The Senior Bowl is a big deal every year, but that will be particularly true in 2021.
This year, the Senior Bowl will be the event of the draft calendar to bring the best seniors from across the country together to practice and play on the same field. This is also a yearly event in which under-the-radar prospects and players from small schools get the chance to prove their mettle against big-name players from the national football factories.
The New York Giants have drafted heavily from the Senior Bowl, and the players who stand out have a good chance of winding up in New York come April’s draft.
The game itself gets plenty of attention, but the NFL as a whole actually tends to pay more attention to the week of practices. Every year, two teams at the top of the draft get to have their position coaches coach the players — one squad for each team. This year we have a twist, as the 10-6 Miami Dolphins will be coaching the National Team, as they hold the Houston Texans’ third overall pick.
We never know which players will take full advantage of their opportunity and create surges in draft stock, but here’s a list of 10 players on the National Team who could be the names to watch over the week of practice.
- Sam Elhinger (QB, Texas) - Elhinger is a quarterback that certainly looks the part at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, and his ability to be a powerful runner could be enticing after Josh Allen’s performance in 2020. But while Elhinger has been a good college QB, he needs to answer questions whether he is an NFL quarterback. Teams will want to know if the has the arm talent (both accuracy and precision, as well as arm strength) and ability to execute a modern NFL offense.
Edit: Alabama QB Mac Jones was mistakenly listed here. He is actually on the American Team, but should still be a point of interest.
- DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama) - Smith is, unquestionably, the best player on the property. He honestly doesn’t have much to prove during practices or the game. The Heisman Trophy winner has been unbelievably productive on bigger stages than this, and teams already know that. His big questions will be answered at weigh-ins. If Smith measures bigger than the 6-foot-1, 178 pounds at which he was listed, he stands a very good chance of being the first receiver off the board.
- Dillon Radunz (OT, NDSU) - You can be forgiven for not recognizing Radunz’s name, but he has a chance to be one of the players who generates a big buzz this week. Radunz has a reputation as a smooth tackle prospect with plenty of starting traits. The NFL is always looking for starting offensive tackles, and if Radunz can handle his business against Power 5 competition, his draft stock could skyrocket.
- Tarron Jackson (DL/EDGE, Coastal Carolina) - CCU was one of the surprises in the 2020 college football season, and Jackson was a big reason why. Coastal went undefeated and Jackson has seen a big uptick in play since 2019. Teams will want a closer at a player who could be a big riser over the course of the draft process.
- Patrick Jones II (DL, Pittsburgh) - Staying on the defensive line, Jones II is one of the better pass rushers in the draft. He has racked up 24 tackles for a loss and 17.5 sacks over the last two years for Pitt’s defense. He should put on a good show this week, but teams will be interested to see if he has the movement skills to play from a 2-point stance after playing 4-3 defensive end almost exclusively.
- Hamilcar Rashed Jr. (EDGE, Oregon State) - Rashed Jr. is a long, lean (6-foot-4, 238 pounds) EDGE player who brings athleticism, explosiveness, and competitive toughness as a rusher. His versatile frame and ability to rush from a 2-point stance could appeal to the Giants as a Day-2 value to help add to their pass rush.
- Baron Browning (LB, Ohio State) - Browning was a 5-star recruit with prototypical size and athleticism for a modern NFL linebacker. He hasn’t played with the consistency Ohio State would have preferred, but Browning has all the traits to be a three-down linebacker in the NFL. He has upside as a run defender, pass defender, and as a pass rusher. He could rise up draft boards if he takes coaching well this week.
- Michael Carter (RB, North Carolina) - Carter might be my favorite RB in the draft, particularly for value. The comparison between he and Najee Harris in practice should be fascinating, and a blast to watch. I don’t like making pro comparisons for prospects, but I can’t help but see Alvin Kamara when watching Carter play.
- Chazz Surratt (LB, North Carolina) - Surratt’s name has been brought up a few times here over the course of the season. It isn’t often you see a quarterback become a linebacker, but that’s what Surratt has done over his time at UNC. He made the transition well and is one of the better and more versatile linebackers in the draft. The Giants could use a smart and athletic off-ball linebacker, and Surratt is one to keep an eye on.
- D’Wayne Eskridge (WR, Western Michigan) - The Giants might not have an interest in the 5-foot-9, 190 pound receiver, but his path to this point is fascinating. Eskridge is a converted DB but has become a receiver with a reputation for strong hands, good route running, and upside as a punt and kick returner. Complicating matters is the fact that he played both sides of the ball to help WMU cope with injuries. He stands a chance of becoming a coaching favorite before the week is out.