The Reese’s Senior Bowl will be played on Saturday, January 30th at 2:30 pm and can be viewed on the NFL Network. The only thing I like about the event is the air of the exercises that lead to the later game. As of now, I’ve flipped through the guide, and ESPNU and NFL Network have their coverage from Wednesday and running through Friday. Check your TV program guide for specific times and don’t forget to set the recording function on your system.
The Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers will coach the two respective teams.
The watch list: National team
Creed Humphrey – C – Oklahoma – It is necessary to find the closest anchor to the line of scrimmage. Pouncey has yet to make a decision about his future, and even if he plays another year, the depth at that position is questionable. Humphries is not going to amaze you with movement skills, rather a phone booth type blocker. Very powerful and a bit mean as a blocker. The question remains whether its fit is in line with plan for the future. I think he would mate well with Kevin Dotson in the long term.
Current projection: round 2
Hunter Long – TE – Boston College – Yeah, I know I always ask for a close finish, but it’s time to bring up the position in the draft and find a player with a double threat. Vance McDonald has retired and Eric Ebron has proven to be an inconsistent pass catcher while adding very little to the blocking game. Hunter Long isn’t the athlete everyone seems to want in the position. What he is is a double-threat TE who has solid hands and is more than willing to do the necessary dirty work as a blocker. As a receiver, he has the zone awareness of sitting in open spaces and he knows how to use his size to hide defenders for positioning on routes and at the snap point. At the next level, additional strength is needed to become a more efficient blocker and technique, but the willingness is there and that cannot be taught.
Current projection: Top 75
Rashad Weaver and Patrick Jones II – EDGE – Pittsburgh – If nothing crazy happens, Bud Dupree moves on to his second team. I was a harsh critic at times, but I wanted him to stay in the end. I wish him all the best. That brings us to the option of either adding a starter or someone to deepen that position. TJ Watt is all-world, and Alex Highsmith has shown that he can play in this league with room to grow as a player. The fan debate about this continues. I put these two together because they were put together at the waist to play together what should have been a strong panther defense. I think Jones is the better athlete and Weaver is more technically advanced. Both are decent at keeping the run, although I think Weaver has the advantage. However, Jones ll offers more advantages in terms of pressure. The one question I have is schema fit. Can either of them play in the two-point stance at the next level? We saw Watt play on three points, so does it matter?
Current projection: Jones ll – Top 50 / Weaver – Top 100
The watch list: American team
Alex Leatherwood – OT – Alabama – Once again, the offensive line needs to be reworked, and filling the blind side would go a long way in rebuilding a once proud unit. Alejandro Villanueva is a free agent, and even if the money is right, his game has gone down. Zach Banner has an injury and is also a free agent. Chuks Okorafor remains the only device with a significant playing time. Leatherwood has a formidable physique that thrives in the game if it suits his man. Has aggressive behavior and decent strength. Must improve footwork on the next level to fight the elite pass rushers. He has positional flexibility as he has played in Guard and some believe he is best suited for Guard or the right tackle spot.
Current projection: Top 35
Kadarius Toney – WR – Florida – Some may consider this a luxury choice with so many needs and limited space to fill in gaps on the roster. There’s still a chance JuJu Smith-Schuster will be judged out of town, despite Ben Roethlisberger saying he wanted to keep Smith-Schuster in the mix. If Smith-Schuster stays it may become a non-factor, but if he goes this space may need to be expanded. Toney will draw comparisons to Diontae Johnson and maybe even Antonio Brown. His explosiveness and ability to twitch quickly pose a serious threat to YAC. He’s likely not going to be a fighter, but that doesn’t limit his ability on the field. There are red flag concerns that need to be addressed, but if he can answer for those, the rest is all cake. The position adjustment would most likely be done in the slot.
Current projection: Top 50
Jamie Newman – QB – Wake Forest/ Georgia – This prospect falls in the same boat as Trey Lance, as he failed to show his talents in 2020. Newman moved to Georgia as a student, but then COVID took its toll and Newman ended his college season. Looking back on his playing time as Demon Deacon, it was obvious that he was an athlete who had some gaming skills. He offers a strong arm and toughness that is similar to a Marshawn Lynch running style. Looking at the negatives the list is long, and to say he’s more than a development quarterback at this point is too optimistic. Inconsistent mechanics, reading what the defense is doing, and stepping through its progress are all areas that need work. I’m not saying that he didn’t work on these things in his time outside of the game, but we couldn’t see that. This venue could go a long way to see if it has actually started the necessary progress.
Current projection: From the 3rd round to the UDFA
I’ve given a short list of the players I’ll watch. It’s time to give yours. Feedback and different opinions are always welcome. We plan to publish an article and a game thread for each day of the exercises. Check out these and as always, Steelers!