2017 Senior Bowl Day 3 takeaways: Wide receivers continue to own spotlight
Pro Football Focus’ analysis team was on the scene once again in Mobile, Ala., for Day 3 of Senior Bowl practices. Which of these 2017 NFL Draft prospects stood out the most on Thursday? Let’s take a look:
Wide receivers Cooper Kupp, Zay Jones testing solid DB group
One of the themes from the day was the continued outstanding play of the wide receivers. The defensive backs of the North were one of the most-hyped position groups on either roster coming into the week, but three receivers have put on constant displays of their diverse talents—at the expense of the team’s cornerbacks.
Eastern Washington WR Cooper Kupp continues to stand out as one of the top performers of the week. He was one of the highest-graded receivers both in one-on-ones and team drills on Tuesday and Wednesday, and his play today is sure to keep him at the top of the position group. He impressed with his ability to make tight cuts at full speed, which allowed him to consistently gain separation. In particular, he burned Michigan CB Jourdan Lewis in a one-on-one rep on a crossing route, and also notched a touchdown in the back of the end zone during team drills on a post pattern.
East Carolina WR Zay Jones was another standout receiver for the North today. He left Iowa CB Desmond King in quicksand on an explosive double move in a one-on-one rep, notching a touchdown in the back corner of the end zone.
West Virginia CB Rasul Douglas did get the better of him on a pass break-up during team drills, but it was clear throughout practice that Jones is one of the most athletically gifted receivers here in Mobile this week. Jones led FBS in receptions in 2016, and posted our highest receiving grade.
The final North wide receiver to stand out today was Michigan’s Amara Darboh. While he’s clearly a good athlete, Darboh clearly isn’t on par with Jones. Despite this, he was able to consistently create separation today (and throughout the week) because of his polished route-running skills. He knows how to attack the break point to sell the downfield route on comebacks, and uses his hands subtly to put distance between himself and the defensive back. Even when he isn’t able to create space, he shows he has the strong hands needed to win contested balls, as he did on a one-on-one rep against King.
Linebackers Haason Reddick, Carroll Phillips stand out
Temple linebacker Haason Reddick has had a strong showing this week down in Mobile. Reddick was lined-up in different places and showed the versatility and ability needed to play linebacker at the NFL level. On Thursday, he broke up one pass in coverage and showed an ability to recognize screen passes very quickly, putting himself in position to ruin the play. Reddick was also able to defeat run blocks with frequency. During the season, Reddick’s 13.7 pass-rushing productivity rating ranked 18th among 3-4 outside linebackers.
Illinois linebacker Carroll Phillips has had success in different aspects on the field this week, showing his ability to cover tight ends as well as making tackles in the run game. As a pass-rusher, he has been effective off the edge, showing a good burst at the snap and the ability to win outside, and that he can redirect in his rush if his initial move is defeated. Phillips was able to best running backs in the “back-on-backer” pass-rush drills, as well. During the season, Phillips was able to collect sacks from both sides of the line of scrimmage, and his pass-rushing productivity rating of 11.6 ranked 23rd among Power-5 4-3 defensive ends.
Battles in the trenches
The most impressive edge rusher in the North’s Day 3 practice was Illinois’ Dawuane Smoot, who was routinely beating his man outside both in one-on-one pass-rushing drills and team portions of the practice ,where he picked up a “sack,” beating Bucknell tackle Julie’n Davenport. Smoot’s play is backing up what we saw this season, as he finished with an 11.8 pass-rushing productivity rating, which ranked 24th among all 4-3 defensive ends in 2016.
The North practice saw two offensive linemen succeed in different positions. USC tackle Zach Banner saw some reps at left tackle in practice, as scouts certainly wanted to see him play a spot other than his traditional right tackle position, where he has only allowed three sacks in the last two seasons. Banner didn’t appear to have any issues on the left side, and was able to use his very long frame to run pass-rushers wide of the quarterback in one-on-one drills.
Pittsburgh tackle Adam Bisnowaty is a player who appeared to benefit from a position switch during Thursday’s North practice. Bisnowaty historically has played tackle, and during the season, his 97.9 pass-blocking efficiency rating ranked 25th among offensive tackles. However, he has struggled in pass-protection in his Senior Bowl practices outside at tackle, and shifted inside to guard for some snaps on Thursday, where he performed much better in one-on-one pass protection drills.