The 2022 Senior Bowl is finally in the books. I was able to cover every practice in person, as well as, the game itself.
Today, I will look at the players on each squad who saw their stock rise throughout the week and what players may have seen their stock take a tumble.
AMERICAN TEAM RISERS
Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
Willis came into the week as a player who potentially had the most to gain and/or the most to lose. Malik Willis had an up-and-down first day of practice but stood out above the others the rest of the practice week. He has top-tier arm talent and is the best athlete at the position of any other QB in this class. Willis showed a better presence in the pocket during the practices and the game. It would no longer shock me if he was the first quarterback off the board.
Calvin Austin III, WR, Memphis
Austin only measured in at 5’7” 173-pounds. There wasn’t a DB that could cover him in the one-on-one drills. Austin’s foot quickness and cutting ability were on full display. He also snatches the ball out of the air. The Memphis product is probably going to hear his name called early on day three.
Isaiah Likely, TE, Coastal Carolina
Likely was already high on my board coming into the week. I knew he could catch. Likely is going to test fast at the combine. However, at Coastal Carolina, he was rarely asked to block. The Chanticleer TE looked great during practice then had the edge sealing block that sprung, Sam Howell, for a TD during the Senior Bowl game
Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE, Florida State
No player was more dominant over the first two days than Johnson. In fact, two days was enough for the Seminole pass rusher. Johnson could not be blocked in any drill during the Tuesday and Wednesday practices. Whether it was with speed, with power, or both, Johnson was in the backfield often. It doesn’t bother me that he took the Javon Kinlaw approach to practice. We had seen enough.
Eric Johnson, DL, Missouri State
After playing in the NFLPA Bowl, Eric Johnson was flying home when got a call from his agent. The Senior Bowl wanted him to suit up. Johnson changed his flight and headed to Mobile. Johnson weighed in at 6’4” 300-pounds. He showed off tremendous power and quickness. I saw him one arm an interior lineman into the backfield on one rep and then the next beat his man with a quick spin move. Johnson has elevated himself from a player I had no grade on to an early day three mark.
AMERICAN TEAM FALLERS
Daniel Bellinger, TE, San Diego State
Bellinger wasn’t overly high on my board coming into the week. I primarily saw him as a blocking tight end that I needed to see more from as a receiver. What I saw from Bellinger is an inability to separate from defenders when running routes. I just don’t see an athlete. Bellinger may make a fine #2 TE but he isn’t a Top-100 player like I have seen other places.
Darian Kinnard, OT, Kentucky
Kinnard repped at tackle and guard during the week of practice. He didn’t look good at either spot. Kinnard was consistently beaten by speed on the outside and then beaten by power on the inside. I liked Kinnard on tape but he was exposed often this week. He is a player I have to re-evaluate.
Cameron Thomas, EDGE, San Diego State
I normally don’t like to knock a player when he gets injured. Some things can’t be helped. However, Thomas had an opportunity to separate himself from the rest of the edge rushers in that second tier. But he left the first practice with an injury before they ever put helmets on for the first time. The whole situation was very odd.
NATIONAL TEAM RISERS
Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
Watson measured in at 6’4” 211-pounds. He is probably going to run between 4.3 and 4.4 in the forty at the combine. The biggest question he had to answer was could he run routes and catch? Those answers are now a definitive yes. Watson separated well from DBs and caught everything thrown his way. He went from early day three to early day two with his week at the Senior Bowl.
Zion Johnson, G, Boston College
The work ethic I saw this week from Zion Johnson was one of the best I have ever seen from a prospect in Mobile. Johnson never played center at Boston College. He played center all week during practice. Johnson stayed after practice every day working on snapping the ball. This includes on Wednesday when he stayed out in a driving rainstorm to hone his craft. Coaches and scouts alike will love that about him. I believe Zion Johnson now has a shot to be selected late in round one.
Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota
Mafe is a tremendous athlete. He is expected to have a vertical leap of over 40-inches. During practices this week, Mafe showed off that athleticism all week during practice and then took it to the next level during the game where he racked up three TFLs and two sacks. Is a spot in the first round out of the question? Maybe not.
Perrion Winfrey, DL, Oklahoma
NFL teams are constantly looking for that Aaron Donald type of disruptor. Winfrey isn’t quite on the level of Donald but he is capable of disrupting the interior often. He had many stand-out moments during practice but he absolutely took over the game itself. Winfrey won the overall Senior Bowl MVP award for his two-sack, five-tackle performance.
Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor
The range and closing speed on Jalen Pitre were eye-opening. It is hard to see that on broadcast tape but was plain as day in person. In a class with a dearth of safety prospects, Jalen Pitre has a chance to fill the needs of teams earlier than I would have otherwise thought a week ago.
NATIONAL TEAM FALLERS
Carson Strong, QB, Nevada
The one thing that you couldn’t question about Carson Strong coming into the week was his arm strength, right? Sure, you could question his knee health. Or his lack of mobility. But not his arm. Well, let me tell you, I now have to question the arm strength of Carson Strong. The deep ball accuracy he showed at Nevada was usually very good. However, at Senior Bowl practices (and during the game), Strong threw up several arm punts that lacked any zip whatsoever. There wasn’t another QB here who hurt themselves more than Carson Strong did, in my opinion.
Abraham Lucas, OT, Washington State
There were a few images I couldn’t get out of my head after watching Senior Bowl practices this week. However, watching Lucas get bull-rushed by Cincinnati edge Myjai Sanders who he outweighs by 100 pounds was one of the images I remember most. This wasn’t the only time Lucas got worked in practice either. He came into the week as a mid-day-two pick. Lucas may struggle to go on day two at all now.
Tyreke Smith, EDGE, Ohio State
Tyreke Smith could have used this week to show he could be a great pass rusher. Instead, he settled in as Trevor Penning’s rag doll. Whether it was the goal post in the south end zone or the mid-field logo at the South Alabama indoor facility, Smith found himself on the business end of Penning’s practice highlight reel.
That concludes our coverage of the 2022 Senior Bowl at Draft Countdown.