MOBILE, Ala. — With Reese’s Senior Bowl week winding down, 100-plus prospects for the 2020 NFL Draft had one last chance to impress scouts in a practice setting on Thursday. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein and Chase Goodbread provide a look at the week’s biggest standouts, as well as notes from NFL scouts and Thursday’s media sessions.
Tune in for one-hour 2020 Senior Bowl Practice recap shows Tuesday, Jan. 21-Thursday, Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network and watch the Senior Bowl game live on NFL Network as well as the NFL and Network apps at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 25.
7 biggest winners from the week of Senior Bowl practices
Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame. I really enjoyed watching Claypool on tape and couldn’t wait to see him perform in person on the Senior Bowl stage. I was not disappointed, and neither were the NFL evaluators in attendance. Not only does he look the part of a big, imposing receiver, he showed off how fluid and natural he is with his movement. He snatched the ball away from his frame with strong hands and created separation using his size and athleticism. The easy comparison for him is former teammate Miles Boykin, who had the same type of size and explosiveness, but Boykin went to the Baltimore Ravens at the end of the third round in last year’s draft. Claypool may not last that long now. I think he pushed himself into Round 2 this week.
Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma. Gallimore benefited from Oklahoma’s slanting, stemming defensive front that allowed him easier access to gaps and edges, but his production was still somewhat average. Personnel directors and scouts I spoke with worried about his ability to create disruption on his own. This week, Gallimore may have put some of those concerns to rest. He opened the door for teams to view him differently, at minimum. The former Sooner was able to translate his trademark high energy and athleticism into frequent pocket pressure in one-on-one drills. He also helped muddle lanes vs. the run. Gallimore might be a somewhat polarizing prospect, but this was a good week for him.
K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State. The Hill game tape that I watched was just OK. There weren’t a bunch of reps that allowed him to stand out as anything more than a solid slot receiver, but the Senior Bowl was a much different story for him. You know who was in a similar position at this same event in 2019? None other than Hill’s former teammate, Terry McLaurin, who burst onto the scene a year ago with a big Senior Bowl week before his fantastic rookie season with the Washington Redskins. Like McLaurin, Hill consistently put cornerbacks in the spin cycle with great releases and well-disguised routes. His footwork was crisp getting in and out of breaks. Hill doesn’t have McLaurin’s speed, so he may not see the exact same climb that McLaurin did, but he clearly put himself on the map.
Josh Jones, OT, Houston. There has been buzz building around Jones from the midpoint of the 2019 season, but this was going to be a big week for him. Would he continue the momentum or fall behind others at his position? Jones struggled to find his footwork and consistency on Day 1 here in Mobile, but he stood out on Day 2 with strong reps, stoning rushers in pass protection and sustaining run blocks on the second level. On the final day of practice, Jones had impressive victories over North Carolina’s Jason Strowbridge — another big winner this week — including a pancake at the end of a one-on-one rep. He heads toward the NFL Scouting Combine with great momentum, and should only help his case even more with his athletic testing.
Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina. Kinlaw shut it down after Wednesday’s practice in what appeared to be a precautionary measure, but he probably made money just by walking across the stage at the Senior Bowl weigh-in on Tuesday. His frame is well muscled and carries excellent lean mass along with the arm length of an offensive tackle. Showing up and looking good was the easy part, but he announced his presence with authority over his two days of participation with aggressive forward charges that overwhelmed most blockers in one-on-one drills. Kinlaw isn’t the most skilled rusher at this point, but it was hard to look at him operate and not start to see similarities with Kansas City Chiefs standout Chris Jones. Kinlaw always had the traits, but the way he dominated the competition here in Mobile likely propelled him into the middle of the first round.
Jason Strowbridge, DE, North Carolina. Strowbridge can be a challenging evaluation on tape because he has the long frame with growth potential that teams typically gravitate toward, but he is a bit of a tweener from a positional standpoint. This was an important week for Strowbridge to help teams visualize a role for him in their scheme. It looks like that’s exactly what he did. He played with skilled, strong hands at the point of attack and in activating finishing moves to get past pass protection in one-one-one drills. The Lions‘ Matt Patricia, who is coaching Strowbridge’s North team this week, paid plenty of attention to the former Tar Heel, which makes sense considering his level of play in practice and the similarity of his build/skill set relative to guys like Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise, whom Patricia coached in New England (as well as in Detroit, in Flowers’ case).
Tyler Bass, K, Georgia Southern. Yes, a kicker generated some buzz this week. Bass kicked with tremendous power during his college career, but sometimes his skyball trajectory took distance off his longer field goals tries. Well, those concerns are a thing of the past now. On Tuesday, Bass banged home all six of his field goal attempts at the end of practice, including a 54-yarder. On Thursday, he did miss a 58-yard try that smacked against the left upright, but the kick would have been good from well past 60 yards had he hit it about eight inches further to the right. That’s called helping your cause.
What we learned from Matt Patricia, NFL scouts and more
North team QBs pass Patricia’s test. North quarterbacks Jordan Love of Utah State, Anthony Gordon of Washington State and Shea Patterson of Michigan all passed the Senior Bowl test of grasping the playbook and translating it to the practice field in short order, according to Lions coach Matt Patricia, who leads the North team.
“All three guys competed really well. It’s certainly most important for the quarterbacks to learn all the verbiage, all the vernacular,” Patricia said. “They need to understand what everybody’s doing on offense and then try to get everyone lined up and ready to go. They’ve handled all that well.”
Love and Gordon made some of their best throws of the week on Thursday in the University of South Alabama Fieldhouse, where practice was moved due to rainy conditions. Love is considered a potential first-round selection despite struggling with turnovers (an FBS-high 17 interceptions) in 2019.
Herbert shows off big arm. Oregon QB Justin Herbert’s arm proved to be as advertised throughout the Senior Bowl practice week, and it appears he’ll depart Mobile just as he came in terms of status — arguably the top draft prospect at the event. But while his size (6-foot-6 1/8, 227 pounds) and arm talent are exactly what clubs look for, some concerns that scouts see from Herbert’s tape remain. Among those concerns are instincts and pocket awareness, something scouts can’t truly evaluate in an all-star setting where quarterbacks are tagged, not tackled, in practice. For that, game tape is invaluable, but Herbert will give scouts another look against a live-tackle pass rush in Saturday’s game.
From the scouts. As my notebook partner Lance Zierlein mentioned earlier in this piece, Oklahoma DT Neville Gallimore helped himself in Mobile this week. “He flashed some pass rush,” said an AFC scout. “He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s pretty quick and several guys had trouble with him.” Gallimore weighed in at 304 pounds on Tuesday and measured 6-foot-2. He’s one of college football’s most freakish athletes, having been clocked by the Sooners at a sub-4.8 40-yard dash, and can squat an amazing 800 pounds. … Two different AFC scouts made mention of Appalachian State’s Akeem Davis-Gaither, an undersized linebacker who could make a rookie impact as a coverage linebacker and on special teams. Both said Davis-Gaither’s speed and instincts will make him an attractive selection, one who will prove to be “a third- and fourth-down player.”
Dugger unsatisfied. Although Lenoir-Rhyne S Kyle Dugger (6-0 3/4, 217 pounds) is projected by some scouts as a linebacker, he wasn’t asked to work with the linebackers at any point during the practice week. That surprised him, but he was more than comfortable playing his more natural position. Although an AFC personnel executive was impressed with Dugger’s practice week, Dugger was less than pleased himself.
“It went OK, but it could’ve been a lot better,” he said. “I left a couple balls on the ground that I could’ve made plays on, balls I got my hands on. I had a couple opportunities where I was right there and didn’t finish the play.”
Injury update. A foot injury has knocked USC WR Michael Pittman Jr. out of action for Saturday’s game, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. According to multiple scouts, Pittman performed well enough in practice to help his draft value. Although his speed remains a concern, his route running was described as smooth by an AFC scout and he excelled in making contested catches. … Saint John’s OL Ben Bartch tweaked his knee and limped off the field in Thursday’s practice, but was walking without favor afterward and said he’ll be OK to play Saturday. … Clemson OL John Simpson twisted an ankle and might be out for Saturday’s game, but as of Thursday, no determination had been made.
Quotable. “I’m working with (quarterback coach) Jordan Palmer out in Dana Point, Calif., and he’s supposedly, quote-unquote, the quarterback whisperer. Hopefully he can whisper some things into my ear to get my (footwork) right.” — Colorado QB Steven Montez