Day 2 of Senior Bowl practice has come to a close, and we’re starting to have a better understanding of whose stock is rising and falling.
Some guys were able to build off strong first impressions with even better second impressions, while others have shown that their initial struggles might not be a fluke.
With over 100 players at the Senior Bowl collectively, NFL scouts in attendance are typically divided into assigned position groups so that they’re able to keep a keen focus on one or two positions. It’s hard to keep track of the performance of each and every individual, especially considering that multiple drills are taking place at the same time. But after combing over the All-22 from Tuesday’s practice and closely watching many standouts on Wednesday, I’ve compiled a list of my Top 10 Senior Bowl sleepers thus far.
No. 1: Van Jefferson, Florida WR
I came into the Senior Bowl with high hopes for Jefferson, and my hopes have been surpassed. He’s a smooth technician with long and efficient strides and has been creating separation from cornerbacks in one-on-one drills with sharp route running.
Jefferson’s hands and downfield tracking ability have been on display as well, and as the son of a former NFL player, he’s likely more well-equipped for the transition to the pros than most young players. Jefferson likely solidified himself as a Day 2 draft pick with his performance thus far, even amidst a deep receiver class. If he’s there in the third, the Raiders could pounce.
No. 2: Kenny Willekes, Michigan State EDGE
Willekes has now strung multiple strong performances together and has surprised a lot of people in attendance. He was a late addition to the Senior Bowl roster, and that’s proven to be a good decision as he’s shown competitive fire, great hand usage and solid play strength.
During the 9-on-7 team session, Willekes was giving opposing offensive linemen the business. On one play in particular, he squeezed Purdue tight end Brycen Hopkins so far down the line on the backside of the play that he knocked Hopkins into the running back for a loss.
No. 3: Ben Bartch, St. John’s OL
The Division III product entered the Senior Bowl with many scouts questioning whether he’d be able to handle the elevated level of competition. And instead of just handling the competition, he’s debatably been the best looking offensive line prospect of the bunch.
Bartch looks strong, smooth and physical on the line, and his 6-foot-5 frame, 33 inch arms and wide base give him an ideal frame for an offensive tackle.
No. 4: Joshua Uche, Michigan EDGE
Uche checks in quite small for an edge rusher at 6-foot-1 and 241 pounds, and he’s likely to be a positional tweener that’s mainly used as a pass rushing specialist, but man oh man can this guy get after the quarterback.
The Michigan outside linebacker has been dominant all week against opposing offensive linemen, who are unable to quell his speed off the edge and speed-counters inside. With a fast first step and violent hands, Uche gets on linemen before they can get their hands on him. There’s no way that he can sit in a 5-technique every play and stop the run in a 4-man front, but he’ll certainly pique a lot of team’s interest with his pass rushing acumen.
No. 5: Troy Pride Jr., Notre Dame CB
Troy Pride Jr. came out strong on Day 1 and continued his excellent showing today.
He’s shown tenacity, stickiness in coverage, and a keen ability to break up passes when he sees a receiver raise his hands for the ball. Pride even showed well in press coverage today when matched up against the much taller Michael Pittman Jr., which was an area of his game that scouts were a bit concerned about.
No. 6: Jason Strowbridge, North Carolina EDGE
Strowbridge is the definitely of a sleeper prospect, and he’s been eating at the Senior Bowl.
Well, maybe he’s not doing much actual eating considering that he’s dropped about 20 pounds off his reported weight before arriving in Mobile. But whatever Strowbridge did prior to arriving in Alabama has worked. He’s been a force off the edge in team drills and has routinely won his one-on-one pass rushing reps. He could be a steal on Day 3.
No. 7: Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic TE
Bryant doesn’t wow you with his physical presence or look like a particularly explosive athlete when lined up next to other tight end prospects, but the FAU product has been steadily making plays whenever the ball comes his way.
Bryant has great hands, quick feet and a knack for finding holes in opposing zones. While Brycen Hopkins might be the best tight end prospect in Mobile right now, Bryant is certainly making a compelling case for himself.
No. 8: Francis Bernard, Utah LB
It’s hard to linebackers to stand out in an event like this because players aren’t allowed to tackle each other, but Utah’s Francis Bernard has still managed to impress.
His coverage skills have stood out in one-on-one drills against running backs and tight ends, and he’s looked fast as hell getting sideline-to-sideline. Bernard is well undersized, standing a half inch under 6-foot-1 and weighing in at only 230 pounds, but he’s a late-round sleeper worth keeping an eye on for the Raiders.
No. 9: Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois Safety
The small-school product might have been the biggest winner of Senior Bowl weigh-ins after he measured at 6-foot-3 with a rocked up 219 pounds of what looks like pure muscle.
He’s shown some dynamic coverage skills as well and clearly has passed all of the height/weight/speed baselines with flying colors. The level of competition hasn’t been too big for Chinn thus far either, and it seems like at least one team in attendance is bound to fall in love with his potential.
No. 10: Collin Johnson, Texas WR
Johnson’s weigh-in didn’t start off well, as he measured in with tiny hands (under 9 inches) for his 6-foot-5 height. But his hand size hasn’t mattered one bit as Johnson has proven the last two days at practice. He’s still caught basically everything thrown his way.
Johnson has shown much more route-running prowess than anticipated, and he’s proven that he’s not just a big, one-trick red zone threat. It was tempting to put SMU’s James Proche and Baylor’s Denzel Mims on this list, as they’ve both had fantastic showing so far, but Johnson has edged them out ever-so-slightly in my eyes.