MOBILE, AL—Despite the perpetual and steady Mobile rain, the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl was able to conduct their first full day of practice on Tuesday. The Jacksonville Jaguars are owners of 11 draft picks in April’s upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. The No. 1 overall pick will all but certainly be used on Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who was not in attendance as he is a junior.
The nearly 140 players that were in Mobile, though, range from Heisman winners to D-II unknowns, all looking to improve their draft stock in front of all 32 NFL teams and scouts.
JaguarReport was on hand to watch practice, keeping an eye especially on players we believe will receive significant attention from new General Manager Trent Baalke and Head Coach Urban Meyer. Here are five things that stood out during Tuesday’s practice.
Kadarius Toney is a problem
Florida Gators wide receiver Kadarius Toney is a problem for defensive backs, he’s a problem for defensive coordinators, he’s a problem for offensive coordinators who will unnecessarily stress themselves out about how to use them, he’s a problem for coaches who are wary of taking a “gadget” guy and he’s eventually going to be a problem for some club who passes on him thinking he’s only a “gadget” guy and thus ignores his impeccable route running.
Toney embarrassed every DB he went against on Tuesday…and that’s no an indictment of the defensive backs. He won routes in every way he needed to; whether it was taking a pitch from Alabama quarterback Mac Jones for a jet sweep. Or tripping through a DB for a deep 50/50 ball only to flash incredible balance and still make the touchdown grab.
Or using a backpedal move that left a defender in his dust as he turned for a wide-open catch and go.
Toney, the Mobile native, has always flashed. But his senior year of tape in Gainesville showed a receiver who had made a commitment to discipline and technique. That was on display in Mobile Tuesday, along with the shifty elusiveness that makes Toney special. He’s working his way up draft boards and will continue to do so with repeat performances at the Senior Bowl. As such, he starts to become a name we’ll have to discuss for the Jaguars No. 25 pick in the first round.
Marvin Wilson has a weakness…but an upside
One of the Jaguars' glaring areas of need is the interior defensive line. A possible remedy is Florida State D-lineman Marvin Wilson. He’s a victim of playing at a down program the past few years, which is why this time in front of scouts and coaches in Mobile this week is so important.
A lot of these practices are loose 7-on-7 drills and Carolina Panthers Head Coach Matt Rhule—who is coaching the American team this week—made it clear before practice started to “not touch the quarterback under any circumstances.” So it’s clear Wilson and others will have to shine during individual drills where they can showcase their moves.
During said drills on Tuesday, Wilson never dominated end-to-end but he was strong and more than anything, refused to quit. While weaving through tackling dummies, Wilson wasn’t as fast or agile as some of the other linemen (like Houston’s Payton Turner) but his finishing punch was lethal.
During one-on-one’s with the offensive line, Wilson seemed to get jammed up initially, but relentlessly held on until he had leverage to throw down his guy…and knock over the Panthers assistant coach playing quarterback in the process. But he’d won the rep so all was forgiven.
Shi Smith will be a hot name by the end of the week
We came into the day prepared to watch Toney and Clemson’s Amari Rogers when it came to receivers. But South Carolina’s Shi Smith demanded attention. Smith received praise and recognition throughout the season, but when it came to receivers this season—and especially SEC receivers—everyone was in the shadow of DeVonta Smith. This week is an opportunity to catch eyes and Smith did that on Tuesday.
He was precise off the line, exhibited footwork that won more often than not and was able to bend past DBs to get downfield uncontested. He’s someone to keep an eye on as a mid-round selection that can add quality depth to any corps right away.
Nasirildeen has intriguing talent and a high ceiling
FSU defensive back Hamsah Nasirildeen, much like his teammate Marvin Wilson, can get lost in some of the pre-draft talk after playing for a losing team most of his college career. That’s why these practices in Mobile are so important for Nasirildeen. While he didn’t necessarily cause his draft stock to skyrocket after the first day, he seemed to always be in the middle of big plays. Some went against him, some went for him, but all of them led to notes that said things like, “watch that kid again tomorrow.”
The Jaguars are in desperate need of a safety and Nasirildeen can be that guy. Since FSU didn’t give him tons of tape either, the Jags can possibly afford to wait on him till a later round. Tuesday reemphasized that, showing a safety who has ample promise and natural talent. He just needs polishing. He never shied away from contact or speaking up, often calling out coverages and moving guys in the secondary around to different positions.
There’s room to grow still for Nasirildeen. There’s also a high ceiling.
It’s Mac Jones and everybody else
The Jaguars aren’t much interested in a quarterback at this Senior Bowl since Trevor Lawrence is training as a junior in California but it’s just smart to keep an eye on the most important position in football. One never knows what can happen. Plus, as we mentioned in our piece on things to watch for here at the Senior Bowl, the Panthers and Miami Dolphins could both be looking at passers while here coaching.
So with that being said…it’s Mac Jones and everybody else. He had the best command of any huddle he stepped in to, the best accuracy (shocking, right) in drills and while he may not have the mobility of some of the other quarterbacks in attendance like Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond, Arkansas’s Feleipe Franks, Wake Forest’s (or Georgia depending on who you talk to) Jamie Newman or Notre Dame’s Ian Book, Jones doesn’t make mistakes. That’s what coaches like to see.
- The first day means guys have to brush off the cobwebs. Florida’s Trevon Grimes told us as much after practice, saying after months of practice and training, playing again for the first time in weeks means he had to shake off some rust. Where it’s really evident though is in those that didn’t play all season, like Newman. At one point, he was leading a drill and prepared to snap the ball. UAB’s Austin Watkins Jr. was still on the opposite side of the quarterback, in motion to the other side of the line. Toney began yelling to hold up, finally screaming for Newman to “stop!” The quarterback hadn’t noticed the spot still empty to his right. By Thursday, we imagine everyone will be back in their practice groove and really showing coaches, scouts and media what they can bring to the field under the tutelage of NFL coaches.
- Matt Rhule still leads practice like a position coach. And it’s not a bad thing. He would run into the middle of a drill, screaming and waving his arms to stop and then physically move guys around. The former Baylor Bears head coach is heading into his second season with the Panthers but is still holding on to the attitude that makes a coach stand out in practice.
- While Shi Smith may have grabbed our attention, Amari Rogers was still impressive. The drills at these practices are tailored to benefit the offense, but Rogers didn’t let that stop him from being physical. On one end around, he could have run out of bounds since he was already at the sideline. Instead, he lowered his shoulder and rammed a DB on the edge to pick up an extra yard.
- Linebacker Grant Stuard from Houston is undersized and NFL coaches will knock him for it, but he reminds one of Jaguars' safety Andrew Wingard. A probable undrafted free agent candidate to make a 53-man roster. He was in the middle of every play he saw the field for, yelling instructions ahead of time from his middle linebacker spot, and always, always around the ball.