MOBILE, Ala. — As Senior Bowl Director Jim Nagy says, the draft starts in Mobile. The Senior Bowl got off to a start on Tuesday as the National and American teams had their first day of practice. Some star, highly sought after players took the field while others were looking to prove themselves. Who are the losers and winners of Day 1?
Winner: Creed Humphrey
One of the biggest, if not the biggest winner of the day was Oklahoma’s, Creed Humphrey. Vying for the top center spot in the 2021 NFL Draft, Humphrey put on a show on Tuesday. In one-on-ones, Humphrey stonewalled everyone he faced on the day. Top defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike was forced completely into the left guard after Humphrey overpowered him. It was a dominant performance. In the team session, Humphrey executed excellent reach blocks and appeared comfortable moving laterally. He is not the best athlete, but it certainly seems he is more than functionally fine. Humphrey will make some team happy once drafted, and it could be Pittsburgh.
Loser: Alex Leatherwood
Leatherwood is a tough evaluation. There were some obvious issues that would plague him regardless. A good weigh-in showing that Leatherwood had 34-inch arms meant that length was not an issue. However, in one-on-ones, Leatherwood was beaten multiple times. He was lunging forward, got ran through due to high pad level, and his hand usage was erratic and inconsistent. Leatherwood appeared stiff in his lower half, which was always shown on tape. The point is he looked more like a guard than a tackle on Tuesday. That will be a discussion to revisit this entire draft season, and today only fueled those flames.
Winner: Dillon Radunz
The North Dakota State tackle only played one game over the past year, but there was no rust on Tuesday. Radunz appeared to be right where he belongs. Strong hands, nimble feet, and smooth movement in the open were all on display in both the one-on-ones and the team session. Radunz cleared out an entire side on a zone run in the team session. In one-on-ones, Radunz stymied most of his opponents’ thanks to his athleticism and patience. After his hype had cooled off during the fall, he is doing a nice job to raise it once again.
Loser: Deonte Brown
Another surprise, Brown appeared overpowered and unsure of himself all day. Brown’s anchor was inconsistent and he played with poor pad level in the entire one-on-one period. There were flashes on tape where he could get stunned, but never anything that substantial as it was on Tuesday. That being said, his tape at Alabama was impressive and he was learning center from former teammate Landon Dickerson. There are some positives for Brown, but he will want to improve throughout the week.
Winner: Demetric Felton
Perhaps the most impressive running back on the day, Felton’s versatility was on full display to scouts on Tuesday. He burned Tre Norwood on a corner route twice with crisp routes and releases. It was showcasing a running back with slot receiver skills could burn even experienced defensive backs. Felton’s stock and buzz are only growing as he continues to prove his value to teams in the modern NFL.
Loser: Robert Rochell
Jumping up to compete against the best senior receivers the country had to offer, Rochell did not stand out in a good way on Tuesday. In one-on-ones, he was repeatedly beaten to the inside with an inconsistent trigger and a lack of eye discipline. Rochell seemed to be lost and never felt comfortable in the drills against the receivers. It led to Rochell having a down day and appearing as if he did not belong despite good measurables and obvious great athletic traits on film. In order to increase his stock, Rochell must be better during the rest of the week.
Winner: D’Wayne Eskridge
A quick, twitchy slot receiver, the cornerbacks had no answer for D’Wayne Eskridge today. While there were other receivers that did put on a show in the one-on-ones, it is hard to argue that Eskridge had a bad day. In fact, Eskridge was repeatedly running crisp routes and beating guys off the line with releases easily. His diamond release and hand-fighting with Camryn Bynum to open up on a slant were impressive. Eskridge put his skill set on display and could be a Day 2 pick when all is said and done.
Loser: Shawn Davis
The Florida safety was coming into Mobile and trying to prove himself and his pedigree but was repeatedly beaten in coverage all day. In one-on-ones, Davis looked uncomfortable and clunky when trying to transition and flip his hips. In 7-on-7s, Davis did not appear to process route combinations well enough to make significant plays on the ball. It all culminated in a mediocre and underwhelming performance for Davis on the day.
Winner: Jaylon Moore
The other Western Michigan player at the Senior Bowl proved he was worthy of far more buzz than he came into the Senior Bowl with. Moore, who flew under the radar, appeared athletic and polished against anyone and everyone he faced on Tuesday. Moore was natural in his pass sets and his hand placement barricaded anyone in one-on-ones that tried to beat him in any significant manner. With a strong week from here on out, Moore can raise his stock significantly.
Loser: Spencer Brown
Brown came into the Senior Bowl with a bastion of hype thanks to intriguing tape and athleticism at Northern Iowa. It was impressive tape that genuinely deserves lots of buzz and attention. However, Brown’s first day in Mobile was one to forget for the offensive tackle. Brown was consistently oversetting to the outside and being beaten to the inside. Furthermore, he seemed to not be able to anchor down and handle bull rushes consistently. If he wants to get into the Day 2 conversation, Brown must improve over the rest of the week.
Winner: Patrick Jones
One of the most athletically gifted edge rushers in Mobile, Patrick Jones proved that pedigree and hype on Tuesday. Despite some defeats, Jones consistently showed multiple methods of victory including speed rush, a club-rip back to the inside, and even a successful bull rush. Jones will skyrocket his stock with a good week in Mobile and good testing, and Tuesday was a strong start to that.
Alan Saunders of Steelers Now provided reporting from Mobile.
Steelers Met with Minnesota CB Benjamin St. Juste at Senior Bowl
University of Minnesota cornerback Benjamin St. Juste met with the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Senior Bowl, according to a report by Justin Melo of The Draft Network, who said St. Juste felt a “great connection” with the Steelers, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.
St. Juste is a big,6-foot-3, 205-pound cornerback, that specializes in man-to-man coverage, and would also be a good fit for the Steelers’ Cover-3-heavy scheme.
— Justin M (@JustinM_NFL) February 15, 2021
A native of Montreal, Quebec, St. Juste spent his first two collegiate seasons at Michigan before transferring to Minnesota in 2019. He immediately became a starter for the Golden Gophers, starting nine games as a redshirt sophomore, and five of Minnesota’s seven as a redshirt junior in 2020.
He finished his collegiate career with 62 tackles, 1.5 for a loss, and 11 passes defended, with the vast majority of those statistical contributions coming during the 2019 season.
St. Juste is largely considered to be a mid-round pick and would be a player the Steelers could hope to groom as a future starter behind Joe Haden and Steven Nelson. Justin Layne, who has served in that role for the last two seasons, was passed over for playing time in 2020 by slot man Cam Sutton and even undrafted free agent James Pierre, so Layne does not appear to be a part of the Steelers’ future plans.
The contracts of Haden and Nelson are currently set to expire after the 2021 season, so drafting an eventual replacement will certainly be on the radar for the Steelers this offseason.
Slot corners Sutton and Mike Hilton are set to become free agents this offseason and if they are unable to be retained, the slot would likely become a more pressing need. St. Juste does not project to be a quality slot option, and with just a season and a half of starting collegiate experience, also figures to be a player that will take some polishing before thrust into a major role.
The Steelers drafted a fellow Canadian in the 2020 NFL Draft, taking British Columbia native and Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool in the second round.
Report: Steelers Met With MTSU OL Robert Jones at Senior Bowl
All 32 NFL teams met with Middle Tennessee State Offensive Lineman Robert Jones this week, including the Steelers, per Justin Melo of The Draft Wire.
#MTSU OL Robert Jones met with all 32 teams at The Senior Bowl. Lots of interest in a riser that had a great week in Mobile.
— Justin M (@JustinM_NFL) January 30, 2021
Jones came in with solid measurements in Mobile on Tuesday, coming in at 6-foot-4 and a sturdy 319 pounds. His arms were 33-inches, indicating that they meet the often talked about threshold to play offensive tackle in the NFL. Jones filled out the rest of his physical profile with a 79-inch wingspan and hands clocking in at 9 5/8 inches.
The Steelers have clear needs at all three positions on the offensive line, but especially at offensive tackle. Jones was selected Honorable Mention All-Conference USA in 2020 after an impressive Senior campaign with the Blue Raiders.
Jones did not play in Saturday’s Senior Bowl game, but his week of practice was impressive. He went up against some of the top rushers in the draft and won most of his reps. Wednesday, in particular, was Jones’ best day in Mobile. He buried Shaka Toney into the dirt during one-on-ones in perhaps one of the most impressive reps by any offensive lineman during the week.
MTSU OL Robert Jones with one hell of a rep vs Shaka Toney. Great footwork by Jones on this play. Jones stuck out in a great way on Wednesday. pic.twitter.com/P7t2wYRiYj
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 28, 2021
The other three teams specifically interested in Jones could, at the very least, use depth along their offensive line. Jones is a riser coming out of Mobile and will likely be selected between rounds 4-6 in April at the 2021 NFL Draft.
North Carolina RB Michael Carter Makes Splash in Senior Bowl Homecoming
MOBILE, Ala. — North Carolina running back Michael Carter grew up attending the Senior Bowl when he was a youngster from nearby Navarre, Florida.
In his one and only chance to the play in the game, he made an impact.
Carter’s fourth-quarter touchdown run put his squad ahead for good, while bringing the crowd to its feet in appreciation of the local star in what became a 27-24 victory for the National team at Hancock Whitney Stadium on the campus of South Alabama on Saturday.
.@8kMike finds the end zone.
— Carolina Football (@TarHeelFootball) January 30, 2021
Carter also had a long run in the first quarter that set up another score. He finished with eight carries for 60 yards to lead all rushers in the game and also grabbed two passes for 15 yards.
After an interception by Pitt safety Damar Hamlin, the National team was able to add to the lead. Arkansas quarterback Felipe Franks found Ole Miss tight end Kenny Yeboah in the end zone for a 26-yard score. Franks finished 9 of 16 for 122 yards to lead the National passers.
Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman hit Florida wide receiver Trevon Grimes for a 10-yard score in the final seconds, but the National team was able to run the clock out.
The game appeared to be one-sided early in favor of the National squad, but Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond led a pair of second-half touchdown drives to bring the American team back from a two-score deficit.
Mond led consecutive touchdown drives in the third quarter, connecting on touchdown passes to Clemson’s Amari Rodgers and Tennessee wide receiver Josh Palmer to cap drives of 58 and 42 yards.
Mond started the game after Alabama quarterback Mac Jones was held out with an ankle injury suffered in practice on Thursday. He completed 13 of 25 passes for 173 yards to lead all passers and also rushed twice for 11 yards.
The National dominated the first half. UCLA wide receiver Demetric Felton scored on a 12-yard pass from Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger in the first quarter. The score was set up by a 27-yard rush by Carter. Memphis kicker Riley Patterson added a pair of field goals to make the score 13-0 at the half.
Louisville’s Dez Fitzpatrick led all receivers with six catches for 90 yards for the National team. South Carolina’s Shi Smith caught two passes for 53 yards to lead the American squad.
Defensively, Tulane defensive lineman Cam Sample led all players with six tackles for the American squad. Florida State defensive lineman Jnrius Robinson had 1.5 sacks, while Hamlin and Florida’s Shawn Davis had interceptions.
The National team was coached by the staff of the Miami Dolphins and head coach Brian Flores, while Matt Rhule and his Carolina Panthers staff led the American team.