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2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl Preview: American Team

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The Reese’s Senior Bowl is the first step of the year in terms of the NFL Draft. In this Covid-plagued season especially, the Senior Bowl is a pivotal step for the prospects who will have the opportunity to play in the game. With the recent news of the combine all but canceled and the East-West Shrine game canceled, the Senior Bowl is the only all-star game this year. 

Last year, four players were selected in the first round of the draft that played in the Senior Bowl. Those four players were Brandon Aiyuk, Justin Herbert, Javon Kinlaw, and Jordan Love. Outside of the first round, the Senior Bowl produced many other players that served roles on their teams in 2020. Those players include Antonio Gibson, Michael Pittman, Jeremy Chinn, Jalen Hurts, Chase Claypool, Kyle Dugger, Denzel Mims, and many others. With the 2021 game being perhaps the biggest event in the pre-draft process now, all eyes will be tuned in to the event this week. 

The Carolina and Miami coaching staffs will coach the two squads this week. In this article, we will cover the American Team. The American Team will be coached by Matt Rhule and the Panthers coaching staff. Here, we will go position by position over the team and diagnose some players that could raise their draft stock this week. Let’s get into it. 

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You can read the National Team preview here.

QB: Kyle Trask (Florida), Mac Jones (Alabama), Kellen Mond (Texas A&M), Jamie Newman (Wake Forest)

The Panthers coaching staff will have the opportunity to see both Trask and Jones this week. The first round conversations on the two have cooled off greatly since earlier in the year. Both have similar skill sets but have two different trajectories. Trask is a boom-bust prospect, while Jones has a high floor and low ceiling. Carolina could potentially use their second-round selection on one of the two players if they opt to wait to select a quarterback. You can read our scouting report on Trask here

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Mond is here in Mobile to show he belongs with the best of the competition. He struggled against the higher-level competition in college, and he needs to show that he can make some plays outside of the pocket as well. He was primarily a pocket passer in college and suffered through a lot of hits due to offensive line woes. 

Newman is the perfect example of a potential late-round flier on a developmental quarterback that could be a mid-tier starter at some point, similar to Tyrod Taylor. He has a variety of physical tools at his disposal but didn’t play in a pro-style offense at Wake Forest. 

RB: Kylin Hill (Mississippi State), Chris Evans (Michigan), Larry Rountree III (Missouri), Elijah Mitchell (Louisiana)

The running back group for the American Team isn’t as special as the National Team. Hill is the best of the group, but he is primarily a bruiser in between the tackles. He doesn’t have much to offer in the receiving game, and his speed isn’t great either. 

Mitchell is a player that got most of his production due to the offense he was used in. Louisiana used a ton of pre-snap motion, which allowed Mitchell to find a lot more open lanes. The Senior Bowl has rules against using pre-snap motions, so he will need to prove he can find lanes on his own. 

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Rountree will likely be a late day three selection as a player looking to find a role in an RBBC or specifically on special teams. He isn’t specifically good at anything but is decent at almost everything. He has had experience pass blocking, which is a bonus. 

Evans is a player that nobody knows about. In 2019, he didn’t play as he was suspended by the Michigan coaching staff. This last year, he only rushed 16 times for 73 yards and a touchdown while adding nine catches for 87 yards. 

WR: Kadarius Toney (Florida), Amari Rodgers (Clemson), Shi Smith (South Carolina), Austin Watkins Jr (UAB), Josh Palmer (Tennessee), Marquez Stevenson (Houston), Trevon Grimes (Florida), Cornell Powell (Clemson), Racey McMath (LSU)

The receiver class in Mobile is insane this year. The best on the American Team is Toney. He was a former high-school quarterback who has become one of the best receivers in the 2021 class. He is an electrifying player who is always looking to make a big play with the ball in his hands. Toney will primarily be a slot receiver in the NFL that can change a game in the blink of an eye. You can read our scouting report on Toney here

Like Toney, Rodgers is another receiver that will find a home in the slot at the next level. He is a receiver that is more built like a running back and should be an interesting watch this week. 

Smith best fits as a slot receiver at the next level. Are you sensing a trend yet? He is similar to his former South Carolina teammate, Deebo Samuel. He is excellent in the screen game and has a great release off of the line of scrimmage. 

Watkins is the player in this group that can improve his stock the most. Coming from a small school and as a former JUCO transfer, he has the opportunity to show himself against some of the best competition in the country. Watkins made most of his production on deep, contested-catch situations. The question in Mobile about him will be about his top-end speed, as it seemed like he couldn’t separate against defenders. 

Stevenson is a swiss-army-knife. He can be used on jet sweeps, shovel passes and is a great vertical threat. He needs to show he has returned to full strength following a plethora of injuries during his collegiate career. His route running and lack of physicality off the line of scrimmage will also need to be addressed this week. 

Grimes is a player that many have likened to Michael Pittman. He is a jump-ball specialist that wins primarily in contested catch situations. Grimes has spent time both in the slot and outside. He can raise his stock by showing off some untapped athleticism this week as well. 

Powell is coming in after he made Shaun Wade look horrendous in the CFB semi-final game. He could be a late-riser into the middle rounds of day three as a result of a good week this week. 

McMath and Palmer have a lot to prove against a star-studded receiver group this week. 

TE: Tre’ McKitty (Georgia), Noah Gray (Duke), Quintin Morris (Bowling Green), Kylen Granson (SMU)

McKitty is a good all-around prospect. He doesn’t wow you in any aspects. He’s a good run-blocker and is willing to pave lanes for his running backs. McKitty is versatile as well. He has aligned out wide, tight to the offensive line, and even as a fullback. He will be a matchup nightmare in the NFL. 

Gray and Morris could make serious moves this week up the board. Both come from smaller schools and are used to playing as a receiver more than inline as a tight end. 

OL: Alex Leatherwood (Alabama), Deonte Brown (Alabama), Trey Smith (Tennessee), Ben Cleveland (Georgia), David Moore (Grambling State), Drake Jackson (Kentucky), Jack Anderson (Texas Tech), Dan Moore Jr (Texas A&M), Jaylon Moore (Western Michigan)

The Alabama duo of Leatherwood and Brown are the main attractions of this group. Leatherwood has been talked about as a potential first-round pick, even dating back to last year. Brown didn’t allow a sack during his collegiate career for the Crimson Tide and is looking to boost his stock even more than he already did after this last year. He is primarily a guard prospect who is much better as a road paver than a pass blocker. 

Smith is one of the best interior linemen in the class this year. He has the chance to get into the first-round conversation with a strong week in Mobile. The major questions surrounding him are his footwork and mobility. These questions will likely be answered this week against some of the toughest competition Smith has faced. 

Cleveland, like Brown, is strictly a guard at the next level. He doesn’t have the athletic ability to play tackle, and he is much better as a run blocker than a pass blocker. There are also some concerns about his hand technique, as they get outside the shoulders often. 

David Moore is one of the best small school prospects in the Senior Bowl this year. He has been seen tossing players around on tape, and he has above-average athleticism. The concerns stem from his level of competition, as well as his short arms. His arm length hurts him against lengthy pass rushers. 

Jackson seems to project as a center in the NFL. He has some athleticism to his game, but he is a bit smaller as he only comes in at 6’2″. 

Anderson has only played guard during his career. He was great in pass sets. Though Anderson was great in his pass sets, he struggled with run plays. He doesn’t have the best balance off the line of scrimmage, and he relies on his power, which makes him overly-aggressive. 

DL: Carlos Basham Jr.(Wake Forest), Quincy Roche (Miami), Marvin Wilson (Florida State), Marlon Tuipulotu (USC), Chauncey Golston (Iowa), William Bradley-King (Baylor), Cameron Sample (Tulane), Malik Herring (Georgia), Payton Turner (Houston), Janarius Robinson (Florida State)

The American Team has two edge rushers that could vastly improve their stock. Both Basham and Roche will likely be selected in the second round of the draft. Basham is a bit more versatile and can play on the interior or the edge. He doesn’t have the best athleticism, and there are some concerns about his conditioning as well. Roche is one of the prospects that could work his way up to the bottom of the first round. He is a technician as he has a variety of different pass-rush moves at his disposal. 

Continuing with the edge-rushers, first, let’s talk about Golston. Over the last three years, he has a combined 27 sacks for the Hawkeyes. He will be an intriguing option later in day two and early on in day three. Bradley-King is strictly a pass-rush specialist and is seemingly a liability against the run. 

One of the interior defensive linemen this week on either team needs to show something that could get them into the first-round conversation. Wilson has been one of the best potential top interior defensive linemen throughout this process but has some serious concerns about his explosiveness and balance. He is great against the pass, but not so much against the run. 

Another interior lineman that could help himself this week is Tuipulotu. He is virtually the opposite of Wilson. The two are projected to go around the same range in the draft, but Tuipulotu seems to be the more pro-ready prospect. He is stout against both the run and the pass and has an explosive first step. If any interior lineman has the chance to boost their name into the first-round conversation, it’s him. 

Herring is currently looked at by teams as a tweener between an edge rusher and an interior lineman. He’s likely on the cusp of the draftable grades and undrafted range. 

LB: Jabril Cox (LSU), Charles Snowden (Virginia), Grant Stuard (Houston), Monty Rice (Georgia), Jordan Smith (UAB), Paddy Fisher (Northwestern), K.J. Britt (Auburn), Riley Cole (South Alabama)

The linebacker group this week in Mobile is full of potential. First, let’s talk about the edge rusher that has been grouped into this group of linebackers. Smith is around the same range as Basham and Roche on draft boards currently. He isn’t being talked about as much due to his level of competition, as well as some issues dealing with an alleged credit card fraud scheme. In 21 games over the last two years, he has 89 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and an interception. This week will be pivotal for him. 

Cox is an intriguing prospect who transferred to LSU from North Dakota State. He needs to learn to read and react and have more consistent tackling this week for teams to think about taking him in the second round. Rice is similar to Baron Browning, who we covered in the first segment. He has a lot of physical tools at his disposal but is lacking in the mental processing aspect. 

Snowden is a physical freak. At 6’7″ and 235 pounds, he has a freakish tackling range. Surprisingly, he is good in zone coverage and can cover ground quickly. Fisher is one of the players in Mobile that lacks the physical tools, but the mental tools are all there. He is similar to Blake Martinez in a way that his lack of athleticism severely hurts him as a middle linebacker. 

Britt is an undersized linebacker that has athletic limitations as a result. He was a leader for the Auburn defense and will likely find an early role on special teams for whichever team elects to select him or pick him up as an undrafted free agent. 

DB: Aaron Robinson (UCF), Ifeatu Melifonwu (Syracuse), Robert Rochell (Central Arkansas), DJ Daniel (Georgia), Bryan Mills (North Carolina Central), Richie Grant (UCF), Hamsah Nasirildeen (Florida State), Joshuah Bledsoe (Missouri), Tyree Gillespie (Missouri), JaCoby Stevens (LSU), Shawn Davis (Florida), Mark Webb (Georgia)

This is a very deep room. Let’s first start with Robinson, who was the 29th pick in Daniel Jeremiah‘s mock draft this week to the Bills. He was taken over some other players that have significantly ranked higher than him all year. He has a chance to show why Jeremiah is right this week. There are some concerns with his tight hips and his mental processing. 

Melifonwu is the brother of former second-round pick Obi Melifonwu. Hopefully, he doesn’t turn out as seemingly a bust like his brother. Ifeatu is a long, rangy, zone-coverage cornerback that is a willing and able tackler. Though he is more reliable in zone coverage, he has the tools to be a press-man cornerback as well. The biggest knock on him is currently his route recognition. He is a favorite of draft twitter, and some even have him as a potential first-round prospect. This week in Mobile could provide some more intel on his play. 

If you’re looking for a player with ball skills, Rochell is just that. He has ten career interceptions, including five in his 2019 campaign. He wasn’t able to play this year due to the Covid pandemic, so teams will be eager to see him this week in Mobile. Mills is another small-school prospect this week in Mobile that is looking to capitalize on this opportunity. He has elite ball skills even with playing at the smaller school. 

The safety class, similar to the interior defensive line class, is looking for a safety to show themselves as a first-round prospect. While there doesn’t appear to be one in Mobile, Grant and Nasirildeen have the chance to be taken on day two. Grant is a versatile weapon as he played both free and strong safety while also playing as a slot cornerback. Some weaknesses in his game are his processing and tackling angles. Nasirildeen is another versatile safety that can play in a variety of roles. His weaknesses come with his ball skills and health issues currently. 

Next is the duo of Missouri safeties. Bledsoe will likely be the more coveted of the two as he will likely be a starting nickel or slot player in the NFL. He has had some reps as a single-high safety but doesn’t feel comfortable in that role. He has been compared to Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, which is already high praise. Gillespie will likely need time to develop to be a starting safety in the NFL. He is likely a backup that will be a special teams ace and be a player that has a few splash plays here and there in sub-packages. 

There are many players in Mobile this week that could be labeled as “tweeners”. Well, Stevens is positionless. Is he a safety, an off-ball linebacker, or an edge rusher? The former wide receiver seems to be more likely to play as a linebacker, but the Panthers staff could compare him to Chinn and use him in a similar role. 

Davis and Webb round out the safety room this week. Both have the opportunity to cement their stock as draftable players instead of undrafted free agents. 


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