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Winners from the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl practices

Which players helped themselves in practice at the Senior Bowl?

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

The Reese’s Senior Bowl is a truly wonderful event that showcases the nation’s top college seniors. One of the slogans of the event based in southern Alabama is that “the draft starts in Mobile,” and that’s hard to argue. The experience is surreal at first.

The entire NFL world assembles in downtown Mobile to evaluate prospects, reconnect with friends, and carouse through the night. You can look to your left and see the faces of many NFL coaches chumming with pinnacle members of NFL media. Then you can turn right and see some GMs, scouts, or former players at any given moment.

My first year in Mobile was 2017, and I attended the event through 2020. There’s a player who significantly rises at the event every season. Haason Reddick was a hybrid linebacker/EDGE out of Temple who dominated the Senior Bowl in 2017. His stock rose multiple rounds, and the Cardinals selected him with the 12th pick.

Cooper Kupp was a wide receiver out of Eastern Washington that generated a lot of buzz at the Senior Bowl. He was a record-setting type of productive at the FCS level, but the questions about the level of competition were quickly answered when he consistently won with nuanced routes. The Rams took him early in the third round and never looked back.

In 2018, an EDGE out of UTSA named Marcus Davenport helped solidify himself in the first round; some would argue Baker Mayfield’s performance through the week of practice earned him the right to be selected first overall. Josh Allen was very impressive, and the Bills picked him at seven.

Dallas Goedert from South Dakota State was uncoverable in team drills; the Eagles picked him 49. Fort Hays State’s Nathan Shephard hurt his hand in practice but dominated the first practice and a half; the Jets selected him in the top 75.

Daniel Jones wasn’t the only player that sparked love in his future GM during the 2019 event. Kyle Shanahan had the pleasure to coach DeeBo Samuel at the event, and then 49er GM John Lynch selected him early in the second round - that worked out.

I interned for the Senior Bowl in 2019. Khalen Saunders out of Western Illinois had a fantastic week of practice and even missed Thursday’s practice because of his daughter’s birth. But Saunders returned for the game on Saturday and had three tackles with a sack. He is now a part of the Chief’s defensive line rotation and was a day two pick after consistently being mocked late in the draft.

Over the last few seasons, we’ve seen St. John’s OL Ben Bartch and Wisconsin-Whitewater’s OL Quinn Meinerz significantly raise their stock at the Reese’s Senior Bowl. Justin Herbert won the Senior Bowl MVP in 2020 (I know...the pain). The event can provide a glimpse into future stars in a competitive atmosphere with NFL coaching.

Players like Boston College OL Zion Johnson, Auburn CB Roger McCreary, and FLST EDGE Jermaine Johnson were highly touted before the event and now helped solidify themselves as possible first-round picks (in Jermaine Johnson’s case, a potential top-15 player), but what lesser-known player helped his stock this week in Mobile? Let’s find out!

RB Dameon Pierce, Florida

Pierce was criminally underused at Florida. The 5-foot-9, 220-pound back has the contact balance, power, and vision to be effective inside the tackles while having the explosiveness and foot-speed to gain the edge. Pierce had three touchdown receptions on short passes - each went for 45+ yards.

Pierce hit holes hard, caught passes out of the backfield, and was a true riser among the running back group.

One question that some had about Pierce was his ability to execute as a pass protector. He held his own well:

Running backs typically aren’t selected high anymore - it’s not 1995. They’re still valuable assets; they’re just not as prioritized. However, the Giants could be in the running back market with one of their picks, despite selecting Gary Brightwell in the sixth round last year.

WR Christian Watson, North Dakota State

Watson was unguardable for much of the practice sessions.

He’s fluid enough to execute a well-timed comeback route (despite barely working with the quarterback):

He shows great separation technique at the breakpoint over the middle of the field to “break ankles.” Stems inside, leans, dips outside shoulder to assist separation, great change of direction inward.

And he has some vertical speed. It also shows the ability to win contested-catch here because Nevada quarterback Carson Strong underthrows him.

Watson played in a run-heavy offense that works the play-action pass. He averaged more than 20 yards per catch in college.

This video also made its rounds on Twitter. Receivers over 6-4 with this type of lower body flexion are rare. He also should have had a long touchdown after releasing off the line of scrimmage and forcing the cornerback to fall; QB Kenny Pickett failed to hit Watson in stride and put the ball low. Watson adjusted well, caught the low pass, got up, and picked up an extra fifteen yards. Watson did very well for himself in Mobile.

TE Cole Turner, Nevada

Ohio State’s Jeremy Ruckert and Colorado State’s Trey McBride were the headliners of the position group, but Turner was sneaky productive during the practices. Turner is 6-6, 246-pounds with a big catch radius.

Turner was productive for Carson Strong in college. He had 62 receptions for 667-yards and ten touchdowns - tied for third in TDs for the FBS.

Turner’s not known or heralded for his ability to block. His frame is a bit lean, but he had some quality reps in Mobile as a blocker during practice.

The Giants need a tight end. There is no Kyle Pitts in this draft. However, the tight end position has some quality options late on day two and into day three. If they don’t land a McBride or Ruckert, Turner is a name to monitor and consider on day three.

TE Greg Dulcich, UCLA

Dulcich is a great move type of tight end who can be a solid receiving threat at the next level. He was open a lot in team periods and seven on sevens:

Dulcich provides soft hands, understands soft spots in zone, and can make contested catches, all while being a good athlete.

OT Matt Waletzko, North Dakota

I hadn’t seen anything on Waletzko before the Senior Bowl event, and I felt like he did a solid job overall in one-on-ones.

He comes from an FCS program, so adjusting to players’ speed like Minnesota’s Boye Mafe has to be a challenge. He has a good 6’6, 310-pound frame with exceptional length and 10+ inch hands. I’m interested to see how he tests, but I felt like he helped his stock in Mobile.

IOL Dylan Parham, Memphis

Parham was a dominant guard at the collegiate level. He’s 6-2, 313 pounds, good length, large hands, and he took significant snaps at the center position while in Mobile. He was effective in one-on-ones and caught many people’s eyes during practice sessions.

And he arguably had the best team period block on this reach attempt. He quickly gains access to the defender’s outside shoulder.

He anchors well against a talented power rusher in Arkansas’ John Ridgeway III. In these one-on-one drills, the offensive linemen will get pushed back, but he sits back on his hips and doesn’t allow Ridgeway to separate.

New York needs to replenish and rebuild an offensive line consisting of one sure-fire starter in left tackle Andrew Thomas. Much like Rome, an offensive line isn’t built in a day. New general manager Joe Schoen needs to invest capital into the position group. Parham could be an option for the Giants early on day three unless he ascends into the third round.

DL Travis Jones, UCONN

The defensive front was very talented in Mobile. I could wax poetic about Georgia’s Devonte Wyatt, Arkansas’ John Ridgeway III, and Oklahoma’s Perrion Winfrey, but I want to highlight some lesser-known names. No defensive lineman raised their stock more than Jones.

UCONN did not play football in 2020. In 2021, he had 25 pressures and four sacks. He rarely lost a rep in Mobile. He was dominating with strength, quickness, and a combination of both while possessing a variety of pass-rushing moves to create separation.

Teams looking to add defensive line help can look Jones’ way after the second round.

DL Neil Farrell Jr, LSU

Farrell had success in team drills, one-on-ones, and consistently employed his power with his 338-pound frame.

These are translatable skills of pure disruption in the center of the defense. Farrell was also dominant in one-on-one settings, even showing some quickness.

And power:

Farrell’s performance at this event probably assisted in moving up a few rounds in the NFL Draft.

EDGE Boye Mafe, Minnesota

There were a plethora of talented EDGE rushers in Mobile. FLST’s Jermaine Johnson flew up draft boards; Cincinnati EDGE Myjai Sanders, Houston’s Logan Hall, and South Carolina’s Kingsley Enagbare were all exceptional and could be selected around the backend of the first round.

Mafe doesn’t carry the same buzz as these players, but he had a great week in Mobile. He’s going to be a player that significantly rises because of this week, and after his combine which should be very impressive. He’s got a quick first few steps, does a great job at the top of the pass-rushing arc, and he refined his hand usage last year in college.

Teams looking for speed, twitch, and explosiveness will be interested in Mafe’s skillset.

EDGE DeAngelo Malone, Western Kentucky

Malone showed power, explosiveness, solid length, and excellent competitive toughness. He wrong-armed a sniffer pulling and absolutely blew the tight end up:

Malone also showed juice as a pass rusher:

He used that pop-on contact to push the tight end into another block to force him to the deck. This resulted in a sack on Kenny Pickett during the game:

Malone could be a day three option with interesting size and athletic ability who can be disruptive.

LB Troy Andersen, Montana State

Andersen was a big fish in a small pond at Montana State. He proved his status as a true NFL linebacker at the Senior Bowl. He’s a linebacker with good coverage skills, and made a great play on the football against Turner on this red zone fade:

One-on-one coverage drills are incredibly difficult on the defenders. There’s so much space and time to account for, and the offense is always at an advantage. Andersen recovers so well after a nice route from the tight end:

The plays in one-on-one are nice, but plays like this in team periods are very impressive. Andersen fights through two blocks, moves laterally while keeping his eyes on the running back’s path, and then puts himself in position to make a tackle if it were contact:

CB Tariq Woolen, UTSA

All week, Cincinnati’s Coby Bryant, Baylor’s Jalen Pitre, and Auburn’s Roger McCreary were impressive, but their talent was known before the event. I personally didn’t know much about Woolen heading into the event, but I saw his size profile and assumed that he could be a stiffer type of athlete. However, he did a good job in drills and had more fluidity than expected:

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 205

Arm Length: 33 1/2″

Wingspan: 79 inches

Hand: 8 5/8″

Woolen handles that press play well with good discipline. The catch is ultimately made, but he was all over this route. Teams will see his size, length, and movement skills, and they’ll be automatically intrigued. Here’s a similar play at the top of the screen:

He does a good job covering this dig route and working through the catch point with his near hand while maintaining contact with his outside hand - Jerome Henderson would be proud:

Woolen is a long strider who can cover down the field. His transitions are solid, and he could be an interesting player to add on day three.

CB Joshua Williams, Fayetteville State

Williams is a small school kid from Division-II who played well throughout practice.

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 193

Arm Length: 32 14 inches

Wingspan: 78 1/8 inches

Hand: 9 14 inches

Williams has a real shot at being drafted. He competed strongly against some of the nation’s best senior wide receivers. Joe Schoen and the Buffalo Bills weren’t shy with selecting small school prospects late in the draft. Williams could be a late-round option; the Bills also frequently drafted defensive backs with upside on day three, which could happen again.