Senior Bowl practice notes: Going beyond the quarterbacks

MOBILE, Ala. -- Unlike last year, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft probably will not be on display Saturday when the Senior Bowl takes place at venerable Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

That doesn't mean there isn't talent – including outstanding depth at tight end and on the offensive line.

NORTH TEAM

... The strongest position group on either team was the North's offensive line. Outstanding performances from Kansas State tackle/center Dalton Risner, North Carolina State center Garrett Bradbury and Wisconsin interior linemen Michael Deiter and Beau Benzschawel were expected, with Risner and Deiter virtually cementing their status as top-40 selections. 

But the depth on the North's line was surprising, and one player who impressed was Charlotte's Nate Davis, whose quickness and footwork captured the attention of onlookers. Davis' ability to move laterally and quickly re-establish his base against opposing pass rushers solidified his status as a solid mid-round prospect.

... UCLA tight end Caleb Wilson, a late addition to the North team roster because of an injury to Stetson's Donald Parham, averaged 103 receiving yards per game in the last eight games of UCLA's season, but had some inconsistent moments during the one-on-one blocking period, getting pushed back into the spot against safeties and linebackers. At 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, blocking is not going to be his strength, but when operating in space, he should be effective at the next level.

... Ohio State wide receiver Terry McLaurin jumped off the page with his deep, over-the-shoulder catch of a well-placed Drew Lock pass during one-on-one drills Tuesday, but he got even better Thursday during the one-on-one red zone period, cutting back outside after looking like he was going to run a slant. The cut allowed him to get separation just inside the right sideline of the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown.

SOUTH TEAM

... During our group discussion of Thursday's practices on Orange and Blue 760, I compared South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel to Pittsburgh's James Washington, who took part in the Senior Bowl last year before the Steelers used a first-round pick in on him during the 2018 NFL Draft. My co-hosts, Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist Steve Atwater and Ryan Edwards, nodded and agreed.

Like Washington last year, the 6-foot, 216-pound Samuel caught seemingly everything and used precise cuts to gain separation during red-zone and one-one-one drills. Although other receivers will have better measurables, it would be no surprise to see Samuel go in the first two rounds.

... Buffalo quarterback Tyree Jackson has arguably the strongest arm of any quarterback at this year's Senior Bowl, and he showed it off with a bullet strike to Samuel during the South team's red-zone period. While he remains a long-term project, he showed enough to place himself somewhere in the first four rounds, and perhaps as a Day 2 selection.

... The quarterback who surprised me the most was Auburn's Jarrett Stidham. A technically sound, smart passer, he made good decisions during the red-zone period, including one touchdown pass to Utah State tight end Dax Raymond.

Raymond set up the pass by reading the defense's coverage perfectly, running a short curl route into the goal line and finding a spot between two defenders.

... During that same red-zone period, Raymond displayed outstanding concentration to catch a pass that had been tipped near the goal line. He also flourished in route-running, displaying the ability to gain separation with sharp cuts and use the defender as leverage to get open downfield.

Raymond and LSU tight end Foster Moreau were consistent standouts throughout the week. Moreau displayed soft hands and the ability to adjust his routes to gaps in coverage, while also making receptions in traffic.

... Old Dominion edge rusher Oshane Ximines was one of the most improved players over the course of the week, delivering some of his best work in the team period at the end of the South team's practice. He consistently burst into the pocket and disrupted pass plays with his speed and bend off the edge. The 6-foot-3, 241-pounder's size and frame might make working as a stand-up outside linebacker in the 3-4 alignment a better fit, but Ximines was effective with his hand in the dirt this week.

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