The 2024 Reese’s Senior Bowl is upon us, and we once again have a great crop of prospects down in Mobile.
Each of the 32 teams will be watching — and talking to — each of the prospects on the property, but what makes this year special is the quarterback class. The 2024 quarterback class that calls to mind 2018 or 2020 with the amount of potential contained in the top six prospects.
This year we’ll get a showdown between big name passers Bo Nix and Michael Penix Jr, which should headline practices. That QB duo harkens back to the showdown between Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen in the 2018 Senior Bowl, or Justin Herbert and Jordan Love in 2020. Nix and Penix will likely (and rightly) dominate the conversation this week, but there are some other very interesting passers on this year’s roster.
The New York Giants might be in the market for a quarterback this year. Could a future Giant be on the field this week?
Carter Bradley (South Alabama)
I’m not even going to try to sugar coat this: I’ve only just barely watched Bradley. In my defense, South Alabama isn’t exactly high on my viewing priority list — though to be fair, the Jaguars have produced draft picks in each of the last three years.
The question here is whether Bradley will extend their streak to four years. I’ll say that he has a chance.
Bradley has NFL size at 6-foot-3, 218 pounds and appears crisp within the pocket. He seemed to have a good command of the offense, solid accuracy and arm strength, and enough athleticism to execute bootlegs. Nobody should be expecting Bradley to be a true dual threat, but he’s still a functional athlete. Bradley will be overshadowed in name recognition by the other passers, but maybe he can be this year’s Tyson Bagent or Bailey Zappe.
Sam Hartman (Notre Dame)
Sam Hartman has been something of a darling of the scouting community over the last couple of years. Every year around November, folks start asking each other some variation of “have you watched this guy” and Hartman was often “that guy” at Wake Forest.
He’s undersized, lacks great arm strength, and is going to be a 25-year-old rookie. However, Hartman processes information quickly, knows how to attack coverages, has plus athleticism behind the line of scrimmage, and is accurate to the short and intermediate areas of the field. He finished his college career in both yards (15,656) and touchdowns (135), and has developed good poise in the pocket thanks to all his experience.
Hartman probably won’t be a modern day Drew Brees, but he could carve out a long career as a back-up at the NFL level. And who knows, maybe he could be another Brock Purdy...
Joe Milton III (Tennessee)
Milton got his start at Michigan before being benched in favor of Cade McNamara and then transferring to Tennessee. Milton started in 2021, but suffered an injury and was replaced by Hendon Hooker, who didn’t let go of the starting job until suffering a torn ACL in 2022.
Milton finally got a real chance to shine as a starting QB in 2023 as a sixth year senior and certainly showed some upside. He threw for 2,800 yards and 20 touchdowns to just 5 interceptions (completing a career-high 64.7 percent of his passes), while also running for another 300 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Milton is probably the “toolsiest” quarterback in the class, perhaps only trailing North Carolina’s Drake Maye. He has a massively powerful arm, obvious size and strength, and is a powerful runner as well. Milton will be 24 by the time the draft rolls around, but he’ll be looking to show teams that there’s plenty there to develop.
Spencer Rattler (South Carolina)
Rattler is going to be an interesting case study in this year’s draft cycle — and in some ways could follow a similar path as Bo Nix (more on him later).
Rattler started his college career under Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma and was regarded as a potential first overall pick down the line. However, things didn’t exactly go as planned and Rattler proved inconsistent for Oklahoma and was benched in 2021 for a promising true freshman quarterback — Caleb Williams.
Rattler transferred to South Carolina in the hopes of finding a better situation and proving himself against SEC competition. And he did manage to do that, at least to an extent. Rattler is still inconsistent, but his highs are absolutely tantalizing. He has the easy athleticism to turn the game into backyard football when scrambling to extend plays (he’s also scored 16 rushing touchdowns since 2020), as well as legitimately impressive arm. Rattler has the arm strength to threaten all areas of the field, as well as the flexibility that — when combined with his movement skills — made Mahomesian comparisons easy for the more hyperbolically inclined.
Of course, his lows are still there and have been enough to take the wind out of pre-draft hype.
Now, Rattler will be looking to show NFL evaluators that he’s a good quarterback prospect and that sky-high ceiling that once made him so exciting is still within reach.
Michael Pratt (Tulane)
Michael Pratt is one of those well-kept scouting community secrets that gets let out this time of year.
Prat is something of a rarity in modern drafts: a classic pocket passer. He has solid size at 6-foot-2, 216 pounds and excels at making plays with his arm as opposed to his legs.
Pratt has been a four-year starter at Tulane, highlighted by their Cotton Bowl win over USC. He's also managed to improve each year, completing a higher percentage of his passes, for more yards, while keeping his interceptions low and reducing his sack rate. Pratt completed 66.4 percent of his passes last year for 8.8 yards per attempt, and was praised by his coaches for his deep ball.
This is his chance to show he can hang with big school prospects and can excel with NFL coaching. A good showing this week could propel Pratt into the second tier of quarterbacks on teams’ boards — if he isn’t there already and the media at large just hasn’t caught up yet.
Bo Nix (Oregon)
Few players have more to gain this week than Bo Nix.
Nix has had a long and tumultuous road to the NFL, even by the standards of the 2023 quarterback class (in which four of the top seven or eight are fifth-year seniors who took advantage of the transfer portal).
Nix was a prized recruit and was ESPN's number 2 QB and Rivals' top QB recruit coming out of high school. He was expected to lead Auburn back to prominence but only ever managed to flash the upside that made him so highly recruited. But, as our friend Mark Schofield likes to say, development isn't linear.
Nix transferred to Oregon prior to the 2022 season and began to rehabilitate his football career.
Nix has always been an athletic quarterback with a strong arm and improvisational skills. He set an NCAA record for completion percentage this year at Oregon, completing 77.4 percent of his passes for 4,508 yards, and 45 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions this past year. And yet, he still isn't thought of as a top QB prospect. At least not widely.
Nix has a chance to change that this week, and there are already rumblings that he could be a riser over this week of practices.
Dane Brugler of The Athletic has mentioned that some scouts think Nix could exit the weekend as a Top-25 pick (Subscription required).
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com has said that he might wind up giving Nix a "Top-10" final grade.
Michael Penix Jr. (Washington)
Penix comes into the week as the top passer on the property. His draft stock rose steadily over the course of the 2023 season, to the point where he was discussed as a real possibility for the Giants in the Top 10 after a fantastic performance in the first round of the College Football Playoffs.
Of course, that wasn't the final game of the season, and the buzz around Penix stopped pretty abruptly in the face of Michigan's defense. Penix will be looking to remind everyone why he was so highly thought of prior to the loss in the National Championship. Senior Bowl practices are a great opportunity to remind teams of his ability as a passer while getting NFL coaching. Showing off his accuracy, arm strength, and football IQ (without the bevy of NFL receivers he enjoyed at Washington), would go a long way toward assuaging any lingering concerns about his ability or injury history.