It's 17 days until the 2022 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., which will exhibit two Alabama players as they prepare to make one final impression before the NFL Draft Combine and the highly-anticipated draft.
While there will be other Crimson Tide football players taken in the draft, running back Brian Robinson Jr. and defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis have elected to participate in this year's Senior Bowl in order to have the opportunity to impress NFL team scouts and display what they can do in the week of practices leading up to the game. Both players will be playing for the American Team.
While the Senior Bowl game itself is certainly important, the more valuable part of the week is the series of practices the week prior. We at BamaCentral will have two writers covering the entire week, so be sure to stay tuned for content.
For now, though, let's take a quick glimpse at what both Robinson and Mathis offer to potential NFL scouts, courtesy of NFL Draft Bible:
Brian Robinson Jr.
Hometown: Tuscaloosa, AL
High School: Hillcrest
Power back with very good size and below-average athleticism.
Good sized inside runner who is the lead back in a committee. Robinson possesses good vision to read leverage and maintain urgency on zone and gap runs. He finds and exploits holes backside. Above-average contact balance allows him to absorb hits and break poor tackles. He lowers the shoulder and falls forward consistently. Keeping his feet active and churning, Robinson drives piles. His hands are reliable to catch the ball as a check down. Robinson is a good blocker who locates defenders well and is willing to be physical.
A below-average athlete, Robinson lacks the speed to exploit openings in the open field or beat linebackers to the corner. He does not possess the explosiveness to hit closing holes hard. Lower body stiffness leads to below-average change of direction skills, preventing him from making defenders miss in the open field or perform hard cuts. An upright runner, Robinson does not break free when wrapped up. He is a poor route runner who does not create separation. His timing on cut blocks if off as he takes out the wrong leg.
Power back with very good size who possesses below-average speed and is a good pass blocker. Robinson has good vision and plays urgently with active feet. His lack of explosiveness and lower body stiffness limits his ability to generate explosive gains and make defenders miss. Robinson projects as a depth piece or practice squad running back. He can get on the field as a blocker and special teamer. His lack of athleticism limits his ability to earn a high number of carries.
Robinson Jr. attended Hillcrest high school in Alabama where he rushed for 990 yards on 161 attempts with 18 rushing touchdowns as a senior while adding 24 receptions for 302 yards and two scores. After high school, 247Sports ranked him as a 4-Star recruit, the 145th-best recruit nationally, the 8th-ranked running back recruit in the country and the 6th recruit in the state of Alabama.
Robinson Jr. committed to Alabama over Auburn, Georgia and Ole Miss. In 2017, his true freshman season, he played a minimal role and was mainly a short-yardage back as he finished with 24 rushes for 165 yards and two touchdowns in six games. In 2018, he appeared in nine games and finished with 63 carries for 273 yards and two touchdowns. In 2019, he appeared in all 13 games, still in a rotational role and finished with 96 carries for 441 yards and five touchdowns. In 2020, he appeared in all 13 games and finished with 91 carries for 483 yards and six touchdowns. In 2021, with Najee Harris in the NFL, Robinson Jr. emerged as the starter for the Crimson Tide for the first time in his career. He started all 13 games and finished with 248 carries for 1268 yards and 14 touchdowns plus added 32 catches for 268 yards and another two scores.
Robinson Jr. maintaining a rotational role isn’t quite a slight to him, as he’s backed up productive NFL running backs such as Damien Harris and Najee Harris. Robinson Jr. never took it as a slight and instead did everything he could to learn from them, “I really just learned just the work process. Just how we need to go about working every single day to get what we want. Being beside those guys, just seeing them work hard every day and create opportunities for themselves on NFL rosters as they are right now, I just use that as motivation for me.” Head coach Nick Saban knows just how hard Robinson Jr. has worked to deserve his 2021 breakout season, “B-Rob has always been a hard worker. He's always been a tough guy. He's really shown a lot of perseverance in doing those things and not getting tremendous reward for it, because he's never really had an opportunity to be the man. But I think based on what he's invested in the program, what he's done and the production that he's had when he has played, he certainly deserves that opportunity. And I think he's taking advantage of it right now.”
Current Player Value/Potential Player Value
6.5 / 7.0
A powerful running back, Robinson is good at breaking first contact and escaping would-be tacklers. He also possesses good vision, allowing him to find holes and make split decisions on where to carry the ball. However, Robinson's speed leaves something to be desired. His route-running could also use a lot of work. When he is thrown the football, he has potential to break away for a few yards, but outside of being thrown the ball in the flat, his down-field route-running is another factor against him. That being said, Robinson developed a lot in his five years at Alabama and could no doubt surprise the team that drafts him with his ability to improve and work ethic.
Phidarian 'Phil' Mathis
Hometown: Wisner, LA
High School: Neville
Experienced defensive tackle with above average size who plays with active hands and defends the zone running game well. Lacking athleticism and power rush ability limits him to a depth piece.
Experienced, active defensive tackle with above average size and good length. Mathis is best when he can shed blockers at the point of attack where he utilizes quick hands to beat aggressive blockers. He is very good against zone blocking, maintaining active feet and displaying lateral moving skills before gaining outside leverage and shedding with a rip move. Attacking the chest of blockers at the point of attack, he displays good strength to stand them up. Controlling gaps with his hand usage makes him a capable two-gapper. Mathis defends the run with very high effort, fighting to the whistle and even running to the sideline. As a pass rusher, he is active when taking on multiple blockers, breaking free late based on effort alone. His swipe move is effective thanks to good hand placement.
Lacking athleticism and explosiveness, his get-off is below-average to poor. Slow reaction time further hurts him in that department. Mathis is unable to create knockback and leaves push desired with his below-average bull rush. He is unable to win the leverage battle as a pass rusher consistently. His hands lack violence, preventing him from beating the punch of blockers decisively. Mathis possesses a below-average anchor that can see him getting driven off the ball by double teams. Once opponents latch on to him, he is unable to break free violently. Mathis is an average, inconsistent tackler, leading to frustrating misses. His processing is not at the level expected from an experienced player like him.
Defensive tackle with above average size and good length who comes with a lot of experience. Mathis possesses quick hands and defends the zone running game very well. He lacks explosiveness and power rushing ability as well as hand violence. Mathis projects as a depth piece at defensive tackle who can be reliable when on the field. His potential is limited due to poor athleticism and disruptiveness.
Phidarian Mathis attended Neville High School in Louisiana where he earned USA Today Louisiana All-State recognition and tallied 41 tackles as a senior in 2016, while adding 12 tackles for loss, seven sacks and six quarterback hurries. After high school, 247Sports ranked him as a 4-Star recruit, the 101st-best recruit nationally, the 7th-ranked defensive tackle recruit in the country and the 4th recruit in the state of Louisiana.
Mathis committed to Alabama and redshirted his freshman year in 2017. In 2018, he appeared in 11 games in a rotational role and finished with 18 tackles and one fumble recovery. In 2019, he played in 12 games, started two and finished with 27 tackles and half a tackle for loss. In 2020, Mathis’ production continued to improve as he finished with 31 tackles, five tackles for loss and one and a half sacks. 2021 has been his best season yet, being named a permanent team captain, starting all games and finishing with 46 tackles, eight and a half tackles for loss and eight sacks. Mathis was named a second team All-American honoree by the AFCA, he earned All-SEC Second Team recognition from the conference coaches and was named to the SEC Community Service Team for his work off the field.
Mathis’ mindset off the field helps translate to his and Alabama’s strong play on the field. He preaches about the importance of team leadership and holding each other accountable, “The team leadership, I think it does play a big role because some players, they can ‑‑ I mean, I feel like they understand it better when it's coming from their own peers and not just coach. When players hear stuff come from us, they understand, all right, they got this mindset, so we have got to have this mindset also.” Mathis’ play has improved drastically over his career at Alabama and that is largely due to his ability to identify his weaknesses and work on them, “For me, the biggest thing was just getting better at pushing the pocket, working on my pass rush and just staying lower and being more aggressive.” With eight sacks in 2021, Mathis has turned his work into production. Mathis’ energy and motor is always apparent when watching him, whether it’s pursuing the ball to the sideline, jumping on the pile to finish a tackle or celebrating with his teammates, Mathis is a ball of energy, and he knows it, “I’ve always been told that people love to see big guys get down the field. You don’t see that as much,” Mathis said. “Running is something I love to do. It’s just in my genes, I guess.”
Current Player Value/Potential Player Value
Mathis' genetics are his best strengths, where he possesses above-average size and length. He has quick hands and and is particularly good against zone blockers. However, Mathis' size does not directly correlate to his strength, which is lacking. He is also lacking in the leverage battle and rarely distributes a knockback to opposing offensive linemen. His size will likely turn some heads during the Senior Bowl practice sessions, but he will need to show his potential to increase his strength in order to earn a higher draft spot.
It's 17 days until the 2022 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., which will exhibit two Alabama players as they prepare to make one final impression before the NFL Draft Combine and the highly-anticipated draft. Subscribe for full article
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