Three Small School Senior Bowl Prospects For the Browns

Pete Smith

One of the benefits to All-Star games like the Senior Bowl is it gives some smaller school prospects an opportunity to compete against the best players in the country. And some of them not only show they belong, but display the potential to be special in the NFL. Carson Wentz is a notable example that still continues to be a divisive topic when it comes to Cleveland Browns fans. While none of these prospects are on that level, the Browns could find three of these prospects that participated in this year's event worth a look in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Adam Trautman, Tight End, University of Dayton

Trautman was the main weapon in the Flyers passing game and dominated not unlike Adam Shaheen did coming out of Ashland. He's got great size for the position at 6'5" 251, so he can easily function inline, which seems to be his preference.

Trautman is a player that takes pride in his blocking and came into this week feeling like that's where he was going to make a name for himself. Obviously, he's going to have to answer questions about his athleticism, but he was effective this week, able to use his body to create separation as a pass catcher.

For the Browns and new head coach Kevin Stefanski, since he utilized double tight end sets a significant amount with the Minnesota Vikings, he may be looking for additional help at the position for the Browns. Keeping four tight ends active every week may be a priority. It also remains to be seen which of the current group he will like and want to retain.

Trautman could find himself going on the latter part of day two of the draft, competing with someone like Jared Pinkney of Vanderbilt, also here this week, to see which gets picked fist. With a pair of third round picks, the Browns could be in the market to add someone like Trautman to bolster their unit and give them another inline option that can help with the running game and offer a little production as a pass catcher.

Ben Bartch, Offensive Line, St. Johns (MN)

Bartch was a star at the D-3 level and more than looked the part at the Senior Bowl. He may not have been quite as good as the last D-3 lineman that participated here in Ali Marpet coming from Hobart, but Bartch has a lot of talent worth exploring. He played left tackle the first two days and took some reps at left guard on Thursday. He might be similar to Drew Forbes in terms of his potential versatility, but both have NFL bodies. Bartch measured in at 6'5 3/4" 308.

Bartch is a big, powerful lineman that showed excellent play strength all week. When he was able to get his hands on opponents, he usually nullified them from the play and would show a little nasty in the process.

Bartch may be better suited for teams interested in running more gap style blocking than zone, so it will be interesting how he performs in the athletic testing. Regardless, if the Browns were to go with a tackle early and want to add someone later, Bartch seems like he could be a great option potentially at a value on day three simply because of how much talent and depth this class has at tackle. If teams view him as a guard, he might go earlier.

Alex Taylor, Offensive Tackle, South Carolina State

At 6'8 1/2" with an 88" wingspan, it's tackle or bust for Taylor. The former hooper is 308 pounds and clearly needs further physical development. This isn't a surprise. His lower body in particular has room to add muscle. His movement skills are impressive and his time playing basketball has benefited his footwork.

When opponents try to go around him, he's able to cut them off and guide them out of the play. He has far more issues when opponents go right at him. Taylor needs to improve in his flexibility and being able to get low as a blocker. He can end up drifting too high and when he's already at a power disadvantage, it makes it easier to get him off balance and cast him aside.

It's encouraging that he was as effective as he was as a run blocker. He was quick off the snap and was able to drive a few opponents off of the ball. Taylor is a project. There's no getting around that and a team that drafts him will likely be waiting a couple years for him to get where he needs to be both physically and in terms of technique. If it works out, the payoff could be huge, but even as a rookie, he's a guy who should probably be on the inactive list every week.

Drafting a player like Taylor in connection with continuing to get younger and having an offensive line coach the caliber of Bill Callahan could be a prudent plan to develop a line both for the present and future. The biggest problem teams run into with guys like Taylor is getting impatient, so whoever drafts him needs to have a plan and stick to it.


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