2018 Senior Bowl Preview: North Offense

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QB Baker Mayfield is a player to watch on the North 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 North team. The game is on January 27, 2018.

Quarterbacks:

Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma): The best prospect in Mobile this year is Oklahoma’s Heisman-winning QB. The hyper-accurate Mayfield represents a controversial subject surrounding QBs: if a QB displays plus traits in every facet of the game, does it matter if they don’t have prototypical size? If you ask me, a QB’s height doesn’t matter if, like Mayfield, he has the arm, accuracy, mental processing, etc. necessary to play in the NFL. Mayfield is also famous for his competitive fire that gets him “in trouble” with the media, like when he made a crotch-grabbing gesture against a dirty Kansas team or when he planted the OU flag on Ohio State’s home field. On the field, however, his competitiveness gives him an edge in that no one wants to win more, or will do more to win than he does. Mayfield’s biggest problems to me are that he holds on to the ball way too long trying to make a play, something he really needs to work on, and that he throws off his backfoot too often, which causes him to lose velocity and underthrow deep balls. Mayfield is a top 10 lock and the 2nd best QB in the class behind UCLA’s Josh Rosen, and a strong week in Mobile playing for the Denver Broncos’ staff could make him a sure fire top 5 selection.

Josh Allen (Wyoming): Arguably the most polarizing prospect in this draft class, Josh Allen represents the other side of the Mayfield argument: if a prospect has the prototypical size and physical traits (arm strength, athleticism, etc.), but lacks the mental side of football, is it worth the risk to take them high? In my opinion, Allen is best suited as a Day-3 developmental prospect, but he is projected by many to go in the first round. Allen stands at 6’5” 240 and is a great athlete, capable of making big plays with his legs, however, Allen is highly inaccurate and has very little nuance to his game. He misses easy throws too much to be a high pick, and while he makes the jaw-dropping throw every once in a while, he also makes way too many bad decisions with the football for me to be comfortable with. If he goes somewhere he doesn’t have to play for at least 2 seasons, he might develop into an NFL starter, but he’s a major project.

Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State): Mason Rudolph is an interesting prospect in that I, and many others, have mixed feeling about him. He gets a lot of help playing in Oklahoma State’s QB-friendly offense and got to throw to two NFL receivers (James Washington and Marcell Ateman). His arm is not the best, but it is definitely serviceable, but he struggles with ball placement on many of his passes, getting bailed out many times by the great talent around him. However, Rudolph is a consistent thrower to all areas of the field and was good when pressured. Speaking of pressure, two things Rudolph is bad at are escaping pressure by getting outside the pocket and throwing on the move. On one hand, Rudolph leaves a lot to be desired, especially with ball placement and underthrown deep passes, but his consistency and accuracy to all levels makes him enticing. If all goes right for Rudolph, he can really elevate his stock in Mobile and be an early Day-2 selection come draft night.                                                              (NOTE: Rudolph will not participate in practice or game due to injury)

Luke Falk (Washington State): Luke Falk is a big name who put up some absolutely bonkers stats in his four seasons at Washington State. Behind his stats, we find a very average QB prospect. Falk was very accurate within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, but struggled throwing to other areas of the field, and in other areas of the game. Falk will never have a good arm, he has one of the worst in the draft, but he does have good touch on his passes that help him get passes over linebackers and safeties. Falk has reputation as a rhythm passer, in that he throws well when in a groove, but he only does this if his first read is open. Falk has issues with pass rush in that he is oblivious to defenders, causing him to take a lot more sacks than he should, and he doesn’t have the athleticism to escape from the pocket. Falk also doesn’t progress through his reads well, and is easily baited by defenses into making poor throws/decisions. Falk probably has backup QB in his future, but if a team expects him to become a starter, I think they’ll be sorely mistaken.

Tanner Lee (Nebraska): A late add due to Rudolph’s injury, Tanner Lee is a draft eligible junior who felt that he had done all he could to help his stock. Lee has the body type NFL teams want at QB (6’4”, 220) and has a good arm, but he doesn’t do the little things well, from what little I have seen from him. He makes bad decisions with throwing the ball into double coverage a lot, he has the tendency to stare his receivers down, and he has below-average accuracy, and adding pressure only exacerbates issues. At Mobile, Lee would hope to show that he was held back by a lack of talent at Nebraska and that he is a viable late-round flier with some upside.

Running Backs:

Kevin Ballage (Arizona State): Kevin Ballage is an interesting prospect in that his size (6’3” 220) and athleticism should make him a slam dunk top prospect. However, a glaring lack of production and inconsistent play make him a boom-or-bust prospect. Ballage has plays/games where he looks like the next David Johnson, showing a blend of size, speed, power, and receiving ability that is matched by very few players in the league, then he’ll lay an egg by looking sluggish and being tackled easier than someone his size should be. I don’t know if it’s a conditioning issue because, at times, he looked gassed in Arizona State’s hurry-up offense, but if a team is betting on his elite size, athleticism, and receiving talent, they can hit a home run with a talent like Ballage. It also seems, like most players his size, Ballage needs to get going before he reaches his max speed (around 23 mph), which is utterly ridiculous when you look at him. I’m comfortable with Ballage around the mid to late-3rd round as of right now, which would be an absolute steal if he puts it together.

Jaylen Samuels (North Carolina State): Jaylen Samuels is one of the most intriguing prospects this year because of his versatility, and ability to play each position well. In his time at NCST, Samuels was used as a running back, outside receiver, slot receiver, tight end, fullback, and kick returner. He is a “jack of all trades, master of none” prospect in that while he does well at every position, he doesn’t exactly excel at any one spot. I’d be very surprised to only see him work with the running back group in Mobile, and his versatility will get him a lot of praise throughout the process. I expect him to be a Day-3 selection come April, but some see higher projections in his future.

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:

Dmitri Flowers (Oklahoma): Another jack-of-all-trades player, Dmitri Flowers is the perfect modern fullback. He can run the ball well, but his prowess comes as a receiver. Listed at 6’2”, 247, Flowers has the ability to stretch the filed vertically, averaging 16.2 yards per catch in his career. If you get Flowers matched up with a creative offensive playcaller, he can be an invaluable weapon, think Kyle Juszczyk with Kyle Shanahan or Aaron Hernandez in New England. Teams in Mobile will definitely like to see how Flowers performs as a lead blocker like a traditional fullback, something he didn’t do a lot at Oklahoma. Flowers is a great prospect for the modern NFL, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go late on Day-2 of the draft.

Wide Receivers:

Braxton Berrios (Miami): Braxton Berrios is the grittiest lunch pail carrier in Mobile this year. Jokes aside, Berrios fits the mold as the average slot-receiver, standing at 5’9” and weighing 186 pounds. Berrios’ calling card is his toughness and good hands, with the ability to win with quickness instead of speed. Berrios also showed value as a punt returner for the Hurricanes, scoring one touchdown and averaging 13 yards the last two seasons. Berrios’ limitations stem from his size and lack of strength. He will be stuck in the slot role because of his height and lack of deep speed, and also his inability to consistently win against outside corners. Also, a lack of production (1166 yards and 9 touchdowns in 4 years) will draw the questioning from evaluators and his rawness and inexperience will play big factors in the draft process.

Michael Gallup (Colorado State): Michael Gallup is one of the most talked about receivers on #DraftTwitter because of his fluidity, body-control, and ability to seemingly catch everything thrown his direction. Watching the tape, his body control does stand out, as well as his ability to make tough catches thanks to his strong hands. Where Gallup needs to get better is winning his one-on-ones against man and press coverage, and getting separation. He lacks speed and explosiveness, meaning he needs to be extremely refined in his route running and ability to get separation through other means than pure speed.

Allen Lazard (Iowa State): Allen Lazard is similar to North Wide Receiver Marcell Ateman in that his calling card is using his large frame (6’5”, 222) to make contested catches. Watching some of his most impressive catches, you would see an elite redzone threat who can box out and win against anyone. Outside of highlights, Lazard is very inconsistent and not as athletic as teams want from an outside receiver. Lazard doesn’t win at the catch point as much as he should for his size, nor does he jump as high as a team would like from a redzone threat. Lazard looks slow and has trouble getting separation, and lacks explosion out of his breaks. Much like Ateman, if Lazard shows these same traits at the Senior Bowl, Lazard’s career trajectory is mostly being used as a redzone receiver, like Saints’ WR Brandon Coleman.

Justin Watson (Pennsylvania): A late addition from the Shrine Game, Penn star Justin Watson is arguably the best player in Penn history, ranking 1st in receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, all-purpose yards, and 2nd in total touchdowns. There surprisingly wasn’t much available film of him, but in what I saw, I saw a potential priority free agent. Watson is 6’2”, 215, and is a decent athlete with average explosion. He played multiple spots for the Quakers and was productive against the lower competition. Teams will get their second week of viewing with Watson to decide if he’s a player they can work with thanks to his pedigree and abilities, either as a receiver or special teamer, but he needs to show out on the big stage again.

Jaleel Scott (New Mexico State): One of my favorite receivers in this class, Jaleel Scott is a monster. Standing at 6’6” and 215-pounds, Scott is bigger than almost every defender he’s ever gone against. He also has great leaping ability and strong hands to pull down jumpballs. Scott isn’t the most refined player, he needs to work on his route running and continue improving his technique, but he has every tool in the book to be great. Scouts will want to see how he performs against elite competition and evaluate his speed because he looks fast for his size on tape, but he doesn’t look like a burner. Expect him to rise a lot this week.

Cedrick Wilson (Boise State): A guy I was higher on at the start of the year as opposed to now, Cedrick Wilson is another lanky receiver who can win down the field. Wilson has good footwork off the line of scrimmage and in his routes that allow him to get separation easier. When he doesn’t get separation, Wilson still does a good job of coming down with the ball through contact. What I knock Wilson on is despite his knack for making big plays down the field, he doesn’t have the best speed vertically and has trouble separating down the field, and he also doesn’t attack the ball in the air with authority. He also looks like he lacks functional strength, making him a subpar blocker. He also has trouble beating press coverage against stronger corners, and he’s easy to tackle, meaning he won’t be much of a danger after the catch. Scouts in Mobile will definitely want to see Wilson be more of a threat after the catch, and see his strength against bigger corners.

Tight Ends:

Tyler Conklin (Central Michigan): Tyler Conklin is an interesting prospect in that he is used as a “move TE” due to his smaller size (6’4”, 240), but he doesn’t appear that athletic. Conklin makes his name as a more nuanced receiver in that he doesn’t win with speed, but rather movement skills and route running. He also has strong hands and makes a lot of highlight-reel catches. I liked him a lot as a blocker, even though he rarely lined up on the line of scrimmage, but he did a lot of blocking ins space. His lack of athleticism could show up on his testing numbers, but he finds ways to win and that will translate. Scouts will want to see Conklin’s speed up close in Mobile and see how he fares against the better competition.

Troy Fumagalli (Wisconsin): Troy Fumagalli is a very well-rounded prospect, but nothing stands out. I like Fumagalli’s blocking ability, both in pass protection and in the run game, and he plays with strength. He also has strong hands and a large catch radius thanks to his 6’6”, 248-pound frame. However, he is an average athlete and doesn’t have great vertical speed or explosiveness off the line. What you get is what you see with Fumagalli, both the good and the bad, and teams will need to determine whether they like his high floor and low ceiling more than another TE with more upside, but I like Fumagalli as a Day-3 selection.

Mike Gesicki (Penn State): Mike Gesicki is one of my favorite tight ends in this class because of his ability to create mismatches all over the defense. He has elite size (6’6”, 252) and great athleticism and explosiveness. The former basketball star jumps out the gym, which allows him to be a jumpball beast. He also has explosion off the line of scrimmage and good speed for how big he is, allowing him to beat linebackers vertically. Teams will love Gesicki’s receiving talents, but they will hate his blocking ability. By far the biggest knock on Gesicki, is the fact that he is one of the worst blocking TEs in the draft. He also doesn’t do as much after the catch as you would like to see from a guy his size. He is limited him to purely a slot TE role until he gets better at blocking, but even his talent at slot TE is tantalizing, and scouts will love to get their hands on him in Mobile.

Durham Smythe (Notre Dame): Durham Smythe is the best blocker in Mobile this year and, despite his low production, he has the tools to be a bigger receiving threat in the pros than at the college level. He has the speed to get vertical and the ability to make catches away from his body, he just wasn’t used very often in a hampered pass offense, similar to Iowa’s George Kittle from last season. I have only seen three games from Smythe, but I really like what I see. In Mobile, scouts will definitely be interested in seeing these presumed receiving skills in a more open light.

Offensive Tackles:

Cole Madison (Washington State): Cole Madison blocked for one of the most pass happy offenses in the country, but I have a lot of questions about his game. Madison is inconsistent with his set, and gets thrown off his base way too often. He doesn’t drop anchor and gets walked back to the QB, or he just gets overpowered off the snap. He also lacks the agility to consistently shut down speed rushers. His run blocking is somewhat better, he plays with more confidence, but he still lacks power and athleticism to consistently win.

Brian O’Neill (Pittsburgh): One of my favorite linemen in the draft, I’m very excited to see more Brian O’Neill in Mobile. The converted tight end has light feet and great mobility that allows him to mirror rushers and not get hung up on speed. He also has the power to hang with the strongest of rushers as well. I do want to see him play with more authority in the run game, however, because for every nice finish he has a play or two where he doesn’t fire off the ball and gets pushed back and/or beaten. His flexibility and movement skills cannot be taught, and if he adds weight to his 6’6”, 305-pound frame, he can creep up into the end of the 1st round or the early-2nd round.

Tyrell Crosby (Oregon): A 43-game starter at left tackle for Oregon, Tyrell Crosby looks like a perfect candidate to make the move to right tackle for the NFL. Crosby is a mauler in the run game, busting open holes with his strength and technique, and finishes plays very well. He does a good job in pass protection by keeping a strong base and working well with hand placement. Crosby is only an average athlete, and has trouble getting out in space and can get caught off guard by speedy edge defenders. There is a lot to like about Crosby’s game and his experience and leadership will stand out in interviews as he continues his climb up draft boards.

Brett Toth (Army): Playing in Army’s triple-option attack, Brett Toth was a tough evaluation. Toth often played as a blocking tight end in addition to playing right tackle, and he showed a lot of athleticism. I would say that is Toth’s best trait because he was often sprinting down the field and blocking defenders. He rarely pass blocked and was shaky when he was forced into those situations, and he never really latched onto players in the run game. At 6’6, 305”, Toth is lean and could use some more weight to his frame to add some power. In Mobile, Toth needs to show that he can pass block despite not being asked to and that he can handle the power of NFL-level edge rushers.

Jamil Demby (Maine): A late addition thanks to Chukwuma Okorafor dropping out, Jamil Demby is the North’s side only small-school offensive lineman. Much like South Team OT Desmond Harrison, I couldn’t find any of Demby’s film just highlights. To reiterate, highlights are never the way to go when scouting a player because it’s literally just his best plays put together. Demby overpowered the lower competition and this is his big chance to show out for scouts and make himself some money either as a late-round pick or a priority free agent.

Offensive Guards:

Wyatt Teller (Virginia Tech): Wyatt Teller is a mean dude. When Virginia Tech runs the ball, Teller fires off the line and attacks the defender. He has a thick body and huge arms, using his strength to move defenders like it’s nothing and open holes for the back. His pass blocking isn’t as strong because he has technical issues taking on defenders as opposed to attacking them. He drops his head a lot and doesn’t have the best hand placement. Teller has a place as a starter in a run-first offense from day one, but his pass protection needs cleanup before he can be well-rounded enough to function in any offense. Late day-2 doesn’t seem like a stretch for Teller if he kills it in Mobile and has a good rest of the pre-draft process.

Will Hernandez (Texas-El Paso): A big, hulking monster of a player, Will Hernandez is one of the best linemen in the draft, and the best one in Mobile. An absolute mauler in the run game, Hernandez rarely loses his one-on-ones and moves defenders out of the way easily. He finishes like a beast and will embarrass many defensive linemen in the process. I was surprised with how athletic he is for his massive size (6’3”, 330), being able to pull and get down the field, block in space, and have quick lateral movement skills. Arguably the second best interior lineman after Quenton Nelson, Hernandez is a first rounder in my opinion, and could solidify that status with a good performance in Mobile.

Sean Welsh (Iowa): Sean Welsh is another great guard prospect in Mobile this year. Much like other Iowa linemen, Welsh has the versatility to play both guard spots and has experience at right tackle, which is an instant boost to his value. I like his consistency as a run and pass blocker, rarely missing assignments and providing solid play at both guard spots. He sits in that mid-round range due to not being the most athletically gifted player, but he’s experienced and consistent which will help him greatly in the draft process. I’m interested to see if he works out at center in Mobile, which would boost his stock even more.

Centers:

Mason Cole (Michigan): Michigan’s ironman, a nickname given because of his streak of 51 consecutive starts, Mason Cole played both center and left tackle, but projects best at center. Cole is a stout player who plays with a lot of strength inside, as opposed to outside where he struggled to beat edge rushers one-on-one. He gets great leverage and finishes well in the run game on the inside, and has an easier time stopping defensive lineman from getting to the QB. Cole’s stock took a hit this season playing out of position, but I still think he’s one of the best centers in the class who should still go on day-2. A great performance in Mobile will remind people that Cole is a lot better than his 2017 tape would suggest, and his stock will rise again.

Scott Quessenberry (UCLA): Scott Quessenberry had up and down film that I watched in preparation for the Senior Bowl. There were reps he had against Greg Gaines (Washington DT) where he stopped the man in his tracks with a good anchor, but the majority of his snaps against Gaines and Vita Vea (future first round pick) showed him being overpowered and walked back into the pocket. Same could be said about his tape in the run game, he gets overpowered too often, he doesn’t lose engagement, but he gets pushed back too far. Quessenberry needs to show he can handle power in Mobile if he wants to be anything more than a late-round pick/priority free agent.

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