MOBILE, Ala. — The NFL Draft process is generally familiar with the concept that some players may have different-length seasons than others.
Some players have their years cut short by injury. Others may deal with suspensions. Still more will get only 12 regular-season opportunities while the Alabamas, Clemsons and Ohio States of the world get 14 or 15.
This year, the ability to differentiate players with largely different sample sizes will be stressed to the extreme. Some of the players at the 2021 Senior Bowl played as many as 12 games. Others played far fewer, like Arizona State wide receiver Frank Darby, whose Sun Devils suited up just twice. Many of the FCS-level players in the field had their entire 2020 seasons postponed until the spring, leaving them without a senior season on their resume.
For Darby, that just means that he needs to take advantage of the opportunity that he’s been given to show NFL coaches what he can do in this setting.
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.