2022 NFL Draft
Senior Bowl Day 1 Takeaways: Quarterbacks Inconsistent, Linebackers Dazzle
MOBILE, Ala. — The Senior Bowl practices kicked off Tuesday afternoon as the National and American teams took the field. It was an eventful day where teams got to know the players and see them up close and personal. While nothing is set in stone just from a day of practice, it gives a good view of traits the players possess. Here are some takeaways about the players’ performance on Day 1 of the Senior Bowl.
The Quarterbacks Were Inconsistent
The quarterbacks on Day One one were anything but outstanding. In fact, they were really anything but bad either. This was a group that gave everyone in attendance the roller coaster ride, and it was one that was topsy-turvy as well. With this being such a critical place for these quarterbacks to develop their draft stock in 2022, today was the first of three very important days for the players.
Kenny Pickett was consistent for the most part. It was what Pickett has done his entire career. There were a few great throws off-platform. Under pressure, he proved to be tough and willing to make throws into tight windows. Still, his pocket management and a surprising bit of accuracy issues marred his game to a degree.
Then, there was Carson Strong. This was not a good day for the Nevada product. His usual lofty and accurate deep ball was overthrown too many times. When being put on the move, Strong put up some of the ugliest reps of both practices.
Desmond Ridder showcased his wheels on Tuesday. They were significant enough to where he made something out of nothing about three times in the team period. However, his balls were all over the place at all levels of the field. That is something that is worrying.
Sam Howell was the most consistent quarterback on the day. Everything came through Howell’s eyes easily. He operated at a high level and his accuracy was on point. If there was a quarterback to pick out of today, Howell would be that quarterback to take home.
Malik Willis has great upside and that proved to be true. However, while he made the wow plays, there was also a fair share of head-scratching misses. Still, the talent was on display in spades ad it was impressive watching Willis out there. He is certainly the upside pick of all the quarterbacks.
Linebackers Ball Out
The inside linebackers in this game were playing at a very high level, to say the least. Among those at the top of that list were Cincinnati linebacker Darrian Beavers and Wyoming linebacker Chad Muma.
Beavers wrecked everything he touched. Not only was he shooting gaps from the second level in the team period, but in the individual period, he showcased his pass-rushing chops. Beavers was phenomenal in coverage as well, mirroring running backs and tight ends at a high level. He looked like the best linebacker out here in Mobile.
Muma was a cerebral player who read everything in front of him like a book. Going through practice, it was easy to start a ‘Muma counter’ of how many times he made it into the backfield. There were six check marks throughout the team period. He certainly impressed many teams on the day as a result.
LSU linebacker Damone Clark set into a similar vein as the previous two. He has great length and Clark’s athleticism was apparent. He has fluid hips and strikingly quick feet. Not only that, but Clark has all the length needed to stack and shed. It was impressive to watch him get tackles for loss after tackles for loss. It was an impressive display.
Offensive Line Struggles
For the most part, the offensive line in Mobile did not impress on Tuesday. Even projected top picks like Trevor Penning and Bernhard Raimann struggled. Minnesota tackle Daniel Faalele had a great team period, but struggled in the one-on-ones portion of practice.
Among the offensive line standouts was Boston College offensive lineman Zion Johnson. Johnson worked at all five spots over the day, including center, which is a new one for him. He appeared strong and had great, consistent hand placement. To say the least, Johnson looked like the best interior offensive linemen.
Two small school players in Braxton Jones and Cole Strange both played well. Louisiana’s Max Mitchell may have had the best day of any tackle here as well. His feet, lateral agility, and core strength were on display. Kentucky’s Darian Kinnard also stood out.
Still, the rest of the offensive line largely struggled, including most of the top rated prospects. It was fine, but the defensive line mostly dominated this day.
North Dakota State’s Christian Watson Puts Teams on Notice
Coming into the day, North Dakota State’s Christian Watson may not have been the flashy name of the wide receiver group. However, after Tuesday, that all changed. Watson dominated defensive backs with his 6-foot-4 frame. The jump balls were there, the back shoulder fades were there, and the pretty routes were, too.
Watson moves far too well for a 6-foot-4 player. His ability to snap off routes with ease is what set himself apart. Still, he is plenty willing to get physical, as well. With the reported speed Watson carries with him as well, he could be a massive riser up boards if he continues his strong week up.