Senior Bowl Wrap-Up: 16 Risers
Tony PaulineDraft Analyst Writer
Senior Bowl practices are a wrap and all that’s left is the game. So who made money for themselves this week? Tony Pauline and Chris Tripodi were on hand for every snap of every practice and name the 16 most prominent players of the week.
Tarell Basham/DE-OLB/Ohio: It’s a good thing we didn’t list Basham as a riser at any point last week as the defender continued to get better and better with each practice. The athleticism he displayed was outstanding as Basham was smooth, displayed a quick change of direction and moved with speed to every area of the field. He was terrific rushing the passer out of a three-point stance, effective getting to the signal-caller standing over tackle and flashed ability playing in space. He’s not a finished product, but Basham proved he has the tools to be a Sunday starter.
Eddie Vanderdoes/DT/UCLA: Many were skeptical when Vanderdoes entered the draft, but the defensive tackle turned the skepticism to intrigue at the Senior Bowl. Vanderdoes dominated anyone who tried to block him from the get-go and beat opponents with power, quickness and strength. He practiced with proper technique, showed great intensity and constantly disrupted the action.
O.J. Howard/TE/Alabama: Howard was the best of a good group of tight ends throughout all three days of Senior Bowl practice and established himself as a legitimate mid-first round choice. He made difficult one-handed grabs of errant throws, effortlessly snatched deep receptions in stride and caught the ball with proper technique. He tracked and adjusted to under thrown deep balls, used his speed to get open up the seam and looked incredibly athletic. Howard also dominated as a blocker during the one-on-ones and in scrimmages. There was an occasional drop and a fumble on the final day, but overall Howard leaves the Senior Bowl a big winner.
Dan Feeney/OL/Indiana: During weigh-ins on Tuesday you could tell Feeney meant business, then he went out and dominated the entire week. Annihilating just about everyone he faced at guard and center, Feeney showed great power and intensity and did not give up an inch to opponents. What was it like facing Feeney this week? Stand five yards away from a brick wall then run into the wall as fast as you can; that’s what opponents were facing. Feeney blocked with proper technique and neverending intensity and looked every part a top-42 pick this week.
Haason Reddick/LB/Temple: Reddick provided scouts with a number of “wow!” moments throughout the three days of Senior Bowl practice. He measured taller and bigger than many expected, looked more athletic than he does on film and proved he has three-down potential. Reddick was dominant in pass-rushing drills blitzing as a stand-up linebacker or coming out of a three-point stance. As the week progressed he improved his coverage skills, and by Thursday he was regularly making plays against the pass. He’s not the tallest linebacker but the combination of smarts, athleticism and intensity displayed by Reddick in Mobile could push him into the draft’s second day.
Cooper Kupp/WR/Eastern Washington: Kupp’s performance during Wednesday’s practice was the best by any receiver this week and while his other two days weren’t as good, he was still productive. He ran good routes, beat defensive backs to the spot and came out of breaks ready to catch the ball. The only real negative to his game was struggles catching passes in traffic, but Kupp showed he could hang at the higher level of competition this week.
Rasul Douglas/DB/West Virginia: Douglas was quite easily the North’s best corner, showing good movement ability and ball skills at 6-2, 204 pounds. His closing speed was excellent and led to multiple pass breakups, and while he had a tendency to get a bit handsy beyond the five yards -- drawing a few flags in the process -- Douglas is a definite riser heading out of Mobile.
Evan Engram/TE/Mississippi: Engram may not have had the same impact as his rival O.J. Howard, but he looked terrific in all aspects of the tight end position. He was strong and dominant in blocking drills and on several occasions, Engram manhandled defensive linemen. He quickly released off the line, ran solid routes and made several nice catches in the deep field. Engram added his name to the list of tight ends likely to be selected during the second day of the draft.
Montravius Adams/DT/Auburn: Adams was completely dominant every day this week and looked like a man amongst boys from the get-go. He was unstoppable and collapsed the pocket as blockers attempted in vain to slow him down. Adams walks away from the Senior Bowl with enhanced draft stock, though scouts wondered why they didn’t see this type of effort from him every Saturday.
Jonnu Smith/TE/Florida International: After Howard and Engram, Smith was probably the most complete tight end at the Senior Bowl. He’s a tremendous pass-catcher who looks like a big possession receiver as he moves through the secondary to come away with the contested catch. His blocking was better than advertised in both effort and results. Smith exceeded expectation and moved into the middle rounds with his Senior Bowl performance.
John Johnson/DB/Boston College: It’s tough for safeties to really impress at the Senior Bowl playing far off the line of scrimmage with limited tackling opportunities, but Johnson did just that. He has the fluidity and athleticism of a corner -- not surprising since he split time between corner and safety in 2015 before focusing on safety in 2016 -- and showed good range, ball-tracking ability and recognition against both the pass and the run. Johnson made himself money in Mobile.
Taywan Taylor/WR/Western Kentucky: Similar to Kupp, Taylor proved he belonged with three solid practices in Mobile. He was the smoothest receiver on the field this week, making catches at full speed and immediately working down the field for YAC. Once in the open field, Taylor is shifty and can make defenders miss and showed great focus and concentration to make catches in tight coverage. A natural receiver, Taylor boosted his stock in a big way in Mobile.
Carroll Phillips/DE-OLB/Illinois: Phillips spent most of his college career at defensive end, but during Senior Bowl practices he switched to outside linebacker and didn’t miss a beat. Phillips showed terrific speed, quickness and athleticism. He fired up the field rushing the passer, easily changed direction and was fast pursuing the action laterally. He also did a solid job dropping off the line of scrimmage in coverage drills and covered a lot of area. Like Reddick and Basham, Phillip proved he has the tools to play in the NFL.
Damontae Kazee/DB/San Diego State: Kazee was one of multiple corners to boost his draft stock in Mobile, and his success in press coverage at 5-10, 183 pounds against bigger receivers was a big reason why. He played well in both man and zone coverage, showed good recovery speed and played the ball in the air extremely well with his back to the quarterback. Kazee stood out each day of practice and was very consistent.
Cameron Sutton/DB/Tennessee: Sutton played well on the first day of practice but injuries gave him an extra opportunity to shine, as he was used as safety with multiple players missing time for the South. Sutton acquitted himself quite nicely at each position, covering well and showing good closing speed and ball skills. He enjoyed success in press and was rarely beaten, leaving Senior Bowl practices as a big winner.
Corey Clement/RB/Wisconsin: Clement was one of the most complete backs of the week and looked like the total package. He showed a quick burst as he picked his way on the inside through the running lanes but also had the agility to turn the corner. He was outstanding catching the ball and Clement also looked good in blocking drills.