Throughout the three days of Senior Bowl practices, I took in every rep that the wide receivers participated in. While attending the practices, my plan was to lock in on the receivers and go back to see the other positions on tape.
It got so bad during the week that when I was asked about the quarterbacks or cornerbacks also involved in those reps, I didn’t have a good answer until I saw the film of each practice. The wide receivers had my full attention.
I made sure to scout each wide receiver who would be in Mobile prior to seeing them in practice, getting a feel for their game, expectations, and potential draft stock. Based on those prior introductions to them as prospects, I’ve graded each individual performance throughout the week based on a stock-up, stock-down, or no-movement scale.
In my opinion, Mims had the best week of any wide receiver in Mobile despite some stiff competition. Known for making some preposterous receptions outside of his frame, Mims also displayed impressive detail as a route runner and with the ball in the air.
The arm bar by Denzel Mims to hold Troy Pride Jr. away from the catchpoint was one of the most advanced WR techniques we’ve seen in Mobile this week pic.twitter.com/7brMzdZDiQ— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 23, 2020
Denzel Mims working to stack the CB and get back in his line - completely takes Essang Bassey out of the play pic.twitter.com/JOHGPuHlkP— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 24, 2020
Throughout the three practices, Mims caught 11 passes out of 14 one-on-one reps, including a few that ended up in the end zone. Whether it was consistent success on vertical routes due to his ability to stack the defensive back, or fighting through contact on a horizontal break, Mims was open on nearly every route he ran during the week.
Baylor WR Denzel Mims getting through the break despite contact. The wideouts worked on this route before 1-on-1’s and Mims ran it beautifully during the live rep. pic.twitter.com/2XmxDMGpNP— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 22, 2020
Baylor WR Denzel Mims with the hesitation and eyes opposite of his break at the top of the route. Freezes the CB and allows him to separate on a horizontal break - at one point in time a weakness of Mims— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 21, 2020
Now needs to stay flat across the field pic.twitter.com/zJa4wsy04s
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: an Ohio State wide receiver tore up the Senior Bowl.
KJ Hill really just did that pic.twitter.com/wkR32Infah— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 23, 2020
KJ Hill is Ohio State’s all-time leader in receptions, and his experience benefited him during wide receiver drills and competition periods. Hill finished the week catching 9 of 13 passes during one-on-one sessions, seemingly getting open at will. Even during seven-on-seven and team periods, Hill was making an impact.
KJ Hill is always open - that lateral move in his stem froze the CB pic.twitter.com/jjgakWbKJD— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 22, 2020
KJ Hill will attack the CB’s blindspot and finish through contact. Building on his skillset from being a primary slot receiver at Ohio State. pic.twitter.com/eILZC92hTB— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 21, 2020
Hill told me that one-on-ones felt easy because he was used to facing cornerbacks such as Denzel Ward, Jeff Okudah, Damon Arnette, and others at Ohio State, and that his main focus of the week was to compete in those one-on-one reps. His mission was accomplished, as the swift-footed senior proved to be the best route runner in Mobile.
KJ Hill dropping his hips and using his eyes to sell his top of route, creates a lot of inside separation but the QB missed him (Anthony Gordon) pic.twitter.com/DcqCuvSfc8— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 24, 2020
KJ Hill is always open pic.twitter.com/qvXFyHWNce— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 24, 2020
If KJ Hill was the best route runner at the Senior Bowl, he was closely rivaled by Van Jefferson. The Florida product is a crafty route salesman with the flexibility necessary to snap off his routes in the blink of an eye. That trait made him nearly impossible to guard on curl and comeback routes throughout the week, eating during all of the competition periods.
Florida WR Van Jefferson has the fluidity and explosive needed to consistently separate on these comeback breaks. So nuanced. pic.twitter.com/xE2iF3U226— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 22, 2020
Van Jefferson is so fluid out of his route breaks pic.twitter.com/syEU32rxx1— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 21, 2020
Jefferson is at an advanced age for a prospect; he’ll be 24 years old by the opening week of the NFL season. However, his game is so easy translatable to the next level because of his explosiveness out of route breaks. On top of that, he showed the ability to find throwing windows against zone coverage just as easily as he separates from man coverage, adding to his projection as a possession wide receiver with upside.
Van Jefferson is so fluid and flexible as a route runner. Keeping his pads down, selling each step with his upper body and staying explosive by driving off his in-steps. Clinic tape. pic.twitter.com/iv5D2O1CLK— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 24, 2020
Van Jefferson beats Darnay Holmes and then let’s him know about it. These two have been going at it all week. pic.twitter.com/W7RYkpabRB— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 22, 2020
Rounding out a clear top four wide receivers during the Senior Bowl event, no receiver was more efficient during one-on-one periods than Collin Johnson, who caught 9 out of 11 passes throughout the week. The Texas product checked in just a shade under 6’6 and 220 pounds, showing off an impressive physical profile even prior to taking the practice field.
Texas WR Collin Johnson wins deep against press coverage. Beats contact, stacks and tracks the ball over his shoulder finishing through contact. Johnson was the most impressive WR during this period. pic.twitter.com/0ZJ51IkeK1— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 22, 2020
Once he got into practices, Johnson continued to show progression with his receiver skill-set. Johnson showed nuanced releases while facing press coverage, the ability to expand his catch radius, and increased speed out of his route breaks.
If THIS Collin Johnson continues to show up, his draft stock is going to to explode. He’s improved his stem work throughout college, but his top of route hasn’t yet developed. Nuanced, technical rep in both aspects: pic.twitter.com/JYn7Soi6Dc— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 21, 2020
Johnson has a leg up on the competition due to his natural athleticism and body type, but his development as a technician will be what really intrigues NFL teams. His stock is certainly solidified after the Senior Bowl event.
Collin Johnson’s footwork in a live rep, moving the CB backwards and to the inside. Creates a ton of space towards the corner for the fade ball. pic.twitter.com/vuKvlSpQIn— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 24, 2020
Chase Claypool entered the Senior Bowl having spent nearly all of his time at Notre Dame playing along the boundary. With his size at nearly 230 pounds, that made sense for the Irish to keep him out there. Throughout the practices, Claypool showed that his projection won’t be limited to one receiver position.
Chase Claypool playing bully ball pic.twitter.com/rlNZSWD3Dq— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 24, 2020
Claypool looked natural in the slot and in condensed alignments, where he could take advantage of his size against smaller nickel defensive backs or his speed against linebackers. That versatility is why his stock seems to be on the rise coming out of the Senior Bowl, as well as his development at the top of the route.
Chase Claypool isn’t the quickest WR, but if he can master subtle moves at the top of the route to pause defensive backs, he’ll still be able to consistently create throwing windows in the NFL pic.twitter.com/Zhn1rxfUyX— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 24, 2020
Tyrie Cleveland was a late addition to the Senior Bowl event and entered being more well-known for his ability on special teams than anything else. While Cleveland was undoubtedly inconsistent throughout the week, he was able to uncover vertically and make a few splash plays down the field.
Florida WR Tyrie Cleveland winning deep with speed. Cleveland also had a nifty inside win and catch on a slant route during the team period. pic.twitter.com/enWZqzaOfT— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 21, 2020
Considering the fact that Cleveland wasn’t seen as a draftable wide receiver prospect entering the week, this is an encouraging development for a player with gifted speed. Looking at his pro projection, he can be a complementary field-stretcher and special teams demon.
Tyrie Cleveland has jets. He’s a 4.3s candidate. pic.twitter.com/C5kk4RhWXH— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 23, 2020
Michael Pittman Jr.
Michael Pittman Jr. wasn’t necessarily bad during the two Senior Bowl practices that he participated in, but he was uninspiring. Considering his production at USC last season, Pittman Jr. was in position to solidify himself as a top-ten wide receiver in this stacked NFL Draft class and the top dog of the senior class. Unfortunately for Pittman, that seems unlikely after after a week where he failed to consistently separate.
While he had some flashes during the first day of practice, he had a quiet second day and didn’t participate on day three. That’s likely going to result in a slight drop to his draft stock.
USC WR Michael Pittman Jr. with a forearm pull to beat contact and then separating with some juice pic.twitter.com/X7l06f1Y1t— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 21, 2020
Kalija Lipscomb saw his production dip during his senior season of football, and the Senior Bowl didn’t do him any favors to settle nerves that scouts will have about that. Lipscomb too often got held up because of press coverage, unable to separate or finish with any consistency against an out-manned cornerback group. With only four receptions during one-on-one periods throughout the entire week, Lipscomb’s draft stock is on life support.
UCLA DB Darnay Holmes is going to compete on every rep. Love the lateral movement here and switching his press hand, locating the football against Vanderbilt WR Kalija Lipscomb pic.twitter.com/o6jDQBvlok— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 21, 2020
Austin Mack was another late addition to the Senior Bowl field, but he failed to garner much attention due to a concerning number of drops he had throughout the week. Whether it was in routes against air, one-on-ones, or seven-on-seven, Mack struggled to corral much of anything.
While Mack did have a number of reps where he was able to separate with his route running, his inability to finish off those reps limited any potential splash he could’ve made. He finished the week catching just 5 of his 13 one-on-one reps during the week.
Austin Mack... my man... the line of scrimmage is the 45 pic.twitter.com/KtTajyMhnU— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 23, 2020
On film, Antonio Gandy-Golden struggled to create any type of separation from cornerbacks, too often getting held up by contact in his stem. That continued to pop up during Senior Bowl practices, as he was blanketed by the cornerbacks over the course of the week.
Gandy-Golden did finish off some splash plays, including a few down the field, and got hot on the third day of practices. However, the same issues that have slowed him down during his college career continued to pop up, and he’s not a dynamic enough athlete to overcome them.
Antonio Gandy-Golden using his hands to beat press coverage and finish vertically pic.twitter.com/PwZxGIHC8d— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 22, 2020
Quartney Davis entered the event out to prove that his explosiveness could be effective both in the slot and on the outside of the formation, but he finished with mixed results. Davis struggles when cornerbacks get their hands on him, as he’s unable to consistently disengage from contact. However, when he’s not crowded, his quickness can lead to stretches of separation.
For the first two days of practice, it felt as though Davis was either getting too held up in his route or getting open and dropping the pass. He turned a switch on the third day, though, as he started using his speed to avoid contact and began giving Nebraska cornerback Lamar Jackson “the business.” However, his overall inconsistencies failed to move the needle one way or the other.
Here’s what makes Texas A&M WR Quartney Davis so intriguing - the quick feet, explosiveness and change of direction. “Toolsy” prospect. pic.twitter.com/NSGH1qbY8C— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 21, 2020
One thing is for sure, Jauan Jennings is one of the most physical wide receiver prospects I can remember scouting. Whether it’s with the ball in his hands, as a blocker, or as a route runner, his goal is to impose his will against the defenders.
The issue with that is it’s difficult to display that type of skill-set in the setting of the Senior Bowl, as his ability to break tackles in open space is completely nullified. Jennings had a few nice reps of one-on-ones and used his physicality to draw quite a few defensive pass interference penalties. However, he didn’t complete reps as efficiently as some of his counterparts.
Jauan Jennings is a bully pic.twitter.com/6HLQRMkS5g— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 21, 2020
James Proche is one of those prospects that I label as “clear packaging,” as his skill-set is so easily identifiable and translatable to the next level. He’s not going to be a game-breaker, but he will be a reliable chain-mover at the next level with crafty route running and fluid, ideal ball skills.
If Proche was going to improve his draft stock during the Senior Bowl week, he would have had to show success on the vertical plane or on special teams. While he finished one vertical route during one-on-ones on the third day of practice, he muffed a few punts. His projection remains as a Cole Beasley-type of role in the NFL.
SMU WR James Proche slot reps. Chain mover. pic.twitter.com/rJ3OuCJnSh— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 22, 2020
Devin Duvernay entered the Senior Bowl with momentum after one of the most productive receiving seasons in all of college football last year. On film, he showed strong hands, physicality, and talent with the ball in his hands.
Duvernay disappointed on the first day of the Senior Bowl, having a few uncharacteristic drops and appearing to be a bit tighter in his hips than most natural slot receivers. He picked up his game for the following two practices but never really stood out above the group. With his straight-line speed and production, NFL teams will surely still like him as a prospect.
Texas WR Devin Duvernay has strong, strong hands pic.twitter.com/cmB7mlXhKW— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 22, 2020