The week of practice leading up to the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl is all wrapped up following the American Team’s final practice on Thursday.
The Senior Bowl itself won’t be played until Saturday afternoon and most of the scouts and evaluators who flocked to Mobile Alabama will likely be leaving tonight or tomorrow. The prospects on the property gave them plenty to think, and write, about — and several likely forced scouts to go back to their tape.
The Senior Bowl featured heavily in the New York Giants scouting process in previous years, and that could well continue under new general manager Joe Schoen. The Senior Bowl gives scouts a chance to see how prospects take to actual NFL coaching, and see them over three days in a very hands-on environment.
The roster in this year’s Senior Bowl is excellent, and might be the best we’ve ever seen. Who stood out in their last opportunity to impress many of the NFL’s scouts?
Calvin Austin III is fast
Some match-ups just aren’t fair. Lions’ Assistant Head Coach and Running Backs’ Coach Deuce Staley called for one more rep in the one-on-ones between the receivers and DBs. This one set WR Calvin Austin III against Yusuf Corker, a 204-pound box safety in man coverage, and that just wasn’t fair.
Calvin Austin my goodness man pic.twitter.com/5E0c1sOv6r— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) February 3, 2022
Austin has been impressive all week, and DBs have struggled to keep up with his speed.
Memphis WR Calvin Austin can FLY.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) February 2, 2022
Heard he is going to run in the mid 4.3s. pic.twitter.com/vOFteGHzGp
Is Luke Fortner on the rise?
Giants fans are obviously watching the offensive linemen closely, and they should probably be paying attention to Kentucky center Luke Fortner if they haven’t been already. Kentucky G/T Darian Kinnard was already a name Giants’ fans were familiar with, but Fortner has been impressive.
Luke Fortner showed impressive lateral quickness and hands on film this year at Kentucky. How did he win here? Take a guess. pic.twitter.com/BFkTKOlQJ8— Matt Alkire (@mattalkire) February 3, 2022
Fortner has good size for the center position at 6-foot-3, 302 pounds with 33-inch arms. He isn’t massive (at least as far as NFL offensive linemen go), but he has some really good play strength to go with his quickness.
Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum is definitely the top center in this class, but there’s an impressive group of players behind him to give this draft some good depth. It’s possible that a couple starters could come out of this class.
Bailey Zappe making plays for the small schoolers
Malik Willis and Sam Howell are bigger names and higher on draft boards, but Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe showed that he can hang with them. Zappe was impressive throughout Thursday’s practice, throwing with touch and accuracy, and he answered some questions about his arm strength too.
Bailey Zappe throws a nice deep ball to Danny Gray who makes a great grab pic.twitter.com/YtVzCuiN0l— The Transfer Portal CFB (@TPortalCFB) February 3, 2022
Beautiful corner ball from @WKUFootball QB Bailey Zappe to @OleMissFB WR Dontario Drummond.— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) February 3, 2022
Zappe is throwing with a ton of confidence today, and Drummond has been one of the more underrated players at @seniorbowl pic.twitter.com/Hr6joa1ID7
The Red Zone drills might have been the highlight of the American Team’s practice, and Bailey put on a show. He easily has the best series of the three passers and the ball didn’t hit the ground. Zappe read the defense quickly and did a great job of placing the ball.
Bailey Zappe —> Isaiah Likely— The Transfer Portal CFB (@TPortalCFB) February 3, 2022
Zappe is shredding today! pic.twitter.com/USp0va0y5o
Eric Johnson flashing on the defensive line
Bailey wasn’t the only small school player out there showing that he belonged with the big-school prospects. Defensive tackle Eric Johnson II has been a menace on the field, and he was a problem for just about anyone who lined up across from him.
Johnson is an athletic 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, and he is remarkably quick off the ball. He’s also a lot more agile than his frame would suggest. He beat Kinnard with his spin move here, but Kinnard was far from the only lineman that Johnson beat that way.
Johnson also showed good power that seemed to take some opposing linemen by surprise. All told, he likely made himself some money today and sent a lot of scouts back to his tape.