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Senior Bowl practice wrap … Its an off day at the Senior Bowl in Mobile as the players get a day to rest up for tomorrow’s game which kicks off at 2:30 PM ET on the NFL Network. In fact, as we have noted in the past, the main work at the Senior Bowl are the practices. Indeed, most NFL personnel people made a bee line out of Mobile yesterday afternoon at the end of the late afternoon session. And again, one doesn’t want to read a whole lot into what happens during all-star game practices. Its only three days and there was no tackling in Mobile this week. Still impressions are formed and after going over what tape we could get our hands and talking to sources its clear that some players did stand out from the crowd in Mobile this week.
And based what we saw and are hearing the three players who may have done the most for the draft status, in no particular order, were Tulane RB Tyjae Spears, Stanford WR Michael Wilson and Iowa State ER Will McDonald. Again, there was no tackling in Mobile this week, but Spears, who had caught people’s attention when he ran for over 200 yards in the Green Wave’s bowl win over USC, was fast and explosive; indeed, the word we kept hearing was sudden! Meanwhile, Wilson, a big-body receiver who maybe got lost a bit this fall playing on a bad Stanford team, was open all week and caught just about everything coming his way. For his part, the Cyclones’ McDonald comes in a little undersized (6-3, 241) but was consistently unblockable coming off the edge as he showed at least a few Micah Parsons’ type explosion and flexibility.
Along with Stanford’s Wilson, the WR crew may have been the most consistently impressive grouping at this week’s Senior Bowl practices. Other receivers who impressed this week included Jayden Reed on Michigan and Nathaniel Dell of Houston, while SMU’s Rashee Rice, Pacu Nacua of BYU, and Trey Palmer of Nebraska all had their moments. At the same time, TEs Luke Musgrave of Oregon State and especially Purdue’s Payne Durham opened some eyes with their all-around skill set.
At the same time, though, several defensive backs had pretty good weeks led by Iowa CB Riley Moss, along with Darius Bush of South Carolina, Julius Brents of Kansas State, Daniel Scott of Cal and Illinois’ Sydney Brown. Meanwhile, along with ISU’s McDonald, other DEs who had good weeks including Keion White of Georgia Tech and Ade Adebawore of Northwestern, while Keeanu Benton of Wisconsin and Alabama’s DJ Dale led the way among the interior defensive lineman. Washington State’s Daiyan Henley stood out at LB, while underrated Aubrey Miller of FCS Jackson State also had a good week of practice.
On the other hand, it wasn’t a great week for the QBs; however, if any of the passers did mange to get a little separation from the pack it appears that it may have been Jake Haener of Fresno State who isn’t all that tall at barely 6-0, but he showed nice touch, a quick release and the ability to move around the pocket.
Last, but not least, a quick note on the offensive line. Ohio State’s Dawand Jones created an early Senior Bowl when he measured in at a massive 6-8, 375 with 36.5 inch arms and a record 89.5-inch wingspan. Jones also had a solid first day of practice, but ended up sitting out the final two days – almost assuredly won’t suit up tomorrow – as a precautionary measure after he exhibited concussion like symptoms. Meanwhile, the top OL in Mobile this week was Florida OG O’Cyrus Torrence, who measured in a full-sized 6-5, 345 and then showed excellent technique including nice footwork and balance, along with good arm extension and hand placement that you really didn’t see from any other OL at the Senior Bowl. Of course, that wasn’t a huge surprise as Torrence came into Mobile as the top-rated OL; what was surprising though was the gap between him and the rest of the big uglies.
And for another perspective from a different vantage point, GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette has his own thoughts on what transpired in Mobile this week here.
Pigskin guesting on Senior Bowl podcast … Just a heads up for folks who can’t get enough of this week’s Senior Bowl. GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette will be sitting on a special Senior Bowl podcast with the guys at Draft Countdown at 9 PM ET later this evening when they’ll be reviewing this week’s practices and previewing tomorrow’s game. Anyone interested in watching can get there tonight thru either Twitter@DraftCountdown or the Countdown site itself.
Shrine game goes to defense … Its not a good sign for the offense when the game’s best player may have been a kicker, but that was the case in last night’s East-West Shrine game in Las Vegas which turned into a defensive slugfest. In the end, the West team won 12-3 on four FGs by Michigan PK Jake Moody, including a couple from over 50 yards. And there were some nice runs along the way, but none of the QBs was ever able to get anything going. Indeed, as a group, the 6 QBs in Vegas combined to complete just 24 of 56 passes – for the mathematically challenged that’s 43% – for a measly 212 yards, no TDs and three picks. Those numbers included some disappointing figures for Dorian Thompson-Robinson of UCLA and Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell, the Shrine’s two best known QBs who no doubt were looking to use the game to boost their draft stock, but DTR was just 7 of 17 passing, while O’Connell was 6 of 16. It certainly didn’t help that they were under pressure all evening as the defensive lines pretty much overwhelmed the Olines. In fact, on first we thought the best player on the field in Vegas was Eastern Michigan DE Jose Ramirez. However, we are going to have another look at the tape this morning and hope to file a more detailed report on who stood out in the last night’s Shrine game a little later today.
Pigskin’s Senior Bowl day two notes … With the Shrine game set to kick-off within the hour, GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette has posted some notes on players who have impressed him thru the first two days of practice at the Senior Bowl,
Shriners set to kick-off tonite; Senior Bowl practices to wrap … The annual East-West Shrine All-Star Classic kicks off later tonight in Las Vegas at 8:30 PM ET on the NFL Network. And while the Shrine game still plays something of a second-fiddle to the Senior Bowl, the Shriners do have at least one legitimate first round prospect in rising Boston College WR Zay Flowers, who backed it up with an excellent wek of practice (although there is some question whether he will actually play in the game tonight.) Meanwhile other top 2023 prospects to watch include Minnesota RB Mo Ibrahim, Wake Forest WR A.T. Perry, Michigan TE Luke Schoonmaker, Washington OT Jaxson Kirkland, Arkansas C Ricky Stromberg, DEs Brenton Cox of Florida and Jose Ramirez of Eastern Michigan, Tennessee LB Jeremy Banks, and TCU CB Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson. The QBs aren’t too shabby either with Aidan O’Connell of Purdue and UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson, one of the stars of the week during the 4 days of practice, likely to start for their respective teams, while Tim DeMorat of Fordham, along with DEs BJ Thompson of Stephen F Austin and Wagner’s Titus Leo head a representative small-school contingent. Here are the full rosters for the East and West teams at tonight’s Shrine game.
Meanwhile, practice sessions at this week’s Senior Bowl wrap up in Mobile today with sessions at 12:30 PM ET and 3 PM ET. The 12:30 practice is available on ESPNU while the 3 PM session will be covered live on ESPN2. The NFL Network concludes its rather spotty Senior Bowl coverage with a taped wrap-up hour at 5 AM ET on Friday morning. The Senior Bowl game itself is set for Saturday afternoon at 2:30 PM ET on the NFL Network.
Senior Bowl, related thoughts … With our usual eyes on the ground unfortunately sidelined for this Senior Bowl cycle, combined with the TV abysmal (we’re looking at you NFL Network) coverage available up in these parts, its been harder than to get a feel for what’s actually evolving in Mobile this week. Needless to say, what we can say is that the biggest story, both literally and figuratively at this week’s Senior Bowl has been massive Ohio State OT Dawand Jones who has given new meaning to the concept of blocking out the sun. For those who missed it, Jones measured in at 6-8 and a reported 375 pounds with 36.5 inch arms and a record 89.8 inch wingspan. And for the most part, Jones has dominated through the first couple of days as it really is over when he gets his hands on people, However, we did see one play on Tuesday when Jones was a little slow to react to a quick outside move (by a player we couldn’t identify). And that will be the question for Jones going forward; can he move his feet well enough to consistently cut off the edge from fast NFL pass rushers, as well as handle pro counter moves.
Meanwhile, other players who have consistently shown up in dispatches from Mobile include WRs Michael Wilson of Stanford, Rashee Rice of SMU and tiny Nathaniel Dell of Houston; RBs Tyjae Spears of Tulane and Texas’ Roschon Johnson; DEs Keion White of Georgia Tech, Will McDonald of Iowa State, and Derick Hall of Auburn; Bowling Green DT Karl Brooks; Oregon State TE Luke Musgrave; and CBs Riley Moss of Iowa and Miami’s Tyrique Stevenson.
More importantly, perhaps though, we are starting to pick up some whispers from folks around the Senior Bowl about some potential shifts in the positional landscape of the 2023 draft. Read more
Pigskin Senior Bowl thoughts … Unfortunately, our Pigskin Paul Guillemette had a last-minute personal situation to attend to and was not able to get to Mobile for this week’s Senior Bowl ending his streak of 25 straight years. However, he is still working his sources and has some preliminary thoughts from the early practices here.
GOAT walk away again … One year ago today, Tom Brady announced his retirement from football, but ultimately changed his mind and played one more year in Tampa Bay. This morning, Brady again said he is retiring only this time for good. There had been speculation that he might plat another year, perhaps in Las Vegas or maybe San Francisco, but the reality he was starting to show age last year and there is an adage in sports that its best to go out on top. And that’s certainly what Brady was as he’ll retire with 7 Super Bowl rings and 5 Super Bowl MVPs; he was also named the league.s MVP three times and retires with a slew of NFL records including most wins, most passes, most completions, most yards and most touchdowns, both in the regular season and in the postseason. He truly was the greatest player in NFL history.
Brady’s retirement also will have a ripple effect throughout the league as he could have filled, at least on a short term basis, one of the numerous QB vacancies around the NFL, that some team may now have to look even harder at the draft to address. Stay tuned!
Payton, Ryans to Broncos, Texans, picks to Saints, 49ers … A couple of major coaching dominos fell early today as Denver confirmed that former New Orleans head coach Sean Payton had agreed to coach the Broncos. Meanwhile, Houston announced that they had hired former San Francisco defensive co-ordinator DeMeco Ryans as the Texans new head coach. Because Payton was still under contract in New Orleans, the two teams had to agree on a compensation package. As a result, the Saints will get the 29th pick in the opening round of the 2023 draft. That was originally San Francisco’s pick that the Broncos acquired from Miami. The Saints and Broncos will also flip second day picks in 2024 with the Saints to receive the Broncos second rounder, while Denver will get the Saints #3 pick.
Meanwhile, because Ryans is a minority candidate, the 49ers will more compensatory picks, although we have not been able to confirm for which years. . s at the end of the third rounds in both 2023 and 2024. The 49ers already have three such comp picks at the end of this year’s third round. As a result of the two moves, the selection order for the 2023 draft and the picks by team files have been updated.
Senior Bowl practices set to start … The real work at the Senior Bowl gets underway later today with the first of three days of full-pad practices. The American team will practice at 12:30 PM ET this afternoon while the National team will go at 3 PM ET. And those that have been around for awhile know that the NFL puts a whole lot more stock in what happens during the practice sessions than during the actual game. Indeed, its legend at the Senior Bowl that NFL people can’t get out of Mobile any faster after the final practice on Thursday. Unfortunately, though, for those of us not in Mobile, the NFL Network’s coverage appears likely to be spotty at best. The network will have a Senior Bowl wrap up at 8 PM ET on Tuesday and Wednesday and 5 AM ET on Friday morning; they will also reportedly have live coverage on NFL+ but that is available only via subscription (and does not appear to be available in Canada.) We will also see later today whether any players have withdrawn from the Senior Bowl. So far we know that Texas Tech DE Tyree Wilson and Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon, who had originally been on the roster are no longer listed, while a couple of former Alabama players – S Jordan Battle and LB Henry To’oTo’o – have opted to withdraw.
Meanwhile, the East-West Shrine game practices wrap-up today in Las Vegas with that game scheduled for Thursday evening. Again, without any live coverage its hard to get a feel for how those sessions are going, but reports out of Vegas seem to indicate that UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson has had a strong week of practice as has Boston College WR Zay Flowers, the highest-rated player at the Shrine game. And one small-school player who has created quite a buzz is Stephen F Austin DE BJ Thompson, a rangy (6-5, 240) edge rusher who has been unblockable at times in Vegas. Minnesota CB Terrell Smith also shows up in most of the dispatches from the Shrine game.
NFL sets 2023 salary cap; tag figures … Pretty much as expected, the NFL reportedly informed teams around the league tat the salary cap for 2023 would rise to $224.8M. That’s a major 8% increase from last year’s figure of $208.2M. Teams have until 4 PM ET on March 15th to get under the salary cap before the free agency period officially opens. At this time, Chicago, which of course also has the #1 pick in the 2023 draft, has by far the most cap space in the league. Indeed, the Bears are reportedly almost $92M under the cap, while Atlanta ($56M), the NY Giants ($45M) and Cincinnati ($44M) are each over $40M to the good versus the cap. At the same time, though, 14 teams still have work to do as they over the cap headed by New Orleans and Tampa Bay which are a whopping $59M and $56M respectively over the cap. Here are the current salary cap figures for every team.
At the same time the NFL also confirmed the franchise and transition tag numbers for the upcoming year. Not surprising, the highest tag numbers are for QBs, who can be tagged for a cool $32.$M. Here are the franchise and transition tag numbers for 2023. For the record, the franchise tag allows a player to negotiate with other teams and sign an offer sheet, but if his current team doesn’t match, the new team gives up two first-round picks as compensation. The transition tag provides a player’s original team the right to match any offer sheet, but there is no compensation if the team does not match. Here are the franchise and transition tag numbers for 2023.
Eagles, Chiefs to Super Bowl; two more picks set … It will be Philadelphia and Kansas City in this year’s Super Bowl on February 12th in Phoenix. And with another playoff round in the books we can confirm that Cincinnati will have the 28th in the opening round selection order for the upcoming draft, while Denver will have the 29th selection with a pick they acquired from San Francisco thru Miami. Meanwhile, the Eagles and Chiefs will pick 30th or 31st depending on the Super Bowl results.
UGA QB Bennett arrest for public intoxication … Former Georgia QB Stetson Bennett, who led the Bulldogs to back-to-back national championships, may have been celebrating a little too hard this weekend as he was arrested on a public intoxication charge in Dallas on Sunday morning. That’s a misdemeanor so its not likely going to have a major impact on the draft status of Bennett, who otherwise is known as a character player. At barely 5-11, 190, Bennett is undersized for an NFL QB but he could get some looks as early as early on the 3rd day.
Senior Bowl preview … While most of the NFL is focused on today’s conference final playoff games, GBN associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette is packing his bags and preparing to head over to Mobile for this week’s Senior Bowl. And Paul , who has become something of a Senior Bowl institution in his own right, will be joined by 130 or so top prospects for the 2023 draft, as well as just about anybody who’s anybody in the NFL scouting and personnel communities. For the record, full practices begin on Tuesday with sessions at 12:30 PM ET and 3 PM ET; there will also be full practices at the same times on Wednesday and Thursday with the actual game scheduled for next Saturday at 2:30 PM ET with coverage on the NFL Network. And while there aren’t a whole lot of first-round prospects expected to be in Mobile this week, figure that upwards of 90% of the players at the Senior Bowl will ultimately be drafted including a goodly portion of those selected on the second day. Here is our preview of who we’ll be watching in Mobile this week.
NFLPA star game tonight … Folks are reminded the NFLPA all-star game which will be played this evening at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Los Angeles. The game will be broadcast on NFL Network with kickoff scheduled for 6 PM ET on Saturday. The two teams will be coached by a couple of Tennessee alums in former Titans’ head coach Jeff Fisher and long-time star RB Eddie George who is now the HC at Tennessee State. And there’ll be plenty of star power working on the sidelines as the assistant coaching staffs include HOF OT Jackie Slater, LB Keith Bulluck, another former Titan, and former Giants’ RB Brandon Jacobs and OG Rich Seubert, while Seattle WR Tyler Lockett is serving as a coaching intern. Unfortunately, the NFLPA doesn’t get the talent that goes to the Senior Bowl or Shrine game. However, they do have several QBs that folks will be familiar with including Malik Cunningham of Louisville, Penn State’s Sean Clifford, and Adrian Martinez of Kansas State. Meanwhile, some of the players pro scouts do want see along with Cunningham include Clemson WR Joseph Ngata, Louisiana RB Chris Smith, Syracuse LB Mikel Jones, Kent State S Nico Bolden, and Fresno State DE David Perales, while the game’s small school contingent includes QB Lindsey Scott of Incarnate Wood, Shepherd RB Ronnie Brown, Jackson State CB Isaiah Bolden, Sacramento State LB Marte Mapu and Wagner DE Titus Leo. Here are the full rosters for the two teams. In addition, GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette has a sneak preview of who he’ll be watching in tonight’s NFLPA game here before he heads off to Mobile for the Senior Bowl early next week.
Shriners gathering in Vegas … Players and coaches are arriving in Las Vegas as we speak for the annual East-West Shrine classic which officially gets underway tomorrow with the first of four days of practice scheduled for 11:15 AM ET and 1 PM ET. The actual all-star game is set for Thursday evening at 8:30 PM ET. The Shrine game has played something of a second-fiddle to the Senior Bowl, which gets underway on Monday in Mobile, in terms of pro prospects, but with the NFL putting a little extra effort into the Shrine game this year the gap appears to have closed somewhat, although the Senior Bowl is still way out in front. This year, though, the Shriners have at least one legitimate first round prospect in rising Boston College WR Zay Flowers, while other top 2023 prospects to watch include Minnesota RB Mo Ibrahim, Wake Forest WR A.T. Perry, Michigan TE Luke Schoonmaker, Washington OT Jaxson Kirkland, Arkansas C Ricky Stromberg, DEs Brenton Cox of Florida and Jose Ramirez of Eastern Michigan, Tennessee LB Jeremy Banks, and TCU CB Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson. The QBs aren’t too shabby either with Aidan O’Connell of Purdue and UCLA’s Dorian Thomson-Robinson likely to start for their respective teams, while Tim DeMorat of Fordham, along with Wagner DE Titus Leo head a representative small-school contingent. Here are the full rosters for the East and West teams at this week’s Shrine event.
Who’s #1; Mel has his say … For those who haven’t seen it, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper has posted an updated top 25 for the upcoming draft. No real surprise in that he has Georgia DT Jalen Carter and Alabama DE Will Anderson as the top 2 prospects overall, followed by QBs Will Levis of Kentucky, Alabama’s Bryce Young and CJ Stroud of Ohio State at 3-4-5, although the fact that he has Levis as the top QB is a bit of a surprise (more on that below. There are even bigger surprises in Kiper’s ranking in the second ten where he has Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon at #10, Pitt DT Calijah Kancey at #11 and Iowa DE Lukas Van Ness at #17. In fact, we have been hearing that Witherspoon is one of, if not THE hot guy in this year’s draft at this moment and we have bumped him up to the #4 CB and #22 overall on the GBN top 100-plus. Same for Iowa’s Van Ness who is also generating plenty of first round buzz. On the other hand, we haven’t heard as much about Kancey, who was a terrific college player, but at barely 6-0 and maybe 280 doesn’t really fit any positional profile. He’ll certainly be one guy we’ll be watching very closely at next week’s Senior Bowl.
We are also hearing that with just over 90 days to go until the draft, teams still aren’t real comfortable with the tops of their boards. No question, for example, that Carter and Anderson are outstanding prospects, but they each have questions. Carter, for one, can literally dominate games, but there are whispers that his motor runs a little hot and cold. On the other hand, there are no doubts about Anderson’s motor which is always on high, but he weighs less than 245 and there are questions whether he has the bulk to hold the point of attack defending the run. In the end, we keep hearing that nobody should be surprised if someone like Texas Tech DE Tyree Wilson ultimately ends up being the first non-QB selected this spring.
At the same time, there appears to be a continuing debate around the league about this year’s top QBs. Bama’s Young does seem to be the consensus choice at the position even though he may not even be 6-0. In fact, teams don’t appear to be that concerned about his height as their have been some very successful QBs of late at 6-0 or shorter. However, those guys all weighed in the 200-210 range, at least, whereas there are concerns that Young played at under 190 at Alabama. Indeed, there are recent reports that Young is currently eating everything in sight in an attempt to get over that Mendoza-weight line! On the other hand, the Buckeyes’ Stroud checks out the size and arm strength boxes, but there are reportedly concerns that he isn’t very athletic at all and tends to be somewhat robotic in the pocket. Which seems to bring everyone back to Levis who didn’t have a particularly strong second half to his season, but of the three probably checks off the most boxes of what NFL teams are looking for in a franchise QB. As we said, time will tell!
‘Star’ star turn for Pigskin Paul … Please note that GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette will be guesting on NFL Draft Countdown’s podcast at 8 PM ET this evening. And the guys will be previewing both the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine all-star games which get underway early next week.
Pigskin Paul updates post-season mock … While GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette wiles away the hours until its time to leave for Mobile and the 2023 Senior Bowl, he added the losers from the 1st and 2nd rounds of the playoffs to he post-season mock here. Needless to say the final four picks will come once they have been confirmed.
Hula Bowl standouts … The 2023 all-star circuit actually really got going last weekend when that great Hawaiian tradition the Hula Bowl was played in Orlando. And just in case anyone starts to ask ‘but isn’t Orlando in Florida?’ It is, but the Hula Bowl is playing played there as their stadium is undergoing major renovations. That’s good for us because GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette lives in Orlando and files this report on the 8 or so players that he felt really stood out in last weekend’s game.