MOBILE, Ala. — Long before collegiate players fulfill their lifelong NFL dream, coaches and scouts evaluate their prospective talent and abilities at a few key events on the pre-draft trail. I was able to travel to Tampa for the Shrine Bowl last year, where the Denver Broncos ultimately picked up five players who went on to appear in the 2020 season.
With the NFL Scouting Combine being canceled, the 2021 Senior Bowl is the only opportunity for players to demonstrate their abilities to NFL coaches and team scouts in-person.
After multiple flights through four different states, I've finally arrived in Mobile, Alabama. I'm eagerly awaiting the Senior Bowl’s week of practice to get started on Tuesday morning.
Before I get the chance to get eyes on the position drills, review notes, and watch practice film, there are three prospects for Broncos Country to keep an eye on this week in Mobile.
Elijah Molden | CB | Washington
The first thing that you will notice about Molden is his size at 5-foot-10 and 192 pounds. While less than ideal for an NFL starting defensive back, he plays above his size with superior tackling and aggressiveness.
The game film reveals a fiery, quick, hard hitter that has earned a reputation for his preparation and determination. He is the son of former All-American corner Alex Molden who played in the NFL for the Saints, Chargers, and Lions.
A former high school running back, Molden has proved that his athleticism and versatility make him an ideal football player. He has previously been timed running a 4.51-second 40-yard-dash and has recorded a 37-inch vertical jump that earned him scholarship offers from USC, Stanford, Oregon, California, and Notre Dame.
In his four years at Washington, Molden played in 36 games logging 153 tackles (100 solo), seven tackles for a loss, and 19 passes defended. He is constantly hunting for an opportunity to force turnovers as he was credited with five interceptions, four forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries for the Huskies. In his final two years of college football, he was recognized with All-Pac-12 honors.
Molden consistently demonstrates his football acumen by diagnosis plays and reading the QB’s eyes. He will square up the ball-carrier using a low squat that allows him to explode during a tackle.
Molden’s situational awareness and athleticism make him an ideal candidate for a slot corner in the NFL or perhaps even safety. He can close space between receivers very quickly which will make him valuable in a league that is still trying to catch up to athletes the likes of Tyreek Hill. Molden should thrive in a defensive zone scheme, which will empower his instincts and physicality.
Khalil Herbert | RB | Virginia Tech
Originally invited to the Shrine Bowl that was nixed, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Herbert accepted an invitation to participate in the Senior Bowl. The 5-foot-9, 212-pound back can simply be described as a playmaker.
Herbert was a four-year starter at Kansas, where he racked up 1,735 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns before transferring to Virginia Tech for the 2020 season. As a Hokie, he shocked the ACC with 155 rushes for 1,183 yards, eight touchdowns while averaging a jaw-dropping 7.6 yards per carry. He is a patient runner who can effectively read when to hit the jets and can accelerate quickly to full strides.
Herbert's explosiveness and ability to score also saw him be featured in Virginia Tech’s passing game. He caught 10 passes for 179 yards and one touchdown in 2020, averaging 17.9 yards per catch.
Nicknamed ‘Juice’ by friends and teammates, Herbert has exceptional vision and knows how to manipulate spacing and angles against defenders. The game film shows Herbert toying with defenders to misdirect both their shoulders and hips. Once that happens, he hits the jets and will eventually reach the end zone.
Tuf Borland | LB | Ohio State
At 6-foot-1 and 234 pounds, Borland has the physicality to play in the NFL. The Illinois native was heavily recruited coming out of high school from Big-10 powerhouses the likes of Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Purdue.
After Urban Meyer left the program and Ohio State transitioned to head coach Ryan Day, Borland was a model of consistency and leadership as a three-year starter.
In 45 games for the Buckeyes, Borland racked up a whopping 229 total tackles (117 solo), 19 tackles for losses, 6.5 sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and three passes defended. He has the size, attitude, and tackling ability to play in the NFL, consistently filling the hole vs. the run and has no problems taking on offensive linemen in the trenches.
Borland's speed predominately shines through in short bursts, as his coverage abilities are somewhat lacking. The National Championship game against powerhouse Alabama exploited Borland’s coverage vulnerabilities and at times, he was swallowed up in the run game.
Although he may not garner parallel levels of attention as fellow Buckeye linebackers Baron Browning and Pete Werner, Borland is resilient. His speed and coverage ability can be criticized, but there is no doubt that the former Buckeye can offer immediate depth at linebacker and play special teams.