NFL Draft News & Analysis

2023 Senior Bowl Practice Recap: Day 1

Mobile, AL, USA; National offensive lineman Dawand Jones of Ohio State (79) battles National defensive lineman Thomas Incoom of Central Michigan (8) during the first day of Senior Bowl week at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

• Tennessee OT Darnell Wright: His strength and mentality stood out Tuesday, and he feels more like a first-rounder than not.

• Stanford WR Michael Wilson: The 6-foot-2, 210-pound receiver played in just 14 games over the past three seasons due to injury but flashed his top-class understanding and execution of route running on Day 1.

• Ohio State OT Dawand Jones: As you would expect for a player of his size, footwork can sometimes be an issue, but that size and length (almost a 90-inch wingspan) was too much for every defender he faced Tuesday.

Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins

The Reese’s Senior Bowl is here, and if you’re all in on their slogan, you’ve heard the draft begins in Mobile. Senior Bowl is a great time to evaluate some of the best upperclassmen from around the country in the current draft class. It’s a unique way of seeing how players perform outside of their systems and coaching staffs they’ve gotten so familiar with over the years.

Being able to stand out early is a good indicator of natural ability, and a good sign of a draft prospect's stock improving.

Here are PFF’s standout performers from Tuesday.

OT DARNELL WRIGHT, TENNESSEE

Wright came into Senior Bowl week as one of the notable names. As a top-50 player on PFF’s big board, Wright had a fringe chance to be a consistent first-round player in our projections. After a fantastic first practice, it feels the first round for him is much more likely than not.

Wright was one of the top right tackles in college football last season, and what stood out Tuesday was his strength and mentality. He loves contact and dictating reps. If you need an offensive tackle in the back of the first round, he can be your guy.


DT KEEANU BENTON, WISCONSIN

Benton seems to be a riser in this draft class as draft media compares his reps to those of the other interior defensive linemen. At Wisconsin, he was lined up at nose tackle quite a bit, which naturally brings an assumption that he’s just a run stuffer. He can certainly do that, but as you see in the clip below, he boasts quick hands and some pass-rush potential that looked unblockable for most of the first practice. 


OT DAWAND JONES, OHIO STATE

All bad puns aside, the 6-foot-8, 370-pound right tackle from Ohio State stood out among his peers Tuesday. In the clip below, you can see one of his wins in the run-blocking drill, but there were plenty of other wins for him in pass protection, too.

As you would expect for a player of his size, footwork can sometimes be an issue, but that size and length (almost a 90-inch wingspan) was too much for every defender he faced. He impressed a lot of people on Day 1 (including Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin).


WR MICHAEL WILSON, STANFORD

Wilson was likely not high on many media and fan radars going into the week, but on Tuesday he showed that’s not due to a lack of talent and ability.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound receiver played in just 14 games over the past three seasons due to injury. At Senior Bowl practice, he flashed his top-class understanding and execution of route running. He absolutely turned some heads, especially with the route shown above. Look for him to be one of the biggest risers all week.


OTHER NOTES

It was a warmup day for the quarterbacks throwing to new receivers with new plays to execute, but TCU’s Max Duggan did seem to be the best of the bunch, making some nice throws deeper down the field during the latter portions of practice.

It wasn’t the best day for Florida guard O’Cyrus Torrence on the practice field (it certainly wasn’t bad, just ups and down), but he looks to be in great shape. He carried a lot of weight at Florida to play on the interior and seems to have shaped up his body with potentially better mobility and even more strength.

Kansas State cornerback Julius Brents was another big winner from Day 1 of practice. He measured in at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds and looked like one of the top cover cornerbacks out there. It’s a deep cornerback class, but he could be another riser.

Tyrique Stevenson from Miami was a big winner on the day. His aggressive style of play (in a good way) had him blanketing receivers for most of the session. He is another cornerback who strengthens this class with physical play and press coverage ability.

North Dakota State offensive lineman Cody Mauch had a good first day of practice. The former tight end who gained almost 70 pounds to play tackle at NDSU was playing inside at guard on Day 1. Despite being lighter in size than most interior offensive linemen, Mauch held up well with good feet and a good ability to work his hands in order to anchor. It was a great sign that he could be a starting-caliber player in the NFL when he puts on more weight and strength.

Houston wide receiver Tank Dell’s athleticism seemed unmatched from either wide receiver group. He measured in at 5-foot-8 and 163 pounds, so size will always be a talking point of his scouting report. But his stop-and-start ability looked uncoverable at times. He is so quick to get into his top speed, and maybe even more impressive was his ability to swiftly stop on a dime during his routes. He created constant separation all day, a theme that should continue throughout the week.

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