• WR Michael Wilson, Stanford: The 6-foot-1, 215-pound receiver turned heads at the Senior Bowl due to his understanding of how to win at the position.
• RB Tyjae Spears, Tulsa: He had two of the biggest runs of the week during practices, which went into him accumulating the most rushing yards from scrimmage on the week.
• S Trey Dean, Florida: After weighing in at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Dean earned an 80.2 coverage grade during practices and even grabbed an interception during the game.
Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins
With the All-Star chapter of the 2023 NFL Draft process in the books, it’s time to take a look back and recognize some of the most impressive players over the past two weeks. Whether or not you want to call them the biggest “risers” is up for discussion, but let's give a nod to the players who stood out the most.
These were my 10 most impressive players from the week of the Shrine and Senior bowls.
WR MICHAEL WILSON, STANFORD
Wilson was one of the best stories from Senior Bowl week. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound receiver turned heads due to his understanding of how to win at the position. He was consistently getting early separation on his releases off the line of scrimmage. And in his route stem and at his breaks, he was once again enhancing the throwing window. He played in only 14 games over the past three seasons at Stanford due to bad injury luck, but he showcased in Mobile what he can do when he’s fully healthy. He went from a relative unknown (in the media’s eyes) to a Day 2 pick.
RB TYJAE SPEARS, TULSA
Spears was the most impressive back from the Senior Bowl group. He had two of the biggest runs of the week during practices, which went into him accumulating the most rushing yards from scrimmage on the week. His ability to accelerate and change direction on his cuts was impressive. He rushed for more than 1,500 yards with 19 touchdowns this past season. It’s a deep running back class once again this draft cycle, but Spears will be a fan favorite no matter where he goes.
WR ZAY FLOWERS, BOSTON COLLEGE
Flowers was on every single “watch list” heading into the Shrine Bowl, and he did not disappoint. He simply moved at a different speed than the other receivers on the practice field. He had some first-round buzz going into All-Star week, and now it feels more likely than not that he’ll crack the top 31 picks in the draft. His tape has plenty of dynamic route-running and after-the-catch highlights, and he was able to showcase that again on many occasions during Shrine Bowl week.
C JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ, MINNESOTA
John Michael-Schmitz finished with by far the highest blocking grade of any player at either All-Star game. He earned an 87.8 overall grade on the week with an 81.6 run-blocking grade and an 89.6 pass-blocking grade. Beyond the grade, Schmitz showed he is the kind of interior offensive lineman every team should want. He was getting in the face of some of the defenders lined up against him. He was never one to back down from a challenge. And if someone got the better of him during one rep, it rarely, if ever, happened again. If you need a center in this class, Schmitz proved he’s the one to have.
DI KEEANU BENTON, WISCONSIN
Wisconsin's Keeanu Benton was very impressive during Senior Bowl practices. He made a note to get better at pass rushing this past season and certainly did so, jumping from a 74.9 pass-rush grade in 2021 to an 83.6 pass-rush grade in 2022. At the Senior Bowl, he continued to improve in that area with great reps where he flashed fast and violent hand movements, good rip and swim moves and an ability to overpower some interior players. He can’t be seen as just your average nose tackle anymore. He showed he’s bringing the juice in pass rush, too.
DI ADETOMIWA ADEBAWORE, NORTHWESTERN
Speaking of interior players who can collapse the pocket, no defensive lineman at the Senior Bowl posted a higher pass-rush grade than Adebawore (91.8). He measured in at 6-foot-1 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, making him a unique player who can win with both leverage at the snap and length on his pass rushes. Senior Bowl week was his best showing as a pass rusher, as his career-high pass-rush grade at Northwestern was 80.0 this past season. Even if it was a small sample size, NFL teams got a good look at what is possible for a player with Adebawore’s build and skill set. That should boost him to a Day 2 selection.
WR TANK DELL, HOUSTON
The 5-foot-8, 163-pound Tank Dell earned the highest receiving grade from practice during Senior Bowl week. His 90.4 grade was almost 13 points higher than the next highest receiver at the Senior Bowl. The talking point about Dell will always be his size, but as long as a prospective NFL team is OK with his measurables, he gives you exactly what you would want from an explosiveness standpoint. His releases off the line are lightning quick, and he achieves his top speed almost instantly. Perhaps more impressive is his ability to stop on a dime with elite body control. He solidified himself as a second-round pick at the Senior Bowl.
S TREY DEAN, FLORIDA
Dean was an up-and-down player at Florida, but the best of his playmaking ability showed up in Vegas at the Shrine Bowl. After weighing in at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Dean earned an 80.2 coverage grade during practices and even grabbed an interception during the game. He was one of the big winners from the secondary players at both the Shrine and Senior bowls.
DI DANTE STILLS, WEST VIRGINIA
Stills weighed in at 6-foot-3 and 289 pounds. What you’re looking for in a sub-300-pound interior defensive lineman is an ability to win with speed and quickness at the line of scrimmage. Stills definitely showed that off through practices and the game. He finished the week with an 82.9 pass-rush grade and recorded a 22.2% pass-rush win rate during the game. Stills’ hand usage is so quick and overwhelming at times for interior blockers. He’s a one-gap player, but one who helped himself this past week.
CB KEI'TREL CLARK, LOUISVILLE
Intensity. That’s the word that best describes the 5-foot-10, 179-pound cornerback from Louisville who had a great week in Vegas for Shrine Bowl practices. His motor was running at 100% at all times, he was quick to diagnose route concepts and screen plays and he was versatile as an inside and outside cornerback. His All-Star week showing made him one of the biggest risers of the week.