Tuesday is the busiest day here in Mobile. The morning kicks off with the annual spectacle that is the Senior Bowl weigh-in.
This is my 10th Senior Bowl, so seeing the parade of players being weighed and measured in their underwear is something I’m used to. That doesn’t make it any less strange.
Among the players who stood out for their physiques or measurements, and standouts for the day of practice:
Villanova DE Tanoh Kpassagnon won the morning. The FCS standout is a hair below 6’7” and 280 pounds, which is impressive enough. But his body is straight out of a body building magazine, or a classical sculpting class. He was merely okay in South practice, but nobody has been more impressive at weigh-ins in some time.
Alabama TE O.J. Howard already has some top 20 overall buzz, and he solidified that with a great Tuesday. He was a chiseled 249 pounds at just under 6’6”, wearing it comfortably too. Howard also shined in South practice, casually snaring a bad throw (there were many) with one hand without breaking stride. He was one of the day’s big winners, and impressed Monday in the opening press conference as well.
Illinois DE Carroll Phillips doesn’t get the publicity of teammate Dawuane Smoot, who is also on the North roster. But he’s much more physically impressive, a rocked up 6’3” and 237 pounds to Smoot’s somewhat loose 6’2” and 255. Most teams here envision Phillips as a linebacker more than the edge rusher he was for the Illini, but in practice he looked pretty good at turning the edge. Smoot looked impressive in using his upfield burst too.
Ohio DE Tarell Basham might get a bump in my eye for his college choice, but my fellow Bobcat opened some eyes with his 6’3”, 262-pound build, long arms and big hands. Basham had some wins and losses in pass rush drills, but he did great in ranging outside to snuff out a swing pass. He’s got the athletic versatility to play either DE or OLB, and showcased that today.
Michigan CB Jourdan Lewis has been dogged by height questions all year. When I talked to NFL scouts in Ann Arbor this fall, their book said 5’9” and 180. He hit the stage at 5’10” and 188 and his smiling reaction spoke volumes in the strangely quiet ballroom. Despite a couple of rough reps in drills, Lewis had an overall positive day in practice too.
Unfortunately, some players didn’t impress with the physical attributes or practice performances.
It was a mixed bag for Western Kentucky OL Forrest Lamp. He’s got impressive tape at tackle, but at 6’3” and 305 pounds with just 31-inch arms there is not an NFL team who will even let him try playing outside. He struggled on the edge in North practice too, though when he took reps at guard he dominated all comers. Lamp will be a great NFL guard prospect, but that’s not the same prestige as tackle.
Two of the North quarterbacks did not pass the eye test. Iowa’s C.J. Beathard was shorter than ideal for a QB at 6’2” and a somewhat pasty, doughy 219 pounds. But he looked better than Colorado’s Sefo Liufau, who appeared unfit at a dad-bod 241 pounds. Neither impressed throwing the ball either, though Beathard did show decent touch on the deep throws.
Many want to cheer for Tiffin QB Antonio Pipkin. The D-II standout carries the promise of the great unknown. Even most actual NFL scouts were seeing him for the first time Tuesday. He measured in over 2 inches shorter than his expected 6’3”. His first pass in practice showed nerves, bouncing several feet short of target.
After that, Pipkin made some very impressive deeper throws that showed more arc than I saw in the two games of Tiffin film I’ve seen. He also was a little too quick to tuck and run if he didn’t like the passing options. That will be fine in games, but for practice sessions the coaches and scouts want to see him make tough throws into smaller windows or against tight coverage.
South Alabama TE Gerald Everett has definite local interest and a lot of good tape, but he was one of the big losers of weigh-ins. Listed at 6’4” and 240, he is well under 6’2” and a slight (for a TE) 227 pounds. Worse, he has tiny hands at just over 8 inches. Despite some first-round buzz, that’s a real tough sell for a lot of NFL teams. He looked smooth on the practice field, to his credit.
Texas A&M wideout Josh Reynolds had a couple of drops in an early drill but shook them off. He made several outstanding catches away from his body, and Reynolds also showed polished routes and good tracking skills.
Other guys with positive first days include Miami CB Corn Elder (twitchy), Toledo RB Kareem Hunt (great hands and vision), Western Michigan OL Taylor Moton (playing both tackle and guard) and Memphis kicker Justin Ellis (small but with a big, accurate leg).
Pretty much everyone associated with the NFL is here, and that leads to a lot of talking. Some of the things I’ve heard through the grapevine, or in some cases been told directly…
--The division of opinion on Clemson QB Deshaun Watson is very real. Some teams will have him as QB1, others won’t see him as a second round talent.
--If you write mock drafts, two players you absolutely must have in your top 10 are Ohio State safety Malik Hooker and LSU safety Jamal Adams. There are a lot of people who will tell you both are going in the top 7, and that number is not chosen arbitrarily…
--Not one person, either employed by an NFL team or media entity, thinks Ben Roethlisberger is serious about retiring. Not one.