The Senior Bowl is an important annual event for college seniors to display their skills for NFL coaching staffs and scouts. However, this year’s Senior Bowl was even more important than previous years, as the NFL Combine, the event where players normally get the chance to show off their talents to teams, was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns. With limited opportunities to interview players and examine their skills, every play in the Senior Bowl this year could drastically affect their draft stock. Here are some players whose draft stock was impacted today.
Stock Up: QB Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
Mond started off slow in the first half, looking inconsistent and shaky at times. However, Mond came out firing in the second half, driving his team down the field on the first drive of the third quarter to put the American team on the board with their first score of the game. Mond showed off good poise in the pocket and great ball placement, fitting multiple passes into tight windows to his receivers.
Mond was named Senior Bowl MVP, completing 13 of his 25 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns. Each of the last two Senior Bowl MVPs, Giants QB Daniel Jones and Chargers QB Justin Herbert, were drafted number 6 overall. While Kellen Mond will likely not be selected that high, he definitely improved his draft stock with his performance in today’s game.
Stock Down: QB Jamie Newman, Georgia
Newman transferred from Wake Forest to Georgia before the 2020 season, but decided to opt-out just before the regular season began. Newman’s accuracy was a big question mark when he made the move to Georgia, and today’s performance justified those concerns. He looked extremely uncomfortable in the pocket and consistently checked down to his running backs early in his progression. If Newman is drafted, it will likely not be until Day 3 of the draft. Teams with questions at the quarterback position should not select Newman. The 6’4, 229 pound prospect has potential, but will need a safe situation and good coaching to capitalize on it. He will be best suited sitting behind an experienced quarterback for a few seasons to learn how to improve his game.
Stock Up: OLB Elerson Smith, Northern Iowa
The 6’7, 245 pound Smith has not played since 2019, as the Missouri Valley Conference cancelled its season due to COVID-19. In 2019, Smith had 5 total tackles, 1 sack and 5 forced fumbles (yes, you read that correctly). Smith clearly showed his potential in limited snaps at Northern Iowa and further capitalized on his opportunities in the Senior Bowl today.
Smith showed strong instincts in his playing time today, containing the ball carrier and staying home on play action passes, forcing the opposing quarterbacks to get rid of the ball too early or take a sack. Smith also made a fantastic play to stop a reverse to the speedy Clemson WR Amari Rodgers in the first half. Elerson Smith showed that he can be an asset to teams with his size and speed, likely as an outside linebacker/edge rusher in a 3-4 scheme.
Stock Down: LT James Hudson, Cincinnati
Hudson is currently projected as a borderline Day 2/Day 3 selection. He was ejected from the Peach Bowl earlier this month for targeting. Prior to the ejection, Hudson was losing the battle against Georgia’s stout defensive front, frequently giving up pressure. It appears that was not an isolated event. Hudson was beaten on the majority of his pass protection reps, often overextending his arms, which led to him losing his balance. The opposition’s defensive ends were able to dictate where they wanted Hudson to go. His initial strike on the defenders was not nearly strong enough to make up for his poor technique. Hudson will be a project for whichever team decides to select him and certainly will not be able to start in his first season.
Stock Up: RB Michael Carter, UNC
Carter averaged eight yards per carry this season, ranking third in the nation. His talent preceded him coming into this week of practice for the Senior Bowl, and he backed up the expectations. Carter carried the ball 8 times for 60 yards and a touchdown and added 2 catches for 15 yards.
Carter’s impressive ability to make defenders miss will be a great asset at the next level. He can also run through defenders, even with his 5’8, 199 pound frame. Despite his physically small stature, Michael Carter has the ability to be an all-purpose back at the NFL level and should be drafted in the top three rounds.
Stock Down: QB Sam Ehlinger, Texas
Ehlinger was projected as a 5th-7th round pick headed into today’s Senior Bowl, but his performance likely put him in danger of going undrafted. At 4-10 for 42 yards and a touchdown, his accuracy was not NFL caliber. He bounced the ball to receivers multiple times and sailed passes high and wide of his targets. He stared his receivers down and did not appear to go through any kind of progression.
Ehlinger was a fan favorite at Texas and has great character and leadership qualities. He threw for 2,566 yards, 26 TDs and 5 INTs last season, but Big 12 defenses are no match for what Ehlinger will face at the next level. Ehlinger will likely be signed to a deal as an undrafted free agent if he is not drafted, but most of his career will probably be limited to a team’s practice squad.
Stock Up: Ohio State Defensive Players
Ohio State had four representatives at the Senior Bowl this season, all of whom performed very well today.
Linebackers Justin Hilliard and Baron Browning showed their versatility, lining up both at defensive end and at linebacker, succeeding in rushing the passer and in coverage. Browning made his presence felt in the backfield frequently despite playing as an edge rusher for the first time this week, as he played in a traditional linebacker role at Ohio State. Versatility is very important to NFL teams, so Hilliard and Browning dramatically helped their draft stock by showing they can play in multiple positions.
Another member of the Ohio State linebacking corps, Tuf Borland, also played well today. Borland is more of a traditional linebacker that likely would have been better suited playing in previous eras of the NFL. Borland’s lack of speed is his biggest issue for his transition to the next level, as he has become infamous for failing to chase down Heisman trophy winner Devonta Smith in the National Championship game. However, Borland showed today that his instincts in the run game and in zone coverage can be valuable, stuffing the run and deflecting passes in his efforts today.
Defensive end Jonathan Cooper rounded out the group of Buckeyes at the Senior Bowl. Cooper was in the backfield for a good portion of the game, mixing power and speed rushes against offensive tackles. Cooper could be effective as a defensive end in a 3-4 set in the NFL.