MOBILE, Ala. — Day 2 of the Senior Bowl practices on Wednesday substantiated a lot of my initial impressions at Tuesday’s practice. Let’s go through some of what I saw.
Lloyd Cushenberry is a good football player. Florida’s wide receiver Van Jefferson made an incredible grab in the team periods over the top of a linebacker and in between a safety, and Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool made some very impressive catches with his hands. As I wrote and hoped in yesterday’s article, Josh Jones had a much better showing and his excellent movement skills and size were on display yet again. Marlon Davidson didn’t practice Wednesday, but UNC’s Jason Strowbridge continued to dominate the 1-on-1s. He won with bend, dip, and raw strength. Strowbridge also batted two balls at the line of scrimmage in the team periods. Strowbridge has really been playing well in Mobile and his stock must be on the rise. Florida’s edge Jabari Zuniga continued to build on a good first day and he won two reps easily around the edge, showing excellent quickness and bend. UCLA cornerback Darnay Holmes, had another solid outing and fixes to be a very good nickel corner in the draft. If he slides, he could be an interesting target for the Giants later on. I mentioned Troy Pride Jr., the defensive back from Notre Dame on Tuesday. Wednesday, Pride stayed on top of routes well and was hard to beat. Even when he was beaten, he showed good ability to accelerate, close width, and make the catch point difficult for the receivers.
Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
HT: 6-foot-2, WT: 206, Hands: 9 2/8, Arms 33 2/8
Mims had a solid first day of practice and continued that on Wednesday. Explosive and a fluid mover, Mims made breaking in and out of routes look effortless. He did very well selling the 9 route, while breaking off to an inside and outside curl. His release off the line of scrimmage was good, utilizing quick footwork combined with subtle head movements to sell a break that was not his intention. His production at Baylor was legit as well — two seasons with 1,000 plus receiving yards and 8 touchdowns in both his sophomore and junior seasons, while following that up with 12 this past year. He’s had more than 55 receptions in his last three seasons playing for Matt Rhule’s offense. Mims hands are strong and he has a 2nd gear to him that make corners pay. I was impressed that Pride tossed off Mims’ intial stem in the 1-on-1s, but Pride was able to get back into phase, which is a testament to Pride’s speed. Mims is a bigger receiver and could be a target for the Giants on Day 2 of the draft, since the Giants may be looking for the typical “X” type receiver that Garrett’s offense has become accustomed to using. The Giants could do a lot worse than Denzel Mims, and he most certainly opened a lot of people’s eyes this week.
KJ Hill, WR, Ohio State
HT: 6-feet, WT: 192, Hands: 9, Arms: 29
The measurables are not on Hill’s side, but he is the most fluid mover at this event. His ability to cut in and out of routes and completely turn his body has had a lot of people discussing him down here in Mobile. He possesses intriguing acceleration and change of direction, while showing a veteran football IQ by utilizing subtle push offs and head fakes all the way through his stem and at the top of his break. For a smaller player, Hill is physical at the catch point and combines that with exceptional quickness. His measurables may see him slide on draft day, and his skill set may not mesh with the Giants, but he has had two practices in a row that were very good, so I would be remiss not to mention him. He’s made several corners look silly with a diverse route tree. Hill had 57 receptions, for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns this past season for the Buckeyes.
Ben Bredeson, OG, Michigan
HT: 6-foot-4, WT: 316, Hands: 10, Arms: 31 1/2
Three-time letter winner who has 49 career starts, 45 of them being at left guard. Bredeson had another solid practice, but stood out more on Day 2. He possesses very good fundamentals with playing interior offensive line, showing patience, a low center of gravity, and quick feet that are combined with quick hands that really help him adjust to counter moves. Bredeson showed good adjustment and anchor ability against the bulrushes of some bigger defensive linemen. He lost one rep to Oklahoma’s Neville Gallimore, who was able to pull the shoulder pad of Bredeson down and then work around the former Wolverine. Outside of that one rep, Bredeson held his own well in 1-on-1s and did a solid job in 2-on-2s working off stunts, while also clearing paths in team drills against a very stout defensive front. The Giants are set at their offensive guard positions, but Bredeson is a talented player with versatility and power, so depth is an option, and he could be an interesting look at center, albeit he’s not accustomed to playing that position.
Matthew Peart, OT, UConn
HT: 6-foot-6, WT: 310, Hands: 9 6/8, Arms: 35 ⅛
Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy compared Peart to D’Brickashaw Ferguson, a long-time left tackle for the New York Jets, and a former top 10 selection in the NFL Draft. That is very high praise, but Peart has shown up to play. He’s a smooth mover, that doesn’t overextend himself or overset. His footwork is much better than I expected from a UConn tackle, and he’s held up very well to bullrushes. His one struggle would be second and third moves up the arc, especially when the defenders spin; While he doesn’t allow the players to get free, he does get caught with his outside arm wrapped around the defender. I saw this twice, but everything before this point of the rep was handled well by Peart; he stayed in front well, didn’t panic, used strength and quickness to mirror and not get bullied, while also keeping his hands inside and avoiding a tonguing motion. Peart will be interesting and the Giants may be looking into the big, strong, yet somewhat raw, tackle who has held up well this week.
Keith Ismael, IOL, SDST
HT: 6-foot-3, WT: 300, Hands: 9 7/8, Arms: 32
Ismael held his own well in 1-on-1s, displaying a low center of gravity, a strong punch, and an ability to drive through blocks with physicality. He’s not the biggest, most imposing, center prospect, but he won several of his reps and had scouts talking about his ability to win at the point of attack with a technical nature. Ismael is interesting for the Giants because the Giants are looking to run more power/gap type of concepts under new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. If this is true, the Aztecs are known for their gap schemes in college and the transition for Ismael could be relatively seamless. He’s used to aggressive down blocking and pin-pull concepts, so the Giants may invest in a player like Ismael later in the draft. With Jon Halapio recovering from a serious injury, Ismael may be able to step in and be a valuable piece that may be found on Day 3.
Josh Uche, EDGE/LB, Michigan
HT: 6-foot-1, WT: 241, Hands: 9 1/8, Arms: 33 ¼
Uche had a phenomenal Day 1 and he followed that up with a very good Day 2 of practice. Uche’s quickness up the arc cannot be ignored and he has a few different combinations he utilizes at the top of the arc to create separation from offensive tackles. Uche bends well through contact and can really dip his inside shoulder and turn a corner, while leveraging his speed up the arc to really stress offensive tackles sets, which also helps set up inside counter moves. Uche used this quickness in the 2-on-2 stunt portion of practice and he blew past the guard on a T/E stunt. I always like to see EDGE prospects who can put a few moves together, and Uche can do that; and when they have a trump card like quickness, those moves become a very good luxury. My issue with Uche is fit; I don’t like the term ‘tweener in today’s NFL, but the linebacker position is very nuanced. I’m not entirely sure how effective Uche can be playing on the inside as a linebacker. I would have to watch some more of his Michigan film to see how he executes his run fits and how he handles blockers in space as a linebacker. I have questions about Uche’s ability to hold the point of attack against the run. He looked fine in run drills the last two days, but he really flashed as a pass rusher, and I wonder if his role right now would just be a situational pass rusher. Either way, Uche has played very well in Mobile and he has forced people to notice him.
Kenny Willekes, EDGE, Michigan State
HT: 6-foot-3, WT: 252, Hands: 9 3/4, Arms: 31 ¼
Willekes has a very unique and low stance when rushing the passer. Butt up in the air, inside forearm away from his body and out in front of him, back arched, and head almost to the deck in a very squatty manner, but it worked for him on Wednesday. Willekes showed impressive bend around the edge, and his squatty stance limits the surface area of his chest, which makes it very hard for tackles to locate him and control him up the arc. He has very good speed, bends well through contact like Uche, and stays very low, which overextends tackles and puts him in an advantageous position. Similar to Uche, fit may be an issue for Willekes, but he’s making people’s heads move in Mobile. He had a very impressive rep in the team period where he screamed off the edge through a tight end’s blocking attempt and blew a zone running play up in the back field. Teammates and coaches went crazy for him, and I can see why. He also talks a lot on the field and seems like a good team player.
Terrell Burgess, SS, Utah
HT: 5-foot-11, WT: 192, Hands: 9 1/4, Arms: 30
Like a lot of the Senior Bowl participants this season, Burgess isn’t wowing many people with his measurables, but that doesn’t mean he can’t play. Burgess started all 13 games for the Utes’ at strong safety this year, but was lining up at corner for 1v1s against top competition and held his own well. He handled SMU WR James Proche outside curl well by not falling for Proche’s 9 sell and be staying in phase, with the correct leverage to be in a position to force an incompletion. He did something similar to USC’s stud receiver Michael Pittman Jr. Pittman ran an inside breaking route and tried to sell the outside fade, but it did not work; Burgess stayed right in the hip pocket of Pittman and showed exceptional man coverage ability, with a ton of space to cover.
Anfernee Jennings, Alabama, EDGE/LB
HT: 6-foot-1, WT: 252, Hands: 9 3/8, Arms: 32 ¾
Jennings has a long injury history, but he is healthy for the Senior Bowl and he showed up on Day 2. Jennings won three reps in a row with quickness outside and bend up the arc against offensive tackles on Wednesday. Jennings has physicality and can bend an edge, while being explosive. His inside club/dip combination stunned tackles who are trying to vertical set him up the arc. He had 14.5 sacks and 33 tackles for a loss in his college career at Tuscaloosa. The Giants would be interested in his pedigree as an Alabama defender, and because he is regarded as a leader.
Evan Weaver, LB, Cal
HT: 6-foot-2, WT: 234, Hands: 9 3/8, Arms: 32 ⅜
I wasn’t able to watch the linebacker group as extensively as I would have liked because I can only be in one place at a time at practice, but I was able to catch a few reps and I liked what I saw from Weaver. He possessed enough explosiveness to catch my eye, especially in pass rushing vs running back drills, where he dominated the running back with an easy dip of the inside shoulder/arm-over move that won easily. That initially caught my eye, so I paid attention to him in team period and he was in the right place at the right time for several reps. He showed an ability to scrape over the top of his defensive linemen, be in position, and keep his chest clean to wrap up the running back. It was a nice few reps that I witnessed and the Giants should be in the market for a linebacker.