The NFL is heading for the Super Bowl, which like everything else in this Pandemic World of Covid-19, will seem a bit subdued and strange as Covid Protocols are set in place. But once they kick the game off, it should be similar, on the field of play, to what we have grown accustomed to. I live only about 50 miles from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, but tomorrow I am headed out of town. It is time for Pigskin Paul to grab his scouting gear and head to Mobile, AL, for my 24th consecutive year, to attend Senior Bowl Week. To borrow a phrase from Jim Nantz, it is “a tradition like no other” in my world. And it will be like no other Senior Bowl I have attended. Strict Covid guidelines have been put in place which will seriously limit contact between the media, NFL Personnel, and players at the venue. And they are stringent rules, but since most of us do NOT believe that Covid-19 is going to disappear, just like a miracle, we will abide by the protocol rules and try to leave Mobile healthy.
I will not bore you with details, but I will warn you fans reading my reports, as well as those of the other media in place, that they may be sadly lacking in details and insight compared to previous years. But give Mr. Nagy, his staff, and the powers that be in Mobile, credit for being steadfast in their belief that the Mobile area could host this event, and safely, from a health standpoint. Normally, I would have been reporting to you this past week from St. Pete during Shrine Bowl week, but like most of the All-Star venues, the Shrine cancelled this year’s game out of concern for health and safety for all. I was missing my Shrine friends, but look forward to the 2022 Shrine Bowl a year from now. Per a tweet from Senior Bowl boss Jim Nagy, 135 players reached Mobile yesterday, and they were all tested for Covid and were sheltered in place in their hotel rooms until Tuesday.
Just this past week, the NFL announced the list of Underclassmen who have officially declared for the Draft. The official tally sheet from the NFL reads as follows:
30 players who notified the League that they had completed their college degree requirements and are therefore Draft Eligible.
98 players met the 3-year eligibility guideline and renounced any remaining college eligibility.
3 players inquired of the League what their draft status was and are deemed eligible to be drafted.
So that’s a total of 131 players. The 98 players in the second category above is one less than last year.
In a year of constant changes all around us, the Senior Bowl is making a change in tradition by abandoning the North/South team monikers, going instead with an American/National team names theme. Perhaps a few too many of us have teased annually about some of the actual geographic team assignments not truly being north or south of that old Mason Dixon line. I seem to remember a previous abandonment of the North/South back in the early 1990’s that lasted 3 games before heading back to the traditional North/South format. The Panthers are coaching the American squad, while the Dolphins are handling the Nationals.
As usual, one of the first questions many fans ask is “who are the QB’s in Mobile?” this year. Mr. Nagy was able to put together a very solid group this time around, which has become an annual occurrence again in recent years. And the most recent addition to the list helped boost the QB group value tremendously when ALABAMA QB MAC JONES declared for the Draft and accepted an invite to Mobile. Previously the game has also added the name of KYLE TRASK/Florida to the acceptance list. IAN BOOK/Notre Dame, KELLEN MOND/Texas A&M, JAMIE NEWMAN/Georgia/Wake Forest also add some glamour to the group, not to mention SAM EHLINGER of Texas. FELEIPE FRANKS/Arkansas rounds out the group. Initial roster information indicated that TRASK and JONES would both be on the American team because the Panthers are rumored to be looking for a long term QB solution, beyond BRIDGEWATER. The Dolphins, with TUA in house, are a bit less interested in the QB group this year.
Remembering that underclassmen are not eligible for this game unless in those 30 listed first above, a lot of your 2021 Draft first rounders will not be in Mobile. Then you throw in players coming off 2020 season injuries, and agents not wanting certain clients in this game, a lot of the 2021 First Rounders are just not going to be in Mobile, for multiple reasons. My guess is we might see as many as a dozen possible first round prospects in action this week, with about half of those actually getting that call on Day One of the DRAFT.
MAC JONES QB Alabama
NAJEE HARRIS RB Alabama
CARLOS BASHAM DE Wake Forest
PAYTON TURNER DE Houston
TREY SMITH OG Tennessee
KYLE TRASK QB Florida
KADARIUS TONEY WR/RS Florida
PATRICK JONES DE/ER Pittsburgh
CHAZZ SURRATT LB UNC
SAGE SURRATT WR Wake Forest
DeVONTA SMITH WR Alabama
DILLON RADUNZ OT North Dakota State
These are my 12 highest ranked players in Mobile. I would expect, per usual, that a few other names will stand out and improve their Draft status. We shall see what transpires. Hope to chat at you from Mobile Monday night.
Also stay with GBN through the week for reports and analysis from this week’s practice sessions.