The 2024 Senior Bowl, one of the week’s two collegiate all-star NFL Draft showcases along with the East-West Shrine Bowl, is underway in Mobile, Alabama, and we have you covered with both halves of the “With The First Pick” podcast — CBS Sports NFL Draft analyst Ryan Wilson and former longtime Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman — with boots on the ground.
Here’s a look at some of their biggest takeaways from Day 2 of observing some of the nation’s best draft prospects go head-to-head.
An improved QB crop
The 2023 Senior Bowl featured seven quarterbacks: Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, Fresno State’s Jake Haener, Houston’s Clayton Tune, BYU’s Jaren Hall, TCU’s Max Duggan, Shepherd’s Tyson Bagent and Louisville’s Malik Cunningham.
Spielman much prefers the 2024 collection of passers that includes the following quarterbacks: Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., Oregon’s Bo Nix, Tulane’s Michael Pratt, South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler, Tennessee’s Joe Milton, Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman and South Alabama’s Carter Bradley.
“The quarterback group was much better than the quarterback group here last year,” Spielman said on the podcast Wednesday. “There are a lot of guys with some natural talent that I was very impressed with. The receiver group and the DB group also impressed me, as well as some of these offensive linemen. Overall, if you look at the roster and from what I saw today, I thought this was a more talented class than we saw last year.”
Wilson concurred, calling the class “crisp” through Day 2.
Penix Jr., the 2023 Heisman Trophy runner-up, who led the Huskies to a national runner-up campaign, winning their first 14 games and the final Pac-12 title before falling to Michigan in the College Football Playoffs National Championship game, impressed with his natural arm talent.
“One of the things that stuck out to me about Michael Penix Jr., even though he had some misses, is the natural arm talent,” Spielman said. “How easy the ball comes off of his, as Ryan puts it, E.T. hands.”
However, the quarterback Penix Jr. dueled against for the Pac 12 crown, Oregon’s Bo Nix, still has some questions he needs to answer.
“He’s athletic, he has enough arm talent,” Spielman said. “I just want to see him have to process from the pocket. I think he can make plays off schedule and outside the pocket. I just want to see when he has to sit there, read and get through his progressions, how quickly he can do that.”
The passer whose stock dipped the most Wednesday was Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman because of how he looked in comparison to Penix Jr. and Nix. Wilson and Spielman would compare Hartman to Raiders fourth-round rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell in terms of having the same touch and timing passing style plus athletic traits. Hartman is probably more mobile, but there are similar arm traits.
“When see the ball come out of Bo Nix’s hands, when you watch Michael Penix Jr. and the ball come out of his hands, you don’t see the same zip coming out of Hartman’s hands. That was verified when watching him. He is a touch, timing and rhythm thrower, and when you haven’t worked with this group of receivers and this group of tight ends, sometimes that timing is going to look a little off until you get that rhythm. He’s not out of place, but you have two pretty good quarterbacks on the same team.”
“Thought he showed some touch on the deep balls during 1-on-1s, not sure how much stock you can put into lackluster performance based on new WRs/new system/handful of practices,” Wilson added. “Didn’t strike me that he was out of place.”
The quarterbacks on the other team– Pratt, Milton, Rattler and Bradley — all put together strong showings in practice Wednesday.
“[Pratt’s] arm was better than I anticipated,” Spielman said. “Had some very good accuracy on some of the throws he made. I thought he looked better in person than what I saw on tape earlier this year.”
Milton may have the most live arm of any of the quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl, as he was timed throwing the football 76 miles an hour, according to Wilson.
“I think he was underrated as an athlete, there’s no question about the size (6-foot-5, 235 pounds),” Spielman said. I think the arm talent. He probably has the strongest arm (at the Senior Bowl). I don’t know about his touch and timing at times, and even when I watched him live, there’s just some hesitation on the see-to-do on the coverages he’s trying to read.”
Bradley’s first impression upon Spielman was strong. Bradley is the son of Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
“I haven’t seen Coach (Gus) Bradley’s son on tape, but I was very impressed with the way the ball came off his hand today and some of the accuracy during the 1-on-1 and the 7-on-7 drills,” Spielman said.
Spielman and Wilson are unsure how high Rattler’s stock can climb, but he has the potential to be a Day 2 pick in rounds two or three. His frame, 6-foot and 219 pounds, raises some questions, but both love the way the football comes out of his hand.
“He does have the arm strength to make all the throws at the NFL level,” Spielman said. “The turnovers have held him back from creeping up into the top-five quarterbacks. The arm talent is great.”
Pops and drops
Pop: Georgia wide receiver Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint
“He didn’t have any drops in college,” Wilson said. “He’s smooth and bigger than he looks on tape. He had a good day yesterday and today.
Spielman sees shades of Green Bay Packers fifth-round rookie receiver Dontayvion Wicks in Rosemy-Jacksaint. Wicks totaled four touchdowns in the regular season for Green Bay in 2023, and he snagged a 20-yard touchdown in the Packers’ 48-32 upset win at the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC wild card round.
“He’s smooth like (Wicks) with a little better speed, and he has that upper body flexibility and his ability to torque and adjust to off-schedule throws,” Spielman said. “When I watched him on tape, he’s got some shake and wiggle to him after the catch. When he opens stride, he’s going to be faster than I think most people are going to give him credit for.”
Pop: Florida wide receiver Ricky Pearsall
“When I watched him in person, he’s lean, but he’s long,” Spielman said. “Some people may knock his speed, but he plays what he is going to time. What stuck out to me is how crafty and savvy he is as a route-runner. If he is trying to get deep, he may not run 4.3 (40-yard dash), but the little shake and ability to get a defensive back on his heels or to get him off balance just for a second and accelerate out of a cut is great. He has great hands. He is going to be a really, really good player in the NFL.”
Pop: Kansas State tight end Ben Sinnott
“He is just a good football player,” Spielman said. “Ben did a phenomenal job catching the football. He was very good at route-running. What impressed me, even though he is a little undersized for a tight end, is he was giving great effort as a blocker today. During the team period, I saw him latch on to some linebackers at the second level and try to finish. He was the best tight end I saw coming out of this practice.”
“My comp for him is Dallas Clark,” Wilson said. “I have a Day 2 grade on Sinnott, maybe third-roundish, mid-to-late.”
“He’s not in the LaPorta category with the speed, but a similar type of football player,” Spielman said. “Just not the same kind of athlete. He can make plays in the passing game and he can block in the running game. He’s just not as big or as athletic as LaPorta was.”
Drop: North Carolina wide receiver Tez Walker
“He had drops in the one-on-one drills, the team drills and seven-on-sevens,” Wilson said. “It seemed to plague him all day.”
Spielman said he looked athletic and can catch on tape, but he was “shocked at practice” with how “poor his hands were and how many drops he had.”
“You can see the route-running and athleticism for his size, but he hasn’t been able to catch the ball consistently in any of the drills I watched today. That is a concern. Yesterday wasn’t bad, but he had the dropsies today. You want to see him bounce back.”
Drop: Penn State cornerback Kalen King
“The guys I was disappointed in the most on Day 2 was Kalen King. He didn’t look as athletic as I thought he was on the tape. I really questioned his speed a couple times he got extended downfield. I didn’t see that second gear where he could catch up after getting out of the turn when he was extended. It also looks like he was going through the motions, which I didn’t see on his junior year tape… I just was expecting a lot more. He had a rough day today.”
“It feels like the predraft arc of Eli Ricks and Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo, who both went to Philadelphia,” Wilson said. “Hopefully Kalen King can bounce back because I really liked his tape coming into the year.”
Ryan Wilson’s QB of the Day: Tulane’s Michael Pratt
“I think he continues to impress,” Wilson said. “I think Michael Pratt has impressed with his mobility. The toughness is unquestioned. He’ll continue to learn as a decision maker. Second round might be a little rich.”
Rick Spielman’s Defensive Standout: Georgia safety Javon Bullard
“When I watched him in the 1-on-1s, I didn’t think he was athletic as he was on tape,” Spielman said. “He was getting run by. Then all of the sudden, you put him in a team setting, he popped. He was quick to read and react. Some nice tackles and hits. Don’t make your evaluation off 1-on-1s or what he runs at the combine. People knocked down Brian Branch for his speed and like Branch, he’s just a good football player.”
Ryan Wilson’s Offensive Standout: Oregon iOL Jackson Powers-Johnson
“He is a no-brainer” Wilson said. “He has played center and guard here. He feels like a guy you draft and then start for 10 years.”
“He’s just 20-years-old,” Spielman added. “He was the best combination of a guy who has size and athleticism and can also move people at the point as a center by himself in the run game. Powerful feet. He played center at Oregon, but I saw him also line up at guard here and not miss a beat. He was the most impressive offensive lineman I’ve seen here at that position.”
Ryan Wilson’s Offensive Standout: Oklahoma offensive tackle Tyler Guyton
“I didn’t know what to expect because I thought his tape at right tackle was inconsistent, but this kid, at his size, I didn’t realize he was this big and can move this fluidly. He showed me in 1-on-1s today, and in the run-blocking drills. He’s powerful.”
Ryan Wilson’s Defensive Standout: Alabama edge Chris Braswell
“He might have had one of the highest motors in college football last year,” Wilson said.
“He might not have the ideal frame for a typical defensive end, but he plays with really heavy hands. He has a speed-to-power move that can collapse most offensive linemen. The only negative I have on him is he wasn’t as consistent getting off blocks in the run game. As a pass-rusher, I saw him have impact pass rushes against Tennessee that turned the game around in the second half.”