The week of practices leading up to the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl are all over. It was a great three days of practice and drills, with plenty of players on a pair of loaded rosters flashing throughout. All that’s left now is the Senior Bowl itself. Most years the game itself is really more of an exhibition for fans, and the NFL only shows little interest.
Ordinarily the various coaching staffs, scouts, and executives of the 30 teams not coaching the game would be on their way back to their facilities to get ready for the Scouting Combine.
But this year things could well be different and we could see much more focus on the Senior Bowl game. With the Combine canceled and many prospects having opted out of the 2020 season, the NFL’s opportunities to get eyes on these young men are much more limited than in a normal year. For some of these players, this will be their first live football since the 2019 season and could provide a valuable metric on where they stand in their development.
We know from the New York Giants previous draft classes that they scout the Senior Bowl quite heavily, so it is entirely possible — even likely — that there will be at least one future Giant on the field.
Unfortunately, the two top prospects on the property, DeVonta Smith and Najee Harriss, won’t be playing in the game due to injury. Likewise, the status of Alabama QB Mac Jones, Central Michigan WR D’wayne Eskridge, Wake Forest WR Sage Surratt, and North Carolina LB Chazz Surratt are all uncertain for the game. They were among the players who suffered various dings and injuries over the course the week of practice. As of this writing we don’t know whether they will take part in the game or stay on the sidelines out of caution.
How To Watch
Game Time: 2:30 p.m. Eastern (1:30 p.m. Central)
TV Channel: NFL Network
Players to watch
Amari Rodgers (WR, Clemson) - American Team: Everyone will already be watching Florida receiver Kadarius Toney, so I wanted to call a bit of attention to Rodgers here. He performed as well as Toney in many of the drills during practices, and deserves the spot. While he doesn’t quite have Toney’s electric speed, Rodgers is still quick, fast, and looks to be a solid route runner. Considering Clemson’s track record with receivers, he definitely bears watching.
Nico Collins (WR, Michigan) - National Team: Collins proved to be more than just another big body in practices. He showed surprisingly good movement skills in drills, as well as the ability to make full use of his size and catch radius. It’s also notable that Collins showed good ball skills, tracking and adjusting well, as well as a good rapport with his quarterback to present a clean target and work back to the ball.
Austin Watkins Jr. (WR, UAB) - American Team: Watkins was one of the really pleasant surprises of the American Team’s practices. An under-the-radar small school prospect, Watkins Jr. has good size but really impressed with the fluidity of his route running, moving through his stems and sinking into his breaks like a much smaller player. He didn’t flash so much as consistently show up throughout drills.
Deonte Brown (OG, Alabama) - American Team: It will be difficult to not watch Brown on the field. Deonte Brown is an absolutely ginormous guard prospect with incredible strength as a run blocker and as a pass protector. He isn’t particularly fleet of foot (he weighs 364 pounds), but when he moves in a direction or gets his hands on a defender, that’s just it.
Trey Smith (OL, Tennessee) - American Team: Smith comes with some serious medical questions, but if those aren’t a concern he is a good and versatile lineman who could help the Giants at both tackle and guard. Also, don’t underestimate the presence of Smith’s former head coach on the Giants’ coaching staff. The Giants are big on relationships, and that inside knowledge could figure heavily in his grade.
Quincy Roche (EDGE, Miami) - American Team: Roche was a menace all week long off the edge and had himself a great week. Not only did he show up bigger than expected at 6-foot-3, 243 pounds, but he showed the kind of quickness off the edge, lower body flexibility, hand usage, and motor teams want to see from a pass rusher. He also showed some legitimate upside as a run defender, standing up a double team against the American Teams’ stout offensive line.
- Richie Grant (DB, Central Florida) - American Team: Grant was everywhere in the American Teams’ secondary on the final day of practice. He not only showed fantastic instincts and ball skills as a safety (recording interceptions to start and end practice), but also the feet and hips to hang in coverage as a cornerback. He could very well be the top safety on the draft board after this week is done and a legitimate defensive weapon for whichever team drafts him.
Cameron Sample (iDL, Tulane) - American Team: Another small-school surprise, Sample was a wrecking ball on the final day of practices. He’s a bit undersized (particularly when compared to the Giants’ preferences on the defensive interior), but he showed the ability to win with power and explosiveness in one-on-ones. More importantly, he also showed the ability to win with technique and athleticism, and that’s a dangerous combination on the interior.
Osa Odighizuwa (iDL, UCLA) - National Team: Giants fans may cringe with this inclusion, but the younger Odighizuwa impressed throughout practices. Blockers struggled to find answers for him whenever they faced him. He has power throughout his body, from his legs to his feet, and was able to get past blockers in a blink with an explosive burst and heavy hands. On the occasions that blockers were able to stay in front of him, he was able to walk them right into the backfield with some legitimately impressive leverage and play strength.
Jabril Cox (LB, LSU) - National Team: I was excited for Cox to transfer from North Dakota State to LSU, but then LSU took a step back as they reverted to their old ground-and-pound offense and we didn’t see much from Cox in 2020. He flashed in Senior Bowl practices, showing good movement skills for an outside linebacker and enough stoutness to be a viable inside linebacker as well. He has great size and is very good tools and could be a sleeper with a bit of development.
- Tarron Jackson (iDL, Coastal Carolina) - National Team
- Hamilcar Rashed Jr. (EDGE, Oregon State) - National Team
- Carlos Basham Jr. (EDGE, Wake Forest - American Team
- Sam Elhinger (QB, Texas) - National Team
- Tre McKitty (TE, Georgia) - American Team