2022 Senior Bowl Preview: American Team

2022 Senior Bowl Preview: American Team

by January 31, 2022 0 comments

Welcome to Senior Bowl Week! A week of practices followed by the bowl itself will bring lots of content on some of the best NFL Draft prospects. After taking a look at the National Team yesterday, now is the time to break down the American Team position-by-position. This team is led by the Detroit Lions coaching staff who had a respectable season despite not having the record to show for it.

Head Coach – Duce Staley, Detroit Lions assistant head coach/running backs coach

“We as a staff are excited to hit the ground running at the Senior Bowl,” Staley said in a written statement. “This week will serve as a valuable experience for all of us to help lead our coaching staff alongside Coach Campbell as we get to know this talented group of young men. We are looking forward to a great week of football in Mobile.”

Offense

Quarterbacks – Malik Willis (Liberty), Bailey Zappe (Western Kentucky), Sam Howell (North Carolina)

Willis and Howell were both once tabbed as early first-round picks but had some weaknesses exposed in an up-and-down season. Willis is a dual-threat quarterback who has a cannon for an arm and great vision on scrambles. He had 2,857 passing yards, 27 passing touchdowns to 12 interceptions, 878 rushing yards, and 13 touchdowns on 197 rushes. The former Auburn quarterback has a very raw passing ability, but his developmental ceiling is high.

Howell struggled early on with his decision-making but made the most of a season in which his skill players were subpar. He wound up with 3,056 passing yards, 24 touchdowns to nine interceptions, 828 rushing yards, and 11 touchdowns on 183 rushes. Zappe is the one guy here who saw his stock rise the most. He’s currently projected as an early Day 3 prospect but could rise even more with a solid week. The Hilltoppers quarterback had a record-breaking season, as he broke Joe Burrow‘s single-season NCAA passing yards (5,967) and touchdowns (62) records.

Running Backs – Brian Robinson Jr. (Alabama), D’Vonte Price (Florida International), Dameon Pierce (Florida), James Cook (Georgia), ZaQuandre White (South Carolina)

 Robinson took advantage of his extra season at Alabama by rushing for 1,336 yards and 14 touchdowns on 270 carries, and two touchdowns on 36 receptions. He’s a bruising back highly capable of being the bell cow back and could rise to a late second pick. Price went to a small school in hopes to start right away but didn’t nab a starting role until the COVID-shortened 2020 season. In that season, he put up 581 yards on 6.8 yards per carry. Then this season, he continued to put up big numbers, as he rushed for 682 yards and seven touchdowns. Price didn’t show he was too capable in the passing game. So if he can show that this week, his stock would elevate.

Pierce didn’t put up the biggest production of this class, but when the Gators needed him, he was there to run for a first down or end a drive with a touchdown. He rushed for career-highs in yards (517), yards per attempt (5.9), and rushing yards. Cook was a big factor for Georgia in their National Championship win, as he rushed for 77 yards on six carries (including a 67-yard run). White is a top ten back and finished the season with 583 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 88 carries, and caught 19 passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns. 

Wide Receivers – Calvin Austin III (Memphis), Reggie Roberson Jr., Danny Gray (SMU), Jalen Tolbert (South Alabama), Velus Jones Jr. (Tennessee), Tre Turner (Virginia Tech), Dontario Drummond (Ole Miss)

The hometown Tolbert is an experienced deep threat with the ability to make highlight-reel catches. He can make plays at every level of the field and gets off the block quickly. Austin is small at 5’9″, 162 pounds but has explosiveness as a track star. He recorded back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He primarily lined up in the slot with Memphis and was great on punt returns. One-on-one drills will be where he makes his money this week.

Roberson had his 2020 season ended on a knee injury but bounced back well with 625 yards and six touchdowns on 51 catches. His teammate Gray can line up from anywhere and in ten games this year, he caught nine touchdowns while averaging 16.4 yards per catch. Jones turned from one of the best return men in college football to a go-to receiver as well with Tennessee. Drummond will be focused on one-on-one drills as well, as he had trouble separating as Matt Corral‘s top target. He had 76 catches for 1,028 yards. 

Tight Ends – Isaiah Likely (Coastal Carolina), Grant Calcaterra (SMU), Daniel Bellinger (San Diego State), Greg Dulcich (UCLA)

Likely is a bit of an underrated small school tight end. He is a big-play threat who has an extra gear that most big-bodied tight ends don’t have. Against Arkansas State, he ripped off a 99-yard catch and run to the endzone as one of 12 scores on the season. Calcaterra has the talent to be drafted fairly early on but has injury concerns that raise red flags. If he can show that he can be healthy while being productive this week, his stock should rise. 

Offensive Line – Jamaree Salyer, Justin Shaffer (Georgia), Darian Kinnard, Luke Fortner (Kentucky), Max Mitchell (Louisiana), Ed Ingram (LSU), Dylan Parham (Memphis), Braxton Jones (Southern Utah), Cade Mays (Tennessee), Chris Paul (Tulsa), Spencer Burford (UTSA), Lecitus Smith (Virginia Tech)

Kinnard is the highest-rated tackle on this team and he has the ideal size as a multi-year starter in the SEC. His teammate Fortner is the only pure center in the Senior Bowl and was the anchor of one of the best offensive lines in the country. He has a hard-nosed play style and with good reps could be the second center behind Tyler Linderbaum. Ingram has upside and flash which have a chance to leak out in reps during practice week. The Lions’ coaching staff will be keeping an eye on him as they are in need of interior linemen with the play style of Ingram. Parham has versatility and will need to show his ability to handle himself well at either position. Salyer played all five positions along the offensive line throughout his college career and could really show off his range of skills.

Defense

Defensive Backs – Roger McCreary (Auburn), Mario Goodrich (Clemson), Derion Kendrick (Georgia), Yusuf Corker (Kentucky), Akayleb Evans (Missouri), Cam Taylor-Britt (Nebraska), Zyon McCollum (Sam Houston), Alontae Taylor (Tennessee), Josh Thompson (Texas), Leon O’Neal Jr. (Texas A&M), Tycen Anderson (Toledo), Tariq Woolen (UTSA), Tariq Carpenter (Georgia Tech)

 McCreary is the highest-rated cornerback entering the Senior Bowl and is a borderline first-round pick. Despite his smaller frame, he isn’t scared of making big-time plays as a pressman specialist. He finished his career with six career interceptions and 30 passes defended – including 14 this season. Taylor-Britt showed off great ball skills with 11 pass breakups this season and has value as a punt returner. Taylor has versatility playing both corner and safety, while he had two interceptions including one for a touchdown return. Goodrich is a solid run defender and has good ball skills. Kendrick was a transfer from Clemson and responded to big tests with four interceptions. 

Anderson has a lot of range and a solid ability to play in the box, so he could excel as a linebacker. His tackling ability is a good sign of that. Corker was the backbone of Kentucky’s defense and is a versatile safety who plays well in the box. He’ll have a chance to flash his athleticism and technique. O’Neal packs a punch as a box safety and has some solid upside.

Defensive Line – Phidarian Mathis (Alabama), John Ridgeway III (Arkansas), Zachary Carter (Florida), Jermain Johnson II (Florida State), Devonte Wyatt (Georgia), Josh Paschal (Kentucky), Neil Farrell Jr. (LSU), Kingsley Enagbare (South Carolina), Michael Clemons (Texas A&M), Amare Barno (Virginia Tech), DeAngelo Malone (Western Kentucky), Cameron Thomas (San Diego State)

Johnson is one of the highest-rated edge rushers in this group. After transferring from Georgia, he had 17.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks in his lone season at Florida State. Wyatt is the best interior defensive lineman in the Senior Bowl and is another bone-crushing defender on the national champions’ squad. He is a terrific athlete for his size at 315 pounds and it will be fun to watch him chase down quarterbacks and ball carriers. Mathis constantly collapses the pocket and recorded nine sacks and 53 tackles. One-on-ones will be interesting to watch with him. Enagbare is the best pass-rusher out of South Carolina since Jadeveon Clowney. He has the size and disruptiveness to be a potential first-round pick and his motor never stops. Thomas could be one of the highest risers this week. He had 20.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks this season. 

Linebackers – D’Marco Jackson (Appalachian State), Jeremiah Moon (Florida), Quay Walker, Channing Tindall (Georgia), Damone Clark (LSU), JoJo Domann (Nebraska), Aaron Hansford (Texas A&M)

Jackson had tremendous statistics at App State, recording 120 tackles, six sacks, and 19 tackles for loss. The Senior Bowl will be a big test for him to play outside of his set role. He can show off some versatility against top talent. Moon has injury concerns but he was a solid linebacker when on the field. Walker wasn’t one of the centerpieces of the Bulldogs defense, but he played tough defense against running backs. He does have raw ability despite some mental lapses in coverage and blitzing. Tindall was a hard-hitting inside linebacker for Georgia but had struggles in coverage. He has the right mentality, however, and could really benefit from playing for Dan Dampell’s staff. Domann could rise if he shows the ability to play in safety reps as a versatile piece. 

Special Teams

Kicker – Cameron Dicker (Texas) Punter – (Jake Camarda) Long Snapper – Jordan Silver (Arkansas)

Dicker should show enough to compete for a starting job as he has accuracy from short range. He doesn’t quite have the upside for long-range but had the role of kicker and punter at Texas. Camarda has a big leg as a punter and should find himself on a team. Silver is an inept long snapper who should be able to compete in camp.

Stay tuned for much more Senior Bowl content over the next week!


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