One of the best parts of the Senior Bowl is watching “The Pit”. This is when the offensive and defensive linemen go 1-on-1 in practice reps to see who wins. It gives a great sense of pass blocking and run blocking for both sides of the line and how they would do on an island. For most interior offensive linemen it can be a struggle since they don’t always go man on man with a defender, but you really see who can handle their own.
This year’s interior offensive line class is thin at the Center positon, but there is strong depth among the Guard position and that will be on display at the Senior Bowl. From SEC run blockers to small school pass blockers, the Senior Bowl has a different flavor for every offensive system.
Luke Fortner, Kentucky
The lone pure Center on the Senior Bowl roster, Fortner anchored one of the best offensive lines in the SEC for the Wildcats. His hard nosed play style should work well with pro style offenses and lead to some good reps during the week.
The Senior Bowl is a huge opportunity for Fortner who was a later add. He has a chance to create some buzz and move up to be the top Center in the draft not named Tyler Linderbaum. Fortner won’t be for every team, especially those with a zone blocking scheme that will need more movement ability from him, but look for Fortner to look the best amongst the others playing Center who have not done it full time.
Ed Ingram, LSU
Ingram had an up and down season going from absolute dominance to turnstile pass blocking on a week to week basis. The upside flashes were there to be a road grading guard who can get to the second level and pancake defenders, but he also has some red flags in consistent effort. This is a big week for him.
Ingram’s power will work well in a practice setting and he can put together some flash reps over the course of the week. Though he may not show the agility and athleticism of his other teammates, dominating some defensive lineman will get his name buzzing. Expect Ingram to come out of the week with an improved stock and teams targeting him on Day 2. The Lions could use an interior lineman, and Ingram would definitely fit the mentality and philosophy. It would not surprise me if the coaching staff fell in love coaching him during the week.
Dylan Parham, Memphis
Memphis isn’t exactly known for their offensive line production, but Parham has intriguing upside due to his versatility. He has played Guard and has the processing chops to play Center (where he is likely to take some reps at the Senior Bowl). Parham’s mirroring ability is excellent. His best capability may be reading blitzes and adjusting. Mental mistakes are rare even if he isn’t a high end athlete.
The Senior Bowl will be a big opportunity for Parham to show he can play Guard or Center and stand with the big boys. There is little doubt in my mind that he will handle himself well and improve throughout the week. Parham should be an intriguing late round pick who will start getting some Day 2 consideration after success during the week.
Jamaree Salyer, Georgia
Salyer is the swiss army knife of offensive linemen. He has played all 5 positions on the Offensive Line at various points of his college career. This past season at Left Tackle left Salyer against some of the nations top pass rushers, even with missing some games due to injury. He has the girth to stop bull rushes while still being light enough on his feet to kick slide at OT. Ultimately, he may be best as an NFL Guard, but each team may view him differently.
Salyer could be one of the best Offensive Linemen on the American Team and showcase that throughout the week. Hopefully he gets a chance to take some reps at different positions and show his comfortability all over the line. Day 2 is within range with a good week.
Justin Shaffer, Georgia
Shaffer was a bit of an unsung hero for the Bulldogs offensive line. A pure guard, he is a run blocker who is rarely driven backwards. Though he isn’t much for splash pancakes or pulling around the line, a run heavy team focused on getting downhill could draft him as a back-up.
The Senior Bowl is a big opportunity, but the one dimensional nature of Shaffer’s game may not be a great fit for the practice week. More athletic defensive linemen should blow past him in drills, and he may look worse than he actually is. All that being said, Shaffer appears to be a great leader and locker room player so the Lions may build a good relationship with him and even target him on Day 3.
Lecitus Smith, Virginia Tech
Smith was a bit of a surprise inclusion in the Senior Bowl, but reviewing his tape, he definitely belongs. Another big moving run blocker, Smith has some huge games in that department this season. His hand placement is very solid and even if he isn’t the most athletic, he should show he belongs during Senior Bowl week.
Ultimately, Smith feels like one of those players who won’t be huge in the stock up department, but won’t hurt himself either. Having a solid week and establishing NFL talent will get him far, potentially to early Day 3. He is a wild card in this process.
Ja’Tyre Carter, Southern
Carter was a late add to the Senior Bowl roster as an HBCU player who will get the opportunity to get a step up in competition. An intriguing athlete, Carter has excellent foot speed and adjusts quickly to different pass rush techniques. His best fit may be as a zone Blocking Scheme. Can he stand up to SEC defensive linemen? We will find out.
For small school players going to Mobile, there is often an adjustment period of a day or so to get up to speed and match the tougher competition. Don’t expect Day 1 to go great for Carter, but if he can get up to speed and show he belongs, there will be some early Day 3 considerations.
Marquis Hayes, Oklahoma
A three year starter at Guard, Hayes has a ton of Big 12 experience. He has good feet for his size and works within the one cut rushing system the Sooners have run for the past few years. The Senior Bowl is an opportunity for Hayes to jump into the Top 5 Guards of this class and get Day 2 draft capital.
Hayes should have a solid week and may turn some heads on his NFL upside. If he can handle himself against a good defensive unit, the Jets could even be interested in drafting Hayes in Round 3 or 4 as a potential starter down the line. Because he fits multiple schemes, many teams will be keeping an eye on Hayes throughout the week.
Zion Johnson, Boston College
Johnson has had an excellent career alongside Center Alec Lindstrom at Boston College. A transfer from Davidson, Johnson started for two and a half years at left guard for the Eagles and excelled in both run and pass blocking. There are plenty of examples of him creating holes in the run game and allowing RBs to excel. Back in 2019, he was a big reason for AJ Dillon’s success later in the season. The consistent high end play should make for a good Senior Bowl week.
It might be a bit of a hot take, but Johnson will be one of the biggest risers of Senior Bowl week. The practices set up to his strengths and he will be impressive. He is athletic enough to stand out in drills amongst the rest of the linemen. It may be bold, but turning this week into a Top 50 pick is possible.
Cole Strange, Chattanooga
Strange played some Center at UC-Chattanooga but mainly played Guard in his four years as a starter. With very good technique including hand placement and a balanced base, Strange is the rare small school prospect who has many of the finer points of football down pat. This should translate to success at the next level.
Like Carter before, expect Strange to struggle a bit Day 1 but pick it up as he gets up to speed. He is a solid technician at the position and pad level/hand placement can neutralize any athletic talent differential. With a good week, Strange could become a Top 100 lock.
Andrew Stueber, Michigan
Stueber has starter both at Guard and Right tackle for Michigan and was one of the best edge run blockers in the Big Ten. He may not quite have the kick slide to consistently play Tackle in the NFL, but a more power run scheme could still place him there. Stueber is smart at reading the opposition and finding ways to use his leg drive to get a push and stop the end from getting to the RB. Solid but unspectacular isn’t bad in the NFL, and Stueber fits right into that.
Stueber is another early Day 3 player who can move up with a big week. Hopefully he can get some reps at Guard and put more on film of how he will be inside. It is likely a better position and Stueber’s versatility may be valued. Look for him to have a solid week and move himself in position to slide into the Top 100.
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