Mobile, Alabama – The 2024 Senior Bowl kicked off this week with groups of practices and concluded with the 75th annual game in Mobile. The American and National teams conducted measurables then participated in group practice sessions, media interviews and much more.
I made my way from the Shrine Bowl in Frisco, Texas to Mobile, Alabama for the opportunity to be on-hand for all the team practices and media availability. The Senior Bowl has always been the “Cadillac” of all the post season College Football All-Star games, and this year was no different. The 75th Annual game had several former Senior Bowl alumni in attendance such as Terrell Owens, Thurman Thomas and more. It was the action on the field that took the show, with many future NFL stars conducting the ultimate job interview for NFL Teams, Scouts, Media and more, trying to check off all those NFL resume boxes to help improve their stock for the NFL draft set to be held late April in Detroit. Here are my key takeaways from the practices and media sessions:
QB Michael Penix, Jr., Washington
Penix throws a beautiful ball, tight spiral that jumps off his arm and goes way up in the air on a deep ball. It was fun to watch a player of Penix’s caliber, especially after coming from the Shrine Bowl where the Quarterback play wasn’t that great. Although he wasn’t lighting things up early in the practice week or looking like the player we all saw in the College Football playoffs, little by little he started to play better. It wasn’t just Penix, all the QBs were struggling earlier in the week, but by Thursday he showed progress and was especially good in team red zone work. The arm talent is there, and most of the best well thrown balls this week came from him. I also thought he showed good mobility and was able to roll out and throw on the run especially rolling to his left as a left hander. Overall, scouts liked what they saw, despite missing his share of throws especially when under pressure. His agent and management group felt he did enough during the week of practice and held him out of the actual game itself. Penix’s injury history isn’t good with multiple ACL and shoulder surgeries, a definite concern for NFL teams. He’ll definitely need medicals to come back favorable as he interviews with NFL teams, he kept giving the response at the Senior Bowl that he has been healthy for two years. With so many NFL teams needing a quarterback and the need for an infusion of talent at the position as a whole, I think he stamped his position into Round 1 of the upcoming draft.
RB MarShawn Lloyd, USC
Lloyd came in as the highest ranked running back of this group of runners at the Senior Bowl and he held up his end of the bargain. A bit under the radar as he often took a back seat to Caleb Williams and the passing game at USC. Showing an array of moves between the tackles, including some “violent” cutbacks, Lloyd wowed those in attendance with his power and strong one-cut abilities. He ran with a veracity that reminded me of Chiefs RB Isiah Pacheco, but also showing a skill and smoothness out of the backfield as a receiver, running past linebackers and catching everything thrown his way. I charted one drop on the week, albeit after he ran a tremendous route. Lloyd was also a favorite check down target in the red zone, and made a highlight play in practice carrying several defenders into the end zone for a score. Lloyd’s teammates picked him for a one-on-one rep, and with the entire team watching, he proceeded to run past his defender quite easily and caught a nice deep pass to end practice.
RB Ray Davis, Kentucky
Davis came into the Senior Bowl with an impressive college profile, but still with a lot to prove as on paper he isn’t ranked by most media as a top 5 RB in this 2024 class. He’s a player I had heard some good things about coming into the week, with impressive stats in his final season at Kentucky rushing for 1,129 yards with 14 TDs and adding 33 receptions for 323 yards with 7 more TDs catching the ball. At 5’9”, 216 lbs, he is extremely strong, compact and has the look that he can take on a pretty big workload at the next level. He immediately reminded me of former Baltimore Raven RB Ray Rice. He worked extremely hard in all the running back drills, showing leadership skills throughout. He isn’t a burner by any means, but he shows pretty good burst through the line, and early in the first practice, he had a good run on a stretch play. I think he showed enough as a runner with good leg drive, and despite that boxy frame he can make his way through the holes. It was his pass catching chops that really stood out throughout the week. He high pointed a ball making a circus catch up against the sideline, made a one handed catch in the open field that got everyone excited, and continually made himself available to his QBs to check down as a reliable safety valve. He had that sound when the ball hits his hands you want to hear. He had a ton of targets and just had the look of a reliable player. He excelled in one-on-ones beating linebackers for easy catches. Even in a running back group that performed well all week, Davis was just so solid, well rounded and consistent. I really hope that he runs an adequate 40 time at combine, that would solidify his position in this class.
WR Ladd McConkey, Georgia
The Bulldog standout put on a route running clinic at the Senior Bowl. With sudden and explosive releases off the line to continually get open. He was constantly getting separation of five yards or more and always open. He’s sure handed, made diving catches, sideline catches, dragged his back foot to be in bounds on reps, ran after the catch, he checked all the boxes. He showed leadership skills, and I saw him helping out his college teammate and fellow WR Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint who was struggling with drops and McConkey made a point to try and help him while practice was going on. Also, during special teams drills, McConkey was on kick return and at one point he put two footballs in each of his hands and was catching the third ball in the air all at once. It was pretty cool stuff to watch. He measured at 6’0” 185 lbs., but when standing next to him he has a pretty solid frame on him. When interviewed at the Senior Bowl, he was asked about some of the underrated traits he was trying to showcase this week that might not be apparent to NFL Scouts and GMs on tape, “Really that I can get in the run game, get involved. I mean I’m kind of a smaller guy, but throw my body in there and try and get it done. It might not always be pretty, might not always be a big block but I’m a give it all so. I feel like that’s something I want to work on and then just kind of winning versus man, being able to show I can go up against bigger, longer guys.” Then when asked would he be a first round pick in the upcoming NFL draft, he responded “let’s hope so.” He may have just done it.
WR Roman Wilson, Michigan
Another big riser from the Senior Bowl with big college pedigree is WR Roman Wilson from the National Champion Michigan Wolverines. He came out of the gate quickly beating corners regularly, getting good separation, making tough catches along the sideline and had the longest TD of the week on a bomb. The team also selected him to run a route with everyone watching at the end of practice and he delivered a nice, diving catch. He was the best player on the field at different points, and he went up against some pretty good corners on the National squad including Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell, a potential first round pick. Wilson, when asked about going against Mitchell, “They’re all good guys, they beat you sometimes, so just go out there, work my techniques and just play football.” When asked where he sees himself playing at the next level in terms of being an X, Y or Z he responded, “I don’t really care I’ll play inside, outside. Some people look at me like a traditional slot. I came here as obviously a slot guy. Right now they see me as a Z, playing a little bit of both. I don’t mind, I’ll play anything. I’ll play Y if you want me to.” Also, when asked who taught him how to run the flat route, to get flat on the routes and hit the sidelines he said, “It’s something I kind of have always done.” Finally, when asked what he wanted to accomplish the week of practice leading up to the game he responded, “That I can be an elite receiver, I can play football, I can be a dog out there, compete on a consistent basis, make plays.”
WR Brenden Rice, USC
Son of the all-time great Jerry, Brenden came into the Senior Bowl not as highly ranked on paper as some of the other WRs that came to Mobile. Well, he most certainly will be now as he greatly improved his draft stock with his performance. Measuring in at 6’2” 212 lbs., he was the most physical receiver all week long. On Day 1 of practice he played through contact from the DBs that were on him, fighting through being held, and even made a tough diving catch after the DB nearly dragged him to the ground. He displayed nice fundamentals and footwork on his routes, with short, choppy steps when stopping to change direction. He did have a few drops, but not anything of major concern. On Day 3 of practice after hurting his ankle, he fought back and got back out there and caught a jump ball from Bo Nix in live red zone action, making a great play high pointing the ball for a score. Speaking of physicality and the WR position, when asked after Senior Bowl practice who were some of his favorite players growing up he responded, “Growing up, Larry Fitzgerald, Megatron, Randy Moss.” Reporter, “Better say Dad?” Rice, “Obviously; No, yeah just those type of people. Larry, said you got to work on your game. Mike Evans, straight ball hawk. Don’t matter what it is, where it’s at, he’s gonna come down with it. And you have players, who else, I said all these people, and you have Percy Harvin too.” Rice also commented, “I’ll be about 205 when I come to the combine.”
TE Jaheim Bell, Florida State
Bell is a bit of a polarizing prospect having transferred from South Carolina to Florida State, but one of the more talented at the position. At 6’2, 244 lbs., he is that new generation “move tight end” with his game predicated on speed. During practice he was lined up at H-Back next to another TE, a formation that was effective and caused the defenses some trouble. My first observations of Bell were that he started the practice week slowly, appeared to miss a few assignments, jogged around a bit during drills, and wasn’t as physically imposing as the rest of the TEs as this was a big group on the whole. When American team went live in scrimmages, the light seemed to go on for Bell. He made catches with YAC showing good burst, drew a PI call and looked like a playmaker. By Day 3, he had asserted himself and was primarily impressive in one-on-ones vs smaller DBs who could not handle him. He looked like one of the best players on the field and despite the struggling Quarterback play by his team he was still able to standout. Blocking isn’t his strength due to his size mostly, but looked like he was really focusing on it for scouts. My comp at the next level for Bell is a smaller David Njoku, but probably closer to Chig Okonkwo or Jonnu Smith.
Honorable mentions: QB Bo Nix, Oregon; RB Michael Wiley, Arizona; WR Malachi Corley, Western Kentucky; WR Ryan Flournoy, Southeast Missouri State; TE Ben Sinnott, Kansas State