We are winding down on the competitive practices at the Senior Bowl, as Friday's practice will be a walk-through. Thursday brought a ton of action-packed matchups, especially in the trenches. The one-on-ones have been world-class but it was indeed turned up a notch as the week progressed. American head coach Matt Rhule has preached intensity all week and has moved practice at a fast pace. This has made some players tired through the one-on-one's but the best linemen have stood out.
This could be one of the top linemen groups that we’ve seen at the Senior Bowl in a while. There are six-to-ten players that could go in the first round. It speaks to how vital offensive tackles and pass-rushers are in the NFL today. Just last year, there were ten linemen taken in just the first round. Defensive personnels are evolving, in order to adapt to the explosive passing games that offenses have presented, which has presented general managers a challenge to match up to these defensive ends who are just as athletic as most tight ends. It is a challenging but exciting time to be a general manager in an ever-evolving game.
Evaluating the linemen this week has been a challenge because of how even some of these matchups are. We are talking about players that match up well in one-on-ones and present positives on both sides of the ball. The parity in the practices will start to change come game-time on Saturday.
For the last full padded practice, we will take a look at some of the most prominent players of the week, as well as some that we may be overlooking.
This week's top defensive end has been WYATT HUBERT of Kansas State, who will depart Mobile, having boosted his draft stock. He has been prolific during one-on-one drills and has shown the quickness necessary to transition to the next level. Offensive tackles have gotten more and more athletic, which has, in turn, presented a need for speedy defensive ends that can use their quickness and bend to get past them. A possible top-40 pick coming in, Hubert could be looking at a big boost from his impressive play this week.
One of the best interior offensive lineman this week has been D'ANTE SMITH of East Carolina. As a middle of the pack prospect coming in, he needed to have a fantastic week. On day two in particular, he was outstanding. His anchor is firm, which allows him to anticipate what the pass-rusher will do. He has big hands and arms that will enable him to get leverage on the defensive tackle. NFL Draft Bible had an interview with Smith before the Senior Bowl and he was excited about the opportunity to compete in Mobile after an injury-riddled senior campaign. "I'm so grateful for this opportunity first off," Smith said. "I'm grateful to grow and learn from this. I'm just excited to learn and take in new things down there and take advantage of the opportunity." Smith has turned some heads in Mobile this week.
Miami defensive end QUINCY ROCHE has thoroughly continued to impress at the Senior Bowl. His speed and bend on the outside are his most impressive traits. He can beat you physically or with speed. His handwork is elite, being able to knock guys off of him and continue upfield. In fact, Roche may have just elevated himself to first-round status this week. He accumulated 45 tackles and eight and a half sacks during his 2020 campaign. Miami has some elite lineage at the defensive line position and Roche could be the next big thing out of South Florida.
Tulane defensive lineman CAM SAMPLE has proven his worth in Mobile this week. He has a stocky lower body that he uses well in his get off. His hips always stay square and he plays with a low pad level. His strong hands also allow him to be an effective pass-rusher, in addition to possessing great bend for an interior defensive lineman. They did line him up outside a few times this week, which says a lot about his versatility as a football player. He's a player that scouts will have all eyes on during the game on Saturday.
Interior offensive linemen in the NFL need to have outstanding balance, in order to combat disruptive defensive tackles. Grambling State mauler DAVID MOORE has demonstrated excellent balance, which will help him with big pass rushers at the next level. His size is ideal as a guard, weighing in at 350 pounds and standing at just above 6-foot-1. Moore has dominated throughout his college career and it's starting to show on tape from practice at the Senior Bowl. His anchor is one of the best this week, as he will rarely get pushed back into the quarterback. One negative takeaway was Moore’s ability to deal with speed-rushers. He needs to sure up his reaction time to be successful at the next level.
Competing with Quincy Roche for that top defensive end spot is CARLOS BASHAM JR. His size combined with his finesse game is incredibly overlooked. He has quick hands that allow him to get by guards fast and dominate tackles on the outside with his physicality. He's been someone that has turned many heads this week and is poised to be one of the first pass rushers off of the board.
Prospects like TREY SMITH, ALEX LEATHERWOOD and CHAUNCEY GHOLSTON who struggled early in the week, have certainly improved over the past several days. Specifically, Leatherwood, who looked much sharper in the team session, as well as one-on-ones. His problem on day one and two was his quickness, but some of those doubts have since been overlooked after a solid day three performance. His strength is ready for the next level and he'll become an even more intriguing prospect, if he develops his quickness and speed off the ball in these coming months.
It was a fun week of practice in Mobile, as the intensity level was very high on the American Team side of things. The Panthers coaching staff did an excellent job of putting players in high-stress situations, so that scouts and other personnel could evaluate how they would react. The scrimmages were full of exciting moments and it's a preview of what is to come during the game on Saturday.
*Be sure to check back throughout the week for our exclusive coverage of the Reese’s 2021 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. For more in-depth scouting reports, be sure to reserve your copy of the 2021 NFL Draft Bible Publication!