The only football going on this past weekend were two All-Star games. While current Cowboys’ were dominating the headlines with their Pro Bowl camaraderie and shenanigans, there is an important collegiate matchup that took place. The South defeated the North 16-15 but that’s beside the point.
The point is that with Dak Prescott and Zack Martin on the roster, the Senior Bowl has proven its worth in terms of finding fresh talent. Let’s look into a few guys who stood apart from that game as potential noteworthy draft prospects. These are the guys that certainly took a step in the right direction and helped themselves:
S Lorenzo Jerome, Saint Francis, 5’10, 202 lbs (North)
Jerome had himself a day at the Senior Bowl as he came in with plenty to prove. Some folks have doubts about his size but he flew around the ball. He finished his stat line on the day with three tackles, including one for loss, two interceptions, and a forced fumble.
Facing a 2nd and 15 on the first drive for the South, Joshua Dobbs (Tennessee) stepped up in the pocket and fired the ball but Jerome plucked it from the air. In the second quarter, there he was tackling Josh Reynolds for a loss and poking the ball out for a fumble. Later in the fourth, Antonio Pipkin threw a poorly timed fade and Jerome ruined his day with his second pick.
CBS currently lists Jerome as a 4-5th round prospect but that is likely to change. Whether it was playing down in run support or single-high, Jerome was there and was a force.
DE Jordan Willis, Kansas State, 6’4, 255 lbs (South)
Lewis was another defender that a solid day out there in Mobile. In the second quarter, he sacked C.J. Beathard for a loss of 12 and stripped the ball from him. Later on, he got Beathard again for a loss of eight and stripped him once again.
Lewis showed good speed-to-power combination and was harassing the pocket with ease. He finished his day with two tackles for loss, two sacks, and two forced fumbles. CBS has him currently as their ninth-best pass rusher in this class but if he puts a good performance at the Combine up, he’ll likely move up the ranks too. Right now, he’s slated as a third-round pick and this class is full of pass rushers. For this game, Willis showed that he’s well-rounded and is available for any team in need.
WR Zay Jones, East Carolina, 6’2, 202 lbs (North)
Jones was the only North receiver to be able to score a touchdown. He was hyper-productive in this game and stood out as the best option in the end. He’s got great size and soft hands with an understanding of where to be to help out lesser-talented quarterbacks.
Jones was targeted eight times, caught six of those passes for 68 yards. It seemed like every third down, there was Zay making the play. His lone touchdown came on a 4th and 3, which gave the North a chance to tie the game before the end of regulation. Instead, they went for two and it was intercepted handing the North their second-consecutive loss in this game.
CBS currently projects Zay Jones as the 12th-ranked wide receiver in a class that is looking solid for the coming draft. He’s currently looked at as a third-round prospect but he could easily sneak into the second round with a solid Combine performance.
WR Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M, 6’3, 197 lbs (South)
Reynolds was by far the most productive receiver on the South team and walked away leading all receivers for the game. Like Jones, Reynolds was there when he was needed most, catching six of seven targets. Of his six catches, five were for first downs and he was the only receiver for the South to put one in the end zone.
Reynolds did have a strip by Jerome early in the game but he didn’t seem too bothered by it to let it affect his performance. He was able to come just four yards shy of 100 yards receiving and one long 39-yard reception that resulted in the score. Reynolds has size and quickness to get out of his breaks and gain separation.
CBS has him as the 18th-ranked wide receiver and gives him a fourth-round grade at this point. He certainly showed himself to be reliable in this game and that will likely factor into where he is drafted down the road.
RB Kareem Hunt, Toledo, 5’10, 208 lbs (North)
By far the most productive runner on the day and he never looked like he couldn’t handle the workload. He helped control the pace of the game and get the North back in it when they were down. Hunt was a steady presence and was able to gain 118 rushing yards on just 15 attempts for an almost eight yard per clip average.
Over and over again the call would be a first down run for Hunt as he just kept moving the chains for the North squad. Hunt most likely will be the first senior running back taken in the draft and was super productive in his time at Toledo. He’s got some dynamic traits to him and it’s impressive to watch him run as you can see power and speed come together.
It’s the fact that he can a lot of things as a runner that make you interested in taking him. He’s one of those guys that knows how to fight for extra yardage but has the speed to make you miss in small areas. He’s well-built and well-rounded for the position. CBS ranks him as the 9th-running back but he’ll likely be in the mix of the second or third rounds.
DE Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova, 6’7, 280 lbs (South)
The NFL loves themselves some freakish athletes and that’s exactly what Tanoh is. He’s what Nick Eatman would call your bus guy. As soon as your team pulls up for an away game, make sure he’s the first guy off the bus. His stature is intimidating and he plays very hard.
This game was no different as he was constantly disrupting the run lanes and breaking the pocket with ease. Tanoh had a sack, 1.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble but he was way more active than that would suggest.
He’s large but surprisingly quick and nimble for that size. He’s got a rare combination of size and explosiveness and those don’t last long on draft day. He’s got the look and feel of a difference-making defender in the NFL.