The first part of the 2018 NFL draft process is over with the South winning the Senior Bowl 45-16 on Saturday in Mobile, Ala. Before attention shifts to the NFL Scouting Combine next month, here’s a recap on what we learned at the Senior Bowl.
QB is deep
We got to know Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Wyoming’s Josh Allen a bit better in terms of the transition from college to pro. They had the opportunity to separate themselves from other touted quarterbacks such as USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph.
Mayfield didn’t go much in Saturday’s game (9 yards passing before he had to leave at halftime), but was named the Practice Player of the Week at quarterback. He did nothing to stop his momentum of being a potential top-15 pick.
Allen showed why he is in the mix to go even higher. His physical tools are impressive. It’s hard to believe he completed just 56.3 percent of his passes and for only 1,812 yards in 2017.
We knew Allen had a massive arm. He demonstrated his innate accuracy on Saturday. Allen started slow, but shook that off and threw two impressive touchdowns in the second half. Allen had to float passes over defenders and hit his target in stride each time. He finished 9-of-13 for 158 yards and two touchdowns.
Teams planning on spending their first-round pick on a quarterback had to be pleased with Mayfield and Allen.
Teams looking for help in the middle of the draft had to be excited as well.
Western Kentucky’s Mike White – who began his career at USF – was in a groove, going 8-of-11 for 128 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown came on a slant route. White also hit a 63-yard bomb. He showed good ability to go through progressions and look off defenders.
Virginia’s Kurt Benkert was 4-of-11 with an interception, but he made one play that will grab attention. Benkert, who began his career at East Carolina, escaped pressure, ran sideways at the line of scrimmage for several steps before flipping the ball down the sideline to San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny. He was covered, but Benkert hit him in stride on what turned into a 73-yard touchdown.
That’s how games are won in the NFL – when a player elevates beyond the X’s and O’s. Benkert showed that trait and that will stick with evaluators.
Then came the star of the show.
Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta won MVP honors, going 8-of-12 for 198 yards and three touchdowns. He was flat out brilliant, showing a quick release, tremendous accuracy and a great deep ball.
White, Benkert and Lauletta probably won’t go in the first two rounds (six other quarterbacks likely will). But each showed the potential to be the steal of this draft.
Penny scored on the 73-yard catch-and-run, showing impressive breakaway speed to reach the end zone. Penny, who rushed for 2,248 yards this past season, carried nine times for 64 yards. He was quick to the hole, and also showed patience when needed. He broke a 34-yard run and looks like he’ll be a big-play back immediately in the NFL. He should be a top-50 pick.
UT-San Antonio defensive end Marcus Davenport solidified his stock as a first-round pick with a monster game. He brought consistent pressure off the edge and made his presence felt early. He was credited with a half a sack and returned a fumble 19 yards for a touchdown.
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