Senior Bowl Risers -- Offense

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

The game has been played, the practices are long gone and scouts are polishing off their notes from the 2018 Senior Bowl. So when all is said and done, who were the big winners this year? Which players impressed future employers the most and left Mobile with a much higher grade then the one they arrived with? Chris Tripodi and Tony Pauline look at the biggest Risers on offense from last week’s scouting event.


Winner -- Baker Mayfield/Oklahoma: It’s not often you see a Heisman Trophy winner playing at the Senior Bowl, but the competitor in Mayfield drove him to Mobile in an attempt answer the questions about his game. The former Sooners star did just that, standing tall over one of the better collections of quarterback talent assembled at the event in recent years despite checking in as the shortest signal caller there at just over six feet. He showed he could handle a pro offense and throw with good fundamentals and anticipation working under center rather than in the shotgun. Mayfield went through his progressions nicely, even doing so in drills against air to solidify the habit, and developed better chemistry with his receivers -- especially Michael Gallup -- than any quarterback on either team. Teams picking near the top of the draft -- including the Broncos, who coached the North squad -- should now be more comfortable looking Mayfield’s way.

Honorable Mention -- Kyle Lauletta/Richmond

Running back

Winner -- Kalen Ballage/Arizona State: We’ve been down on Ballage, even saying he “looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane,” after a pedestrian performance this season. Ballage’s play this week in Mobile finally matched his physical prowess, as the 6-foot-2, 222-pound runner showed explosive athleticism and smooth receiving skills in addition to holding up in pass protection. Running backs tend not to stand out with the lack of contact at Senior Bowl practices, and while that actually may have helped Ballage, who ran smaller than his listed size at times during his Sun Devils career, he also impressed during Saturday’s game with 10 carries for 57 yards. Scouts have long been intrigued by his size and athleticism, and that intrigue with remain throughout the rest of the postseason process.

Honorable Mention -- Akrum Wadley/Iowa

Wide receiver

Winner -- James Washington/Oklahoma State: Several receivers helped themselves in Mobile, including Braxton Berrios, DaeSean Hamilton and DJ Chark, but Washington stole the show. Despite measuring in just shy of 5-foot-11, a full inch shorter than his listed height with the Cowboys, Washington’s impressive 33 7/8-inch arms helped make up for his lack of height, and he dominated Tuesday’s practice to get his week off to a blazing start. He used his hands well to separate early in routes, was lightning-quick out of route breaks and attacked the ball aggressively in the air at all levels of the field. His yards-after-catch prowess and ball-tracking skills were also on display, and while he had occasional struggles at the line against press coverage, his overall body of work at the Senior Bowl may have pushed him into the back end of Round 1.

Honorable Mention -- Braxton Berrios/Miami

Tight End

Winner -- Michael Gesicki/Penn State: Wow, wow, wow. The gigantic tight end looked natural catching the ball and had wide-receiver traits when the pass was thrown in his direction. He was athletic and fluid yet overpowering and dominant all at the same time. Gesicki used his incredible leaping ability to get vertical over opponents and made some incredible catches in contorted positions in which he resembled a gymnast. I don’t think he’s going to run very fast at the combine, but he doesn’t have to; some team will snatch him up in the second round and make him its primary third-down and red-zone target.

Honorable Mention -- Durham Smythe/Notre Dame

Offensive Line

Winner -- Brett Toth/Army: After a solid week of practice at the Shrine Game, Toth took it up a notch in Mobile. He stopped just about everyone who lined up across from him and shut down a variety of opponents. From the speed rush of Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo to the power moves of Justin Jones, our big winner on the defensive line, Toth came and conquered every day in practice. He’s not a big, overpowering lineman, rather he’s a technically sound, methodical blocker who exploits the weaknesses of his opponent. He’s a second-round pick if the Department of Defense decides to defer his service into the Army, and if it doesn’t, he’ll be selected two rounds later. Not bad considering he was graded as a fringe free agent six months ago.

Honorable Mention -- Austin Corbett/Nevada