2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl Preview: National Team

2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl Preview: National Team

by January 25, 2021 1 comment

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 National Team. The National Team will be coached by Brian Flores and the Dolphins 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. 

You can read the American Team preview here.

QB: Sam Ehlinger (Texas), Ian Book (Notre Dame), Feleipe Franks (Arkansas) 

With the Dolphins having their quarterback of the future, it seems anyway, with Tua Tagovailoa, the Senior Bowl staff has given them some intriguing developmental options to coach this week. Ehlinger is the prototypical backup quarterback in the league today. A high-floor, low ceiling type of player that will be in the league for a while as a backup. 

Book is one of the most intriguing options as a backup this year due to his athletic profile. He will most likely be taken late on day three, and some teams could maybe think about trying him out at another position. He is a potential developmental option behind an aging veteran or an option on a team that’s looking to give their starter some competition. You can read our scouting report on Book here

Franks is likely a priority undrafted free agent in this class. If he has a strong performance this week, he could work his way up the draft boards into the sixth or seventh round. He had an impressive 2020 season where he completed over 68 percent of his passes and only threw four interceptions. 

RB: Najee Harris (Alabama), Michael Carter (North Carolina), Khalil Herbert (Virginia Tech), Demetric Felton (UCLA), Rhamondre Stevenson (Oklahoma)

Harris is in the conversation to be the first running back off the board in April. Weirdly enough, he is playing for a team this week that has been linked to taking a running back early in the draft this week. The Miami coaching staff will have all week to look at Harris. As of right now, Harris will have to pass a medical exam to practice and play this week in Mobile after suffering an ankle injury in the semi-final game against Notre Dame. 

Carter split time this year with Javonte Williams to form a dynamic duo at the running back spot for the Tarheels. You don’t have to look very far to see a player that is similar to Carter. He is eerily similar to Clyde Edwards-Helaire, besides the power aspect that Edwards-Helaire has. Carter has the opportunity to raise his stock immensely this week with a strong week. 

Herbert made the most in his lone year at Virginia Tech after transferring from Kansas. He rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and had nine receiving touchdowns as well. He can help in all facets of the game, as he was also a kick-returner. Herbert can break a long run at any given moment, and that explosiveness will make him a hot commodity during the draft. 

Felton is an intriguing study. He is a player that has a light frame that teams will need to have a specific package of plays for. He is a great pass-catcher but needs some help in between the tackles and in pass protection. 

Stevenson has already endured a bit of a pre-draft rise. He can play a three-down role. With so many other backs at Oklahoma, he didn’t have to do that in college. He’s got good hands and doesn’t have a ton of tread on his tires either, thanks to the other backs receiving work. 

WR: DeVonta Smith (Alabama), Sage Surratt (Wake Forest), Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State), Frank Darby (Arizona State), Nico Collins (Michigan), D’Wayne Eskridge (Western Michigan), Cade Johnson (South Dakota State), Dez Fitzpatrick (Louisville), Ben Skowronek (Notre Dame)

Smith is likely a top ten pick, and him spending time with the Dolphins staff makes him a good case with the third pick. He will not be participating during the on-field activities but will go through the meetings and interviews that will take place during the week. 

If a team is looking for a physical, contested-catch receiver, Surratt is that guy. After opting out of the 2020 season, the Senior Bowl could be pivotal, as he hasn’t played in live-action for over a year. You can read our scouting report on Surratt here

Wallace is a player that could potentially be a first-round pick in another class. Unfortunately, in this deep receiver class, he will likely be a mid-day two pick. Like Surratt, Wallace makes a lot of his work as a contested-catch receiver but also as a vertical threat. You can read our scouting report on Wallace here

Collins, like Surratt, opted out of the 2020 season to prepare for the draft. He is a physical freak and can make work in the vertical and shallow receiving game. He isn’t much of a RAC receiver, but he is similar to Pittman. 

Maybe the receiver to watch this week is Eskridge. He was a virtual unknown up until this year, but his story is one to like. Eskridge split time at both receiver and cornerback in college while also being the return man. He averaged over 26 yards per catch this year. With a strong week, he could vastly improve his stock into a potential day-two player that can work inside or outside. 

Darby is the next receiver from Arizona State, following Aiyuk and N’Keal Harry. He will likely be placed into the slot at the next level thanks to his grittiness and ability to work in the short and intermediate game. Injuries are also a concern for Darby. 

Fitzpatrick is somewhat of a diamond in the rough to some on draft Twitter. He could raise his stock almost as much as any other player this week.

The duo of Johnson and Skowronek is far down the line for the National team this week and will need a great week of practice to get a good amount of playing time over the other receivers this week. 

TE: Hunter Long (Boston College), Kenny Yeboah (Ole Miss), Tony Poljan (Virginia) 

Long has a chance to be the fourth tight end off the board in this class. He is an all-around tight end that not only can catch but also block. He isn’t shifty and relies on his physicality more. Long will be the tight end to watch this week in Mobile. 

Yeboah is built in the Evan Engram type mold where he is a receiver that plays tight end. He is primarily used as a receiving threat and doesn’t add much in the blocking aspect of his game. 

Poljan is an interesting study. The former quarterback turned tight end is going to be an intriguing developmental option for teams later in the draft. He has great hands, but like Yeboah, Poljan needs help in the blocking facet. 

OL: Creed Humphrey (Oklahoma), Dillon Radunz (North Dakota State), Spencer Brown (Northern Iowa), Aaron Banks (Notre Dame), Robert Hainsey (Notre Dame), Quinn Meinerz (Wisconsin-Whitewater), Adrian Ealy (Oklahoma), Brenden Jaimes (Nebraska), Robert Jones (Middle Tennessee), James Hudson (Cincinnati) Jake Curhan (California)

Humphrey will likely be the first taken out of this group. He is the best pure center in the class and could very well be taken at the back-end of the first round. This week could lock up his status as a potential day-one and early-day two selection against elite competition. 

The small-school tackle duo of Radunz and Brown will be a main focal point this week. The two will likely be selected on the second round of the draft and will battle for a starting spot from day one. Radunz is currently the better of the two, and mock drafts have him late in the first round or early in the second. 

The Notre Dame duo of Banks and Hainsey could be late day two selections respectively. They are both currently early day three candidates, and with a strong week, both could boost their stocks. 

Continuing with the small school trend, Meinerz could be the player that boosts his stock the most this week. Coming from division-III powerhouse Wisconsin-Whitewater, he has the chance to prove himself against some of the best collegiate players in the country. Seeing how Meinerz does will be one of the more fascinating stories of the weekend. Because many don’t know much about him, here is Meinerz’s highlight tape from his 2019 season. 

The trio of Hudson, Jaimes, and Ealy has a lot to prove against a tremendous group of tackles in Mobile this week. 

DL: Patrick Jones II (Pittsburgh), Levi Onwuzurike (Washington), Jonathan Cooper (Ohio State), Shaka Toney (Penn State), Elerson Smith (Northern Iowa), Dealin Hayes (Notre Dame), Rashad Weaver (Pittsburgh), Osa Odighizuwa (UCLA), Tarron Jackson (Coastal Carolina), Ta’quon Graham (Texas), Adetokunbo Ogundeji (Notre Dame) 

The Senior Bowl staff put together a ton of intriguing prospects for Flores and the coaching staff to take a deeper look at this week. Leading the group is Jones. He has a lot to gain this week as one of the best edge rushers in Mobile in a class that doesn’t have many first-round options. 

Along with Jones, there is plenty of edge rush talent in this group. Toney, Weaver, Hayes, Smith, and Cooper. Each of them provides differing skillsets, whether that be in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme, or even as a designated pass-rusher like Cooper was for the Buckeyes. This same thing could be said for Odighizuwa and Jackson as well. 

Onwuzurike was featured in Daniel Jeremiah‘s first-round mock draft this last week. In a class that may be devoid of a true first-round prospect on the interior defensive line, he has a great opportunity this week in Mobile to show he can be discussed in that first-round conversation. He is an excellent run defender and offers some pass-rush ability as well. 

LB: Hamilcar Rashed Jr (Oregon State), Chazz Surratt (North Carolina), Baron Browning (Ohio State), Tuf Borland (Ohio State), Justin Hilliard (Ohio State), Tony Fields II (West Virginia), Garret Wallow (TCU), Derrick Barnes (Purdue)

The Senior Bowl staff has listed Rashed as a linebacker, but he is primarily an edge rusher. He could potentially sneak into the back-end of the first round, but will most likely be a day-two selection. 

The two best pure linebackers on this team are Surratt and Browning. Surratt is the brother of Sage, who plays receiver on the National squad as well. Sage is a former quarterback who is still learning the linebacker position. Meanwhile, Browning has played linebacker his whole life, yet couldn’t secure a primary role at one of the linebacker spots for the Buckeyes. He played all three spots at times. Browning’s best skillset is mainly as a WILL or SAM linebacker, that can read and react to plays. You can read our scouting report on Browning here. Both of these two could develop into three-down linebackers in the NFL. 

Along with Browning, Ohio State has two more linebackers at the Senior Bowl. Borland is a tough as nails, seemingly old school thumper, that played through an Achilles injury in 2018. Like Borland, Hilliard is another linebacker from Ohio State that suffered through injuries during his collegiate career and looks to the Senior Bowl for some help. 

Fields is one of the many players that is seemingly scheme-specific. He will align primarily as a 4-3 WILL linebacker. He doesn’t have the ideal size for the linebacker position, but teams will love his competitiveness and the fact he is going to be a special teams star. 

Both Barnes and Wallow have a lot to prove this week. Barnes is a versatile prospect that could be an edge or linebacker, while Wallow is a former safety that has made the transition. Wallow is great in coverage, but it’s easy to tell he is still learning the position. 

DB: Rodarius Williams (Oklahoma State), Divine Deablo (Virginia Tech), Keith Taylor (Washington), Thomas Graham Jr.(Oregon), Ambry Thomas (Michigan), Damar Hamlin (Pittsburgh), Camryn Bynum (California), Tre Norwood (Oklahoma), Tre Brown (Oklahoma), Benjamin St-Juste (Minnesota), Darren Hall (San Diego State), Christian Uphoff (Illinois State)

Williams is one of the oldest prospects in the draft, as he will be 24 at the draft. He is the brother of Browns cornerback, Greedy Williams. He is looking to improve upon his current day three draft stock by showing his ball skills and fast reactions this week. Those two things are the main areas of concern for Williams. 

Taylor, Graham, and Thomas are all players who are looking to be selected earlier on day three than they are currently projected to be. St-Juste and Bynum are looking to just get drafted. St-Juste has gotten some buzz as a player that could raise his stock the most out of anyone this week. 

Deablo is the best player out of the safety group for the National team. Hamlin was a three-year starter for Pittsburgh who is good at a lot but not fantastic at something. Hall and Uphoff are two more small-school prospects that are looking to make some noise this week. 


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