The annual Reese’s Senior Bowl kicks off Tuesday in Mobile, Alabama. With the continuance of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rush of draft-eligible juniors entering this April’s 2021 NFL Draft, there is less attention on the yearly All-Star game.
But the event—a week of practices, meetings, and aptitude tests followed by a (scrimmage) game on Saturday—still boast a roster of incredible talent following the strangest college football season to date.
The week of meetings and practices also serve as the best opportunity for seniors leaving college to up their draft stock. In-depth meetings with scouts as well as one-on-one attention from staff and coaches during practices take players off the tape and put them in the forefront of the minds of NFL coaches and general managers.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have 11 draft picks in the upcoming draft. Could they use some of that capital on players we’ll see at this week’s Senior Bowl? It’s very likely. With that in mind, JaguarReport will be on the ground for each day of practice in Mobile. Here are the five things we will be keeping an eye on while there.
The Florida Gators do-it-all tool is an intriguing prospect. Coming into the season, his promise but lack of tape meant one could see him being an early Day Three, late Day Two guy. As he put together a senior season that reminded how unique and special his skill set is, married with the discipline in technique he’d clearly worked all offseason on perfecting, he worked his way into a possible second-round prospect.
As mock drafts continue to flood the internet the past few weeks, however, Toney pops up more and more as a potential first-rounder, indicating scouts and executives like what they’re seeing as they dive into the tape on guys. Every team wants to find the next Tyreek Hill or Alvin Kamara, and Toney presents the best option in this year’s draft.
The Jaguars have two picks in this first round (for the second year in a row). The presumption has been that after taking junior quarterback Trevor Lawrence first overall, that second pick—No. 25, acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams for Jalen Ramsey—would be used on a defensive player, either in the interior line or a defensive back.
But Urban Meyer’s offense is often predicated on having a Swiss army knife speed guy. Laviska Shenault could easily be that player for the Jaguars, but Toney does possess more top speed. And imagine a backfield with one of those guys in motion while the other lines up in the slot. Defenses wouldn’t know where to look.
So all of that to say, if he performs well this week, Toney at 25 is a distinct possibility. As such, we’ll be watching how he practices and more specifically, how closely he’s being watched by certain teams.
Are the Dolphins talking to QBs?
The draft is just as much about what your opponents do as it is what you do.
The Miami Dolphins are coaching the National team this week and enough rumors have swirled to lend credence to the fact they’re looking at quarterbacks. The Dolphins split playing time between veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick and venerated rookie Tua Tagovailoa with the plan to build around Tua for the future. They did that recently by hiring quarterback coach Charlie Frye.
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has also made it known he’d be open to going to Miami.
While the top quarterbacks this draft are all juniors and won’t be at the Senior Bowl, there are still several viable options at the position. If the Dolphins really are considering adding a serious threat/competition for Tua at the quarterback position, then they’ll vet all of their options. So what will be telling is if coaches spend this week working extra with the passers, eyeing out those drills, etc. It could start the dominoes falling that will ultimately affect who is under center when the AFC East Dolphins visit Jacksonville this fall.
Which position group gets the most Jags attention?
There are unquestionably holes at nearly every position on the Jaguars roster that can be filled. But those in the interior defensive line and at defensive back (namely safety) are the most glaring. While Toney is a fun and sexy pick at No. 25, it’s much more likely the Jaguars go the defensive route with their second first-round pick and/or their early Day two selections.
So which area of need gets filled first? We’ll be watching to see which position group receives the most Jaguars' attention; specifically these players in particular.
The Jags have always preferred homegrown talent; i.e. those from Florida, Florida State, Miami, UCF, etc. With that in mind, we’ll have an eye on Shawn Davis (Florida), Richie Grant (UCF) and Hamsah Nasirildeen (FSU). None are necessarily first-round DB’s like Trevon Moehrig (TCU junior) but all are solid and with a high ceiling. How much emphasis will the Jaguars put on bolstering their secondary this April? That question will start to be answered in Mobile this week and could be greatly affected by how this trio of players stand out.
Or do the Jags beef up the line first? There has to be more size and power added to assist last year’s third-round pick, DaVon Hamilton, while complimenting the edge rushers the club already has in Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson. FSU’s Marvin Wilson is a nice prospect because he will likely still be available Day Two into Day Three, but with the potential to play right away like Hamilton.
This week is tailor-made for someone like Wilson. A later round guy who could begin to work his way up the board with solid workouts and meetings to impress coaches and staff.
On the other side of the trenches, the Jaguars actually boast a solid offensive line. However, there is potential to do more with the anchors and the interior part of the line is older and will need to start grooming their eventual replacements. Furthermore, if you’re going to draft a franchise quarterback first overall, you better be able to protect him, no matter who’s rotating in on any given play. As such, Alex Leatherwood (Alabama) is one to watch this week. How does he move? How does he bend? How are his hands? All things that will be important to keep Trevor Lawrence on his feet.
While we don’t recommend the Jaguars repeating past mistakes and taking Leatherwood with a Top 5 pick, he’s one of the best lineman prospects in this draft and someone to watch in Mobile as a potential draft board candidate in April.
No position group can do more to boost their draft stock during the Senior Bowl than receivers. With so much of the practice portion a glorified 7-on-7, the receivers are at an advantage to show every move in their arsenal. Van Jefferson used the Senior Bowl last season to work his way from a projected mid-Day Three take to a second-round pick that the Los Angeles Rams loved to feature this season.
The Jaguars aren’t necessarily hurting for a WR1 but with the way the NFL is evolving—and having Lawrence to boot—a dynamic receiver is an enticing possibility no matter where you can draft him. So, who stands out besides the Heisman winner, DeVonta Smith? Smith is on the roster to participate as of Monday afternoon so he will understandably receive ample attention. But he’s a near-guaranteed Top 10 pick, so we’re more interested in who performs well behind him. Will it be Clemson’s Amari Rogers, Florida’s Trevon Grimes, South Carolina’s Shi Smith, Notre Dame’s Ben Skowronek? Or any of the other receivers who can burst into the national discussion this week?
The Jaguars will focus on surrounding Lawrence with weapons this offseason, and we’ll keep an eye on some of the possible future Jaguars this week with that in mind.
JaguarReport will be in Mobile all week. The Senior Bowl will look much different this year due to COVID-19 precautions, but stick with us for full coverage each day as we prepare for the Jaguars; 2021 offseason.