The best time of the football year is right around the corner as the Reese’s Senior Bowl practices start next week. The Senior Bowl is one of the top events of the draft season and features many of the best prospects in the upcoming draft. Unfortunately, I won’t be there live for the first time in the last four years due to Covid restrictions but there is still a lot to look forward to with this game.
To preview the upcoming week, I decided to look at a few players that Colts’ fans should keep a close eye on in the next week. So to start, here is my list of the top ten prospects that we should watch during the week of Senior Bowl practices.
10.) Jamie Newman, QB, Wake Forest
One of the more intriguing quarterback options in this class has to be Wake Forest/Georgia quarterback Jamie Newman. Newman had a solid Junior season in 2019 where he threw for 2,868 yards and 26 touchdowns with the Demon Deacons. He would go on to transfer to Georgia prior to the 2020 season in order to show scouts that he could put up numbers like that against a difficult SEC schedule. Unfortunately, he opted out of this past season and we were unable to see him answer those questions.
Newman is a bit of a wildcard in a QB class that has a lot of questions after the top five guys. He has a cannon for an arm and has shown the ability to make plays off-script with his mobility. If he can have a strong and consistent week and knock out the interviews, he could be an option for a quarterback hungry team like the Colts on day two of the draft.
Jamie Newman is the first member of #DamesDudes.— Damian Parson (@DP_NFL) November 7, 2019
✅Touch, accuracy, & ball placement
✅ Technically sound
I'm not sure if he declares for the 2020 or 2021 #NFLDraft but he's fun to watch. I'll continue to add players to my list. Weekly. #TDDR #devy pic.twitter.com/Zm7BCacego
9.) Frank Darby, WR, Arizona State
The “other receiver” to Arizona State’s dynamic duo last year is big-play threat, Frank Darby. Darby was never super productive in college (career-high of 616 receiving yards in 2019) but that was likely due to other playmakers around him such as 2019 first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk. While the overall bulk production was never high, the flash plays were jaw-dropping and his 19.7 yards per catch is something to take notice of.
Darby hits on a lot of areas that Chris Ballard likes in his wide receiver prospects. He has good size (6’1” 200 pounds) with top athleticism and big play ability. The Senior Bowl could make or break whether he goes on either day two or day three in this class but he is a very interesting prospect that I’m sure the Colts will be watching closely.
Accepted Senior Bowl Invite!@ASUFootball Frank Darby (@_SavageSZN8) has accepted his @seniorbowl invite!— NFL Draft Prospects Podcast (@nflprospectspod) December 4, 2020
Darby will join a talented group of WRs in Mobile and hope to show scouts some of his ability!
Thoughts on Darby?#thedraftstartsinMobile pic.twitter.com/8xmV6cVCCC
8.) James Hudson III, OT, Cincinatti
Now let’s look at one of my favorite players at the event this year. Cincinnati's OT James Hudson is an absolute blast to watch on film and would perfectly fill the void that the Colts have at left tackle now with the Anthony Castonzo retirement.
Hudson is a former defensive tackle who converted to offensive tackle before transferring to Cincinnati to become their starting LT. When you watch his film, the former defensive tackle stands out as he finishes with a mean streak and puts players on the ground. He could use a bit of development but with how strong the Colts’ overall offensive line is, he would get the support he needs right away. He’s likely sitting in the late day two/early day three range but could climb up draft boards with a strong Senior Bowl.
Cincinnati LT James Hudson #55— Mark Jarvis (@WhatsOnDraftNFL) January 9, 2021
DT recruit out of HS - switched to OT in first year at Michigan. Transferred into UC last year. First year starter in 20. Now @seniorbowl bound. Mean streak & length will be huge in the 1v1s. pic.twitter.com/HTz7nJylYy
7.) Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State
Sticking with the offensive line, let’s look at another solid tackle prospect in this deep draft class. Radunz is a multi-year starter and FCS champion who has been an anchor on the left side of a dominant offensive line. He is one of many guys in this class who could make the transition from college to the NFL look easy and start on day one at left tackle for the Colts.
At a towering 6’6” 300 pounds, Radunz is a powerful yet nimble athlete at tackle. While he may be a bit small weight wise to start on the Colts’ offensive line, he makes up for this by being a dominant second-level run blocker with his foot speed. He could use some technical refinement in pass protection but overall drafting him sometime on day two would be a major win for the Colts.
5.) Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson
Jumping back to the fun skill position players, the Colts love their receivers who can run after the catch. Michael Pittman Jr proved to be a major bright spot in this department while Parris Campbell has also shown the ability to contribute this way when he is healthy. So why not keep an eye on the receiver that many are calling the Deebo Samuel of this Senior Bowl class?
Now obviously Rodgers isn’t that good but he certainly fills that role the Colts love. He may not hit the height requirements that Ballard likes but at a sturdy 5’10” 210 pounds, he is plenty big enough to make some plays. His production increased in a huge way as the number one receiver for the Tigers this year as he totaled 1,020 yards and 7 touchdowns. Rodgers would be a fun addition to an already intriguing young core of receivers in Indy.
Amari Rodgers tore his ACL 6 months ago and is already back to being one of the best YAC WRs in the country. pic.twitter.com/iNxqz4KOG0— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) September 15, 2019
4.) Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
One player being commonly mocked to the Colts since the retirement of Castonzo is Notre Dame OT Liam Eichenberg. It makes sense considering how drafting him would reunite him with Quenton Nelson on the Colts’ left side of the line (although these two didn’t really play together at Notre Dame).
Eichenberg is a huge left tackle who has some real pop in his pads. He is excellent on down blocks and can hold his own in pass protection. Pro Football Focus has been hyping him up for years as he hasn’t given up a sack in the last two seasons according to their charting. I do think he needs to play a bit lower and work a bit more on his agility but he would be a high floor addition to a stellar offensive line on day two of the draft.
Loved this whole rep from ND LT Liam Eichenberg pic.twitter.com/E0GgfzdFWJ— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) December 22, 2020
3.) Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Again jumping back to wide receiver (is it painfully obvious yet that the Colts only need a QB, LT, and maybe another WR on offense yet?), the most fun player at the position in Mobile outside of Heisman Winner DeVonta Smith has to be Kadarius Toney. Toney is an outstanding playmaker with the ball in his hands as he totaled 70 catches for 984 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2020.
Toney is a dynamic receiving option that can thrive either in the slot or on the outside. He may not be an elite downfield threat but he wins in the short and intermediate game. He really shines after the catch where he has stellar contact balance and that extra burst to fly by defenders. He could play himself into round one range with a strong week so the Colts may want to keep their eyes on him with their late first-round pick (if they figure out QB prior to the draft).
2.) Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
A somewhat surprising late addition to the Senior Bowl roster was Alabama LT Alex Leatherwood. He likely would have been a first-round pick last year but opted to return to school and help Bama win yet another National Championship in 2020.
Leatherwood is as sturdy as they come as a tackle prospect. He possesses really good strength and has a powerful punch that knocks around edge rushers. He is quite dominant in the run game as he excels in combo blocks off duo looks that the Colts love to run. He improved his pass protection mightily this past year as his footwork looked much cleaner and smoother all season. He may fall to the Colts’ pick in the first round if he doesn’t test out of this world and would be an easy selection for the team if he is there (if Indy has figured out QB prior to the draft).
1.) Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Last but certainly not least is Heisman runner-up Mac Jones. He had a phenomenal year starting for Alabama as he led the team to one of the most dominant seasons in college football history. He completed 77% of his passes this year for 4,500 yards and 45 touchdowns to go with just four interceptions.
A lot of people will point out the flaws in Jones’ game and, rightfully, point to his strong supporting staff for his gaudy numbers this past year. However, I don’t see a poor player whatsoever on film and he has the makings of a functional starter in the league. He has a quick release, moves well in the pocket, is accurate, and anticipates at a high level. Those are the makings of a nice, solid starting quarterback. He may not be as dynamic as the top four in this class but for a team like Indy sitting at 21, he could be an option. A lot of his stock hinges on this Senior Bowl so he will be a big name to follow all week.