Senior Bowl week kicked off on Tuesday with the first of three days of practices. The Senior Bowl is an invite-only showcase of the top upperclassman NFL draft prospects in the country, with more than 100 prospects split into two teams. Several early-round prospects for the 2023 draft had solid outings, and a few midrounders are already moving up boards.
There are two more days of two-hour padded practice sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, with coverage at 12:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU/ESPN App and then 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2/ESPN App. The game is Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NFL Network.
Which quarterbacks performed well Tuesday? Which under-the-radar prospects impressed NFL teams? And which prospects need to improve over the rest of the week? Our NFL draft experts break it all down with standouts, sleepers, risers and buzz from Mobile, Alabama.
Takeaways | QBs | Standouts | Notes
Biggest takeaways from Day 1
The 2023 quarterback class is likely to place three players inside the top 10 selections of the draft, but Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Will Levis aren’t in Mobile. That has left a group of mid-to-late-round quarterbacks, but none are standout prospects or expected to be top-100 selections. That showed on the field Tuesday.
Houston quarterback Clayton Tune was polished but lacks a standout trait that teams can rally around. The same goes for Max Duggan (TCU), Tyson Bagent (Shepherd) and Jaren Hall (BYU), and even Jake Haener (Fresno State), whose toughness doesn’t show up in a non-game situation. We’ll see if Wednesday brings better QB play — it generally does once quarterbacks and wide receivers build more rapport — but Tuesday left us wanting more from this class of passers.
One group that did stand out was the tight ends. I wrote about this group last week in our Senior Bowl primer, and what we saw on Day 1 was spot on with expectations. Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave was the best all-around tight end here, but Clemson’s Davis Allen also showed good hands and body control over the middle. The same goes for Cincinnati’s Josh Whyle, who some teams view as a potential fullback in the pros. — Matt Miller
Tuesday’s best quarterback performance
Tune had command of the offense on Day 1 here in Mobile, making smart decisions with the ball and throwing with accuracy. At 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds, he displayed clean and controlled footwork at the top of the drop and took the throws that were available in both seven-on-seven and team drills.
Of the prospects here at the Senior Bowl, Tune displayed the most pro-ready traits to fit into an NFL pass game defined by play-action, movement and timing concepts that break inside the numbers. And he has the mobility to test the edges on boot. Tune threw 40 touchdown passes in 2022. — Matt Bowen
Sometimes a player can win their group or practice session with a strong eyeball test and a few moves. On Tuesday, that was White. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound pass-rusher has excellent power on tape, and that lower-body strength showed up in practice. At one point he executed a perfect spin move in offense vs. defense 11-on-11s, displaying agility, balance and a great bull rush coming off of it.
I admit I was late to come around on White, but more than half a dozen of the scouts I polled at the Senior Bowl say he’s the top-ranked prospect in Mobile this week. The buzz around White is that he’ll be a first-round pick, with one scout for a playoff team even wondering if he’d still be available when it selects in the later parts of Round 1. White had 7.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss in 2022.
Hall started the week on a good note, measuring in with 34 3/8 inch arm length on a 6-foot-3 and 252-pound frame. Those are great numbers considering one of his biggest questions heading into the pre-draft process was regarding his size. And then in the practice session, Hall routinely showed up when rushing from a stand-up position, something that should excite teams with base 3-4 defenses. He also turned in a GPS-measured speed of 19.21 miles per hour on a punt coverage, via Zebra Sports.
Hall does need to develop a counter pass-rush move — we saw him trying to use a rip-and-under move too often on Tuesday — but his power and use of length are exciting tools. He posted seven sacks and 13 tackles for loss this season, and teams I’ve talked to this week believe he is a top-40 prospect.
Wilson provided many “wow” moments in the first practice of the week, exploding off the line of scrimmage to eat up the cushion of opposing cornerbacks. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound receiver had a quiet year for the Cardinal (26 catches, 418 yards and 4 TDs), but he was the best wideout on the National roster on Day 1.
Wilson’s explosive ability off the line and power to push press coverage has him moving up my board. Coming into the week he was a late-rounder, but he looks more like a third-round prospect after proving his physical traits can pop outside the very conservative Stanford offensive system.
In a cornerback class waiting for someone to stand out, Stevenson stole the show in the afternoon practice session. His length pops off the field, and at 6-foot and 204 pounds, he has NFL size to play on the outside. Stevenson’s best trait, though, is his recovery speed, which showed up routinely in practice against the best receivers the American roster has to offer. He is the best cornerback on either roster and shouldn’t be a surprise as a top-40 selection. He had two interceptions and six pass breakups this season. — Miller
Quick-hitters from Day 1
Clemson defensive end K.J. Henry was very impressive in positional drills on the first day of practice, showing excellent body control and agility in space during zone drops and chase drills. He was overshadowed by the first-rounders while playing on the Clemson defensive line, but he is coming off his best season and can be, at worst, a very solid role player in the NFL. He’s a fringe top-100 player for me.
Texas running back Roschon Johnson was the most impressive running back of Day 1. A 6-foot, 225-pound back with great power, Johnson was recruited to Texas as a quarterback before moving to running back after injuries hit the Longhorns. Scouts tell me his football instincts and work ethic are off the charts. His ability to pick up the pass rush in 1-on-1 drills Tuesday was also top notch, and his power, explosiveness and hands were all on display. Johnson is a sneaky Round 3-4 player with starter traits, despite playing behind Bijan Robinson at Texas.
Oregon State tight end Luke Musgrave was billed by scouts as the best pass-catcher in attendance at the Senior Bowl, and he absolutely looked the part on Tuesday. He missed all but two games in 2022 to a knee injury but looks healthy running around without a brace on his recently repaired knee. He’s a big throwback tight end (6-foot-5, 255 pounds) who will dominate the middle of the field. Musgrave has gotten consistent first-round grades from NFL scouts.
Everyone likes a sleeper, and the Senior Bowl is great for finding them. Kansas State cornerback Julius Brents stood out in 11-on-11 situations with his tough, physical style of coverage at 6-foot-3 and 202 pounds. Brents was the surprise of entire day on Tuesday and will send me back to the film room to see how his in-season play matched his practice performance.
Illinois safety Sydney Brown is a player to watch Wednesday here in Mobile when the teams move to full-padded practices. He’s an urgent, top-down player with disruptive traits, and he shows position flexibility in pro sub-packages. There’s a physical demeanor to his game.
Iowa cornerback Riley Moss (6-foot, 192 pounds) had a good first day in one-on-one sessions and team drills. He’s a technique-sound defender with the lower-body flexibility to change directions. And he matched speed down the field in man coverage.
Houston wide receiver Nathaniel Dell lacks ideal NFL size at 5-foot-8 and 163 pounds, but he looked like an explosive target in the pass game on Tuesday, with the lateral speed to separate underneath and the vertical juice to stretch defenders. He was a sudden mover on the field.
Another receiver who flashed on Tuesday? Michigan State wide receiver Jayden Reed, who popped during one-on-one drills. He displayed easy separation and set-up ability on in-breakers, while also winning over the top.
Ohio State offensive tackle Dawand Jones has an opportunity to move up draft boards this week in Mobile. With his massive 6-foot-8, 375-pound frame and length at the point of attack, Jones can close the door on edge rushers despite his limited foot quickness. His 89 1/2-inch wingspan was the longest measured in at least 25 years at the Senior Bowl.