MOBILE, Ala. — NFL Draft season is officially underway for the Las Vegas Raiders as the first day of practice at the Senior Bowl wrapped up on Tuesday afternoon. Below are a few notes and a quick recap of the first two sessions with an eye toward the Raiders’ biggest draft needs.
As the title implies, Tuesday wasn’t a great showing for Oregon’s Bo Nix and Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., the clear top two quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl. Both struggled to connect with their receivers, which can be chalked up to a lack of familiarity with the wideouts and can improve significantly as the week goes on.
Of the two, Penix Jr. was the better performer. He showed off that big arm with a few lazers down the field and outside the numbers, but his consistency just wasn’t quite there for a top prospect and potential first-round pick. Meanwhile, Nix seems cautious and afraid to let it rip, often blending in rather than standing out. Granted, the reviews on him do appear to be mixed based on what others have posted on social media.
There was a clear winner at the cornerback position on Day 1. Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell came in as the top-rated cornerback at the Senior Bowl and quickly proved why. He has excellent ball skills as he showed with his 45 passes defended and six interceptions during his last 39 games in college, and that was on display in Mobile as Mitchell logged a few PBUs during the full-team periods. The former Rocket was also sharp in the one-on-ones — as The Athletic’s Dane Brugler pointed out below — which is a drill that typically favors the offense.
Very early in practice 1, #Toledo CB Quinyon Mitchell already making a strong case for the top defensive player here.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 30, 2024
Looking smooth and controlled. Locking WRs down in 1v1s.
This was a pretty underwhelming position group as a whole.
T’Vondre Sweat from Texas and McKinnley Jackson from Texas A&M were two of my biggest disappointments of the day. Both are supposed to be dominant run defenders but you wouldn’t know that from their performance on Day 1.
Sweat got pushed around a bit in the one-on-one drills, or at least more than he did during the season, and Jackson had to pick turf pellets out of his teeth after getting pancaked by a double team on one particular rep. Neither did much as a pass-rusher as well, but to Jackson’s credit, he did finish strong with a solid session during the full team drills.
Also, Sweat’s weight is a potential concern and he was the only player who opted out of the weigh-ins, while getting his other measurements recorded, which raises some questions.
Heading into the week, I wrote and talked about how Oregon’s Brandon Dorlus could be a good Day 2 target and versatile defensive lineman for the Raiders. However, Dorlus blended in to the point where I didn’t recognize him and had to ask around if he ended up opting out. That’s not ideal for a highly-toted prospect.
In my opinion, Gabe Hall out of Baylor was the biggest winner in this position group. He’s been a good run defender in college and continued to show that during Day 1, but what really stood out were the back-to-back wins he had in the one-on-one pass rush drills. Even better, that translated into he full team period where he logged another pressure. Hall’s stock will continue to rise if he can replicate this performance throughout the week.
In a similar vein, Keith Randolph Jr. from Illinois had a solid showing. Randolph Jr. has always been a stout run defender but he had a couple of wins as a pass rusher in both the team and one-on-one periods.
The two big winners up front during the first Senior Bowl practices both came from the Pac 12 Conference and the same state, Oregon’s Jackson Powers-Johnson and Oregon State’s Taliese Fuaga.
Powers-Johnson was dominant just about all day. He put a few guys in the ground during the one-on-one pass rushes — which typically favor the defense — and if he did lose during that period, the loses were few and far between. He was stonewalling defensive tackles all day to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised if he shuts it down for the rest of the week.
Fuaga was in the same boat. He started the day off with a great rep against UCLA’s Liatu Latu in the one-on-ones, stopping Latu’s pass-rush move before it even started. The former Beaver kept it going throughout the day and showed that he can be a capable starting right tackle in the NFL.
Below is a round up of a few clips from Tuesday’s practices taken from X, formerly known as Twitter.
Michael Penix Jr. to Roman Wilson for a big gain pic.twitter.com/dgA9oNa7wp— Clayton Sayfie (@CSayf23) January 30, 2024
Quick win for Keith Randolph Jr., but another pass breakup for Quinyon Mitchell. He's showing out pic.twitter.com/nnsPh1Nvij— Billy M (@BillyM_91) January 30, 2024
Quinyon Mitchell with the pass breakup. Defense hyped pic.twitter.com/xBZgZaBOZI— Billy M (@BillyM_91) January 30, 2024
Gabe Hall (Baylor), you have my attention. pic.twitter.com/PVyw3wVB6d— Ryan Roberts (@RiseNDraft) January 30, 2024
Baylor's Gabe Hall has been super disruptive pic.twitter.com/s84OO3YO2A— Billy M (@BillyM_91) January 30, 2024
Good rep by Oregon State OT Taliese Fuaga pic.twitter.com/YMnVzDMzpg— NOF (@nofnetwork) January 30, 2024
Here is every one-on-one rep for Oregon C Jackson Powers-Johnson on Day 1 of the Senior Bowl: pic.twitter.com/AsRO932ANM— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) January 30, 2024