2018 Senior Bowl Preview: South Offense

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RB Rashaad Penny is a player to watch on the South Offense in the 2018 Senior Bowl.

The Senior Bowl week has begun, the final time for these prospects to duke it out on the field before the draft. A lot of hope for these players rests not only in their performance in the game and during the week in practice, but also off the field in the interview portion. To help get ready for the week, I am doing a rundown of every player who is going to be in Mobile, Alabama. The players I am showcasing in these next 4 articles are based on the official rosters as of January 19, 2018. This article will be about the offense for the South team. The game is on January 27, 2018.

Quarterbacks:

Mike White (Western Kentucky): Mike White was someone I was actually graded too low before I began looking harder at Senior Bowl prospects. White, when not under pressure, throws well in the short and intermediate ranges with adequate zip. He’s also a good enough athlete to execute rollouts and the occasional QB run. A lot of White’s problems come when he’s pressured, or when he’s forced to throw to receivers that aren’t wide open. White often breaks down at the sight of pressure rather than attempting to take off or extend plays. When faced with man coverage, White has trouble throwing to receivers because he doesn’t take chances throwing his receivers open, rather waiting until they are wide open, allowing pressure to come. He also fumbles a lot. White looks like he can be a very solid backup QB, and could even be a game manager-type starting QB if he gets better at reading defenses and grows more confident.

Brandon Silvers (Troy): Brandon Silvers entered the year not on my radar, but after Troy’s upset of LSU, I wanted to know more about the team that beat the Tigers on the road at night. Silvers played in Troy’s QB-friendly offense, throwing a lot of passes at or behind the line of scrimmage, but he showed he is not lost when throwing the ball farther down the field. Silvers’ deep accuracy didn’t impress me, and his arm is average, but he commanded the offense well and showed a lot of confidence. He also has good athleticism to make plays with his legs and has the ability to make accurate throws on the move. While nothing really stands out with Silvers, I think he has the makeup of a longtime backup in the NFL.

Kurt Benkert (Virginia): Benkert came into 2017 not on many people’s radar, but he has played himself into draft consideration. I have seen some hype Benkert up as a potential late-3rd/early-4th round pick, however, I don’t see him in this way. Benkert is the stereotypical one-read QB in that if his first read is covered, Benkert rarely has any idea what to do. His first instinct is to immediately bail out of the pocket, no matter the situation, and see if someone gets open. He is athletic enough to make plays on the move, and has a good arm, but this tendency is very worrying. Benkert also has trouble with his footwork in the pocket that often prevents him from hitting even the easiest throws more often than any QB should. Another project QB, Benkert doesn’t have that high of a ceiling for me to regard him as anything more than a 6th/7th round flier.

Kyle Lauletta (Richmond): The usual “small-school” QB prospect, Lauletta hails from FCS-level Richmond. From the type I watched, Lauletta does not look like anything more than a fringe NFL prospect. He doesn’t possess the desired physical traits for an NFL QB, his arm is not good, but he is a decent athlete. Lauletta also has less than desired accuracy that teams want from a starting QB, missing high a lot of times and missing a lot of throws down the field. What he doesn’t lack, however, is passion and confidence. Teams always scour these all-star games for the next Carson Wentz or Jimmy Garoppolo, but Lauletta is not that. Lauletta can possibly carve out a role as an NFL backup, but I don’t see more in his future.

Running Backs:

Rashaad Penny (San Diego State): Penny is the best running back in Mobile this season after two stellar seasons at SDSU. Penny has shown himself to be a complete, three-down back who has the ability to run between the tackles and be dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield. Penny has a fantastic blend of power and speed to go with elite vision that makes the Heisman snub one of the best running backs in the draft. Penny should easily be a top-60 selection, and a great week in Mobile could push him even higher than that.

Ito Smith (Southern Mississippi): Ito Smith is a similar prospect to Akrum Wadley, both in his strengths and his weaknesses. Smith is very elusive, and does a lot of damage in the open field where he is slippery and has the moves the shake defenders. As a receiver, I’d say Smith is better than Wadley in that he runs a more-complex, but still a very simple, route tree and his hands are incredible. Smith is also held back by his size (5’9”, 195) and has trouble running through contact, limiting him to a third down role. Smith and Wadley are the premier third-down backs in Mobile, and both should hear their name on Day-3 of the draft.

Darrel Williams (Louisiana State): Darrel Williams didn’t get much exposure his first 3 years at LSU, playing behind the likes of Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice, but when called upon this season, he played well. Williams is a bigger back (6’1”, 229) and shows good burst through the hole. Williams does lack breakaway speed, however, and won’t often hit the home run, but he is a steady, hard-nosed runner that runs with authority. Williams also showed a lot of value as a receiver this season, compiling 23 receptions for 331 yards (14.4 yards per catch). The biggest knocks on him during the draft process will be his lack of playing time, inconsistent pass blocking, and his lack of straight line speed. Showing he can play special teams in Mobile would give his stock a huge bump, and he could eventually find his way into a rotational role in the NFL.

Fullbacks:

Nick Bawden (San Diego State): San Diego State’s Nick Bawden is the opposite of North fullback Dmitri Flowers. While Flowers is the “new-age” fullback, Bawden is the grinder that does the dirty work in the run game. He has a lot of experience acting as the lead blocker on runs, which he did for two of SDSU’s greatest all-time players (Donnel Pumprey and Rashaad Penny) and has no problem taking defenders head-on. Scouts will look to see how Bawden does as a runner-receiver, as he only had 1 carry and 30 catches in his career at SDSU. Fullbacks are often hard to project in the draft, due to their positional volatility, but Bawden would most likely hear his name mid to late-Day 3 of the draft.

Wide Receivers:

James Washington (Oklahoma State): The winner of the 2017 Fred Biletnikoff Award, James Washington is no stranger to putting up huge numbers, and at around 21 yards per catch, he was one of the premier deep receivers this year. Upon closer examination, scouts have noticed problems with Washington’s game. Washington has average size (6’0”, 205) and is also not as fast or explosive as his stats would indicate. Washington also isn’t the most refined route runner, and he doesn’t have much experience working against press coverage. Where Washington impresses is at the catch point, and getting yards after the catch. Despite his size, Washington consistently attacks the ball and wins those 50-50 balls and showed a pretty good catch radius, often bailing out QB Mason Rudolph. While he probably won’t run past defenders, Washington runs hard and is slippery in the open field. At Mobile, scouts will definitely want to see him work against press in the one-on-one drills and assess his speed vertically against the best senior competition.

Marcell Ateman (Oklahoma State): Marcell Ateman is a stereotypical “big body” receiver in that he uses his massive 6’4”, 220-pound frame to win over smaller and weaker defenders. Ateman uses his frame to his advantage, giving him a large catch radius and allowing him to win 50-50 balls. Much like his teammate Washington, Ateman doesn’t have much experience against man or press coverage, and he doesn’t have the most complete route tree. Ateman also lacks deep speed and the ability to create consistent separation, which could become a big problem in the NFL. If he doesn’t show scouts that he is better at creating separation than he looks on film, he probably won’t have a featured role in an offense, but could be a redzone weapon.

DJ Chark (Louisiana State): DJ Chark is one of my favorite receiver prospects this year, and I am very excited to see how he does in Mobile. Chark is a long, lean, and lanky athlete, listed at 6’4” and 198 pounds, and has elite speed (projected 4.39 40-yard dash). Chark does a better job at making contested catches than I had assumed, he does a great job of getting in position, times his jumps well, and finishes the catch. Chark will be coveted for his speed-size combination as guys his height who can take the job of the defense and make a lot of plays after the catch or as a punt returner. Teams in Mobile should be paying close attention to Chark, because if he plays to his potential, which was held back by Danny Etling and LSU’s offense, he can be an elite deep threat at the next level.

J’Mon Moore (Missouri): J’Mon Moore loves contact. The first thing that jumped out to me on film was he loves to block and that he has great hand technique to get away from man and press coverage. Moore moves well and has the ability to make plays down the field, and did well when asked to make plays after the catch. The biggest knock on him, like many others, is the limited route tree playing in Missouri’s spread offense. I really like Moore, who I didn’t know well coming into this week, but I can see him going Day-2 if all goes right in Mobile.

Tre’Quan Smith (Central Florida): Tre’Quan Smith is the best receiver at beating press coverage that I have seen on film for the Senior Bowl. His physicality is eye-popping, and his strength is apparent when looking at his big body (6’1”, 220). He impressed me with his ability to win at the catch point no matter the coverage, and being tough to bring down after the catch. Smith’s biggest concern is his speed and explosiveness, which aren’t terrible, but are clear downsides to his game.

Javon Wims (Georgia): Also working out at the Shrine Game, Javon Wims is an interesting prospect in that he made a lot of big plays for Georgia, but his production doesn’t match his role. In a Senior Bowl full of long and lanky receiver, add Wims (6’4”, 215) to that group. Wims is a beast at 50-50 balls, with great body control and catch radius, pointing to a potentially elite jumpball receiver. Like many other receivers in Mobile, Wims is on the slower side of the wide receiver spectrum and won’t be a threat after the catch, but his game doesn’t require him to be that. If Wims impresses at both the Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl, he can boost his stock as much as anyone else in this all-start season.                                                                                          (NOTE: Wims will not participate in practice or game due to injury)

Tight Ends:

Jordan Akins (Central Florida): Jordan Akins has had an interesting career. He committed to UCF in 2010 before being drafted in the 3rd round of the MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers. After 3 years playing football at UCF, Akins declared for the draft. Akins impressed me upon initial viewing with his clear athleticism and big-play ability. He has good burst off the line and can beat linebackers up the field. While not being the strongest or biggest guy (6’3”, 237), Akins gives good effort when blocking, but he’s not the best blocker. His blocking ability would be his biggest knock, if not for the fact that he will be 26 by draft night. Akins will really need to impress scouts in Mobile and test through the roof if he wants to be drafted higher, but he is a 5th round talent in my opinion, just the age is such a barrier for many teams.

Adam Breneman (Massachusetts): Another interesting career, Adam Breneman battled a lot of knee injuries in 3 seasons at Penn State before transferring to UMass. Right before he had left Penn State, he served as the campaign manager for Republican Mike Regan for his Pennsylvania senate run in 2016. On the field, Breneman was a highly productive player that impresses as a receiver. Breneman is not going to a be a jumpball master like many other of the TEs in Mobile, but he is athletic enough to get down field and be a decent threat after the catch, and he runs good routes. His blocking is decent at best, and he needs to get a lot stronger if he wants to handle in-line duties in the NFL.

Dallas Goedert (South Dakota State): My highest rated tight end heading into the Senior Bowl, Dallas Goedert is in the mix to be one of the first two TEs off the board. Goedert is a very good athlete, especially for his size (6’5”, 255), showing decent explosion off the line, but he is faster than you would think and runs well after the catch. He played all over the offense for South Dakota State, and he shows crazy receiving ability with his speed, leaping ability, and fantastic hands that haul in almost everything thrown towards him. His blocking is erratic, sometimes dominating the opponent, but he also loses a lot of battles. Scouts in Mobile will want to see him play against better competition, especially in the areas of blocking and separating from man and press coverage.

Ian Thomas (Indiana): While not doing a deep dive into his film, Ian Thomas jumped off on film to me because of his ability as a vertical tight end. He is a great athlete who gets down the field quickly and is explosive out of his breaks. He has good hands, but I didn’t get to see him in many jumpball situations, but his size (6’4”, 250) and athleticism could point to him being good enough in those situations. His blocking is inconsistent and he needs a lot of work in that area, but that isn’t his calling card. He was a JUCO transfer, and didn’t have a lot of production in his two seasons at IU, but he averaged 15 yards per catch. Thomas is one of the more athletic tight ends in Mobile, which could make him standout from the crowd and boost his stock.

Offensive Tackles:

Joe Noteboom (Texas Christian): I really like Joseph Noteboom. I haven’t heard his name thrown around too much when talking about offensive tackles, but he is firmly in that top-10 area. He is an extremely effective pass blocker, with great athleticism and strength to handle both speed and power rushers. He also looked good in run blocking, being able to seal the edge and get to the second level. Noteboom was slated to play in the Shrine Game, but was bumped up to Mobile. This trend of Noteboom moving up should continue with his draft stock, and he could be a top-60 pick by April.

Alex Cappa (Humboldt State): A Division-2 All-American, Alex Cappa was among the finest players at his level of play. At 6’7”, 305-pounds, Cappa overshadowed his opponents and certainly passes the eye test for an NFL offensive tackle, and there is a lot to like about his game. The first thing I saw from Cappa was his ability to finish blocks. He’s strong and plays with a mean streak and will work his hardest to put his man on the ground. He also showed good athleticism by getting to the second level on runs and blocking in space, taking on linebackers and defensive backs. Obviously, his competition level is going to draw a lot of criticism as he was the best, strongest player out there every game he played, so watching him adapt to the Senior Bowl is a must-see. His talent differential also caused some inefficiency in his game, particularly in technique and footwork. Cappa didn’t always drop anchor in pass protection and stood too tall, simply because other players couldn’t move him. He also had trouble with hand placement, in here I saw him, multiple times, go for the defenders shoulders in an attempt to ragdoll him to the ground and whiffing, this won’t fly in the NFL.

Desmond Harrison (West Georgia): Desmond Harrison had a journey to get to where his is now. Harrison played two seasons at Contra Costa community college (2011-2012) before transferring to Texas. He played one season as a reserve for the Longhorns, before leaving the team after two suspensions. He went quiet after that, but resurfaced this season at West Georgia. I actually couldn’t find game tape of Harrison, but I found highlights. Highlights are never the way to go when scouting a player because it’s literally just his best plays put together. So I read up a little bit on him from other sources, and his concerns are nearly universally agreed upon. His highlights show a 6’6”, 313-bound monster with quick feet, fluid mobility, and the strength to rag doll opponents. He looked nasty in the run game, throwing players to the ground. His concerns center around three things: inconsistency, level of competition, and off-field history. West Georgia doesn’t exactly play the best competition, so that will be a point of interest amongst scouts, and he’ll have to really impress in his interviews to make scouts comfortable drafting him with his past issues (failed drug tests) and his age (around 25).

Brandon Parker (North Carolina A&T): Another small-school left tackle, Brandon Parker is one of my favorite linemen I’ve watched for the Senior Bowl. At 6’7”, 309-pounds, Parker has the size to play in the NFL, and he backs that up with strength and athleticism. I was very impressed with Parker’s speed and agility when getting down the field or pulling. He is a beast in the run game, opening big holes and finishing his blocks well. I saw some inconsistencies in his pass blocking, his feet need refining and his technique varies from play to play. Scouts in Mobile will love Parker’s physical traits and natural leadership, and he will be monitored closely against the better competition. I wouldn’t be surprised if Parker goes in the late-3rd round after all is said and done.

Offensive Guards:

Taylor Hearn (Clemson): Taylor Hearn won’t wow anyone with his physical abilities, but he is a solid, well-rounded player. His play strength is good, but he never really overpowered defenders or got overpowered himself. He can function as a pulling guard and get into the second level, but you’ll never see him far down the field. Hearn can hang his hat on this consistency and his winning pedigree coming from Clemson.

Isaiah Wynn (Georgia): Isaiah Wynn is a stud. Georgia’s left tackle will be moved inside for his NFL future due to his size/length (6’2”, 302), but he is a day-one starter in the league. Facing some of the best edge talent in college football, Wynn showed great pass blocking traits. Wynn is athletic and can stop speed rushers quickly, and he drops anchor very well and stops all rushers in their tracks. In the run game, he stays low to the ground and powers through defenders to get to the second level. Wynn can play himself into first round consideration, in my opinion, if he continues to play as well as he has, especially at guard.

Skyler Phillips (Idaho State): A small-school prospect with an unfortunate backstory, the former three-star recruit had his scholarship to Oregon State pulled last minute, so he went to ISU and became a four-year starter. Phillips is strong and packs a big punch. He is nasty in both the run pass games, often putting guys on their backs with his strength. The problems I have with his game comes with pulls/blocking in space and consistency. Phillips has the athleticism to effectively pull and block in space, but he missed a lot of blocks when the defender is not right in front of him. He looks tentative and sometimes lost in space, which hurts him a lot. He also had inconsistency, more so in pass blocking, with staying engaged with his blocks. Too often he would either not get good initial hand placement, or he would disengage and get beaten by defenders. Against the better competition, Phillips will hope to show scouts that he is worth a mid to late-round draft pick.

Colby Gossett (Appalachian State): Colby Gossett reminds me of Skyler Phillips. A small-school player that packs a punch and has the athleticism to get to the second-level, but lacks the consistency to be a plug-and-play starter. Gossett finished a lot of nice plays in the run game, but he takes bad angles and has problems engaging defenders in space. Gossett also isn’t that flexible, and isn’t the best lateral mover, making him a decent puller, despite his speed/explosion. Gossett has the tools to be a good NFL guard, and is definitely worth a day-3 selection.

Centers:

Austin Corbett (Nevada): Another college left tackle being moved inside, Austin Corbett impressed me upon film study. Corbett struggled with speed on the outside, but when his footwork doesn’t fail him, he showed good technique and the ability to drop anchor. In the run game is where Corbett makes his money: sealing the edge, driving defenders off the line of scrimmage, and getting to the next level. I also like how he finished plays when his technique was on point. He might be inconsistent, but I’m very interested to see more of Corbett now that he’s being moved inside, and he appears to be a potential day-2 selection with room to grow.

Bradley Bozeman (Alabama): Alabama offensive linemen have always been an interesting evaluation to me. The group as a whole is so good that it becomes difficult to single out one because they all gel perfectly. Bozeman has NFL size (6’5”, 319) and the intelligence at the center position to be an NFL starter. I think he loses his one-on-ones too often to back up his pedigree; oftentimes he doesn’t play with enough fire and gets overpowered. This happens both in the run and pass games, causing a lot of QB pressures. Bozeman also isn’t that athletic, making it hard for him to get to the second level. Bozeman will most likely be a 6th/7th round selection because of his background at Alabama, but until he plays to his size, he won’t be a high-level starter.

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