Senior Bowl 2016 Preview

Paul Perdichizzi


With the East West Shrine Game and NFLPA Game over, all eyes turn to Mobile, Alabama for the Reese’s Senior Bowl. This is the elite All-Star game, where every NFL team is well represented and the top seniors from college football get to showcase their skills. While last year was an overall down year for the amount of top talent at the event, this year there are legitimate first or second round prospects at just about every position. Below is a list of guys from the offensive skill positions that I am most intrigued to keep tabs on throughout the week and during the game this upcoming Saturday.


Carson Wentz, North Dakota State – 6’5”, 233 lbs

The small school prospect is the talk of the Senior Bowl and rightfully so. Wentz is the total package for what NFL teams are looking for, from the quarterback position. He is athletic, can move well in the pocket, has great size, a strong arm, can make all the throws, a high football intelligence, and displays strong leadership skills. The only knock on him is his lack of games started in college and the level of competition. If he can shine in this setting, the sky is the limit for how high Wentz can move up in the pre-draft process. A few weeks ago, he was being talked about as a late first round pick, now the momentum is building for him to be a top-10 pick, and with a strong week at the Senior Bowl, there is some talk he can go top five and possibly even be the first quarterback off the board, ahead of Jared Goff, from California.

Dak Prescott, Mississippi State – 6’2”, 226

Prescott is one of the more intriguing quarterback prospects at the senior bowl. Last year at this time, I did not think he was a future quarterback at the NFL level. Over this last season though, he showed great improvement I thought in his passing skills and developed more as a pocket passer. He threw for 3,793 yards and 29 touchdowns this season, in addition to rushing for 588 yards and 10 more touchdowns. Prescott still possesses great athleticism for a quarterback, can create plays with his legs, and has good size and arm strength. The big questions he still must answer is can he continue to develop into an even more efficient pocket passer and can he improve his accuracy and display the ability to go through his progressions at the NFL level. I think Prescott has a chance to be taken in round three or four and if he can really impress this week, and a team is sold on him being able to play and win from the pocket, he may even be able to sneak into the back end of round two.

Brandon Allen, Arkansas – 6’1”, 221

Allen is one of my favorite late round quarterbacks that I really like and am looking forward to seeing how he does throughout the week. Allen has good athleticism, can move well in the pocket, has good arm strength, is competitive, tough and has experience playing in a pro-style offense. I thought his performances this year really flew under the radar. Playing in the best conference in the country, Allen was able to throw 3,340 yards, 30 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. Those numbers look even more impressive when you consider that Arkansas lost one of their star running backs and a few of their top receivers for most or all of the season as well. The one big knock on Allen will be his size, which is not ideal for what NFL teams are looking for. If he can overcome that obstacle, there is a chance Allen can get drafted in the late rounds and believe he can develop into a solid backup quarterback, with some upside.

Others to Watch: Jacoby Brissett (North Carolina State)

Running Backs

Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech – 5’10”, 215

Dixon heads into the Senior Bowl as the top running back prospect at the event. Dixon is a talented all-around back that can play on all three downs. He has good size, quickness, patience, and balance as a runner. This past season he rushed for 1,079 yards for 19 touchdowns, and also caught 34 passes for 467 yards and seven more touchdowns. I think Dixon’s receiving ability is underrated and will make him very popular with NFL teams. Dixon also shows an ability to pass protect, which will help him see more time on the field immediately. Similar to how Ameer Abdullah used the Senior Bowl last year to rise up the draft boards, this year, that could be Dixon. Overall Dixon has very few flaws, and as a result has a chance to be taken in round two or three of the NFL draft.

Jonathan Williams, Arkansas – 5’11”, 219

Last August, Williams was considered the top senior running back. Unfortunately a foot injury derailed his season and Williams was unable to play the entire year for the Razorbacks. Finally healthy, Williams has a huge opportunity this week to improve his stock and make himself a legitimate top-100 player in the draft. Williams is a power back that is a strong north-south runner between the tackles. He displays solid vision and good movement for a bigger back. His biggest areas of concern besides showing that he is healthy are in pass protection and his receiving ability. The way offenses are built in the NFL today, power backs are not as heavily used as once before. Most teams now prefer backs that can do a little bit of everything. Right now I think his style of play and areas of weakness, remind me of Jonathan Stewart of the Carolina Panthers.

Kenyan Drake, Alabama – 6’1”, 210

Drake is a really intriguing player to me. He never lived up to his potential at Alabama due to nagging injuries and a crowded depth chart that always seemed to have a star running back ahead of him. I think there is a misconception that Drake is some small, third-down receiving type back, but that is far from the truth. While he served that receiving role at times for Alabama, Drake actually possesses good size, speed and power. He is tall, lean and has dynamic running ability. He is very versatile, as he can run inside, outside, can be used as a receiver, and on special teams. I think Drake will move up draft boards during the process and has a chance to be drafted in the third or fourth round, and will be a better professional player than collegiate player.

Others to Watch: Aaron Green (TCU), Tyler Ervin (San Jose State)

Wide Receivers

Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma- 5’10”, 193

Besides Wentz, Shepard has the next best chance of hearing his name called in the first round of the NFL draft. This past season, Shepard caught 86 passes, for 1,288 yards and 12 touchdowns. Shepard has great quickness, change of direction skills, hands and is the premiere route runner of all the receivers in the draft. He is explosive when he gets the ball in his hands and he does an excellent job of creating space and getting open for his quarterback. In addition, for someone his size, he has also shown the ability to go and make plays in the air, at times. His biggest concerns are his strength and size, but those are questions all smaller receivers have to answer when they get to the NFL and face tougher and more physical defensive backs. Right now when watching him play, he reminds me of Tyler Lockett, who Seattle drafted in the second round last season out of Kansas State. I think Shepard will be taken late in round one or early in round two.

Braxton Miller, Ohio State – 6’1”, 204

The former quarterback, Miller has a chance to improve his draft stock more than anyone this week at the Senior Bowl. Rather than transfer to another college this past season and continue to play quarterback, Miller made the smart choice to remain at Ohio State and start the transition to become a wide receiver. This past season he caught 26 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns. More important though than the stats, was watching him and realizing he had the movement skills, elusiveness, soft hands and athleticism to become a playmaking wide receiver. He must use this week to show NFL teams that he is continuing to develop his route running ability. With a strong week here, Miller has a chance to move his draft stock from the 4th round to as high as the second round.

Leonte Carroo, Rutgers – 6’0”, 217

Carroo is one of my favorite players at the Senior Bowl year this year. While he does not possess great height, I think Carroo does everything else really well. I think he is a refined route runner that has good size, speed, strength and displays good hands. I do not think he is going to be a vertical threat at the next level but think he does a great job of creating space at the catch point and can be dangerous after the catch. I think he embraces contact, and shows good physicality for a receiver. His style of play and game, reminds me of Anquan Boldin, when Boldin came out of Florida State. I think he will be drafted in the second or third round of the draft and have a very productive NFL career as a number two wide receiver.

Paul McRoberts, Southeast Missouri State – 6’2”, 202

After Wentz, McRoberts is the top small school player there on the offensive side of the ball. McRoberts was originally scheduled to play last week in the East West Shrine Game but got a late call to head to the Senior Bowl. McRoberts is a very intriguing wide receiver. He displays good movement skills, has vertical speed, a large catch radius, can high point the ball well, and shows good hands by often catching the ball away from his body. This week will be a big bump in the level of competition, so NFL teams will be watching closely to see how he hands these more athletic, physical and more talented defensive backs. If McRoberts can produce well this week, he has a great chance to be drafted in the third or fourth round.

Others to Watch: Aaron Burbridge (Michigan State), Malcom Mitchell (Georgia)

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