The Senior Bowl kicks off this week, and the practices and game will provide scouts with a first-hand look at some of the top prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. Aside from those prospects, there are some players who may not be as well known during the pre-draft process who could stand out this week.
I’ll be down in Mobile, Ala., for practices, and here are some of the players I’ll be most interested to see perform.
Clayton Tune, QB, Houston
2022 stats: 334/496 (67.3%), 4,074 yards, 40 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 128 rush attempts, 544 rush yards, five TDs
Tune was a kid who stuck out to me a little bit. When I watch tape of him, he is a big kid (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) with a big arm. He can make all the throws necessary at the NFL level. He is not a great athlete, but he moves well enough to maybe buy a second chance. He’s not going to beat anyone with his scrambling ability, and he struggled a little bit in the Texas Tech game. But this guy has a strong arm and was productive. So I’m eager to see his size and ability to throw the ball on that platform at the Senior Bowl.
Jake Haener, QB, Fresno State
2022 stats: 252/350 (72.0%), 2,896 yards, 20 touchdowns, 3 interceptions; 46 rush attempts, -123 rush yards, two TDs
Haener is a little undersized (6-foot-1, 195), but he is one of the most competitive kids I watched on tape. He’s a rhythm and timing thrower. When you give him time, and he gets the ball out of his hands, he’s an accurate passer at the short and intermediate levels. Naturally, the biggest concern I have is deep-ball accuracy and deep-ball strength. Teams definitely will be looking for that at the Senior Bowl. Case Keenum is the guy that he reminded me of the most.
Eric Gray, RB, Oklahoma
2022 stats: 213 rush attempts, 1,366 yards (6.4 ypc), 11 touchdowns; 33 receptions, 229 yards
The running back group at the Senior Bowl is strong. One who really excited me on tape was Gray. This kid has excellent size (5-foot-9, 206). He has good quickness and good body control. He is one of the most violent runners I watched. I think the biggest concern with him is going to be his speed because you see how his speed levels drop once he gets to the second level and out in space, where he’ll get run down. But this guy can catch out of the backfield. He’s a complete back who runs with a lot of violence. That was exciting for me to watch on tape.
Xavier Hutchinson, WR, Iowa State
2022 stats: 107 receptions, 1,171 yards (10.9 ypc), six touchdowns
Hutchinson is someone who is very interesting to me and who caught my eye this year on tape. He’s a big, long, athletic receiver (6-foot-3, 210) and a good route runner. I think he runs well enough. When you watch him on tape, he makes highlight-reel catches. There are a few concentration drops, but I don’t think it is an issue. There was a big drop in the Texas game, but he was a fun guy to watch. He reminded me a lot of Romeo Doubs, whom the Green Bay Packers drafted in the fourth round, coming out of Nevada last year. I’m eager to see what type of athlete, what type of hands, and what type of speed this guy has matched up against the corners at the Senior Bowl.
Brayden Willis, TE, Oklahoma
2022 stats: 39 receptions, 514 yards (13.2 ypc), seven touchdowns
Willis will line up as an H-back, and he’ll line up as a tight end. I don’t see him as a true Y tight end in the NFL. I think he’s going to be a guy teams will look at because of his athletic skill. You can put him in a slot or out wide. When you watch the tape on Oklahoma, they use him a lot as a Wildcat quarterback as well. So this is a kid who’s not very big (6-foot-4, 235), but he has excellent speed and excellent athletic ability. He is a good route runner who can catch the ball, and he has some magic with the ball in his hands after the catch.
This player reminded me a lot of Isaiah Likely coming out of Coastal Carolina, whom the Baltimore Ravens took in the fourth round in last year’s draft. But I think Willis is a more physical blocker. He’s not going to make a living as a true in-line, Y, traditional tight end, but he is a good athlete. I think offensive coordinators will be salivating over how they can utilize him at different positions.
Cody Mauch, OT, North Dakota State
2022 stats: 15 games played
Of the offensive linemen at the Senior Bowl, the player who has the most to gain will be Mauch. He lined up at left tackle, and he was physical (6-foot-6, 305). He was a dominant run blocker. They do not throw the ball much at North Dakota State, but he looks like he has all the athletic skills and footwork that will translate to the next level. This will be a big test for him.
Everybody is going to want to know what his arm length is because he looks like he has short arms on tape. He has the athletic skill set to play left tackle, but it’ll be interesting to see how he holds up in pass protection. He will work against a lot of good edge rushers at the Senior Bowl. If he cannot hold up, I have no issues projecting this player to potentially move inside to guard.
Karl Brooks, DL, Bowling Green
2022 stats: 49 tackles, 30 solo, 19 assisted, 10 sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery
The best position with the most strength at the Senior Bowl is the defensive linemen, especially the edge rushers. One interesting player is Brooks. He’s listed at around 6-foot-3/6-foot-4, roughly 300 pounds. But I was shocked when I saw how they played him on tape. They played him standing up from a two-point and working off the edge. They also slid him down inside to a 5-technique at times. Brooks is athletic and light-footed for his size. It’s remarkable to see a guy of this size and his ability move in space. He’s raw, technically, both as an edge rusher and playing the run.
What I will be curious to see is, because of his size and his natural quickness, if they don’t slide him inside to see if he can do some nickel-rush stuff at the next level. He may be an inside nickel rusher, but he is an intriguing prospect to watch. He stuck out a little bit, I think, in their opener early in the season vs. UCLA, which got your attention. Then, as you watched him through the year, he kind of grew on you more and more. So this will be an interesting kid because he’s stood up from a two-point stance at 300 pounds. But I think, ultimately, he needs to slide inside if he can handle it and be an inside nickel pass rusher at the next level.
Andre Carter II, Edge, Army
2022 stats: 37 tackles, 27 solo, 16 assisted, three sacks
As we look at the defensive linemen at the Senior Bowl, there are some interesting guys. Carter is one example; is he big enough (6-foot-7, 265) to be a 3-4 outside linebacker? I know he has excellent length, but does he have enough girth to put his hand down and play as a defensive end? When you watch him on tape, he has excellent burst and good first-step quickness.
He’s going to need some polish as a pass rusher, but he can bend and dip to the quarterback. Because he was the only NFL prospect on Army’s roster this year, he got a lot of attention and a lot of chip blocks to make sure that he was not a game-wrecker. I think he has a bright future, and everything that you see physically from him and his athletic skill set should translate to the NFL.
>> Read: 3 Players Who Can Rise Up Boards After Senior Bowl
Thomas Incoom, Edge, Central Michigan
2022 stats: 57 tackles, 33 solo, 24 assisted, 11.5 sacks, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries
I was pleasantly surprised when I put the tape on and watched Incoom. He is another guy with good size (6-foot-4, 260) and good length, and he has explosive firepower. When you watch him on tape, he’s a quick-twitch athlete with speed. It seems like every play he’s playing with his hair on fire. He made some plays that popped out vs. Oklahoma State. He held his own and actually beat Penn State left tackle Olumuyiwa Fashanu a couple of times, and Fashanu (a second-team All-American) probably will be a top-five pick when he comes out in the draft next year. Incoom was dominant vs. Buffalo in one of the MAC games that I watched.
I saw this guy locate the ball off blocks. He’s a strong wrap-up tackler, and he showed speed to power off the edges as a pass rusher. He can bend and work his way through edges, and he has excellent closing burst. He needs some work on his pass-rush technique and a better pass-rush plan, but he has a nonstop motor to the quarterback. He’s going to make some money down at the Senior Bowl as he goes through this pre-draft process. This is one of the finest players I watched on tape this year.
Daiyan Henley, LB, Washington State
2022 stats: 106 tackles, 54 solo, 52 assisted, four sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, one interception
Henley is another good football player. He’s a little older (24), but he’s athletic enough when you’re judging these linebackers I think his game will transition to being a three-down linebacker. He has a good nose for the ball and is instinctive attacking downhill. He shoots through gaps. At times, he’s overaggressive and will take himself out of some plays. He has good range on the field.
He can make plays from sideline to sideline, is a good athlete in coverage, and can affect the quarterback when he is sent on blitzes. He is better blitzing through the gap than when he goes to the edge to rush. He reminded me of Pete Werner of Ohio State, whom the New Orleans Saints drafted last year.
Daniel Scott, S, California
2022 stats: 85 tackles, 57 solo, 28 assisted, two forced fumbles, three interceptions
Scott is a kid who I thought was a good football player and one I’m eager to watch in person. This guy is well-built for the position (6-foot-2, 205). I think he plays faster than he’s going to time. He’s a little tight in his hips. He’s good in run support, and he will run through contact as a hitter. He gets out of control in space. He has a tendency to overreact to things at times and bite up on play-action. He’s best right now when you watch him close to the line of scrimmage.
What I want to see at the Senior Bowl is his ability to play in space as a single-high or two-high safety. He has good ball instincts and awareness, which helped him snag three interceptions this year. He has enough length to reach through the receiver to knock balls away without getting DPI penalties. He struggles some in man coverage; I don’t think that’s going to be his forte, especially vs. athletic tight ends. But this is a solid Day 2/Day 3 prospect. I think he should contribute on special teams early in his career and should develop into a starter down the line.