Thor Nystrom’s Senior Bowl Day 2 Practice Recap (2023)
The second full day of Senior Bowl practices is in the books, and there’s a lot to unpack from the first couple of days 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.
- 2023 Senior Bowl Guide
- 2023 Senior Bowl Preview: Offense
- 2023 Senior Bowl Preview: Defense
- 2023 Senior Bowl Primer: Dynasty Rookies to Know
- Senior Bowl QB Rankings, Breakdowns & Team Fits
- Senior Bowl RB Rankings, Breakdowns & Team Fits
Check out all of our 2023 NFL Draft Scouting Reports & Prospect Profiles >>
Senior Bowl Day 2 Winners
Jake Haener (QB – Fresno State)
Haener had another good day at the office on Wednesday in Mobile.
His advanced footwork in particular shined on Wednesday in comparison to the undisciplined bases of other signal-callers at the event. Haener is a clockwork performer – steady, consistent, no surprises. He’s been the most impressive quarterback at the event through two days by margin.
One thing I need to mention – Haener’s arm is stronger than advertised. It’s not a howitzer. Let’s get that out of the way. But it’s not a wet noodle, either.
Reminds me in some ways of Bailey Zappe from last year’s Senior Bowl. We could tell from the first practice session that Zappe’s arm had more zip than we’d been led to believe. Same case with Haener.
Haener’s stock is rising. His tape is strong — he’s one of this classes’ most decorated signal-callers. In this process – one where more quarterbacks decided to return to school due to NIL incentives – Haener could ultimately soar higher on the draft board than currently anticipated.
Somebody is going to have to fill in that Tier 3 behind consensus top-4 QBs Bryce Young, CJ Stroud, Will Levis, and Anthony Richardson. Haener is making a strong argument to be included in the shortlist behind those guys.
As I wrote yesterday, Haener is the best candidate to be this class’ Brock Purdy.
Fresno State QB Jake Haener with a nice deep connection to Stanford WR Michael Wilson during one-on-one drills #SeniorBowl #TheDraftStartsInMOBILE pic.twitter.com/uhfdTKDa0k— Mike Maher (@mikeMaher) February 1, 2023
Evan Hull (RB – Northwestern)
Another day, another impressive showing from Hull. He opens eyes in the subtle areas. Today, one of those was in the pass-pro drills. Hull stood out in a group that didn’t seem to bring as much enthusiasm to the work as he was.
Hull’s lateral burst to the outside was more apparent on Wednesday. Hull was quickly deciphering the lack of run lanes in team drills, immediately flattening down the line of scrimmage, and bursting around the edge. This is something that can be seen on film.
Hull appears to be a details guy who works on every aspect of the game and doesn’t meet a detail too small to tackle on the side for improvement. He’s ingratiating himself to coaches by being the runner in attendance most enthusiastic to end reps by sprinting upfield for 30 yards until the whistle coaxes him back.
Derius Davis (WR – TCU)
Davis is an undersized speed merchant who has showed strong, sudden footwork running routes this week. Two other areas that have drawn praise: His hands when balls are on target, and Davis’ body control, which has particularly stood out on throws towards the sidelines or in the end zone.
Jonathan Mingo (WR – Ole Miss)
Mingo’s route-running chops have been better than advertised. He’s a big, strapping receiver who is impossible to bump off his route plan. Mingo consistently wins the hand-fighting battle downfield, which can sometimes free him in space.
He’s shown in Mobile to have varied plans for his routes, and has created a bit of separation with routes — a big development, because he isn’t shaking anyone with athleticism at the next level.
Mingo’s athletic testing isn’t likely to impress in Indianapolis. On tape, he has heavy feet. Through his work in Mobile, he’s gotten ahead of that narrative by suggesting to evaluators that he’s a better technician than he was given credit for with the Rebels.
Tank Dell (WR – Houston)
Dell is shaking people out of their shoes one-on-one drills. I don’t want to belabor the point, because I’ve written and spoken about him multiple times this week. But he’s a natural separator who is an unfair assignment in one-on-one drills.
On Wednesday, Dell had his jersey grabbed after burning the corner in those drills multiple times. For the second-straight day, he’s a riser.
Jay Ward (DB – LSU)
I wasn’t as high on Ward coming into the week. I wondered if he was a tweener who didn’t have the athleticism to play corner, or the size or strength to handle safety at the next level – the position LSU shifted him to last season.
But Ward has flashed advanced coverage skills during one-on-one drills. During those portions of practice, he looks more like the corner he spent years as than the safety he recently converted into.
Ward’s draft stock will surge if he’s viewed as a hybrid safety who has cornerback coverage chops. He’s doing a better job of making that case to evaluators than I had assumed he would through the mid-way point of this year’s Senior Bowl.
Jammie Robinson (S – FSU)
Robinson is very pesky in coverage. As with Ward above, Robinson is one of the few safeties at this event who can pass for a cornerback in one-on-one drills with the receivers.
Robinson is one of the event’s highest-rated players. Coverage chops were one reason for that. I wanted to pass along an intangible aspect that I observed at practices. Robinson is very clearly a student of the game.
He’s one of those players who consistently seeks out coaching between drills— those few minutes when players are migrating to other areas of the field for their next assignment. During those moments, you’ll often see Robinson hang back after having approached a coach for points on his most-recent reps.
Not a bad trait to have for a guy as physically talented as Robinson is.
Senior Bowl Day 2 Losers
Malik Cunningham (QB – Louisville)
Cunningham had his first practice session — and struggled. His accuracy was poor, his arm didn’t impress, and he had balls batted at the line. He’s hoping for better on Thursday.
Chase Brown (RB – Illinois)
Brown was a little better in pass-pro drills on Wednesday than the day before, but he still didn’t impress. Meanwhile, Brown ontinued to languish in receiving drills, seemingly incapable of creating separation.
In one-on-ones, defenders were consistently getting hands on balls thrown to him and crowding catch points when they weren’t.
Ronnie Bell (WR – Michigan)
Bell has been struggling to wrangle in balls. He had multiple drops on balls that hit him on the hands. He moves well and looks the part, but drops have been an issue in Mobile. They must be cleaned up in Thursday’s session.
Elijah Higgins (WR/TE – Stanford)
Higgins has struggled in Mobile. He feels like a tweener.
He is lumbering and stiff for a perimeter receiver. Higgins has languished to gain any separation whatsoever in one-on-one drills.
And for a guy who struggles to separate, Wilson doesn’t appear to have dominant balls skills or body usage with that big frame downfield. He entered the week trying to prove he could be a matchup problem at the next level at his size.
Currently, he’s making a much stronger argument that he’s a tweener that’s caught between the boundary WR/big slot positions.
Wanya Morris (OT – Oklahoma)
Morris had a regrettable stretch late in Wednesday’s team session, getting licked around the edge for immediate penetration on multiple reps. Another prospect searching for more rep-to-rep consistency on Thursday.
Tyrique Stevenson (CB – Miami)
Stevenson had an extremely impressive showing in one-on-ones on Tuesday. Wednesday was more of an adventure during the same portion of practices.
One particular stretch of Wednesday’s practice neatly encapsulated questions about Stevenson’s movement skills.
On one rep, Stevenson had to grab a fistful of Princeton WR Andrei Iosivas’ jersey to prevent getting burnt like toast. Stevenson then got burnt over-the-top by South Alabama’s Jalen Wayne not long afterwards.
Thursday is his opportunity for redemption in the rubber-match of sorts for his weekly report card.
Senior Bowl Day 2: Jury out
Tyson Bagent (QB – Shepherd)
Similarly to Tuesday, Bagent was extremely inconsistent. He’s shown he belongs at the event rom a talent-perspective. And he is getting more comfortable each rep. But you can tell he still hasn’t totally settled in yet.
Bagent was checking down more than you’d like in team sessions – this didn’t stick out too egregiously, simply because Wednesday’s session was filled with checkdowns from the other quarterbacks as well. But it’s worth noting.
But we also have to mention, encouragingly, that we saw multiple instances of Bagent going to his secondary- and tertiary-reads if his first option wasn’t available on Wednesday. This was something he rarely had to do at the D-2 level, so it’s good to see him beginning that work.
His best throws this week, you’d put up with the best throws made by any quarterback for the day. Bagent’s arm is solid – he doesn’t have a noodle. But too often, he misfired on simple see-it, rip-it throws. Including in drills with no pass-rush, from a sound throwing base. Perhaps those came from residual nerves.
I’m going to hold out through Thursday’s practices – and scrounge around for more game film of him after I return home – before making a determination if the accuracy inconsistency is endemic to his game, or early-week Mobile jitters.
Max Duggan (QB – TCU)
Duggan might have the strongest arm of the quarterback participants in Mobile. Zebra Tracking had him as having thrown the furthest ball on Tuesday. Not only have Duggan’s deep-balls looked more pro-like than his contemporaries, but he gets admirable RPMs on the ball when driving it up the seam.
Further, I think it’s possible that Duggan may have even more throwing power to unlock with improved mechanics. He doesn’t generate as much power from his lower-half as other throwers because of a tendency to throw flat-footed.
From the perspectives of arm talent and leadership, Duggan has drawn praise this week. But those things weren’t questions on his evaluation – they’re clear strengths, and it’s not a surprise they’re drawing attention in Mobile.
But Duggan’s weaknesses also continue to be on display. His accuracy has been come-and-go, he’s still not coming off DOA-options quickly enough, and he may be too eager to drop his eyes and check down when his primary option isn’t available.
Duggan’s work on Thursday will be closely monitored.
Clayton Tune (QB – Houston)
Tune has been steady, if a bit overly conservative. He hasn’t made the mental mistakes some of the other quarterbacks have, and his reps generally end in a profit.
But Tune’s penchant to check-down drew grumbles from the media throng on a few different occasions on Wednesday.
What I’d like to see on Thursday: Tune taking more chances downfield and into tight windows. It’s not something his tape was littered with, and he’s shied away in practices thus far – I want to see him let ‘er rip on Thursday.
SaRodorick Thompson (RB – Texas Tech)
Up-and-down first day of practices after Thompson was added to the roster late-day Tuesday. He joined the festivities following the broken hand suffered by Texas RB Roschon Johnson in Tuesday’s session.
First, the bad. Thompson got trucked in pass-pro drills on Wednesday. But we can give him the caveat of the quick turnaround to that morning’s practice. Thompson was a decent blocker at Tech.
I liked his movement skills on campus, and Thompson moved around well on the practice field in Mobile on Wednesday. Looked solid in his receiving work during team drills, finding open grass and posting up to announce himself as a dump-off option for his quarterback.
From what I saw, Thompson was perfect in his receiving opportunities on Wednesday. He wasn’t doing anything dynamic down the field, and was being used as a dump-off option – but he still did solid work in this area.
The late-week addition to the roster has an Intriguing physical skillset and is worth monitoring for the rest of the event.
Julius Brents (CB – KSU)
We noticed Brents moving with a slight limp at some point during Wednesday’s session. It was unclear to the party I was sitting around when and how Brents picked that up.
The malady wasn’t enough to get him off the practice field. But it did hinder Brents a bit — he was noticeably lit up by Ole Miss WR Jonathan Mingo during one-on-ones.
Of course, Brents was destined to have some level of drop-off from the show he put on Tuesday in one-on-ones. We’ll see what we get from his Thursday – and if his movement appears to be back closer to 100-percent after appearing to be slightly hobbled today.
Senior Bowl Day 2 News and Notes
Tulane RB Tyjae Spears, outlined above in the winner’s section, spoke with Crissy Froyd and I on Wednesday morning about how he’s gained weight since the season ended for the pre-draft process. Spears, who was listed this past season at 195 pounds, said he played the bowl game against USC at 197 pounds. He said he put on the extra seven pounds to get him to his Senior Bowl weigh-in number of 204 over the past four weeks in training.
Tulane RB Tajae Spears was listed at (5’11)/195 lbs — he surprised by weighing in at #SeniorBowl at (5’10)/204— Thor Nystrom (@thorku) February 1, 2023
Spears told us that he played bowl game vs USC at 197 pounds — then gained the other 7 lbs in training past 4 weeks
He looks good, and the on-field explosion remains pic.twitter.com/m1OeP6SKvO
BYU WR Puka Nacua was an unannounced absence from Wednesday’s practice. As of publication Wednesday evening, the Senior Bowl has not addressed that. We are not aware of any injury he suffered during Tuesday’s practice session. Every year, players who feel comfortable about their draft stock pull out of the event mid-week. It’s possible that this is what Nacua has done. It’s also possible his participation Wednesday was compromised by something else that hasn’t been announced, like a stomach bug, which brings us to our next item…
Louisville QB Malik Cunningham, who missed Tuesday’s session with a stomach virus and wasn’t sure if he would be able to participate this week, returned on Wednesday as a full-go participant in practice. This development certainly wasn’t assured after Cunningham wasn’t spotted at the media breakfast Wednesday morning.
Speaking of good news on the roster front, Georgia RB Kenny McIntosh was back at practice on Wednesday looking no worse for the wear after suffering a calf strain during Tuesday’s session.
Texas Tech RB SaRodorick Thompson replaced the injured Roschon Johnson on Wednesday’s roster. Johnson has been ruled out for the remainder of the event.
Following Thompson’s whirlwind travel day, he measured into the event at 5’11” 1/2, 214 pounds, with a 77” 1/4 wingspan. Thompson’s high-end comp is a bigger JaMycal Hasty. He moves well and has some versatility to his game.
But he’s an unrefined prospect who never made the star-turn at Tech. So evaluators will keep a close eye on him with another extended-look opportunity on Thursday.
OT Cody Mauch told me on Wednesday morning that he gained 85 pounds since signing with the Bison by taking advantage of NDSU’s all-you-can-eat meal plans. Turns out, the guy loves stromboli from the dining hall.
I asked OT Cody Mauch how he gained 85 pounds after walking on at NDSU as a TE.— Thor Nystrom (@thorku) February 1, 2023
Long story short: He destroyed NDSU’s all-you-can-eat dining plan. And he’s a big Stromboli guy. pic.twitter.com/ccmy0B7AMW
Check out all of our 2023 NFL Draft Scouting Reports & Prospect Profiles >>
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