The Reese’s Senior Bowl is the most anticipated all-star game of the draft season. It brings out scouts and coaches from multiple professional leagues, front office personnel, and media outlets. It’s also one of the biggest stages for draft prospects to show off their talents to improve their draft stock. In recent years, prospects have really helped their draft position by performing well during the week of practice then transferring that performance to the game. The National team was coached by the New York Jets coaching staff, while the American team was coached by the Detroit Lions.
The game was somewhat one-sided as the National Team came away with a definitive 20-10 victory over the American Team. The score may not show, but both teams had players that really helped their draft stock with impressive performances. Let’s check out who helped themselves.
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated
- Zion Johnson G/C, Boston College (6-2, 314lbs) – Johnson had a good week of practice that translated to the game. The big news during the week was how Johnson transitioned from the guard to the center position. He wanted to show his versatility to teams and scouts, and show he was able to do the job. Johnson performed well at both positions. In the run game, he displayed his mauler-like mentality the way he opened running lanes and his good athleticism the way he was able to work to the second level to block linebackers. As a pass protector, Johnson played with great leverage to stalemate a defensive lineman at the line of scrimmage. He also can recover if he gives ground. Johnson may have helped himself sneak into a late first-round pick.
- Travis Jones DT, Connecticut (6-4, 326lbs) – Jones had an incredible week at the senior bowl. He made some nice plays during 1-on-1 drills showing he can create pressure from the interior. During inside drills, he was a monster disrupting the run and making life miserable for running backs. In the game, Jones was responsible for multiple quarterback pressures. He even recorded a sack from the interior. Jones could have improved his stock into the second round or possibly the first round.
- Boye Mafe Edge, Minnesota (6-3, 255lbs) – Mafe came off the edge like a man on a mission during the senior bowl. He displayed his quick-twitch and first step off the line of scrimmage beating offensive tackles often. Mafe showed he is not just a speed rusher; he did utilize a bull rush periodically. In the run game, he can hold his ground to set the edge and force the play inside. Mafe recorded multiple sacks during the game, and he forced a fumble. He could be a first-round pick by the time the draft process is done.
- Chad Muma LB, Wyoming (6-2, 241lbs) – Muma is an athletic linebacker that can run and cover the field like a defensive back. He has the instincts to find the ball and secure the tackle. Muma displays the leadership skills to get guys in positions communicating assignments to multiple defensive players. His football intelligence is another quality of Muma’s game. When he drops into coverage, he can read the quarterback like a book to get a hand into the passing lane. If Muma can test well at the combine, I can see him being selected late on day 2 of the draft.
- Abram Smith RB, Baylor (5-11, 211lbs) – Smith had a quiet week during the week of practice, but he made a huge impact during the senior bowl game. During the game, Smith displayed his vision and versatility catching the ball out of the backfield. Smith carried the ball 11 times for 48 yards, and he scored a 20-yard receiving touchdown where he displayed good hands and the ability to get yards after the catch. Smith has some shiftiness in him to make defenders miss 1-on-1. I can see him being drafted early on day 3 of the draft.
- Perrion Winfrey DT, Oklahoma (6-3, 303lbs) – Winfrey dominated senior bowl to the point where it was just unfair for offensive linemen to try to block him 1-on-1. He continuously beat linemen with a bullrush or occasionally a quick swim and rip move. In the game, he just lived in the American Teams’ backfield. Winfrey also showed the ability to beat a double team and hold his ground in the run game when being double-teamed. For the game, Winfrey recorded five tackles, three tackles for loss, and two sacks. He was named the Reese’s Bowl MVP. With this performance, I believe Winfrey could be a mid-second-round pick.
- Conner Heyward FB/RB, Michigan State (5-11, 239lbs) – Some might say Heyward shouldn’t be on this list, but he does. If you had a chance to go watch practice during the week like myself, you would see why he is on this list. During practice Heyward showed his versatility by being able to pass block, run block and catch the ball out of the backfield as a fullback. He even showed the ability to win 1-on-1 against linebackers. He will be a gem to any team that loves to utilize a fullback in their offense. He’ll end up being a late-round draft pick, but his production will make an impact early if used properly.
- Jermaine Johnson Edge, Florida State University (6-4, 259lbs) – Johnson did not play in the senior bowl game, but that was for a good reason. After already being on the edge of being a first-round pick, Johnson’s performance during the week of practice solidified that. The Florida State pass rusher won most of his 1-on-1 reps utilizing a handful of pass rush moves and successfully beating the offensive linemen. Johnson plays with great effort, energy, and power. This will translate well to the NFL. He will be a top 15 pick.
- Velus Jones Jr. WR, Tennessee (5-11.203lbs) – Jones made some impressive catches during the game. He showed that he’s able to make contested catches and create yards after the catch. Jones was not one of the big names on the roster, but he made noise with his performance in the game. If he can perform well at the combine, he can help himself become a mid-round pick.
- DeAngelo Malone Edge, Western Kentucky (6-3, 234lbs) – Malone is an athletic edge rusher who uses hands and speed to beat offensive linemen. He has the hip flexibility to bend the corner and translate speed to power. Malone consistently generated pressure on the National Team quarterbacks. He also was able to show that he can drop into coverage if needed. I think he fits well in a 3-4 outside linebacker where he can be used in many ways. I can see him being drafted early on day 3 of the draft.
- Alontae Taylor DB, Tennessee (6-0, 196lbs) – Taylor was one guy I wanted to watch during the week of practice. There were questions about how well he could cover in man coverage. He answered those questions during practice as he was able to win some matchups and deflect some balls way. He did get beat a couple of times, but that is going to happen in this league. It was how he responded that should give some teams good vibes about Taylor. He never held his head down, he just got ready for the next rep. During the game, he made a highlight interception where he extended his bodied to make the play. Taylor may fit best with a team that plays zone and some man. He has good eyes to read the quarterback to lead him to the ball. As a tackler, he will not avoid any contact to secure the tackle.
- Malik Willis QB, Liberty (6-0, 220lbs) – Willis is the top quarterback in this draft class in my opinion. He has a ton of upside that can help turn around any franchise in no time. During the week of practice, he showed everyone how quickly he can learn a playbook while also being able to translate what he just learned to the field. I think what really won everyone over on Willis was his performance during the Wednesday practice. The weather was cold, it rained off and on, and the wind was not friendly to quarterbacks. While other quarterbacks struggled to pass the ball, Willis looked accustomed to the weather. It never looked as if the elements affected his throwing. During the game, Willis did not have much to show off since his offensive line was not the best. He spent most of his drop-backs running for his life. Willis did break a 27-yard run that showed everyone a glimpse into what he can do for a teams’ offense. Willis will be the first quarterback taken in this draft. He will need to go to a good situation in order to make a huge impact in this league.