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2022 NFL Draft Senior Bowl

2022 Senior Bowl Game Recap

Abram Smith, Senior Bowl

Another year is in the books and the 2022 Senior Bowl has come to a close. With an exciting group of QBs and a dominant group of DL and pass rushers, this was an intriguing game with tons of defense early and some offensive heroics as late. Though the Senior Bowl practice week is more important than the game, seeing players come up big on game day does make an impact. Here are my breakdowns of how each position went and who stood out at the Senior Bowl game:

 

Quarterback

With the dominant defensive Front 7, it was a rough day for the QBs. Liberty’s Malik Willis shined early with his legs as he was often forced out of the pocket. His 54 yards rushing (on only 4 carries) led the American team. He deep passes were not great often tossing the ball into the air with little accuracy, but the zip on the short passes were exceptional. He looks like a high draft picks.

Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett and North Carolina’s Sam Howell both had solid games. Pickett completed every pass, though he missed NDSU WR Christian Watson short on what could have been a TD (forcing Watson to come back and catch it). Pickett stood tall under pressure and delivered, though he was subject to getting taken down some Howell took off rushing often and even got a TD with his legs. He showed solid arm strength, though he didn’t challenge deep. Both have solidified their NFL Draft grade.

Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder may have had the best QB game. He systematically moved the team down the field on each drive and it resulted in two TD passes ultimately. Maneuvering the pocket well, Ridder had a great sense of pocket presence. He was surprisingly accurate throughout the game and may have shown his potential as a starting NFL QB.

Nevada’s Carson Strong and Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe both were rough. Strong’s arm didn’t look like it had the natural zip he usually plays with, and he struggled under pressure. He threw a pretty bad interception to Tennessee’s Alontae Taylor. Zappe started off with a strong drive, but once the pressure hit, he wilted. Underthrowing receivers and throwing his own pick, he looked like a Day 3 pick.

 

Running Back

The star performance came from Baylor’s Abram Smith with 48 yards rushing and 19 yards receiving, including a TD reception. On that reception, Smith hit 18 mph rushing to the end zone before a defender could meet him. Smith showed how underutilized he was at Baylor as a tough inside runner with good burst, raising his stock.

Arizona State’s Rachaad White showed his explosiveness off the snap with an 18 yard run where he almost hurdled Texas’ Josh Thompson. He led the RBs with 52 yards rushing. White showcased some solid vision and improved throughout the week on that.

Alabama’s Brian Robisnon and Florida’s Dameon Pierce had a few solid power runs up the middle. Utah’s TJ Pledger came late in the week, but he flashed on a few rushes and receptions. Overall, the offensive lines weren’t quite good enough to spring the runners free.

 

Wide Receiver

Without much time for the QBs to pass downfield, the ball got spread around short often. North Dakota State’s Christian Watson had the most impressive catch of the day adjusting to the Pickett underthrow for a falling catch where he got up and bolted down the field. Memphis’ Calvin Austin also got good separation throughout the game. 

Tennessee’s Velus Jones Jr. was solid at catching the football and after the catch. He, along with Rutger’s Bo Melton, also played special teams and showed some return and gunner ability. Both raised their stock to early Day 3 potential.

South Alabama’s Jalen Tolbert and Nevada’s Romeo Doubs had a catch or two, but nothing outstanding from the WRs in the game.

 

Tight End

The TEs ended up being a big focus for the passing game. 

Colorado State’s Trey McBride had a nice reception from Kenny Pickett and then a clear out catch and run for a TD from Desmond Ridder. His timed speed may be a question mark, but the range and catching ability was showcased.

Wisconsin’s Jake Ferguson was one of the offensive MVPs with catches from multiple QBs. He showed soft hands and even some power after the catch. He capped the game with a 25 yard TD catch from Desmond Ridder. Ferguson had a quiet week compared to the rest of the TEs, but as a solid two-way player, he will find a role in the NFL. This game should help increase his stock.

Though Coastal Carolina’s Isaiah Likely didn’t have a catch, he had a MONSTER block that sprung Sam Howell’s TD run. A weak area for him, it was great to see Likely getting physical out there.  

 

Offensive Line

It was a rough game for offensive linemen in general, but that is usually how All-Star games go. With the inability to build great cohesion, Offensive Lines can struggle. The National Defense had 8 sacks in the game, and there may not have been an American Offensive Lineman that stood out positively.

After a solid start, Southern Utah’s Braxton Jones got worked by a few players, most notably Minnesota’s Boye Mafe off the edge. Jones just didn’t have the leverage and footwork he needed to stop defenders, but he gave good effort.

Tennessee’s Cade Mays was playing on the interior and looked lost as Perrion Winfrey blew past him multiple times. UTSA’s Spencer Burford, Louisiana’s Max Mitchell, and Memphis’ Dylan Parham also had their struggles.

LSU’s Ed Ingram and Kentucky’s Darian Kinnard did have some solid reps throughout the game, especially in run blocking. So, it wasn’t all bad for the American team.

On the other side, Boston College’s Zion Johnson had a solid performance after a great week of practice and is establishing himself as a top Guard in the class. He sealed off some nice runs and looked okay in pass protection.

Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning continued his good week of practice with a nasty demeanor, though he had a few mental lapses here and there. Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann bounced back nicely after a rough week to show how his athletic ability can work on the right side of the line. 

Fordham’s Nicholas Zakelj had multiple false starts in the game while Washington State’s Abraham Lucas struggled overall. Minnesota’s Daniel Faalele held his own after an up and down week.

Ultimately, the OL will be judged on their week of practice more than the game where there was a ton to process in a short time.

 

Defensive Line

It was an explosive day for the Defensive Line with 6.5 sacks for DL or EDGE players. 

One of the many standouts was Oklahoma’s Perrion Winfrey who won the game MVP with 2 sacks and 3 TFL. He was ripping into the backfield numerous times with a rip move that couldn’t be stopped. Consistent pressure is the name of Winfrey’s game and he may have put himself in the first round.

UConn’s Travis Jones, Ohio State’s Haskell Garrett, and LSU’s Neil Farrell all had some solid performances throughout the game, especially against the run. They were getting penetration and eating up RBs throughout the game. Jones had a sack as well and was close to a 2nd. All helped themselves a decent amount.

In terms of EDGE rushers, Minnesota’s Boye Mafe continued a dominant week winning the National Team’s MVP with 2 sacks, and 3 TFL including a strip sack. His length was too much for Braxton Jones to often handle. Mafe is a solid Day 2 pick now and may flirt with Round 1.

Cincinnati’s Myjai Sanders and Western Kentucky’s Deangelo Malone just keep using their high Football IQ and tenacious effort to keep making plays. Both had 0.5 sack in the game and Malone won the American Team MVP. Sanders had an impressive week and should be a Day 2 selection while Malone’s tweener status may push him to early Day 3.

South Carolina’s Kingsley Enagbare got a few nice pressures and should notch into the Top 50 pretty easily. He showed why he is a top prospect throughout the week.

A few disappointments were Houston’s Logan Hall and Alabama’s Phidarian Mathis who didn’t make much of an impact. 

 

Linebackers

Wyoming’s Chad Muma had an excellent game after a quiet week. He ran down Malik Willis with a TD saving tackle. After that, Muma was always in the box making great tackles. Though he didn’t have a splash play, Muma’s read and recognition abilities were off the charts.

Penn State’s Jesse Luketa had 2 sacks in the game (4x as many as he had this season). Never able to pass rush much at Penn State, he showed that ability in the Senior Bowl game including a brutal sack on Bailey Zappe. Flashing those abilities may push him up into early Day 3 or higher.

LSU’s Damone Clark had a great play that resulted in half a sack on Kenny Pickett where Clark rushed from his ILB position. He also showed his abilities to make tackles in space during the game. Stock pointing up.

Georgia’s Channing Tindall made plays throughout the game including one great Special Teams tackle. He flies around the field and showed his big hit ability.

Cincinnati’s Darrian Beavers, Nebraska’s Jojo Domann and Montana State’s Troy Anderson had solid games too after good weeks of practice.

Would have liked to see more from Oklahoma’s Brian Asamoah in the game who seemed out of position at times. 

 

Defensive Backs

The DBs didn’t have to worry much down the field with the accurate passes coming short. That being said, there were a few solid performances.

The two interceptions in the game were by Tennessee’s Alontae Taylor and Baylor’s JT Woods. Both got a gift, but Woods had a nice return of 28 yards that set his team up nicely. 

Baylor Safety Jalen Pitre may have been the stand out as he played downhill and made good tackles, including one in the backfield. He has had a good week and is a Top 5 Safety in the class.

Coverage was tough to see, but no CB seemed to miss a major assignment. Fayetteville State’s Joshua Williams seemed pretty sticky all game. Auburn’s Roger McCreary also never got beat (and had a good tackle on Sam Howell in space).

Cincinnati’s Coby Bryant gave up a pass or two, but he was always there to clean up the tackle.

Overall, the DB group faired better than they did during the week.

 

Specialists

The Punters were amazing just as they had all week. Both Penn State’s Jordan Stout and Georgia’s Jake Camarda were booming directional kicks toward the sideline. Both will be drafted and may go as high as the 5th round.

The Kickers struggled. Iowa State’s Andrew Mevis missed a 24 yard FG while Texas’ Cameron Dicker missed a 49 yarder. Neither are quite up to the level needed for an NFL team.

 

Overall, Senior Bowl week and the game gave lots of clarity to these players and so many raised their stock after the Senior Bowl!

 

Follow Shane on Twitter: @ShanePHallam and see his other work here. Be sure to check out all the Senior Bowl coverage this year!

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