Here is Part 2. The first half is recapping for you newbies. For those who read yesterday’s, scroll down til you get to the new players below.
The Senior Bowl is underway as I type. Players are currently checking in and getting officially measured and weighed. For the rest of the week, they will be practicing with NFL coaching staffs before playing in the game, taking place Saturday at 1:30 CST time on the NFL Network.
This is a great opportunity for all the seniors who were able to secure invites. First of all, it’s considered the premiere post-season bowl event, so each player is going up against the best competition possible.
Secondly, the quality of the coaching they players receive is perfect for this time after their college careers have ended but before the combine or pro-day. It is often said by some that the practices are more important than the game when it comes to the Senior Bowl. This is due to the amount of time players and coaches can spend together observing play and honing their craft collaboratively. It gives the players a chance to be looked at by coaches who know the NFL game. What better way to know where and how to improve than to hear it from the source. Receiving this feedback can give the players an edge from other players in that in some ways, they are in a mini-camp prior to their post-draft mini-camps, allowing them to receive and implement instructions months before other players will (players they could be competing with for roster spots or playing time).
Finally, and somewhat related, this gives players a chance to stand out. If a player was overshadowed on his team by other talented individuals, wasn’t featured in his offense, or in the case of those in this article, playing in a Group of 5 conference, they have the opportunity to open the eyes of the coaches with their play and jump onto the radar before draft time. While the combine and pro-days are also good opportunities for this, the more chances of coaches seeing one play and compete, the better position they put themselves in.
Eight players from the Mountain West are participating in the Senior Bowl this year, with 4 on each team. Here’s a few comments about each of the four on the South Team and how a strong showing will help each going forward.
(Note: The weaknesses or questions described about each player below aren’t necessarily the views of this author or site, but rather what could be questions or concerns NFL scouts or talent-elevators or the media have about them, which are still worth discussing as they can have ramifications.)
FB Nick Bawden (San Diego State)
Fullbacks don’t get used much in the college or pro games as they may have a generation ago, but most/every NFL team carries one. That being said, not many FBs get invites to the Senior Bowl (Bawden is one of two, and he is the only one from the Group of 5). All that to say Bawden is athletic and talented. Even better news for him, to earn an invite means Bawden is already on the draft radar as he beat out other FBs in the Power 5 for this spot.
In addition to having to quell concerns about playing in the MWC, he also has to overcome the difficulty of being a fullback. Showing he can become a core special teams player, displaying receiving skills, and being a monster of a blocker and short-yardage/goal-line runner are the biggest items on his checklist for this week. Projected by some as a day 3 pick or UDFA, Bawden will need a strong showing to solidify his status as a fullback who should be drafted.
RB Rashaad Penny (San Diego State)
The conference player of the year and one who should have been a Heisman finalist was a no-doubter to be invited to the Senior Bowl. Penny was a flat-out dominant this season, earning conference honors for offensive and special teams player of the year, all while being the biggest (and some may say only) weapon on the Aztec team. To put up the numbers he did while teams keyed in on stopping him is impressive. But that is also a major question by some. Teams who did stop him stopped the Aztecs. Boise State and Fresno State appeared to have absolutely no issues shutting Penny down in back to back weeks mid-season. That’s a hurdle he will need to overcome this week.
But if Penny can show he can succeed as a RB as the NFL level by going up against big-time prospects this week, that should go a long way towards cementing his draft stock. RBs have seen their value slide in the draft for many years now, so it is not a surprise he is slated for a mid-round grade at this point. The NFL likes backs who can not only run, but catch the ball and block in pass-protection. Penny being able to improve/demonstrate those attributes as well may separate him from other RBs in this draft and help him move up the board to being a solid Day 2 pick.
CB Kameron Kelly (San Diego State)
The third of the Aztec trio is on the defensive side of the ball. And he possesses the size that NFL teams love to have in their corners to go up against the tall lanky receivers. Kelly had a productive career in a good defensive scheme that scouts are familiar with and know develops NFL talent. He will be able to get his first taste of that in front of coaches this week when he matchups up against the tall WRs.
The first thing Kelly needs to do is measure well. Sometimes players mysteriously shrink going from college measuring to the NFL (same with HS to college) and he can’t lose of the better things he has in his favor. Second, he needs to win as many match-ups as possible, showing coaches he can go up against the #1 WRs with size in the NFL. Hopefully he picks up some new techniques and skills along the way. Going in rounds 3-5 is where he is said to be currently, but if he can dominate his match ups, the sky is the limit for tall CBs.
OL Austin Corbett (Nevada)
Corbett is listed as a center on the Senior Bowl roster, but played mainly left-tackle with some work on the right side as well. Oh, and he was a four-year starter to boot. His experience and high level of play will put him in a good position going in to the week. Like many of the other players coming from the Group of 5 conferences, going up against players from Power 5 schools will be what scouts and coaches judge him on going forward.
Corbett has a great opportunity to prove he belongs in the conversation and can use his experience and what he has learned over the past four years to give himself an edge over some other similar players. If his home is on the interior, most teams don’t start drafting those players until the mid to late rounds, so that shouldn’t reflect his talent. But this week could go a long way for Corbett to make sure his named is called sooner rather than later, with a late day 2 not out of the question, but early on day 3 looking like a good spot for him.
Again, it’s your turn. Do you agree or disagree with these thoughts? Where would you draft each of these players? Which teams or schemes do you think would be good fits? Comment below.