesday. But his versatility and play ethos shined throughout the morning session.

He was the smoothest receiving back in Tuesday's practices. Hull has an advanced understanding of route-running for his position, and he has slick, reliable hands.

With the ball in his hands, Hull is underrated. He accelerates quickly, his cuts are sudden, he has good balance, and he has very good vision. He displayed all these traits on Tuesday. Hull gets knocked for lacking open-field speed, but I think he has a decent shot to run in the 4.5s. He's a sleeper prospect to monitor closely the rest of the week.

Dontayvion Wicks (WR – UVA)

Wicks was a revelation in 2021 - posting a 57-1203–9 receiving line - before sharply regressing under a new coaching staff and trying circumstances in 2022.

Wicks' play seemed to torpedo along with his circumstances in 2022. Two areas where this could be seen: Wicks' 23.1% drop rate was among this class' highest, and his 21.4% contested catch rate was amongst its lowest. These were not issues the year before.

Wicks entered the process with intrigue, but unanswered questions on his evaluation. We knew he was a superb route-runner. What about the rest of the profile? Was it closer to the superb 2021 tape? Or the inconsistent tape on a struggling offense from 2022?

On Tuesday, Wicks began his pre-draft redemption process tour.

His famous route-runner ability was not exaggerated. Multiple times, Wicks' deceptions had the effect of getting a defender's cleats stuck in the turf, allowing him to run free by him. And Wicks for at least one day made a case that his elevated drop-rate last season was an aberration.

Nathaniel “Tank” Dell (WR – Houston)

Dell's movement skills really need to be seen in person to be fully appreciated. Between the route-running chops and cheat-code agility, it's impossible to stay with Dell in single coverage. He was destroying corners in one-on-ones.

Dell's slight frame means he's going to get jammed at the line in the NFL. Dell did have a hard time with Julius Brents, but he had good company in that regard - more on that below.

But if you don't stymie Dell off the line, you're in a world of trouble. You're not staying with him downfield without a fistful of jersey.

Dawand Johnes (OT – Ohio State)

During measurements, Jones broke the Senior Bowl's record for longest wingspan - 6'8/375 with an 89.5-inch wingspan. He upped the ante during Tuesday's practices.

Jones was utterly dominant. He's light on his feet for a mountain, and he dictates every interaction with that octopusian reach. You're not running through him, the only option is to try to go around him or cross him up.

Based on what we saw Tuesday: Good luck with that. This guy is going to be a first-round pick.

Daiyon Henley (LB – Washington State)

Henley's a player. I like the way he moves in coverage and reads the quarterback's eyes - he's going to be a pesky cover linebacker at the next level.

And during team drills on Tuesday, multiple times in the run game Henley made the correct decision and met the running back in the hole. We didn't get the best idea for Henley's play strength just because of the constitution of these drills.

On one particular rep, confronting Texas RB Roschon Johnson in the hole, Henley wrapped Johnson at the contact point but let go - it would have been interesting to see who won that interaction at full-go.

Henley is still learning the linebacker position, setting up a big week for him - a golden opportunity to display his progress to evaluators. He passed his first test in that regard.

Julius Brents (CB – Kansas State)

Brents is big, long, and physical. And as we saw Tuesday, oh so feisty.

Receivers had all kinds of problems releasing cleanly off Brents when he lined up in their face in press-coverage. And he surprised me with how sticky he was in space. Brents might have better agility than I was giving him credit for heading in.

We already know that Brents is a strong run defender and a very reliable tackler. To see him stand out in one-on-ones to the degree he did on Tuesday was impressive.

He wasn't perfect - Brents' physicality got him flagged by the docile practice refs on at least one rep, a citation that humorously elicited a Brents yelp in frustration that could be heard around the stadium. Brents' press-man chops, in turn, elicited reactions from the crowd multiple times.

Brents' one-on-ones are must-see TV for the rest of the week. He set a high bar today.

Senior Bowl Day 1 Losers

Jaren Hall (QB – BYU)

Hall had a nightmarish morning session. After measuring in at a disappointing 6'0 1/8 and 211 pounds, Hall's practice session was littered with misfires and bad decisions.

He was an equal-opportunity misser. Early on, we saw him badly short-arm a pass that burned worms in front of an open receiver. For the next 30 minutes, we saw a couple misses high on overthrows, as well as a smattering of poorly placed balls that made his receivers work for it.

Hall had balls batted at the line, a potential concerning trend in lieu of his height. And his decision-making and field vision were further areas of concern. On one particularly egregious interception in team drills, Hall misread the coverage and lolly-popped a ball right into the arms of a waiting defender who didn't have to move to catch it. Facing no pass-rush in one particular individual drill, Hall held the ball way too long, indecisive, and then had it squirt out of his hand as he finally cocked to throw

FantasyPros' Crissy Froyd, who charted Hall's work during the team session, had Hall at 5-for-14 accuracy during that portion. For an exercise heavily tilted towards the offense, this is a particularly poor showing. Haener's completion percentage in his mirrored session on the other side was significantly higher

Though Hall struggled, he did flash the tools that have made him an intriguing developmental possibility. Hall ran the fastest recorded speed of all quarterbacks on the day, clocking 18.13 mph. He also showed plenty of RPMs in his right arm when he threw with a stable base.

But he needs to turn around the rest of it over the next two days.

Chase Brown (RB – Illinois)

Brown had a forgettable day. He was rag-dolled in pass-pro drills, and didn't look very good as a receiver, either, dropping a freebie dump-off from QB Jaren Hall near the end of first session.

A few plays after that, RB Brown stumbled immediately after taking a handoff. Unable to properly secure the ball while regaining his base, Brown fumbled when he got hit.

He does his damage in the second- and third-levels. Today, we didn't get to see as much of his speed. With increased team drills in the coming days, Brown is going to get more chances to find space.

Jake Andrews (iOL – Troy)

Andrews showed some power and tenacity late in his session during one-on-one drills. But earlier in the session, during team drills, his issues transferring the ball to QB Haener essentially derailed the offense's ability to execute clean reps.

The morning session featured at least three fumbles on center-quarterback exchanges between Andrews and Haener. A pair of them occurred out of the shotgun, another one was a botched snap while Haener was under center.

These hiccups were very clearly on Andrews. His shotgun snaps, particularly early, were irregularly, noticeably inaccurate.

Andrews needs to clean up the snapping issues pronto.

Senior Bowl Day 1: Jury out

Cody Mauch (OL – NDSU)

Mauch was a mixed bag on Tuesday.

He shined on reps where his athleticism could take over. Mauch moves very well for his size - perhaps not a big surprise for a former tight end.

But his technique wavers, and he can struggle with power. We saw the latter issue crop up a few times on Tuesday, with Mauch getting driven backwards into the pocket or ending a rep on his back.


Georgia RB Kenny McIntosh was tended to by trainers on the field for several minutes during the afternoon session after suffering an injury while attempting to recover a fumble on a rep.

McIntosh was diagnosed with a calf cramp. We may see him back on the field as early as Wednesday's practices.

Louisville QB Malik Cunningham missed Tuesday's practices with a stomach virus. It's unclear if he will recover quickly enough to be a factor this week.


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