As the NFL universe awaits Super Bowl LII, agents, coaches, scouts and general managers traveled to Mobile, Alabama for Senior Bowl Week. Below are five takeaways from one of the signature events in the draft evaluation process:
All About Baker — Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was the star of the week. The Heisman Trophy winner was greeted by NFL Network cameras at Mobile Regional Airport upon his Tuesday arrival. Shortly after, he was ushered to the North team’s first practice of the week, where a sea of reporters surrounded him at its conclusion.
Mayfield handled the spotlight well, and quickly got into an on-field groove with his North teammates. In Thursday’s practice, his fiery passion was on display after hitting Penn State wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton for a touchdown in 7-on-7 drills. It was a successful week for Mayfield, who aimed to showcase his readiness for the responsibilities that come with being an NFL franchise quarterback.
Inspiration Shines in Mobile — If Mayfield was this week’s headliner, UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin was one heck of an opening act. Griffin was named the Overall Practice Player of the Week by Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage, who called Griffin the most inspiring player in the history of the event.
Griffin’s left hand was amputated when he was four years old due to a condition at birth called amniotic band syndrome. It hasn’t stopped Griffin, though, from becoming one of the best college linebackers in the nation. The two-time First Team All-AAC selection was also the Defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl, where he notched 12 tackles and 1.5 sacks against national powerhouse Auburn. This week, he proved against the best seniors in the country that he belongs on an NFL football field this fall.
Allen Looks the Part — Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen has the look of a franchise quarterback (6-foot-4, 237 pounds), with an arm that NFL media draft analyst Lance Zierlein said is one of the biggest he’s ever studied. Zierlein added that Allen’s issue will be proving that he can perform consistently against elite talent.
While opinions of Allen were wildly mixed in Mobile, he’s squarely in the conversation as a Day 1 selection.
Chargers Connections — Several prospects in Mobile have been recent teammates of some of the younger Chargers players. Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White’s best collegiate season came in 2016 when Chargers offensive lineman Forrest Lamp was protecting him. White told Chargers Weekly that Los Angeles will be pleased once his former Hilltopper teammate finally hits the grass in 2018.
“You’re going to see an animal on the field, is what you’re going to see,” he said. “The kid is unbelievable. He’s something special. There’s a reason he went second round.”
White also raved about Lamp’s athleticism and intelligence coupled with his team-first mentality.
“If you ask me he should have been the first overall pick, but I’m sure you guys were glad he wasn’t.”
Penn State safety Marcus Allen is a former secondary mate of Chargers cornerback Trevor Williams. Allen, who’s looking to make his mark in the league in a few short months, can pull motivation from watching Williams go from undrafted free agent to impact NFL starter.
“It just shows me with hard work and dedication, your dreams are going to come true,” Allen said. “It doesn’t matter how you start, it’s how you finish.”
Several Standouts — The evaluation process is subjective, but a name heard multiple times this week was UTEP guard Will Hernandez. Zierlein said the small-school prospect has a shot to be the second guard off the board behind Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson.
-Arizona State running back Kalen Ballage had a strong week, which could help his draft stock in a class loaded with backs. At 6-foot-2, 222 pounds, Optimum Scouting’s Eric Galko said Ballage has a look similar to Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. For more standouts, listen to the latest episode of Chargers Weekly.
-A list of the Senior Bowl’s Practice Award recipients can be found here.