The 2018 NFL Draft process is starting to heat up, and a substantial part of the process is the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. The 2018 Senior Bowl had its practices this week and on Saturday many of the draft’s top prospects take the field to showcase their talents in a game in front of all 32 teams. The practices are very important for NFL teams as they get their first up-close examination of many of the top prospects. The game culminates the week of practices with a final chance for players to put one last live action performance on tape for NFL evaluators.
WFNY’s Joe Gilbert and Jake Burns are here to get you ready for the 2018 Senior Bowl. Both Gilbert and Burns will give their top ten players to watch in the game on Saturday. The two are interested, intrigued and excited to see how these ten players perform against some of the other top talents in the draft.
Joe Gilbert’s List
- QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
Josh Allen is an enigma. He has the size and physical traits that just wow you when you watch him. But, he is far from a finished product and has a lot of holes in his game. Playing at Wyoming, he faced a lower level of competition with less-decorated teammates, so it will be interesting to see him play with and against some of the top talent in the upcoming draft. Allen has a lot of questions to answer and this game will be a nice test for him to help address them. I do not expect it to go well for the Wyoming quarterback.
- RB Kalen Ballage, Arizona State
Kalen Ballage is my sleeper running back of this year’s class. He is a player with a great combination of size and athleticism that makes him a high ceiling type prospect. He is also a back who can help as a runner and a receiver. Ballage could really shine in the game and raise his stock in this loaded running back class.
- WR Michael Gallup, Colorado State
With Anthony Miller pulling out of the Senior Bowl, the wide receiver position really opened up for a player to shine above the rest. One of the most talented receivers in the game is Michael Gallup. Gallup isn’t highly publicized because of his small school stature, but he is a talented player. This game will be a good test for him to play against a higher level of competition. Like Ballage, a good performance could raise his stock in a loaded receiver class.
- EDGE Marcus Davenport, UTSA
Marcus Davenport may be the player I most want to see in the game besides Baker Mayfield, who is not likely to play. Davenport dominated in a lower level of competition, so the game will give him a chance to showcase his talent against better competition. Davenport is a physical freak and used that to overmatch the lower level competition he faced. It will be interesting to see if he can still be effective against athletes close to his level.
- LB Shaquem Griffin, UCF
Shaquem Griffin was one of the most fun players to watch in college football. He just made plays for his team, all while missing one of his hands. He is an interesting player to watch in the draft process to see how his missing hand factors into his draft stock. His position is still up in the air as he has practiced all over the field this week. I know he will make plays in the Senior Bowl and I would love for the Browns to nab him.
- WR James Washington, Oklahoma State
James Washington will compete against Michael Gallup for the top spot in the receiver class at the Senior Bowl. I am intrigued to watch how he performs as a deep threat. He was a devastating receiver in deep passes, running past the Big 12 competition throughout his career. Can he still produce as a deep ball receiver against the better athletes in the Senior Bowl?
- EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is another intriguing edge rusher in the game. His size is not ideal on the edge, but he just produces when he is on the field. He should be a guy to watch in this game as he is one of the top rated edge rushers in the game.
- DL Harrison Phillips, Stanford
Harrison Phillips is another guy who will not blow you away with his athleticism or size, but he just produces in games. He is a strong human being who can toss lineman out of the way to clog the interior of the line. There are some good interior lineman at the game, so it will be fun to watch him maneuver in the trenches against them.
- OL Mason Cole, Michigan
Mason Cole will interesting to watch due to in large part because of his position. Where will he play on the line? Last season at Michigan, he played left tackle. But, that is not his position in the future due to his lack of ideal size and athleticism for the position. He has the ability to play guard and center. I will be attentive to see how he plays in the Senior Bowl to help me narrow down what spot on the line is best for him.
- FB Dimitri Flowers, Oklahoma
Dimitri Flowers is another player I want to see play because of his versatility. He is listed as a fullback, but he is a really talented pass catcher, too. I want to see how they use him in the game and see if he performs some different roles then he did at Oklahoma. Flowers is just a fun player to watch.
Jake Burns’ List
1. WR DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State
The Nittany Lions all-time leading receiver has had an impressive performance all week in Mobile, and is a name shooting up draft boards. Hamilton runs precise routes with the necessary crisp footwork and lean to find himself open often. He has been nearly uncoverable throughout the week of practice and I expect him to have a big game Saturday.
2. RB Rasaad Penny, San Diego State
College football’s leading rusher is in Mobile to continue making his case. Penny is about as complete a back as there is in the this class, and he will likely be gone within the first two rounds of this draft. He is powerful within the tackles, has a nice burst in the open field, can catch the ball well out of the backfield, and even successfully returned kicks for the Aztecs. Penny will have to work to refine his pass blocking at the next level, but his skill set is complete.
3. QB Kyle Lauletta, Richmond
This year’s low level quarterback who probably isn’t getting enough buzz. Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield have overshadowed him this week, but Lauletta has been the most consistent performer on the South squad and should get a good number of reps in Saturday’s game. Measuring 6-feet-2.5-inches and 217 pounds he fits the profile, and his quick release helps him fit the ball into tight windows. His completion percentage rose to 64.9 percent in his senior season, and he won the 2017 CAA Offensive Player of the Year award. He is a name to watch.
4. OT Alex Cappa, Humboldt State
Dubbed “The Viking” by scouts and teammates, Alex Cappa looks the part of an NFL offensive lineman. Checking in at 6-feet-5-inches, 299 pounds, the four-time GNAC Offensive Lineman of the Year, has solidified himself this week at Senior Bowl practice as the likely first small school offensive lineman off the board. Arm length and foot speed are at question, but his toughness, nasty demeanor, and technique are all impressive. Cappa projects as a right tackle, but might find his way inside if the edge proves too challenging on Sundays.
5. DT Andrew Brown, Virginia
One of the biggest risers this week has been Andrew Brown. The former number one defensive tackle in the 2013 recruiting class, Brown checked in at 6-3 and 294-pound frame with 35-and-1/8-inch arms, showcasing the body composition of an elite defensive tackle. Brown has demonstrated rare fluidity to smoothly carry speed through tight angles during individual drills. He is an overwhelming offensive lineman in one-on-one battles. But where Brown flashed most has been in team sessions, where he’s been given the opportunity to play as a three-technique in a penetration role, and he was dominant.
6. LB Darius Leonard, South Carolina State
A perfect fit for the modern NFL as MIKE Linebacker, Darius Leonard has been impressive this week in Mobile and matching the film from his senior season. At 229 pounds, he is agile enough to cover sideline to sideline and might be the ideal fit to move outside and work in space on Sundays. I expect him to have a big game Saturday and further his stock as one the best small school linebackers in this draft.
7. QB Luke Falk, Washington State
Not one single thing about Luke Falk will blow you away, but he is just plain consistent. His physique will remind you of Tom Brady circa 2000, and he will never have the best arm on any given day. But what Falk will do is work the pocket, make the right decisions, and throw the ball accurately. He often doesn’t get enough from his lower half to drive the ball downfield, but he can make those throws with a slight tweak. Falk will have a long NFL career, most likely as a back-up.
8. RB Jaylen Samuels, North Carolina State
Shifting from primarily tight end to running back, Jaylen Samuels is a versatile option. A matchup piece in college, he worked as a tight end, blocking back and running back for the Wolfpack. He’s looking to settle in at running back full-time at the next level. At 223 pounds, Samuels also has good size to run between the tackles, combined with the receiving ability that helped him catch nearly 200 passes the past three seasons. He hauled in 75 balls during his senior campaign. His transition will be interesting and something to watch on Saturday.
9. WR Allen Lazard, Iowa State
Although a position change might be coming, Allan Lazard is a prospect to keep an eye on. He’s a big physical specimen at 6-5, 225 pounds. The problem for Lazard is facing quick corners at the next level, and he has often seemed over-matched in the speed/agility aspect outside. If Lazard doesn’t test well in Indianapolis next month, watch for NFL scouts to discuss moving him inside to tight end where his size and speed work best together. It would be a tough transition for Lazard as he has never lined up in there, but it might provide a successful outlet for his career.
10. CB Michael Joseph, Dubuque
Having played Division III football myself, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for those trying to make the leap to Sundays. The defensive back became the first-ever Division III product to win the Cliff Harris Award. The award is presented to the top defensive player in either Division II, III, or NAIA colleges and universities. Coming in at 6-feet, 186 pounds, the small school product has shown the ability to cover big school names this week as he has quick feet and fluid hips for the position. Saturday will be important for his draft stock.