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. In particular, it appears that DE could be emerging as the position of choice, at least early on at the upcoming draft. Indeed, edge rushers Will Anderson of Alabama, Tyree Wilson of Texas Tech and Clemson’s Myles Murphy have been mainstays in the top ten for some time, while Iowa’s Lukas Van Ness is also pushing for a top 10 grade on a lot of boards around the league. At the same time, one of the hottest players in mobile this week is Georgia Tech DE Keion White. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, the network’s lead draft analyst and a pretty connected guy when it comes to this stuff, for example, has White all the way up to #8 on his just released first top 50 overall ranking for 2023.
Fact is, we haven’t heard that any teams have White quite that high, but most do appear have him rated in the opening round and more than one has him in the middle of the round. White is a really interesting prospect. He was a lightly recruited TE in high school; in fact his only offer was from old Dominion where he played a couple of years as a TE before switching to DE and then moved to Georgia Tech this year where he had 7.5 sacks. That’s not why NFL teams are intrigued though as he is a full-sized 6-5, 280-pounder with reported 4.6 type speed which all translates into a ton of potential upside at the next level. At the same time, Iowa State’s Will McDonald, is a little undersized but has showed some Micah Parsons like moves at the Senior Bowl and may be starting to get some late first interest of his own. On the other hnd, one DE who appears to be struggling at times in Mobile is Andre Carter of Army who has spent way too much time on the ground. He has the size and quickness but appears to really need an off-season in a NFL weight program.
The other position that appears to be growing in scout’s eyes are the cornerbacks. Again, there has been a lead group of three top 15-20 guys in Penn State’s Joey Porter, Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez and Cam Smith of South Carolina. But THE hottest guy in this year’s draft class appears to be Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon, who it appears maybe the #1 corner on multiple team’s boards. And there is a deep second-tier group on the corner including Iowa’s Riley Moss, another player reportedly moving up boards round the league, along with Georgia’s Kelee Ringo, Miami’s Tyrique Stephenson, Emmanuel Forbes of Mississippi State and Maryland’s Deonte Banks.
Its not all defense, though, as both the TE and OT rooms also reportedly look like they are getting stronger. In fact, the TE position is loaded with Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer a first-round lock, while Dalton Kincaid of Utah, Darnell Washington of Georgia and Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave have all got late round supporters. It also looks like it could be another good year at OT where Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski looks like he has established himself as the top prospect at the position.
On the other hand, the one position where there may be some slippage are the wide receivers. It doesn’t appear, for example, that very many teams currently have any WRs in their top ten while it seems that the second-tier group right behind the top three prospects – TCU’s Quentin Johnston, USC’s Jordan Addison and Ohio State’s Jaxon Njigba-Smith – has thinned out a bit although several receivers including Jalin Hyatt of Tennessee, Boston College’s Zay Flowers and SMU’s Rashee Rice still have later first-round potential.