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Offensive Standouts Heading Into the Combine

Quarterbacks

Michael Penix – Washington

The Good: While he did not participate in the game, Penix had a great showing throughout the week at practice. He struggled early in the week, as many Senior Bowl quarterbacks do while they try to become familiar with their receivers. However, Penix had a very strong showing on day 3 of practice. Penix showed he was comfortable moving around the pocket, avoiding pressure, as well as making the throws he has made all season. He also displayed consistent and mature decision-making, getting the ball to his players with room to make plays instead of forcing plays down the field.

The Bad: There were some accuracy issues early in the week, however, he was able to turn this around and finish strong. He has also struggled against the blitz at times this season, notably against Michigan in the National Championship. Penix has faced a lot of adversity in his career, mainly from injuries. This, along with his age, will be concerns for NFL front offices, however, his talent is undeniable, and if he can stay healthy, Penix has the ability to be a great NFL quarterback.

Spencer Rattler, South Carolina

The Good: Rattler had a great week at the Senior Bowl, showing off his natural athleticism, both throwing and running. He ended up winning MVP after going 4-4 for 65 yards and a long touchdown to Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint. The athleticism Rattler possesses allows him to make any NFL-level throw look almost effortless, even on the run. Along with a natural and smooth throwing ability, Rattler can regularly make plays with his legs. At the Senior Bowl, during both the game and practices, Rattler showed he could pair his athleticism with an ability to absorb and process an NFL offense.

The Bad: Despite having all the physical tools, Rattler has been held back by his decision-making and pocket presence. His decision-making has improved with experience, however, it is not at an NFL level yet. In the pocket, Rattler takes too many sacks and tries to force too many plays. With his athleticism, if he can continue to improve in these areas, Rattler has a very promising career ahead of him.

Running Backs

Emani Bailey – TCU

The Good: With a solid week of practice and an excellent showing in the game, Emani Bailey displayed a skillset that will be coveted by NFL executives. His versatility and experience in different schemes stand out, along with his elite burst and athleticism. He showed he was unafraid to run up the middle against NFL talent and had an efficient day on the ground. He also consistently displayed his skills receiving the ball. He showed off his reliable hands along with an ability to make men miss in space, just as he has all season. As a receiver, Bailey is a smooth route runner and has the speed to test most NFL defensive backs.

The Bad: Bailey’s frame will be a point of concern heading into the draft, as many scouts will list him as a change of pace back and not a three-down back. He has displayed a willingness to put his shoulder down and get the tough yards, however, this will be much harder to sustain in the NFL. There are also questions about Bailey’s ability in pass protection, but with experience, this should improve as he has shown he is not afraid of contact.

*comparisons are for similar player attributes, not expected production

Dylan Laube – New Hampshire

The Good: Dylan Laube is possibly the most versatile running back in this class. He could realistically be lined up in the slot and would have to be regarded as a real threat to NFL defenses. His route running sets him apart, as his quickness in and out of cuts is elite and can create multiple mismatches. As a runner, Laube uses his patience to work his way through traffic and uses his small but dense frame to move effectively around his blockers and break arm tackles. His pass protection is also above average, which NFL teams value highly. Laube had a great week at the Senior Bowl, consistently winning in one-on-one matchups and impressing scouts.

The Bad: Despite having a dense frame, Laube may struggle against NFL defenses when he is asked to run inside. The strength to consistently break tackles from NFL linemen and linebackers is not quite there, and he is limited in the amount of strength he can add with his frame. He has not faced a lot of stiff competition so far in his career and has had some decreases in efficiency and results rushing over the past couple years, however, this has been paired with an improvement in the passing game. His versatility, along with his ability to contribute on special teams, should make him a valuable addition to almost any NFL team.

Marshawn Lloyd – USC

The Good: Marshawn Lloyd is a very well-rounded back and showed it throughout the week at the Senior Bowl. He has the vision, athletic ability, football IQ, and receiving ability to be an effective three-down back in the NFL. He has a stout frame paired with an elite burst that allows him to break tackles he cannot avoid. Lloyd has displayed the toughness necessary to compete against bigger defenders, both as a runner and a talented pass protector. In pass protection, he is able to process and react quickly. As a receiver, Lloyd has reliable hands and the ability to make opponents miss in space.

The Bad: Lloyd sometimes tries too hard to make a big play instead of taking what his blockers give him. This can lead to runs getting bounced outside, giving defenders more time to react and make a play. He has also struggled at times holding onto the ball, fumbling multiple times over the past couple seasons. He has also benefited from the space created by a spread offense with an elite quarterback prospect, and it remains to be seen how consistent and effective Lloyd can be in an NFL offense.

Wide Receivers

Malachi Corley – Western Kentucky

The Good: Malachi Corley is a very unique prospect. He has the skills and athleticism of a wide receiver but the build of a running back. Everything he does leading up to the catch is done just as well as any receiver, but after the catch, Corley turns into a running back looking for contact. Despite his physical nature, Corley still has the agility and quickness to make defenders miss in space. Corley’s physicality showed up all week at the Senior Bowl, not just running with the ball but also against physical coverage and as a blocker in the run game. During his week of practice, Corley made the most of his opportunities to show he is more than just a short-yardage wide receiver.

The Bad: Corley will have to continue to prove that he is more than just a RAC receiver. A large portion of his success is due to his ability running with the ball after the catch, and he has yet to show that he can succeed in a variety of roles. Corley will also need more finesse in his route running to succeed in running a complex NFL route tree. He can also work on catching fewer balls with his body, as it will become more difficult to make those plays in the NFL.

Xavier Legette – South Carolina

The Good: A physical specimen at wide receiver, Legette is a very strong, very athletic player. He possesses talent as both a RAC receiver and a contested catch receiver. He uses his big frame well to box out defenders and keep them away from the ball. With the ball in his hands, Legette is a force to be reckoned with. His speed reached 22.3 MPH this season, and at 6’1” 225, not many defensive backs are going to want to hit him. Throughout the Senior Bowl practices, Legette showed his natural athleticism and instinctive ability. He is a good route runner against zone and does not allow defensive backs to interfere with his route in man or press coverage.

The Bad: He has some things to learn as a route runner, especially learning how to operate in an NFL offense. His release packages and understanding of defender leverage could improve as well. With more time and experience, these things can develop. There are also questions about Legette’s level of production in college, as he only had one dominant year. As a run blocker, Legette is willing, however, his technique limits him from reaching the potential his size, strength, and athletic ability would suggest.

Luke McCaffrey – Rice

The Good: Luke McCaffrey had a great week at the Senior Bowl practices and was one of the few receivers to have a good day during the game. He was utilized in multiple ways, including as a return man and out of the backfield on a jet sweep. He had a highlight one-handed catch for a first down. McCaffrey excels as a contested catch receiver, but he has more to his game than just that. He is a very smart player who understands his limitations but knows how to maximize the skills he does have. His short-area quickness is excellent, and he has the toughness and catch radius to win almost any 50/50 ball.

The Bad: McCaffrey is far from a bad athlete, but he is limited. His long speed is not great, however, due to his large catch radius, there is still some downfield threat there. There are also questions about his ability as a route runner down the field. His lack of speed will be a concern for creating separation. We have seen receivers succeed in recent years without elite speed, and McCaffrey was able to show this week that despite his limitations, he belongs around NFL-level talent.

*comparisons are for similar player attributes, not expected production

Ladd McConkey – Georgia

The Good: An elite route runner, McConkey has a unique ability to snap off routes and enough athleticism to cause problems for NFL defensive backs. McConkey consistently left defenders behind in one-on-one drills throughout the Senior Bowl practices. He is a threat, both down the field and, in short RAC situations. He is most effective out of the slot, where he is a threat to go any direction, however, he has the athletic ability and physical profile to succeed on the outside as well. He has the ability to contribute immediately on special teams as a return man, as he is a special player with the ball in his hands.

The Bad: McConkey can struggle at times against physical press coverage. This is in part due to his lighter frame. Some time on an NFL meal plan and with the team’s trainer should add some weight to help with this. Along with struggling against the press, McConkey can struggle with contested catches, as defenders can affect his hands through his body. Again, adding some weight and muscle to his frame should help with this. McConkey has the tools to be a talented player but needs a little more functional strength to reach his potential.

Ricky Pearsall – Florida

The Good: Ricky Pearsall is a very smart player with great hands. He can line up just about anywhere and find success. He has strong hands in the middle of the field and showed his reliability throughout the week at Senior Bowl practices. Along with being versatile in alignment, Pearsall has some versatility sprinkled through his entire game. He has different ways of attacking defenses and defenders based on what he is presented with. Pearsall thrives against zone coverage, consistently finding soft spots, and is effective running after the catch with a variety of ways to get around defenders.

The Bad: Pearsall is a good athlete, however, there are questions about his long speed. Most downfield plays came from losing his man with a move on his route or making a contested catch over his defender. These are not bad things, but they do limit the type of threat he can be. While he does have variety in his types of releases, he can struggle to get past tough press coverage, which will need improvement for success at the NFL level.

Jamari Thrash – Louisville

The Good: Jamari Thrash is an exciting deep threat receiver. He can change directions down the field at an elite level and is very impressive at tracking the ball. He understands coverages and the leverage of defensive backs. Attacking coverages down the field seems to come naturally to him, which he displayed at the Senior Bowl practices. He is comfortable operating in the middle of the field and has reliable hands. Thrash is talented at misdirection and consistently causes defensive backs to miss a step, creating space for himself and his quarterback. He can line up and find success at any receiver position due to his football IQ and natural route running.

The Bad: There are questions about Thrash’s downfield speed as he can struggle to create separation on vertical routes. Along with this, he can struggle with allowing the ball into his body, limiting his contested catch ability. This combination can cause problems for NFL front offices as it greatly restricts his abilities as an outside receiver. If he can improve his abilities in creating vertical separation or catching contested balls, he has the rest of the skills to be a talented NFL receiver.

Roman Wilson – Michigan

The Good: Roman Wilson is an incredible athlete with very reliable hands. Wilson had several highlight plays during his week of practice at the Senior Bowl. The first thing that stands out is his speed, as many expect him to run somewhere in the mid-4.3s. He is very strong for his frame and plays with a catch radius much bigger than many expect. Wilson can line up at any receiver position on the field and find a way to threaten the defense. He is a very tough player with a very high football IQ that allows him to maximize his physical tools. He has excellent body control, both catching the ball and contorting his body to break in and out of routes.

The Bad: Despite his athleticism and strength, Wilson has not found much success running after the catch. He lacks a certain level of elusiveness with the ball in his hands. This could change with more opportunities in a different style of offense. He also has not faced much press coverage in his career, which leaves some questions about his release package. Wilson already has most of the skills NFL front offices love, and with some slight improvements, he could be a very exciting player.

Tight Ends

Theo Johnson – Penn State

The Good: Johnson has elite size and speed for his position, and he pairs this with a functional understanding of soft zones and coverages, allowing him to be an effective route runner. He is a creative and versatile player who can line up just about anywhere as a receiver or blocker. His size makes him a mismatch for most players, and his athleticism can set him apart from any players big enough to compete for contested catches with him. As a blocker, Johnson knows how to make the most of his natural abilities. He has natural hands, runs a variety of routes, and is even effective on screens and RAC opportunities, all of which was on display this week at the Senior Bowl.

The Bad: Off the line, Johnson lacks some burst, allowing defenders to read and react to him more effectively. His quickness and agility limit some of the things he can accomplish as a receiver, as he can struggle to create separation coming out of routes. Despite his natural ability and talent, Johnson did not have a dominant statistical season in college, however, he did show improvement from one season to the next.

*comparisons are for similar player attributes, not expected production

Linemen

Jackson Powers-Johnson – Oregon

The Good: Jackson Powers-Johnson showed he is one of the toughest, strongest, and most athletic linemen this week at the Senior Bowl. He moves well, pulling in zone schemes, which is extremely impressive considering his size. He is able to use his size and strength to his advantage as a downhill blocker, using his hands well to gain leverage over his opponent. As a pass protector, he has a strong anchor and an understanding of defensive stunts and blitzing. With a high football IQ, he is able to make effective calls and coordinate an offensive line. He is a physical specimen who plays with anger and a high motor.

The Bad: At times, Powers-Johnson can allow defenders inside his pads, giving up his leverage. This is in part due to having shorter arms, however, improved hand technique can compensate for this if he can continue to improve. He has all the physical tools and a fundamental understanding of how to be effective at his position, however, general improvement in technique and awareness are required to reach his potential in the NFL.

Christian Haynes – UConn

The Good: Haynes had a dominant Senior Bowl, both during the week, making the most of the practices, and during the game, impressing many NFL scouts. Haynes started four straight seasons at UConn, improving each season. He is a very impressive athlete, thriving in zone schemes where he is able to use his quickness and natural understanding of leverage to his advantage. Haynes uses his hands very well and has a powerful anchor in pass protection. He plays with physicality at the point of attack and has an impressive motor. Haynes played guard in college but could realistically play anywhere on the inside as he has a good football IQ. This, paired with his athletic ability, should make him an effective addition to an NFL line.

The Bad: Haynes will be limited to the inside of the line as he does not have the size or length to compete as an NFL tackle. Learning how to better counter rush moves would help Haynes, as sometimes experienced rushers can occasionally make their way around him. He could improve his consistency, but if he can bring everything together, he has a bright future in the NFL.

Taliese Fuaga – Oregon State

The Good: A physical specimen, Fuaga is a dominant run blocker with the frame and strength to be an effective pass blocker as an NFL tackle. He also has the potential to play multiple positions along the line while he develops the technical skills necessary for success against NFL defenders. Throughout the week at the Senior Bowl, Fuaga impressed NFL scouts with his physicality and athletic ability. He has great upper body strength and powerful hands, allowing him to restrict defenders, even when out of position or slightly late getting to his responsibility. He also has a good football IQ and knows how to throw defenders off of their timing.

The Bad: At the college level, Fuaga was able to rely on his physical attributes to compensate for any mistakes, however, at the NFL level, he will have to learn more finesse at the position. At times, he can be overly aggressive, allowing defenders to counter. His footwork could use improvement to keep him in position and allow him to maximize his natural tools. If he can add technique to his already impressive ability, he has a very high ceiling.

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